For those interested in going to the Peruvian Amazon in May 2011, hereÕs our report from May 2007.  Our trip in 2009 was equally terrific!

 

Tropical Rainforest Ecology in the Amazon, May, 2007

 

We thought our trip in January 2001 was wonderful but this one was spectacular!  This past May, Drs. Carl Colson and Kathy Gregg led an expedition of 12 undergraduates and one alumna to the Peruvian Amazon for two weeks following 6 days of intensive classwork on campus.  Upon our early morning arrival we were bussed through the busy streets of Iquitos, with raucous horns beeping all around us from the small three-wheeled taxi scooters whizzing up and down the streets carrying people to and from the market.  At the open-air market our noses were accosted by all sorts of pungent smells, some delicious, some rank.  Here we saw for sale all manner of wares and foods for sale:  snails with their green eggs, splayed-open zebra catfish, turtles, fat and juicy grubs cooked on a stick, orange drinks from a palm fruit, and of course the rainforest pharmacy stocked with row upon row of bottles containing various medicinal concoctions like seven-root and una de gato tonics, purported to cure anything and everything.

 

 

 

 

On our second day we visited to a butterfly farm where students were able to meet face-to-face with eight different species of monkeys, several interested in grooming!  We saw adult and larval stages of a number of colorful tropical butterflies, as well as large tortoises, a giant anteater, parrots, macaws, and even a large, showy orchid.

 

 

One of our most memorable mornings was spent visiting a Yagua village adjacent to Explorama Lodge.  We were treated to ceremonial dances and then we were invited to dance with them!  Josh Abbott interviewed the Chief and discovered that the elders were not as concerned as we would have thought that their children would probably marry outside the tribe and lead very different but hopefully better lives than their parents.  Students enjoyed learning how to shoot a 6-foot blowgun and were actually able to hit the target most of the time!  Yagua still use blowguns today to obtain food, as they are quiet and very accurate when shooting high up into the trees.

 

 

 

 

We also visited the Micuna tribe who live along the Sucusari River, a tributary of the Napo River near ExplorNapo Lodge.  Students enjoyed interacting with the children and their pet baby sloth.  The adults were very gracious to invite us into their home and answered questions about their daily lives, after which we answered their questions about ours. 

 

 

One of the assignments during the course was for each student to interview a Peruvian and write an essay about the life of the person being interviewed.  Drs. Gregg and Colson were pleased with the descriptions of the lives of Riverenos who worked at the Explorama lodges in various capacities, and of the shaman and the Yagua Chief.  One student even interviewed the local rum maker.

 

 

 

Another wonderful morning was spent visiting a Rivereno village school where there was a great soccer game!  Go Adrienne and Dale! Here we were entertained by students singing and reciting and acting out poetry.  There was a great question and answer session with both the students and their parents.  One of the highlights was finding out everyoneÕs favorite music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On another day we boated down the Napo River to visit with the local thatcher, Amelia Rojas, and she took the time to teach each one of us how to make the large sections of roof thatch that are so important for comfortable housing in the Amazon.  While we were there, some local men caught an anaconda, which was exciting!

 

 

 

 

At the Amazon Center for Tropical Studies (ACTS) we were able to climb up onto the canopy walkway early in the morning and late in the afternoon on several days to view plants, animals, sunrise, and sunset.  The platforms are built around the emergent trees high above the canopy, anywhere from 70 to 120 feet above the ground.  Here you can watch elusive tropical birds, fascinating lizards, and brilliantly colored bromeliad flowers.  

 

 

We donÕt want to forget the shaman we visited while at ExplorNapo Lodge.  His incantations helped us stay in tune with the rainforest.  On our last day we visited yet another Yagua village where we spanned a large ceiba (kapok) tree decorated with, guess what, the international smiley face! 

 

 

Photo credits:  Josh Briscoe, Britt Frye, Kathy Gregg, Allison Teter, and Chris Wolf.