And this Saddleback Tamarin at sunset was even tougher.
The Howler Monkey pictures were taken in the 2 seconds or so that it took him to dash from the leaves higher up the branch to the clump a couple of feet further down while holding on to the branch with his tail. In the leaves, he is all but invisible. Monkeys are prey for snakes, hawks and various Indian tribes who hunt them with blowguns and arrows dipped in a poison they produce (batrachotoxin) by boiling a ½ inch long frog, which has come to be called a poison dart frog, and dipping the points of their darts in the resulting soup. Other Indian tribes use a different method involving collecting frogs in a piece of bamboo and collecting the foamy secretions from their backs. Either way, one ½ inch long frog carries enough poison to kill 10 men.
The Jacana is also known as the “Big Foot” of the bird world, because of their enormously long toes, which enable them to walk on floating vegetation without sinking.
And just when I figured we had seen just about every kind of fowl thing there could possibly be, we took our skiff into the backwaters or, in the words of Capt. James T. Kirk, “Where no man has gone before.”
One absolute about the jungle is you are either a predator or prey. Just about every animal snacks on some smaller, slower or tastier neighbor. Many animals use camouflage to hide their whereabouts from those others who would have them for dinner. If you look closely at the above picture you will see an iguana standing motionless on the branch and blending in perfectly with the surrounding foliage. I actually had to take this picture and then look at it before I saw him!
I have to apologize for the quality of many of the pictures you are about to see. We were in the Amazon between their wet and dry season and the water was at its highest level of the year. This meant we were taking pictures of far-away, fast-moving animals (mostly) from a small skiff loaded with fellow tourists (we called ourselves “explorers”) all of whom were jostling about trying to take pictures. This played hell with my ability to hold a camera equipped with a telephoto lens steady enough to actually end up with a clear picture. This Howler Monkey is a case in point.
Although they nest in trees, termites are a sub-specie of cockroach that actually derive nutrients from the soil humus and don’t appear to cause any harm to the trees where they nest.
And who, exactly, you may ask, would seek to observe and discover such nasty idiosyncratic behavior in several breeds of miniature creatures in need of serious attitude adjustments? Mono Dedos, that’s who!
The poison dart frog is among a number of creatures whose bright coloration warns predators that they are about to make the last mistake they ever will and seems enough to guarantee their survival. There seems to be some dispute as whether or not these things can be safely handled but, since they have the rare distinction of being recognized as the most poisonous animal alive, I will just leave them be.
Another of the small creatures you should steer clear of in Amazonia is the Bullet Ant.
The above picture is of the Giant Lily Pads which are 5 to 6 feet in diameter (they can get up to 9 feet across), have spines on the bottom to prevent fish from munching on them and due to air-filled veins within them, can hold hundreds of pounds and still float.
This endeavor involved hacking and chopping and ducking through low hanging vines, thorny bushes, tree limbs and other vegetation laden with God only knows what kind of creepy crawly thing waiting to pounce; and it was in this primordial swamp we found the strangest looking bird I have ever seen.
Our last night aboard the Amatista was party time. Our local on-board musical group, the Chunky Monkeys, played some Peruvian and popular tunes and were even joined at one point by one of the passengers, Andy, on the trumpet.
These things are up to 2 inches long, or about 4 times larger than the Poison Dart Frog. They are not nearly as deadly but the sting from only one of these critters will cause you a full day of constant pain. Our guide, Victor, got stung by one, on the elbow through his long sleeve shirt, while telling us about them. He was not a happy camper afterward but was fine by early the next day.
Termites are another of those Amazonian residents found in abundance living in large nests they construct on tree trunks.
This was a fine send off and the perfect end to a perfect week of adventure. We cannot say enough about what a truly amazing adventure we had aboard the Amatista and the fantastic treatment and care we received from each and every crew member. VIVA AMATISTA!!
And on that thought we’ll put y’all out of your misery and end this nonsense before the internet cops come and confiscate our computer for exposing Web surfers to such mindless drivel. But first, a few more drips of drivel…
We left the Amatista and spent 1 more night in Lima before boarding a red-eye flight back to Gringo Land the next evening. While awaiting our flight, we hung out at the Larcomar shopping center built into a cliffside overlooking the sea. We took up residence at TGIFridays and enjoyed a televised soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona with a large group of Real Madrid fans from Spain who are currently living and working in Peru. It proved to be quite the entertaining and enjoyable experience.
Hugs, CC & me
And…we’re back! Back in Peru. Back in the Amazon. Back in the JUNGLE!!!
Okay, I have to stop with these Marine Corps-type “high and tight” haircuts!
Those of you who have followed our adventures over the last 20 years or so know that I generally leave some swathe of pixel space in the middle of one of these diatribes for what has come to be known as “Zook’s Nook.” This is generally an area where The Bride gets to show off a few of her floral fascinations. So, here goes…
This is the Hoatzin (pronounced: wat'sin). It actually appears to be a link between the birds of prehistory and those of today. It emits deep hoarse cries, grunts and groans and has claws on its wing tips. This bird also has a specialized pouch in its gullet in which fermentation of vegetation takes place causing the bird to smell pretty horrific and thereby earning its more common name, Stinkbird.
