9th August – Tuesday
After a breakfast of bacon, eggs and juice, and an hour or two of observing the waking jungle, we set off on our morning walk. It is worth mentioning that the time to get up is around 5.45. At that time, you can hear the distinctive calling of the howler monkeys and see many birds including the scarlet tanager, blue and yellow macaws, red-bellied macaws, hoatsin, blue and white swallows, Amazon parrots, parakeets, the brilliant blue tamarind, finches, anis, oropendulars and many others. We paddled, or rather Innocencio and Lino paddled about half a mile down a side stream which was very narrow at its mouth and widened out into a lake. Oli spotted a white-eared jackamar, which is a small owl. It was only two or three yards away, staring at us as we floated by.
We made a landfall and set off into the jungle for a four-hour trek. Innocencio showed us the sandie tree. When it “bled” it produced lots of white fluid which tasted like milk of magnesia. It is used to combat kidney disorders and stones, tumours, indigestion and stomach disorders. After about 10 minutes, Innocencio heard some peccaries. These are small, wild pigs which run around the jungle in groups of up to 300. We weren’t lucky enough to see them but we did see plenty of tracks. At one stage Innocencio said he heard one cry out in a way that he hadn’t previously heard. “Maybe one has been killed by a jaguar or puma.” Sure enough, about ¾ mile further on we found jaguar tracks among the peccary tracks. We saw a few birds and a couple of leaf toads, but mostly we just saw a wide variety of plants and trees.
Dave introduced us to the conga ant (aka Yuturi or 24-hour ant). Its bite makes you feel very bad for 24 hours. On the boat back we saw four howler monkeys up in the trees. They were red and one was carrying a baby on its back.
After a good lunch of yucca chips, soup and meat with veg, we had about an hour before we were due to set off on another jungle trek. Oli and Dad had a lie down whilst I went for a swim in the river. Some of the children were in the other party were fishing for piranha and had caught some which were up to a foot in length. I was told that it was perfectly all right to swim there though, because they had enough small fish and vegetation to feed on without having to bite humans! I survived to tell the tale.
I thought that I’d have a shower before tea, but the shower in the hut delivered water at the rate of about two drops per minute. Fortunately, the afternoon tropical downpour was much more reliable. At four o’clock every afternoon, the skies opened and the rain bucketed down. I took advantage of this phenomena. I grabbed my shower gel, stripped off and made my way to the middle of the lawn. I had the perfect shower. Some of the tourists thought that my behaviour was outrageous but the locals didn’t bat an eyelid.
Our evening trek started, as did most treks, with a short canoe trip. This trek was much more leisurely, and the highlight was when the group spread out as individuals to see what we could find. This expedition resulted in more discoveries of tree and leaf frogs, centipedes and stick insects.
Later in the evening, after darkness had fallen, Oli and I went for a short night walk in the jungle, but we didn’t find anything noteworthy.