It had been a very long day. As Alison and I sprinted down the slippery trail in the pouring rain with only our tiny head lamps to see by in the dark trying desperately to get back to the station before our cameras got wet, I had to laugh. The things we go through to catch blood sucking freaks. This particular finale was after a day in which we hiked over 17 miles (most of which was with all of our trapping gear) to change the location of our transect. The morning consisted of the usual routine of waking up before dawn, hiking a couple miles out to the traps, gathering the mosquito filled containers and bringing them back to the station. Each morning we kill the little buggers with some cotton soaked alcohol in a plastic bag. After they have wriggled their last wiggle we separate the mosquitoes from the other insects and look for blood, bwaa ha ha!!!
After the blood was found we hiked back to the traps, broke them down and carried them over 10k to the new transect. We had to return to the station to get the freshly charged batteries and right as we finished and were making our way back at 8:30pm the pouring rain exploded out of the sky.
Sachavacayoc was, in a word, epic. The forest was so varied that I have a hard time putting it all into words. The primary forest was just as I had always imagined the Amazon should be. Towering trees that made me gasp in disbelief and wide open spaces underneath. Since the areas around Sacha are disturbed there are fewer mega fauna running around. I barley saw any peccaries, tapir or cat tracks and the large birds were few and far between. But what this forest lacked in larger organisms, it made up for with the tiny ones. Every day Alison and I saw impressively colored snakes, insects and spiders. Heck, even the mosquitoes were beautiful! So many adventures… where to start…
First, there was the lake. At least 20 times larger than any oxbow lake I had seen previously, the Sachavacayoc Lake was surreal. After hiking for an hour and a half down narrow trails the sky and lake just appear from the behind the trees and suddenly there is more open space than one knows what to do with. The giant row boats are mostly submerged in the water but we managed to find one still afloat and paddled around.
We saw an obstreperous group of squirrel monkeys which numbered well over 30 and macaws galore. We were thinking about jumping in and swimming around since the placid waters looked so inviting but then decided against it until we spoke to the staff about the safety of such an activity. Turns out our little hunch was actually our survival instinct kicking in because the staff later told us it would basically be a death wish to swim in the lake in small numbers due to the abundance of caiman, anacondas and piranhas. Yea… we knew that… I swear.
There were a couple of other kind-of close calls including the time that we heard a giant crashing coming towards us. The deer-in-headlights reaction soon turned into the scream-and-run-for-your-life reaction once we realized it was a tree about to smush us into gringa pancakes.
One thing we did not expect, but were happily surprised by, was the adoption into the Sachavacayoc family. They treated us like sisters and instead of eating out in the dining hall with the other gringos, we ate in the kitchen with staff.
We helped cook meals and learned new Peruvian recipes from their amazing chef Cesar. My Spanish has improved dramatically because of all this and I count my blessings that Alison, Spanish speaking extraordinaire, was willing to be patient and teach me grammar and new vocabulary. She truly is more of a teacher than a volunteer in my eyes… not to mention one of the best friends I have ever had!
They are more stories about Sachavacayoc to come but I fear that you, my wonderful readers, are get weary of my babbling. Gatita Gordita lives to tell another tale. More posting tomorrow!