Location: Tahuayo Lodge and Amazon River, Peru
Click here to jump to a web album featuring 30 photos from today.
Greetings from Tahuayo Lodge, on the Tahuayo River, a tributary of the Amazon. Everyone is happy and healthy. No major problems. Oh, there are bug bites to be sure, and a few scrapes, and some sunburn, but nothing beyond what is expected and what we can handle. Everyone is having a great time.
Today was spent on the river, pretty much the whole day. We set out in the morning in our 20' motor boat: 8 students, 2 professors, and 4 guides. We motored upstream for an hour or so. The students often take this opportunity to work on their journal (which, along with two presentations last semester in the classroom, and one blog entry, constitutes the bulk of their grade in this 2-credit course). I encourage the students to record the experience for their own memories.
After about an hour on the large river, we turned left and headed into the jungle along minor waterways.
This quickly turned into some serious bushwacking. Two hours later(!), after many fits and starts, we emerged on the other side. This was quite a unique and unplanned adventure. Imagine trying to navigate a semi-trailer truck through the narrow alleys of Boston. We spent a lot of time maneuvering the boat through narrow passes between the trees,often pausing to bushwack a clearing with a machete.
We would frequently scrap along trees and shrubs, requiring everyone to duck down out of way as jungle debris (leaves, branches, and many insects) rained down on us. We had to backtrack a few times. But eventually we did make it out and on to the Amazon river itself, which compared to where we had been seemed as wide as a lake, and a fast-moving as whitewater. We turned down another small tributary to view the Victorian water lilies, spectacularly large aquatic plants best known in America for supporting babies:
We stopped here for lunch, enjoying pineapple, rice, and spicy catfish under the canopy of a large tree. After lunch, we stuck to the main waterways as we cruised further upriver. We passed many villages along the way, each with rows of thatched huts, children running about, lots of laundry drying (a full-time activity in the jungle!), and various farm animals. Passing by the local villages was a real window into a vastly different culture.
We traveled to Lago Charo, a black water lake about 150' deep. Here we swam, which was incredibly refreshing, and we viewed grey dolphins in groups of 2-3, about 100' from us.
Our next stop was the local village a Charo, a community of about 40 people living in huts spread out along several acres of riverfront. There were many children from ages 2 months to 13 years, and several mothers. There were some men around tending to fishing nets, but many of them were out working at the time. The villagers greeted us somewhat reluctantly; we were told that we were the second group of outsiders to ever visit their village.
There was definitely a cultural barrier, one that extended beyond language. For example, when viewing the inside of a dwelling, I asked how many people lived there. After a little bit of back and forth, I realized that my question didn't make full sense in their culture because the housing was more transient, people come and go as they work, relatives move in/out, etc. The idea of one family occupying one dwelling didn't reflect their reality. But, not surprisingly, after a while, everyone began to warm up to each other, especially some of the little girls (who, as a rule, seem to be friendlier and more outgoing than the little boys). We gave the eldest woman a bag of school supplies to distribute to the area children. All in all, it was a unique and enriching experience, one that most students pointed to as the highlight of the day.
As we boated upriver, we stopped to view two species of dolphin, the grey river dolphin, and the very rare amazon pink river dolphin. The latter is larger, and definitely pink (similar to a flamingo) but they never show much of themselves, and so a photo proved elusive.
We returned to the Lodge by sunset, enough time for a shower and a brief rest before dinner.
At dinner, we unanimously agreed that we wanted to go back out on the boat for some night river exploration. We could hear thunder and see flashes of lightning, but the rain didn't come until we were just about back. Along the way, we picked up a snake (the Amazonian boa) and a large tree frog):
We were back at the lodge around 10PM, having spent about 10 hours on the river today. A day well spent!