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Friday, January 18, 2013

Day 7: Hey Hey, We're the Monkeys

Day 7: January 17th, 2013
Location: Amazon Research Center (ARC), Peru

Click here to jump to a web album containing 31 photos from today.

Greetings from the Amazon Research Center! Today was an interesting and somewhat difficult day exploring the flora, fauna, and ecology of this section of Amazonian rainforest.

Our day started off with a 6AM breakfast at the ARC lodge. One discussion thread focused on the deep grunge that many of us have achieved, a skin-coating combination of sunscreen, sweat, bug spray, smooshed bugs, and forest detritus. Cold showers (no hot water is available) offers some brief relief - but how long would you be willing to walk around clean before putting a thick layer of DEET on your recently-washed skin? For most of us, the bugs force us to reach for the lotion in short order!

For our morning, activity, we headed out into the ARC research area, a grid of paths and trails separate by 100m from each other. The grid runs from A to U in one dimension and from 1 to 20 in another. After a short paddle, we started out at A-12 and split into two groups, each with five students and two guides.

We literally slogged through the mud to the other side of the grid. One group (the wimpy group) lasted about 3.5 hours, while the more hearty group lasted around 4.5 hours. It was very hot, buggy, and muddy - in a word, uncomfortable. But of course we all appreciated the unique beauty of the rainforest that surrounded us.

The ARC is known for its diversity of new world primates, and they were our primary target. Along the way, we viewed several bands of saddleback tamarins as well as a squirrel monkey:

We spotted fresh tracks of a tapir and a jaguar (!) as well as various birds, such as parrots. We also saw the creepiest spider we've seen yet (and believe, me, that's saying something!), a blue tarantula about 5" long. It was moving very quickly - and boy was it mad!

We returned to the ARC around 11AM-noon. Most of us showered and rested for a bit, since the heat and humidity of the hike really drained us. Soon it began to rain.

The rain varied from a gentle sprinkle to a tremendous thunderstorm. Occasionally it rained in a manner much harder than what we are used to,as if to say "Now, *that's* how we rain in the Amazon!".

In the afternoon, we headed out on the boat to a nearby spot to fish for piranhas. That was fun! We put chunks to beef on a hook attached to a bamboo pole. You let the hook drop about 6' or so into the river, and soon, the piranhas would bite. The trick was to pull them up into the boat still attached to the hook.

Eventually, every one of us caught at least one piranha. Talk about a unique experience!

We rode over to the lake for a swim - so refreshing in the heat of the day! (And yes, the lake is sufficiently far away from where we fished!).

During dinner, we all samples some of our catch:

We were lucky to be joined during dinner by Rose, a graduate students from Southern Illinois University who is spending 18 months at ARC studying one species of monkey. Rose was kind enough to explain her work to the students, to describe how she found her niche, her graduate school experience, and to answer all questions. The students were grateful for the opportunity learn from her. Rose is in the lower right hand corner of this photo (in the light green shirt):

At the end of the mail, our cook surprised us with a farewell cake, which was quickly and gratefully devoured:

By the end of our dinner and conversation, around 9PM, most of us were exhausted enough to go right to bed. Some even bunked overnight in the hammock room (a series of 6 hammocks radiating from a central spoke in a round, tall thatched-roof room). It really rained overnight, including some tremendous storms. We all joked about the wildlife in our room; some have bats flying overhead, I had a 4' snake in the rafter just outside my room, and others had various geckos, spiders, etc. as house guests. It takes some getting used to!

This was our last night in the Amazon. Friday will have a few activities and then a long journey home. I'll probably next update the blog from the airport, either in Lima or Miami.

Thanks for reading!


  1. Thanks for sharing, so much fun to follow along with the blog.

    Safe and smooth travels home!!

    Hugs to Sam!

  2. Sounds so exotic...of course my idea of exotic includes drinks on the lanai and a dip in the pool...bats and creepy crawlies where I sleep, not so much, haha. So glad you were able to wrap up your journey on a high note. You can tell Liam it's -27 with the wind chill in Bedford tonight...brrrrr. Safe travels back to NEC!