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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Day 6: Black water

Day 6: Wednesday January 16th, 2013
Location: Tahuayo Lodge, Chino village, and Amazon Research Center, Peru

Click here to jump to a web album containing 41 photos from today.

Greetings once again from Peru. I am writing this entry from the Amazon Research Center, a biological preserve and research facility located deep within a protected region of the rainforest - one that totals over a million acres. We transferred here today from Tahuayo Lodge, and this will be our base of operations until we leave Peru.

Lori (my colleague and trip co-leader) and I were talking today about how dedicated the students are on this trip. There is no experience that they have turned down, no opportunity they have shunned. Case in point: 7 of the 10 of us participated in a voluntary 6AM jungle hike. We awoke to a wonderful Amazonian dawn:

We trekked for about 30 minutes through the jungle behind the Lodge to view some pygmy marmosets:

It was so great to see these primates in a wild. A real treat for a biologist, to be sure. We were back at the lodge in time for a quick shower before our 8AM breakfast (which today featured freshly squeezed passionfruit juice - yum!). After our meal, we gathered at the boat dock to head out for a visit to Chino, a nearby village.

We spent the morning wandering through the village of about 200 people. The students were fascinated to see how the locals lived. We were able to visit some families who opened their homes to us and showed us how they lived and worked. We were told that our Lodge often brings visitors to this village, so they were used to our presence.

I will admit that I did not feel a deep connection with anyone I met. Beyond the language barrier, there was a deeper cultural divide. It is pretty hard for Americans and these Amazonians to relate to each others' lives. One example: I asked about land ownership in the village. If someone wants to move into the village, they stay there for a year, living with friends or relatives. After that time, they can apply to the village chief (elected once every two years, often but not exclusively from the elder males) for the right to build a house. The village chief assigns this person a place to build and some land to farm, for a fee of 10 Peruvian SOL (about $4.50). That money goes into the community coffers. I tried to explain how, in our towns, there are lines on maps that assigned all land to individual owners (or the government) and that land is bought/sold among the citizens. They nodded, but I'm not sure it made any sense!

A market consisting of artisans from Chino and another local village was set up for our behalf in a community building. This was our first and only opportunity to shop for local goods, so every one of us did our part to stimulate the local economy American style. Bargaining was allowed, but few of us bothered, as the prices were all quite reasonable: $12 for a woven basket, $1 for some jewelry, etc.

After the market, we spent more time visiting the village and the local people.

We returned to Tahuayo Lodge for lunch. The we packed everything up and squeezed the 10 of us, 4 guides, and all our luggage into our 20' motorboat for the cruise to the new facility.

The journey took about 2 hours, including a nice long relaxing stop in a black water lake for swimming. (Another cultural divide; we haven't quite figured out the meanings of the different names for the different kinds of water - black water, white water - it definitely does not have to do with the color of the water, but the precise meanings are elusive!).

We arrived at our home for the new few days - the Amazon Research Center - around 5PM. We loaded in our luggage and attended an orientation session from the staff biologist, focusing on the many species of primates that can be seen and studied within the preserve.

The facility here is pretty similar to the last- a series of thatched sleeping huts and common rooms attached by an elaborate series of walkways. One difference: the Internet connection isn't nearly as good, so I am having trouble posting this blog!

After dinner, we headed out for a night river cruise, spotting frogs, owls, and some large rodents. It was incredibly peaceful to be out on the river in canoes, watching the stars and clouds slip by, being surrounded by jungle sounds of such intensity that its hard to know where your own self ends and they begin. Many students commented on the extreme serenity of this two-house paddling - a true moment of Zen.

Thanks for reading! Everyone is doing well and happy. No significant injuries or problems. Everyone sends their greetings and thanks!


  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences. It is great to read. Lori's Mom

  2. I look forward to the daily posts so much, to catch up on all the news from your part of the world! by the way, it's storming in nova scotia :( Thank you so much for taking the time to post the happenings of the day. We are sending our love to Liam, and to all the prospects of an itch free day :)
    The Pecks