Thursday, July 31, 2014

Degrees of peligroso

One of the first new Spanish words I learned when coming to the Peru was “peligroso” (translation: "dangerous!"). Far as I can tell, there isn’t supplemental vernacular to differentiate degrees of peligroso, since over the course of one afternoon, it was used both to warn me about potential a tripping hazard (a tap root across a foot path) and to get me the hell away from a Fer-de-lance resting on some floating vegetation.
A WALKING TREE!!! It can Literally walk. Seriously. Google it.
It's hard not to embrace my inner Tarzan and go crazy on these lianas. But alas, branches across the trail have been known to take people down...
Yesterday we were out fishing in the channel (the lake is officially off limits because of the low water level), and I saw an adorable fluffy caterpillar floating on the water surface. I picked it up with the end of my ansuelo (fishing rod [look at all the Spanish I know!]) and showed it to Pool, who immediately “peligroso-ed” me and set to getting it off the boat. Turns out whatever-it-was was incredibly poisonous, and depending on whom you ask, it could kill you within the span of a few hours or a few days. I took some pics, Pool set it free, and I learned, once again, to Touch Nothing, EVER, without asking first.
"I'm Not That Innocent..."
[UPDATE! 16 October 2014: Thanks to a student ID, I now know that these guys are the larval form of the Saturniid moths, and the bristles inject deadly venom that causes internal bleeding, brain and lung hemorrhaging, and inevitable death. Treatment includes a good washing with soap and water, duct tape adhesion to the injection site (seriously!, to get the bristles out), followed by death. Thanks, Alex!]

Fishing has slowed considerably over the past week (one day we caught zero fish in the net; the next day we caught just one sad wolf fish…), but things have finally picked up a bit. As water levels drop and oxygen levels plummet, fish make the move from the lake back out into the channel and main river segments, and instead of just wolf fish (yawn) and armored catfish, we caught a good variety of piranhas and cichlids (dear, dear cichlids!) yesterday. My posse of boat fisherman even managed to snag a couple fish I still needed to fill out my isotope food web sample set (blog post pending...), so ELLEN FOR THE WIN!!!
This guy doesn't look that interesting until you Open His Mouth! They are seed-eaters and have teeth that are rabbit-esque.
Euclides declared himself the best fisherman ever when the net was FULL of these armored catfish. I was less than thrilled when it took an hour to get them all out...
We caught this too.
An adorable little pygmy flycatcher
The canoe folks saw this little fella flailing around in the water on their way back from setting the net. We just happened to have a bird expert on board that day (Rob, my fellow American!), and he figured the bird had recently fledged and was still getting the hang of flying/diving in the river. They pulled him out of the current, Rob found a safe place for him in the trees, and Little Bird lives another day.
Breaking my own rule, I didn't ask if this little buddy was safe or not. I didn't die, so I'm assuming it's all good.
A random storm hit us just before we could measure fish, and instead of the warm showers we've all grown accustomed to, the chilly rain made the river water feel like a hot tub in comparison. Second lesson of the day: never forget your poncho, since apparently getting caught in the rain will get you a stern peligroso from the boat nurse. I managed to pick up a cold a few days ago, and Marta, the nurse, was worried that my soaked bits would worsen my stuffed sinuses and headache. I suspect I'll be just fine in a few days. 
It's a bad sign when you head out and see this on the horizon, but we are Hard Core and cannot be deterred by a little rain (or so I told the kiddos...)
Pool makes me hold his smokes in my drybag when the rain comes. Peru is not messing around when it comes to smoking-while-pregnant warnings.

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