Oh how the tides have turned. I arrived last night at the Tambopata Research Center after an 8 hour boat ride up river. I found myself checking into a room with a real mattress, essential oil of lemongrass sprayed on my pillow and a bar or organic green tea soup delicately placed on freshly cleaned sheets. But let me digress…
Leaving CICRA was hard, especially since I don’t know if it will be around after the strike or not. Puerto was its bustling self, though news about the strike has put many people into a heightened state of awareness. I heard several different predictions about the length of the strike. Some say it will only last a few days since the miners lose money every day they are not working. Another told me that all his neighbors are miners and believed that the strike would last at least two weeks. All agree that this is going to be one of the worst strikes ever to hit Puerto Maldonado. There are rumors that homemade bombs will be used, and that miners have been going around the city taking photos of all the NGO and conservation offices in order to prepare for attack. There will be looting, rioting and general chaos until the government repeals the law. How long it will last obviously depends on several unpredictable variables.
I would not want to be a gringo in Puerto for the month of April. On top of all the riots there will be tear gas flowing in all directions as the police try futilely to control the situation. In other words, I’m glad that I have made it to TRC. This place is beyond description. I somehow got situated in a tourist room and am living in the lap of luxury. Word on the street is that this place originally was just a research center that was bought out by a tourist company which uses the desirable scientists as a way to draw tourists to the establishment like flies to honey. It works. All amenities are provided to these tourists who are paying an ungodly amount to stay here. The researchers on the other hand are treated like a colony of lepers and are shunned from interacting with the tourists. We are not allowed to occupy the couches or hammocks distributed inside the elongated cabin if there are tourists present. We cannot walk in front (or near) them on the trails and we must eat at separate tables and are fed different food. I am living in the gray zone of getting half the spoils but still having to walk on eggs shells to keep the tourists/tourist company happy. Very strange indeed… but I’m not complaining! The food is fantastic, the trails are confusingly marked but extensive, and the forest here is more beautiful than any other place I have even been in my whole life.
This morning I set out with some of the people in the group I will be tagging along with these next two weeks and scouted out where I will be setting up my mosquito traps. Apparently the first transect I chose is on a haunted trail. That should be exciting! One of the things that struck me right away was the increase in numbers of butterflies I encountered when compared to the Rio de Madre de Dios. They are so frequent that one cannot walk more than a couple meters before seeing a flash of brilliant color flit by ones face. I’m really excited about this place. I’ll be setting up traps in my “lab” (also known as table in an open room) this afternoon and planning out my next two weeks. I’ll post some photos tomorrow! Till then….