Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Can't Take Him Anywhere

Let’s all take a break from the stress of Christmas shopping, the pressure to bake everybody’s favorite Christmas cookies, the sub-zero temperatures and the blowing snow to write (that would be me) and read (that would be you) a bit more about our trip to the Amazon. Oh, wait … it got up to 49 degrees here today and the sun was shining brightly so no sliding into curbs and no backs aching from shoveling snow for us. And gosh, Leslie came over and baked cookies with me over the weekend so that’s taken care of. And geezo peezo, I am 95% finished with my Christmas shopping. Well, dang! Ha! H … I mean, Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas to you all!

If you can still see the blinking cursor under the dripping cup of eggnog, or blobs of cookie icing (or whatever it is you’ve thrown at your computer) and you don’t need to clip your toenails or scrub the toilet, read on for the next installment of our Amazon adventure.

One thing I did not expect while at the reserve was that I would be waking up at 6:00 a.m. every morning. This was not by choice, but because the weaver birds woke up at 6:00 a.m. every morning and got to work building their nests.  And they didn’t care who they woke up with them.

Our alarm clocks sounded like this

(I only recorded two of the “alarms” on the mp3 but you get the idea.  And let me tell you, they are much louder in person, at 6 a.m.)

Once the alarm clock had gone off, and while Dean was untangling himself from his mosquito net, I went exploring and discovered these industrious leaf cutter ants busy at work. 

The worker ants take the leaves to their nest and compost it to make mulch so they can grow fungus to feed their queen and her children. Kind of how Dean collects leaves and grass, composts it for his garden, and grows food for me.

After breakfast we crawled into the canoes and floated off to visit one of five communities living in the Cuyabeno Reserve.

On the way we stopped for a potty break at the local rest area and as we walked back toward the canoes our unmarried, very proper guide pointed out a plant used as a contraceptive.

Dean, being Dean, asked him if he'd tried it and if it had worked well for him. I quietly slunk away and tried to blend into the foliage of that very same contraceptive plant.  Our very polite guide paused, turned his head in Dean's direction, stared blankly into space for a moment and then took a breath and continued on with less acknowledgement than he would give an annoying fly.  I tucked that
response that wasn't into the special Dean portion of my brain for the remote possibility I may need to put it to use myself.  Fortunately for Dean, our guide allowed him back in the canoe, we continued on, and reached the community.

We walked through butterflies so thick they looked like leaves,

and were greeted by a baby monkey the local people had adopted when its mother was killed. He was cute but I have never understood why anybody in their right mind would want a monkey for a pet. Pretty soon it was my turn to hold the little guy. He was so soft and cuddly and loving … maybe monkeys would be a fun pet ... and then I remembered watching monkeys pick fleas off each other at the zoo … and I came to my senses ....

We were led to a field of manioc bushes where a local woman showed us how to take this manioc root

and, in less than an hour, produce this tasty morsel covered in honey.

She whacked off the outer covering of the manioc root with her machete like she was peeling an orange with a butter knife.  We, however, were only allowed to peel the skin with our fingers after the initial cut had been made.  I suspect our guide knew there weren't any plants growing in the community's medicinal garden that would miraculously reattach our scattered fingers and arms if we tried whacking with the machete ourselves. 

For the whole series of photos on how to go from dirt-covered root to yummy food you can go here.

While the rest of us were busy licking the honey off our fingers, Dean asked our guide about the long, skinny cylinder he'd seen propped up against the wall. Next thing we knew, the guide was whittling a sharp piece of wood, twisting cotton onto the end of it and the monkey was running for cover. Dean blew hard but that dart dropped just a foot in front of him.  I think he mumbled something about his beard preventing him from getting a good seal on the mouthpiece but the laughing and snorting that broke out all around me made it hard to hear him.

Long after the weaver birds had gone to sleep for the night, we were led on a night walk in the jungle armed with only our flashlights. Dean and I always seemed to end up at the back of the pack so I was always trying to get the perfect insect photo after the rest of the group had moved on. The flashlights we had brought were barely adequate to find our way from the bed to the bathroom and I could sense the panic rising in him when the rest of our group (and their much better flashlights) moved out of sight.  I didn't really think our guide would leave us there, wandering in the jungle, alone ... but there was that incident at the contraceptive bush earlier in the day ... Consequently I didn't dawdle long and most of the amazing insects we saw are only pictures in my mind. That’s not to say others  didn’t get great photos so you can look at them here.


As well as visiting the community and walking through the jungle at night we also did a bit of this.   

And of course, a bit of this


before we went back here to refuel our batteries before our 6 a.m. alarm clocks woke us up for another day (and another blog post).



1 comment:

Abby said...

Cool pictures! That monkey looks so sweet! And if they pick fleas off eachother, that means they're flealess, right???