Nicholas School Blogs | Guest

Amazon Adventures, Day 5 – Into the Jungle
by -- March 8th, 2011

The day began with another 5:30 AM wake-up and delicious breakfast in the San Pedro cloud forest. We spent the early morning bird watching.

Relojero Bird (Motmot)

Relojero Bird (Motmot)

We were lucky enough to see several tropical birds, including a kingbird, tanagers, cock of the rocks (the national bird of Peru), flycatchers, a blue and white jay, pigeons, a motmot, and parrots in a flock (see complete list of birds in blog appendix for more species).

After the morning hike, we traveled to an orchid garden, where the charismatic owner grew 250 different types of orchid, including newly discovered, unnamed species.

There were over 250 species of orchids in the garden!

There were over 250 species of orchids in the garden!

We took a bus ride to a port, where we shifted our bags to boats. The next part of our trip in the lowlands of the rainforest will be spent traveling by boat. At this point we were at the Alta Madre de Dios River, and plan to travel downstream to the Manu River, both tributaries to the Amazon River. 1000 years ago, the Alta Madre de Dios River was blocked by geological formations and there is still evidence of former rock barriers along the river’s edge. The water is fast-moving, cold, and has a rocky bottom. We were relieved to discovered NO PIRANAS in these parts, but there are catfish and snakes.

Cold, turbid, fast-moving Alta Madre de Dios River.

Cold, turbid, fast-moving Alta Madre de Dios River.

We arrived at our accommodations and took a hike. The vegetation has changed; rainforest flora employs several different methods of adaptation for resource accumulation and sunlight exposure. Species on our hike included the walking palm, different species of bamboo, ginger, elephant-ears, and vines up over 100 years old. We also saw beautiful mushrooms, including the cup and ear mushrooms.

After dinner we took a night hike and saw five yellow frogs, grasshoppers, an insect resembling a lobster, a wolf spider and many other large, scary spiders. We also saw a baby opossum, bats, sleeping birds, a wasp’s nest, leaf-cutter ants (they work hard carrying leaf parts during daylight and nighttime), and several beautiful moths and butterflies.

Spider in web during night hike.

Spider in web during night hike.

The guides worked their way through the jungle with the help of a machete. They explained the medicinal uses for different species, such as to flush out parasites and ease dysentery. It is much warmer at this elevation and under the canopy, as well as much more humid than the temperatures in the highlands. We are surrounded by thick vegetation, with three distinguished levels (understory, middle, and high canopy). There is a extremely high density of biodiversity, and the plants compete for sunlight and resources with amazing adaptations. For example, one plant’s leaves grown in a spiral to maximize sunlight exposure, and the “walking palm” is able to physically move itself to areas of greater sunlight intensity.

The fauna are very interesting too; their camouflage and symbiotic relationships with host species allow them to avoid predators and thrive in the rainforest. There were too many species names learned and too many information heaped upon us to record it all, but everything is so fascinating and exciting.

Unique mushroom in detritus.

Unique mushroom in detritus.

Our group has a great dynamic; each person brings interesting questions to discuss over meals and during the hike, and the guides are very informed and experienced with the rainforest, answering all our ecological inquiries while Dr. Baker filled us in with his geological knowledge; Everyone is stepping out of their comfort zones with travel, new foods, and lifestyle changes, which is very exciting. Tonight we had our first mosquito bites of the trip, which will soon be followed by many more.

©2016 Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University | Box 90328 | Durham, NC 27708
how to contact us > | login to the site > | site disclaimers >

footer nav stuff