Wednesday, August 11, 1999

Today we thought it would be nice for you to hear from the other participants on this trip. Below are their thoughts on today's highlights.

Night Skiff Ride

At 8:00 p.m., after another beautiful sunset, Terry, Marty, Sally, Bill, Lilia and I got on the skiff withSunset Fernando as the driver and Béder as our guide. As soon as we left the Delfin in the small boat, dolphins started to follow. We could hear them jumping, splashing and snorting. As we were on the way to the tributary Yanayaquillo, Béder pointed out many of the stars and constellations. We saw the upside down Big Dipper, the Milky Way, Sagittarius, Scorpio, and the Southern Cross. As we entered the tributary at a fast clip, little fish were jumping high out of the water. A couple even jumped into the boat. Béder pointed out a small black caiman along the bank. They can grow to 18 feet! We also saw a fish eating a bulldog bat and several species of birds. Even though it was completely dark, Fernando maneuvered the boat through the logs and brush in the water. We only got stuck once for a very short time and decided to just sit there and listen to the wildlife in the jungle. It was then time to go back to the Delfin and end a wonderful day and prepare for our next experience tomorrow.


San Martin Village

Girl carrying waterToday we visited San Martin Village. Because the water is low, we needed to walk out onto the skiff then onto logs to reach the shore. Many children and adults were standing in front of us to welcome us. They were as curious about us as we were about them. The town has a plaza with a soccer field surrounded by buildings. One of them is a large, two level building that houses the wildlife office and a women's club. There is a church, an open building for celebrations, two water tanks and some houses.

As we started walking, we arrived at the school principal's home. He welcomed us and answered some of our questions. We are giving them the supplies we brought for this school when they get here. In the village there is a kindergarten, an elementary school and a high school that serves other villages in the region as well.

There is a generator for electrical power, which unfortunately has not worked since last May. The village only had it for a little while before it broke down. As we strolled in town, we visited a home where 17 women have established a water cooperative. They take turns filtering the river water and distributing it. The village drinks river water, which is not really safe to drink, so the filtering helps.

We also visited a large carpenter's shop where they make furniture for the school and people in theGirl with pig village. The wood is gathered from the surrounding areas and brought here. The shop is running a bit slow since they have not had electricity for the power tools since the generator broke.

San Martin has 425 people. Most of the families farm, but there are two nearby small general stores and a bar. Children played soccer, marbles and jumping games as we took our walk around the village.

As the boat departed, I kept asking myself, if we are in the same world, why are we so different? Is our civilization bringing progress or disrupting their lives? Are we helping or interrupting a life style that did not ask us to come?


Bird Watching

We got up at 6 a.m. to do more bird watching this morning. It was great. I got to see some new species for my life list and some familiar ones I had seen on previous trips to the south. I have been an avid bird watcher for seven years and have seen over 400 different types of birds.

Some of the exciting ones were the jaribu stork which is not often seen in the area, the black fronted nun bird, the Amazon kingfisher, ringed kingfisher, sun grebe, wattled jacana, a russet backed oropendola, and its long hanging nest, and the little Jesus bird that walks on water lilies. We also saw the black collared hawk in all its beauty several times. It was very special.

Bird watchingWow, we even saw five blue and gold macaws at one time! I would never have believed we would have seen them so easily. It was awesome. As we get further into the reserve and away from the villages, the macaws begin to show up. They are big and so blue it takes your breath away. The gold is very brilliant. As we traveled down the river more of them appeared. Tamara thought the reason that the birds are not near the villages is that if they are found there, the villagers often capture them and sell them as exotic pets. It is illegal to buy animals like this, but many people still do.




Night Transmissions

Last night, while the rest of the group went out to listen to the night sounds, Susan, Tracy and ITransmitting data finished up the web pages, images and emails and prepared them for transmitting. To transmit, we put everything into email as attachments and hook up the satellite phone. From then on it is like sending a regular email except it is really, really slow. The difficult part last night was the bugs. We were covered in them immediately. Bugs got into my mouth, nose and eyes. I had to stop and get the mosquito net hat you see me wearing in the picture. The computer was so covered with bugs that at one point I could not even see the screen to watch the mail being sent.


Our Daily Rhythm

Now that we have been on the river four days we have established a familiar rhythm. Each morning we get up at 5:30 am to go bird watching. After bird watching we have breakfast and then begin our research. Most days we work from breakfast to lunch, which is served at 1:00. We work in shifts so there is some free time during the morning. After lunch we have a two-hour siesta. People read, sleep, or write in their journals during this time. Many of us also shower then as it is the warmest part of the day and it is nice to cool off. There is no hot water. The shower and the toilet are in the same tiny room. We have to be careful not to get the toilet paper wet when we shower!

Boat bringing luggageTracy, Shelly and I work on the getting the information ready for the daily transmission during this time. Today we asked others if they wanted to write something about what made the day special for them. After siesta we get back to the dolphin research until the sun goes down around 6:00 p.m. Sometimes we have special activities during this time, like a visit to a village, a talk with the captain or with Béder, our naturalist. Dinner is served promptly at 7:00 followed by an evening activity like a slide show or night boat ride.

After all this, the day's work is transmitted so that it can be put on the website by the next morning. We have been very busy this week with both the research and our project. We will certainly need a vacation to recover from this "vacation!"


P.S. By the way, we got our luggage today! It was brought from Iquitos in a small skiff to our boat. Everyone immediately changed his or her clothing for the first time in a few days. We are happy campers now!

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