Put A Pin In It

Search­ing For Mrs Conda First Name Ana

Luxe Beat Magazine - - News - By Deb­bie Stone

This ar­ti­cle has been pub­lished pre­vi­ously by Way Be­yond Bor­ders and the Wood­inville Weekly and re­pub­lished with per­mis­sion.

Iwas a woman on a mis­sion when I set out on my Peru­vian Ama­zon river­boat ad­ven­ture with In­ter­na­tional Ex­pe­di­tions. Like most of my fel­low pas­sen­gers, vis­it­ing the Ama­zon was a buck­etlist des­ti­na­tion, one that promised to be a sig­nif­i­cant and mo­men­tous travel ex­pe­ri­ence. My ob­jec­tive was to learn first­hand about this unique en­vi­ron­ment and its di­verse wildlife, as well as about the peo­ple who in­habit its lush and ver­dant rain­forests. I had an­other goal, though, which was to see an ana­conda snake. Odd, I ad­mit, but for some rea­son, this crea­ture has al­ways held a cu­ri­ous al­lure for me, after hav­ing heard tales of its al­most myth­i­cal pro­por­tions and sur­rep­ti­tious ex­is­tence. In the wild, an ana­conda spends most of its time hang­ing out in rivers hunt­ing for food. A soli­tary snake, it is some­what shy and not eas­ily seen, due to be­ing cam­ou­flaged in the swamps and bogs in which it thrives. The Ama­zon is the Ana­conda’s home and I knew this trip rep­re­sented the best op­por­tu­nity for me to fi­nally come eye-to-eye with this sto­ried rep­tile.

The Ama­zon is by far the largest river sys­tem in the world, con­tain­ing over two-thirds of all the un­frozen fresh water on earth. There are over 1,100 trib­u­taries within this sys­tem, sev­en­teen of which are over 1,000 miles long. The mouth may be 300 miles wide and up to 500 bil­lion cu­bic feet of water surge out to sea per day. In 24 hours, the flow into the At­lantic would sus­tain New York City’s fresh water needs for nine years. Such mind bog­gling facts can be dif­fi­cult to process and are usu­ally met with jaw-drop­ping amaze­ment from vis­i­tors to this leg­endary des­ti­na­tion.

The ex­ten­sive wa­ter­ways and fa­vor­able cli­matic con­di­tions of the Ama­zon Basin have fos­tered the great­est devel­op­ment of rain­for­est to be found any­where on this planet. Over twenty per­cent of Earth’s oxy­gen is pro­duced in this area. Though the ex­act num­ber of plant species ex­ist­ing in Ama­zo­nia is un­known, over 25,000 have been iden­ti­fied thus far, with new species con­stantly be­ing dis­cov­ered.

As for wildlife, the place is a ver­i­ta­ble bird-lover’s utopia. Its rich canopy of trop­i­cal veg­e­ta­tion is home to an as­tound­ing per­cent­age of the world’s bird species. Each day, when we left our mother ship, La Estrella Ama­zon­ica, and went on var­i­ous nat­u­ral­ist-guided ex­cur­sions via skiffs, we were treated to the sight of count­less num­bers of birds of ev­ery color and size. Their mu­si­cal sounds cre­ated a melodic sym­phony in the for­est. And they pos­sessed de­light­fully de­scrip­tive-sound­ing names such as wat­tled ja­cana, laugh­ing fal­con, glit­ter­ing-throated emer­ald, span­gled cotinga, Ama­zo­nian um­brellabird, masked crim­son tan­ager and cobalt-winged para­keet, among many oth­ers. One of my fa­vorites, the horned

screamer, a large bird with a small chicken-like bill and spiny struc­ture pro­ject­ing for­ward from its crown, is known for its quirky at­tributes. It flies like a vul­ture, walks like a duck and ac­tu­ally sounds like a don­key a noise that con­tin­ued to elicit laugh­ter among our group no mat­ter how many times we heard it.

