It’s my first full day at Inkaterra, starting early around 5:45am (they trick you by saying they’ll wake you at 6am, only to come by 15 minutes early…..history must have taught them well 🙂 ). Breakfast is a full buffet with all kinds of identifiable and “¿Cómo se llama etso?” (“What is this called?”)types of food. It’s yummy and filling and plenty of it.
This morning takes us up river with our guide Yuri for a 5 minute ride to the Inkaterra canopy tour. It’s me, Susie, Brent and Becky. We also find out this day that we stay with the same guide the whole length of our time at the lodge. Which means, with Brent and Becky leaving in a day and with Susie leaving in two, I guess I’ll be Yuri’s only client. I have mixed feelings about this as I enjoy both being with a small group (5 total is great) and individual attention is good too. So I guess either way will work and I’ll just play it by ear.
After an introduction we head to the first tower raising 28 meters (92 feet) above the ground for a view of the jungle canopy layer known as the emergent trees. The jungle generally has four layers; the forest floor, understory, canopy and emergent trees at the top. The view from the top is cool and yet, hot and reminds me to slather on extra sunblock and then bug spray as I hope some day someone will make a good combo product of those two. I’m guessing we won’t have another chance to raise above the understory to witness the flowering trees and different butterflies found up here during my stay. We spot birds of pray circling far over head and see swallows dart into and out of the canopy.
Down we climb to start our 344m (lots of feet) walk along the suspension bridges connection various trees with towers on them. The whole setup is very well built and will last at least another 20 years. The bridges have a fair amount of sway to them and it takes a special technique to prevent much wobbling, more of a shuffle than a walk. The views into the canopy layer are way cool. While we don’t see a ton of wildlife with a later start (the heat of the day is already coming on and most animals have eaten breakfast), I have a bit of a Tarzan like feeling, swinging from one tree to the next through the jungle rather than under it.
The tour ends at another tower where we spot a black and white hawk looking for lunch. Life really is everywhere in the jungle and while we can’t see them, birds keep up a constant din in the background. Much like those “relaxing jungle sounds” CDs but far more lifelike. A LOT more life like.
Coming down from the towers we elect to take a walk through the jungle before heading back to the lodge. Yuri is great at spotting wildlife in the jungle and we see a myriad of monkeys, birds, bugs, plants. It’s too much to take in sometimes and at this point I had stopped taking notes and just enjoyed. I’ll include a few photos here and let them do the talking where my language skills are failing.
Back to the lodge for some lunch before our afternoon excursion. This time it’ll just be Susie and I as Becky and Brent want to relax. We head to Rolin Island 10 minutes away in the middle of the Madre del Rios river. On the island is a private reserve run by Inkaterra to rehabilitate wayward monkeys. Not quite a halfway house as the monkeys will not be allowed on the mainland again, the facilities do allow for a 40 day quarantine of monkeys typically caught in the city because they have become a pest. I won’t bother to guess what happened to those monkeys before Inkaterra started taking them in, but now they are allowed to roam around the island if they check out for health and social adjustment. These monkeys are already habituated to humans and thus won’t mix well with mainland monkeys. Here they will live out their days on the 14 hectare (hectare to acre conversions confuse me) island, being monkeys.
We have a chance to get real close to the monkeys in the forest as they will come down to the ground sometimes but they don’t like the resident pechoree who thinks he’s a dog. Squirrel monkeys are also allowed on the island as these two species get along, but other monkeys aren’t allowed, including Spider and Howling Monkeys found in this area of the Amazon.
Our last excursion for the day, errr, night is a night walk. It’s a short hour long walk around the grounds looking for nocturnal life. Right off the bat Yuri freaks out Susie by showing us a pink-toed tarantula climbing a tree. They are awesome to view in the wild and evidently all over as we saw yesterday. Frogs are out tonight and then we get a special treat you’ll see in the photo here; a three toed sloth with baby just seven feet off the ground! It’s rare to be this close and especially with a mom and I’m sorry for flashing them with the camera. They come down from the trees once a month to poo, burying it in the ground. Otherwise all their time is spent high up in the canopy.
Walking through the jungle at night is a different world. Fireflies dot the silhouettes of the ironwood and fichus trees as stars peer through various openings. The heat is still around, as unforgiving as always but the sounds have changed. Night birds are out including a pair of owls we fail to spot, but who obviously have a lot to communicate with each other. For a while we shut off our flashlights and just listen. Listen and feel what it is to be of the forest at night. The constant buzz of crickets is punctuated with a “whooo, ha, oooooo” of the owls, still talking with each other. Leaves and sticks make soft noises as they fall from on high to the floor. The smell has a damp musk from the rains an hour before that bring the decay off the forest floor and to our curious noses. It’s not with relief that our lights come back on as I was really enjoying being enveloped by so much life and that small tingle of fear that comes from being very lost in the dark when you can’t see your guide any more.
Before I forget, Yuri showed us one of the more interesting symbiosis in the forest. A frog named a Sheep Frog as it makes a sound like a sheep and a tarantula, who’s name I can’t remember right now, live in the same spider hole. The spider provides protection from the frog’s predators and the frog cleans the spider of flies that carry a parasite that can kill the spider. How these two got together still baffles me, but it is always cool to see nature figuring out answers to problems through cooperation.
At dinner I decide to buy a bottle of wine. I can have it kept in the bar each night (no food or drink in the cabanas) and it’s cheaper that way. I have six nights left, I’m sure I can finish it. I share dinner with Susie as Brent and Becky are still nowhere to be seen. It’s nice to have someone to talk to for a bit and Susie’s story is a very interesting one. A life lived around the world and a current bout of uncertainty as to where she and her husband will be next. She’s in the country with her husband for the APEC Conference in Lima and decided to get out of the city and see the country while he attended to business.