Wednesday was my last full day in the Amazon and today we were leaving at 7:00 a.m. in the boat to go up river in search of Macaws! Besides the sloth, I really, really wanted to see Macaws. So after an early breakfast we set off up river.
The trip started out on a high point as about ten minutes into up river from the ARC we spotted a toucan in the trees. I was not expecting to see a toucan so this was a huge bonus. The toucan was brown with a colorful long beak. I managed to snag a picture before it flew away, but did not get much colour because it was so high up and the sun was behind the clouds. No matter. I saw it and there is a picture.
As we continued upstream, the river meandered from right to left and then back again in a series of s shapes. The river also became very narrow and we had to duck under tree branches and steer around fallen trees as we made our way to macaw country.
Unfortunately, the remainder of the trip up river was very uneventful. We saw an occasional hawk and lots of butterflies, a number of noisy woodpeckers, and parrot, but no monkeys and no macaws.
We did see two pairs of macaws fly overhead and we could hear them in the distance (they give off this very loud squawking noise), but no up close visual.
Nixon and I were both beyond discouraged. By now it was about 10:30 and it was time to turn around. Just as we shut the engine off and were about to begin our “float” back to the lodge, Nixon grabbed the paddle, stopped our boat and pointed up in the trees. I looked through my binoculars and saw nothing (pretty typical for my skill set in spotting birds and animals). I looked again and then once more and suddenly I saw them high up in the trees against the brilliant blue sky. A tree FULL of gorgeous blue and yellow macaws. We counted 11 and just as I spotted them, the macaws started squawking. It was a symphony of sounds.
I started snapping pictures in hopes of just getting a couple good shots (which I did) and as I was rotating between taking pictures and watching them through my binoculars, 7 more macaws flew overhead and into the tree. It was absolutely wonderful. We ended up sitting there for about 20 minutes enjoying the company of the fabulous birds.
Nixon finally released his hold on a tree branch and we began to float down the river away from the squawking. With the macaws checked off, Nixon and I were now all about finding some monkeys. But the monkeys proved even more elusive than the macaws. We could see rustling in the trees and we could hear them, but we simply could not see them.
As we continued to float down river, Nixon pointed to a large branch hanging over the the river … anaconda. Yikes. And this was no juvenile anaconda like we had seen on the boat ride back from the poison dart frog hike. This sucker was huge. Nixon moved the boat closer to get a good look and he figured it was about 3 meters long (that would be 9 FEET). I took a couple pictures and then the anaconda lifted its head, slid off the branch and into the water. We could see its head above water as it swam away. Uh Nixon .. get me out of here pronto!
So Nixon backed the boat away from the tree branch and we continued to float back to the ARC. (Fortunately, we did not see the anaconda again.). We continued to be carried with the current back and forth around the S curves without a single sighting of a monkey.
The only other notable we saw was a tropical river otter. It’s head was lifted out of the water as we approached, but by the time I got my camera out it was gone. We could hear it rustling under a bunch of water plants, but didn’t see it again.
We finally reached the ARC at 1:30. It had been a long day already. Nixon suggested we have lunch and then meet up again at 3:30 for a hike behind the ARC. Fine by me.
At 3:00 I started to get ready for the hike. Maximum strength mosquito repellant. Check. Sunscreen. Check. Hat with mosquito net. Check. Long pants. Check. Long sleeved shirt. Check. Rubber boots. Binoculars. Check. Camera and fully charge battery. Check. Water. Check. Geez. No wonder I need a half hour to get ready.
Anyway, at 3:30, Nixon and I set out to see if we could find some monkeys. About a half hour into the hike through dense forest and over muckey bogs, (and dodging the ever present mosquitos and horse flies), Nixon spotted monkeys high up in the trees. And for the next half hour, Nixon and I trailed them through the forest. As the monkeys lept from branch to branch, I trailed after Nixon as he kept up a grueling base so as not to lose the monkeys. The monkeys finally slowed down and I was able to get a really good look at the little fellas. There were two types of monkeys: black squirrel monkeys and capuchin monkeys.
As Nixon kept moving and following the main pack, I stopped and stared overhead at the rustling leaves. All of a sudden a huge commotion broke out and monkeys were flying through the air high over my head. The next thing I know, 3 monkeys are sliding down the tree to lower branches and leaping from branch to branch. Apparently the two species were fighting and 3 of the squirrel monkeys were doing their darndest to get away.
The arial show continued for about 10 minutes with me just standing in one place and Nixon following around in a circle. Finally, the monkeys headed further into the forest and Nixon said it was time to turn back.
The forest was becoming darker and we needed to get back to the ARC before dark since neither of us had brought our headlamps. So with that we proceeded to retrace our steps along the path back to the ARC. And the nice thing was that most of the paths were marked so we could keep track of how much further we had to hike. At the point we turned back, we were 5 markers in so approximately 1000 meters (each marker was 200 meters apart from the next).
We climbed over trees, dodged vines, avoided stinging nettles and tried not to get stuck in the muck. The hike was really brutal. It was incredibly hot and humid, but because of the bugs, I was completely covered. My shirt was completed soaked and all I wanted to do was have a cold shower. (I now understood the real reason there was no hot water.) At one point, Nixon stopped and pointed at a bunch of leaves and said “leaf frog”. “Uh where?” Nixon kept pointing at the pile of leaves and finally used his machete to point it out for me. Gesh!
We finally reached the ARC at 5:30 just as the sun was setting. That would be my last hike in the Amazon and quite frankly that did not make me sad.
After dinner, Nixon and I took the boat out to see if we could find caiman and other night creatures. The caiman is the South American version of an crocodile. Now anyone who has read my blogs about my safaris in Africa know I have a mild aversion (ok major aversion) to crocs. Just.Don’t.Like.Them. However, Nixon convinced me that it would be worth it to go out so I grabbed my head lamp, put on a long sleeved shirt, covered myself in bug spray and hopped into the boat. The “night sounds” were already in full swing as we headed out. (Frogs croaking, night birds singing, crickets chirping and bugs buzzing.)
We almost immediately spotted a caiman in the light with its glowing beady little yellow eyes. I managed to take a couple good pictures before it leaped up and dove down below the water. I swear I almost fell out of my seat. I think the only thing that saved me was the absolute fear of falling in the water and being a small headline on the backpage of a newspaper.
Anyway, after the caiman scare, we puttered up river stopping once to take a look at a massive frog croaking up a storm on a a pile of dead trees in the middle of the river. As we continued, we saw a night crane a couple more caiman (we kept our distance and could just see the eyes glowing out of the water) and heard the loud barking sounds of the tree frogs. The highlight was probably catching a glimpse of a white caiman on the river bank. (There are apparently two species: white and black.). However, as soon as our headlamps picked it up, the caiman slid into the water.
At this point, Nixon cut the motor and we floated with the current back to the lodge. We saw the same caiman in the same spots on the way back to the ARC. However, the funniest thing was that as we approached the log pile, the throaty sound of the frog grew incredibly loud. Once we closed in on the wood pile, we understood the reason for the noise: the frog was mating. And let me tell you this was the strangest position ever. One frog was completely upside down while the other was stretched out below. It was bizarre.
So with that, we ended our evening on the river. Tomorrow we would have an early morning outing before breakfast and then it was time to head back to the Lodge and then to Iquitos. The nice part was that because we were going downstream, the trip to the Lodge would only be one hour and the trip to Iquitos would only be two hours.
It was going to be sad saying goodbye to Nixon and the Amazon, but I was really ready for a hot shower!