Our nat­u­ral­ist guides, Se­gundo and 'siel, as well as our ex­pe­di­tion leader, en­nis, never ceased to im­press me with their ea­gle eyes and en­cy­clo­pe­dic knowl­edge of the Ama­zon. While on the skiffs, our heads and bod­ies were in con­stant mo­tion. (e jock­eyed in po­si­tion, whip­ping our binoc­u­lars around in ev­ery di­rec­tion each time a dif­fer­ent bird was spot­ted. It was a dizzy­ing and daz­zling ex­pe­ri­ence that left us in awe of the ar­ray of avian life present. And al­though I am not a birder, I took great sat­is­fac­tion in be­ing able to rec­og­nize a few species after a while, even hav­ing enough con­fi­dence, for ex­am­ple, to ex­cit­edly call out, Iyel­low-headed caracara at three o’clock.j The re­ward was a nod from the nat­u­ral­ist con­firm­ing the iden­tity.

The Ama­zon is also a dream come true for but­ter­fly en­thu­si­asts, with more than ,000 species of these del­i­cate crea­tures and some 20,000 species of moths. They are an in­cred­i­ble sight, as they flut­ter by the water’s edge or along a jun­gle trail adorned in their bril­liant ap­parel. They join the pa­rade of flam­boy­ant in­sects such as the rain­bow grasshop­per and the pink-toed taran­tula, along with all the glit­ter­ing frogs, toads, lizards and tur­tles that we found along the river.

So much of the wildlife, from the green tree iguana and three-toed sloth to the long-nosed bat and olive whip snake, art­fully con­ceal them­selves to pre­vent preda­tors from find­ing them. They seam­lessly blend into the en­vi­ron­ment, ap­pear­ing as parts of leaves, sticks and branches. It took me some time to train my eyes and even then, I would have missed dozens of crea­tures had not the guides pointed them out. I re­al­ized quickly on that the Ama­zon teems and pul­sates with life, even when you can’t see any­thing mov­ing. It’s a liv­ing, breath­ing sys­tem a com­plex or­gan­ism that never sleeps.

Though there are some large an­i­mals in the Ama­zon, many are noc­tur­nal and re­main in­ac­tive dur­ing the day or choose to re­main hid­den. Mon­keys, how­ever, are the ex­cep­tion. They are out in full force, jump­ing and al­most free-fall­ing from tree to tree high up in the for­est canopy. Their noises iden­tify them long be­fore they’re vis­i­ble. (e rev­eled in their sight and took great joy in ob­serv­ing their be­hav­ior. It’s hard not to fall in love with the cute pygmy mar­mosets or the owl mon­keys and ca­puchins, but I think the red howler got the most at­ten­tion for its amus­ing sounds and mis­chievous an­tics.

As it was high sea­son and water lev­els were high, we spent much time on the river, as op­posed to the land, which pro­vided an ideal per­spec­tive for spot­ting wildlife. It also gave us a great op­por­tu­nity to ex­am­ine crea­tures that re­side within the river it­self, from the mul­ti­tude of ex­otic fish to the eely water snakes and caiman. The pink river dol­phin was the star at­trac­tion. Born grey, these dol­phins be­come pinker with age be­cause their skin gets more translu­cent, al­low­ing the blood to show through their bod­ies. (hen we came upon a small pod of these flamingo-hued, play­ful mam­mals, ev­ery­one jumped up in the boat and tried to take pic­tures of them. Most of us were un­suc­cess­ful in cap­tur­ing that spe­cial odak mo­ment, as the dol­phins spent only a nanosec­ond above the water, teas­ing us with their splen­did color. In­stead of be­ing frus­trated, how­ever, I de­cided to sit back and fully ab­sorb this spec­tac­u­lar sight, tak­ing my own men­tal pho­tos for later. The dol­phins reap­peared sev­eral times dur­ing our trip and even made an ap­pear­ance while we were swim­ming in the river.

