Thursday, November 23, 2000

Sunshine and Rainbows

It has been raining off and on now for two days. Sometimes the sky is dark and cloudy and other times the sun comes out and it continues to rain, creating beautiful rainbows that begin and end in the river.

This morning we stopped and watched the largest caiman we have seen so far. He was a good three plus meters long. We saw two large red macaws this afternoon and bands of squirrel, red howler and woolly monkeys are frequently sighted as we move down river.

Even though we counted dolphins all the way upriver, we are still counting dolphins on our way back. Tamara is looking for patterns in where we find them. We have begun to notice some and wonder if you, too, have noticed the same patterns when looking at the daily data.

Best Intentions

Our intention all along has been to donate the truck battery to Ranger Station 3 that Tamara purchased for us as a backup power supply. The plan was to let the rangers there know we were giving them the battery then haul the battery all the way back to Iquitos and present it to the Director of the Reserve in an official ceremony. He would then put the battery on the next supply boat heading up the river.

It turned out that we couldn't use the battery as a backup power supply because when it was connected to the boat's alternator it didn't draw enough current for us to charge anything. We decided then to leave it with the rangers as we passed their station on the way back.

This seemed the better plan as Tamara has been concerned all along that the battery might not ever make it to Ranger Station 3 if we left it in Iquitos. To us the battery was not that expensive—only a little over $100. Yet here, that represents a month's salary for many people. While this was clearly the better plan, she wanted to make certain that even though we handed it to the rangers that it stayed at the station. She and Enzo wrote a document in Spanish that stated we were presenting the battery to Ranger Station 3 in recognition of the hard work they are doing. They then duplicated the document. We each signed both copies and there was a place for each of the rangers to also sign. To make them a little more official looking, we taped a Virtual Explorers card to the front of each one, as we didn't have an official stamp like the rangers did. Documents here in Peru are only official if they have been stamped multiple times, it seems. Shelly then wrote the words "Virtual Explorers" on the battery using her red nail polish.

At the Station the rangers hauled the battery up the hill, then signed and put their official stamp on the documents. We all stood on the porch and had some photos taken. The duplicate document will be presented to the Director of the Reserve and we will let him know that the photo will be put on our website.

When we left the station, Tamara said to the rangers, "Now you can have lights tonight because you have a fully charged battery."

The ranger replied, "Yes, we have a battery, but we don't have any light bulbs. Ours are all broken." They have put in an order with the head office for light bulbs, but it could be awhile before they arrive. Sometimes it is hard to understand how basic the needs are here. We could easily have brought light bulbs but it never occurred to us. We couldn't give them any of the boat's spares, either, as they use a different type.

The Night Stalker

You would think that with our days so full of adventure, that our nights would be a time when we would climb into the security of our netted beds and peacefully sleep the night away. Well, there hasn't been a peaceful night on this boat yet, and our trip is almost complete.

Last night was a dark, moonless night, making navigating to the bathroom very difficult indeed. On one such trip Tracy completely misjudged which side of the "Mosquito Palace" was hers. Feeling her way along the deck she climbed in under the netting and fell on top of Shelly.

Later, Susan woke to the sound of crunching very near her head. Her bed is a mattress on the floor of the deck while Shelly, Tracy and the captain sleep up off the floor on benches. Knowing that she needed to find out what on earth was making the sound—but also knowing that she probably wasn't going to be very happy with what she found—Susan reluctantly turned her flashlight on and searched the area next to her pillow. Machina had caught yet another rat and was in the process of dining. All that was left of it was the back end and long tail.

While Machina is a sweet, docile kitty by day, she is a killer by night—as stealth as any predator here in the jungle.

Knowing not to get between Machina and her midnight snack, Susan spent, what seemed an eternity, listening to the sound of crunching bones. In the morning she told the captain in her broken Spanish as he was crawling out from under his netting that, "In the night, Machina killed a rat and there are body parts under your bed." He just smiled.

Thanksgiving Dinner

In the true spirit of family and friendship, we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving on the river with our new friends. We invited Richard and Henry from Ranger Station 2 to join us.

We created a table big enough for everyone on the top deck. We used the benches to make a low table, covered them with blankets and set a wonderful table. Although the food was a bit different from our traditional Thanksgiving meal, the feelings were the same. We shared all our treats, ate until we were full, toasted the captain and the chef, and told stories. After the meal, we all pushed back from the table on our seat cushions and leaned against the sides of the boat content that we had celebrated Thanksgiving in the spirit in which it was meant to be celebrated.

Tonight we find out if the river is high enough for the Mirón Lento to pass from the Rìo Samiria to the larger main stem river Marañón.

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