Although you would never know it from this Update, monkeys are rather prolific residents throughout the Amazon, albeit a bit of a challenge to photograph. We thought we would include this spider monkey which we noticed in the streets of Nauta and then another group that wasn’t camera shy in the least.
Of course, she does have a somewhat minor interest in a few small creatures that are not quite so deadly…like grasshoppers, turtles, and a few species of non-venomous butterfly. (This photo gives you some idea as to just how thick the rain forest is. During a heavy rain one day, we could see the rain through a break in the trees but the canopy is so thick that we didn’t even get wet.)
Monday morning around 11 am we arrived back in Sweet Home Alabama. There’s no place like home! Alabama, the Heart of Dixie!!
Lagniappe (in New Orleans it simply means, “a little something extra”): For a couple more excellent “reads” about earlier Amazon adventurers, we recommend the following factual accounts:
“The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey” by Candice Millard
“Lost in the Jungle” by Yossi Ghinsberg (The movie, “The Jungle,” 2017, was based on this book.)
One more sunset picture with some Great Egrets, a Snowy Egret (black beak) and a Cattle Egret (upper right corner), courtesy of our friend, Ted Henderson.
And YES, folks, she really did drag me along on this trip. The down side of carrying “the big heavy camera” is you have very little photographic evidence that you were really there.
So long as we are on the topic of “things that don’t move,” here is one of the jungle’s inhabitants that is perfectly content to just hang around in a treetop and enjoy the scenery.
Our slow-moving group of olde farts and the walking wounded was following about 10 minutes behind the other group of healthy youngsters and oldsters on pep pills when we saw these paw prints mixed in with the tracks of the leading group. I don’t know if it was better knowing that he was behind, and possibly stalking them, or knowing that he was somewhere in front of us and possibly waiting in ambush on the same trail. Interesting fact: Jaguars happen to be much faster and can climb trees much better than I can! Just a thought…
And did I happen to mention caimans?
These Long Nose Bats are only a couple of inches long and are extremely difficult to see even when you have a guide to point them out. They roost out in the open, on trees and rocks, during the day and, like most bats, forage after dark eating mostly mosquitos in a land where they are blessed with an inexhaustible supply of the winged beasties.
Travel tip: We prepared for mosquitos on this trek with long pants and long sleeve shirts, sprayed with permethrin, as well as topically applied mosquito spray containing 97% Deet and wipes with only 30% Deet. We primarily used the wipes when in the jungle or cruising the tributaries in skiffs. We did break out the heavy-duty stuff on a couple of occasions when we thought we were in a place that may give us a problem. In retrospect, I believe the wipes would have been adequate everywhere we went.
Sun screen is another item we were told to bring along. With most of our exposed skin covered and wearing Tilley hats, we would most often just spray some on our faces and ears. That seems to have worked out for us as we returned to civilization just as lily-white as we were the day we left.
Amazonia Wildlife May 24, 2018
This guy, a White Caiman, at about 3 feet in length, is still relatively small. Most caimans average 6 to 8 feet in length with the Black Caiman reaching an impressive 16 feet. Although their diet consists primarily of fish, they are opportunists and will eat just about anything they can sink their teeth into. I would assume our slow-moving sloth just may fall into this category of caiman munchables.
Along with those predators on land and water, there are also those who fly.
The area of the Amazon we visited in Peru was deemed to be free of both malaria and yellow fever, however, when the CDC website says the risk for either of these maladies is “LOW” as opposed to “NON-EXISTENT,” we assume the worst! We got yellow fever vaccinations and took anti-malarial drugs “just in case.” Your doctor can prescribe anti-malarial drugs but you may need to shop around wherever you live to find someone who stocks yellow fever vaccine. Both medications come with a long list of possible side effects but neither of us experienced any.
Aboard the Amatista, while under way, we hung around on the top deck under a canopy and experienced no problem with either sunshine or mosquitos.
We have now arrived at that point in the narrative that the entire focus has gone to the birds. Peru is one of the birdiest countries on the planet, with over 1,800 different species; 120 of which are found nowhere else in the world. Two of our fellow explorers and rabid birders, Ted and Ann, recorded 87 varieties that they had never before encountered anywhere else in the world.
Birders, they are a rather peculiar breed. They come equipped with guide books in hand and binoculars firmly attached to their eyeballs ever trained on the trees, river banks and even the floating vegetation and debris of the Amazon. When any bird is spotted, they immediately set to work categorizing the variety, size and personal traits of this one critter (i.e.; slightly discolored tail feathers, hinky left foot and appears to be a rather cheeky fellow)
Egrets are pretty abundant along the river and don’t limit themselves to roosting only at ground level; they can be found just about anywhere.
Although this guy doesn’t move very quickly, our guide was able to make him face (and a cute face it is!) the camera by imitating the call of a Harpy Eagle (aka: Royal Hawk), the only airborne predator these guys have to fear. Now, I ask you, if you were considered lunch by some creature with laser-like eyesight, large sharp talons and a beak that could tear through a Sherman tank, would you really be lounging in treetops? Of course, they are not much safer on the ground where they have to contend with jaguars and snakes and, of course, those pesky Indians with their blowguns looking for “bush meat.” Perhaps the sedentary life of a sloth is not quite so idyllic after all.
The jaguar is the apex predator in this part of the Amazon and, although we never saw one, we did run across some tracks.