Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Just another day on the river

Unlike real life, our days on the river have (incredibly) refused to become boring even though we all (loosely) follow a pretty rigid daily routine. And instead of mindlessly going through the motions of life (like the zombies we all have it in us to be), the Amazon requires that you sit up and notice since *Amazing Things* can literally happen at any given second.
Pool found me this stick bug one day, so of course I made him pose for a ridiculous number of photos (and since Pool gave it to me, I assumed it was safe...)
And Mario found this adorable (non-poisonous) snake out in the jungle, so I made him play with me too.
The other day, one of my favorite students was brushing his teeth out on the deck of the Scary Boat Full Of Undergrads and spotted a reptilian head sticking out of the water. Within the span of 10 minutes, Ormenio (one of my faithful fishing guides) used a makeshift tool to extract a GIANT ANACONDA from the river! (WHAaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Brief aside: I absolutely adore Ormenio. And Euclides. And Samwell (I could go on…). Most of the guides grew up on the river in villages nearby, and their skill/knowledge/patience/sincerity blows me away (swoon).

So…back to the anaconda.

It was Pretty Big, but since they can get up to 40 feet (supposedly, says a book I read recently), I guess we're lucky it was "small".

Swimming is supposedly forbidden here (on account of there being so many things in the water that want us dead), but the rule is rarely enforced and folks have become increasingly lackadaisical the longer we're here. Point being, a good wakeup call was in order. All in all, She (it was a girl, as evidenced by the way the tail tapered) was a respectable 3.6 meters (12 feet, give or take).

After everyone got the appropriate amount of photo-documentation, we stood and watched as she made her way back to the river to get on with the business of being an anaconda.

About 30 minutes later, Mario caught another one (a smaller male), but I’d already taken off for afternoon fishing and missed the less dramatic sequel. Had I stayed, I would have gotten to hold it, but alas, I digress...  
And that's life on the river. You can just be standing on the deck of the boat, brushing your teeth or whatever, and witness the incredible. A few days ago, the girls on the dolphin survey spotted an odd blob mid-river, and upon inspection discovered a sloth attempting to swim to the opposite bank (they gave him a lift to the other side).
NOT a sloth (but a pretty impressive termite mound, I should think.)
On at least 2 occasions, Team Dolphin has witnessed pink river dolphins drowning cormorants, so it would appear there's yet another species that kills for the fun of it. 

While out setting the gillnet with Ormenio, a student saw a couple giant river otters* (they can be 2m long!), and others saw evidence of an arowana (one of my must-see Amazon fishes!) while emptying the nets.
WE CAUGHT ONE (actually THREE) later on this summer, but that story's still coming ;).
Camera traps strategically placed on several transects have captured the likes of jaguars, armadillos, anteaters, and tapirs that daily go unseen but stealthily live among us.
Panthera onca (jaguar) up close. If I'd just been surprised by a random camera flash in the middle of the night, I'd probably go investigate as well...
It’s a good reminder to keep looking. And not to take any of it for granted.
Pool, not taking any of it for granted
Two weeks from today we’ll be making our way back to Iquitos to start the journey back home. I’m starting to miss stupid things, like cheese and granola and gin and tonics, but it will be hard to return to a desk and data analysis and pointless meetings. On a daily basis, I remind myself to take it all in...because all too soon, it will be over.
Making the most of a free afternoon; Why NOT play a game of human chess?
* Despite MANY attempts to see the giant river otters (lobo del rio!) in person, those wily beasts evaded me all summer. I did get Euclides to show me what they sounded like, so that's basically the same thing... (sorry it's sideways)

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