Through ob­serv­ing and study­ing wildlife is the main fo­cus of an Ama­zon river­boat jour­ney, there are so many other as­pects to this ad­ven­ture. (hen we weren’t rid­ing in the skiffs in search of crea­tures, our group vis­ited vil­lages and in­ter­acted with the lo­cal peo­ple. One morn­ing, we went to a school where we do­nated sup­plies, taught the chil­dren the I okey Pokeyj and learned about the ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem. Ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties are few for kids who grow up in the Ama­zon, un­less they opt to move to the city of Iquitos, cap­i­tal of the Peru­vian Ama­zon, where sec­ondary

schools and col­leges ex­ist. Iquitos, with a pop­u­la­tion of 00,000, can only be reached by river or air, as there are no roads con­nect­ing it to the out­side. Sur­rounded in all di­rec­tions by forests and a maze of rivers and streams, it is an oa­sis in the midst of the Ama­zon. The city is the hub of civ­i­liza­tion in the re­gion, and is also the ar­rival and de­par­ture point for river­boat trips.

An­other time, we met with Mae­stro uan, a wiz­ened and wise shaman, who shared in­for­ma­tion about his eight-year train­ing reg­i­men, which be­gan at the age of sev­en­teen. e told us he was born with the Igiftj and that he has the abil­ity to talk with the spir­its of plants after in­gest­ing a highly hal­lu­cino­genic botanic, which sends him into a deep trance. e grows his own plants for medic­i­nal pur­poses and treats oth­ers who are ill with his por­ta­ble Irain­for­est phar­macy.j At the end of the ses­sion, he of­fered us each a bless­ing for safe trav­els.

(e came across many $ibereeos, or river peo­ple, of all ages in their var­i­ous wa­ter­craft, rang­ing from dugout ca­noes to small mo­tor­boats, as boat­ing is the sole method of trans­porta­tion in the re­gion. The river is life on the Ama­zon, and all ac­tiv­i­ties are cen­tered on it. It is a main source of drink­ing water and food, with fish­ing the dom­i­nant in­dus­try and liveli­hood of the peo­ple.

ids at a young age be­come very adept at han­dling boats, be­cause they use them as a means to get to and from school each day. And when it’s elec­tion time, the govern­ment sends in the mil­i­tary to set up float­ing booths along the Ama­zon, en­sur­ing that all peo­ple are able to cast their votes, as vot­ing is manda­tory in Peru.

ouses are built on stilts, which is a ne­ces­sity in the high water sea­son, as flood wa­ters an­nu­ally rise over forty feet. It was dif­fi­cult to imag­ine all the water we saw dis­ap­pear­ing and be­com­ing rice and water­melon plan­ta­tions come ecem­ber. Nat­u­ral­ists told us to en­vi­sion a to­tally dif­fer­ent land­scape in the dry sea­son, where many of the small pas­sage­ways we ex­plored would be nonex­is­tent. Al­though I didn’t plan my trip to co­in­cide with the high sea­son, I’m glad it worked out that way, as there are a num­ber of beau­ti­ful ar­eas the skiffs would be un­able to nav­i­gate in low water months. Pic­ture break­ing trail with a boat through a mass of densely com­pacted water hy­acinths that lead to a pris­tine lake. Once the boat carves its path, the hy­acinths seal back into their orig­i­nal place, as if they were never dis­turbed, and the area looks like a meadow you could walk upon. Over­hang­ing veg­e­ta­tion with its dan­gling vines drip with mois­ture in the heavy hu­mid­ity, while oropen­dola birds’ nests ap­pear as ear­rings for the trees. This pri­mor­dial set­ting makes you feel as if you’ve wan­dered into a scene from I uras­sic Park.j

ish­ing for red-bel­lied pi­ranha was an­other unique and en­ter­tain­ing ac­tiv­ity that our group en­gaged in dur­ing the trip. The tech­nique was sim­ple Skewer a piece of raw meat to a hooked line, thrash the thin wooden pole in the water to at­tract the at­ten­tion of the pi­ran­has and then pull up when you feel a tug. Even I, who have had lit­tle to no fish­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, was suc­cess­ful in catch­ing one of these car­niv­o­rous crea­tures. I didn’t spend much time ad­mir­ing my catch rather, I quickly handed it over to the boat driver, try­ing to avoid the fish’s sharp teeth and vi­o­lent move­ments. The pi­ranha’s fe­ro­cious rep­u­ta­tion is most de­served, and many a lo­cal fish­er­man bears the scars of care­less­ness when han­dling them.

Sun­sets in the Ama­zon are pure magic. Most of the time, by late af­ter­noon, we were back on La

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