Our full day in the Rainforest started with a walk from the river to the Oxbow lake. The walk was about 2km, and we saw and learned about a number of species of plants and animals.
Trees in the rainforst grow all the time, so they don’t have rings. This blew my mind!
The Candlestick Ginger is very important to the native people here. It’s stem contains water, which can be consumed by a thirsty traveller. Its stem can also be boiled into an infusion and used against headaches. Elvis told is he has used this many times, and it is very effective. He did not mention if these headaches he suffered from were acquired after a night at the discotheque.
The trees in the rainforest do not have deep roots like in other forests. Because the nutrients in the soil are really only in the top 80cm, the trees have no need to have deep roots. Instead they have developed two types of systems to stabilize themselves, buttresses, like the figs, and stilts, like the palms.
The largest venomous snake in South America is called the bushmaster. It can grow larger than 3.5m in length and 10cm in girth. Though we looked, we did not find any bushmasters while on our hike, nor at any other time of our stay in the rainforest.
The walking palm can move up to 15cm per year searching for sunlight. It accomplishes this by sending out new roots in the direction it needs to travel.
Elvis also pointed out a plant he referred to as the erotic plant. Apparently the sap from this tree is used to make a type of Viagra. I’m not sure where they got the idea from, though…
Although Tarantulas are nocturnal, Elvis woke a few up so we could see them. I was surprised to learn that they live in holes by the path, which makes finding food easier for them. While their bites are very painful, they are not deadly. Still, they move very quickly, and I was glad to see them from afar. I know how grumpy I get when someone wakes me up from a good sleep!
At one point, Elvis grabbed some leaves and started rubbing them in his hands. He added a bit of water, and it started turning a deep purple. I got voluntold for face paint, and then after it was on, told it would take years to come off. Thankfully my experiences with Queen’s Engineering taught me how to get purple dye off my skin quickly and effectively!
While in the forest, we thought we mist be looking pretty good because someone was whistling at us. Turns out it was male Screaming Piha competing for a mate. take a listen!
We had a short boat ride on the lake, where we saw some hoatzin, aslo known as stinky birds.
Apparently they are so smelly that they have no natural predator! Now that’s smelly! Creatures in the lake include piranahs, electric eels, and freshwater stingrays.
The two biggest trees in the forest where we were are the strangling fig, which wraps itself around a host tree, slowly killing it, and the Kapok.
On the boat ride back to the trail, Elvis handed us packages of crackers and these orange spherical fruits. When we opened them, I thought it looked like brains on the inside. Turns out they were passion fruit, and very very delicious. I just couldn’t look too closely at what I was eating!
We returned back to the lodge for a yummy lunch and a relaxing afternoon. The water for each lodge was heated by solar, so I wanted to wait until after midday to shower. The water was good and hot, and I did not regret my decision.
At 6:30 we met to learn a little bit about the Caiman, a member of the alligator family. They are solitary animals, and the males attracts a mate by blowing bubbles! We then jumped in one of the boats and went out searching for Caimans. Clearly Elvis has been trained for this because when he pointed to where one was, I kept looking at what turned out to be a log in the water, not the caiman at all! The first one we saw was huge, maybe around 1.5m. Elvis later told us he figured it was about 20 years old. Caimans never stop growing, and can live to be 60 years old, so you can tell approximately how old they are by their size.
We saw two more caimans, both babies about one year old. They looked to be no more than a foot long. We also saw some capybara up close. The biggest one was HUGE! It was the size of a medium to large dog! In the same vein as last night, I decided not to bring my camera out of respect for the caimans and capybara.
We spent a good 5 minutes on the boat with the motor turned off just listening to the sounds of the rainforest. I also looked at the stars. I always forget how amazing the night sky is when there’s no lights on!
Tomorrow we begin our trip home to Toronto. This has been a magical trip, and I am sad it’s over.