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  1. #1
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    Arrow Tiputini, Ecuador (Rainforest) 2006 Super-TR

    This was originally a 6-part series in the Padded Room... if you'd rather read them there one at a time instead of in this huge ridiculous amalgam, here are the links:

    Part 1
    Part 2
    Part 3
    Part 4
    Part 5
    Part 6

    Otherwise... on to the TR:
    Last edited by backpack; 04-22-2007 at 12:06 PM.

  2. #2
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    Some quick background: I was a TF for a study abroad program in Ecuador last spring, and a major part of the field component is a month spent at Tiputini Biodiversity Station, adjacent to Yasuni National Park. The text is taken from my journal, photos will relate to the text temporally but may not be described directly... I didn't pick these photos to go along with my journal when I put them online. Also, this starts about a week into the trip; I had kept a written journal until the 21st and don't have it with me to quote from.

    March 21: After dinner I went to the volleyball court to look for frogs, and saw a pair mating in the middle of the court plus a bunch of different frogs calling around the edge and a salamander on a ginger leaf towards the end.



    March 22: Woke up at 6:15 when the alarms went off, then again at 7:15 or so when people came back from breakfast. I talked with Noah until 8:15, went to the lab at 8:30 to get crap together for a twig nest search, and left to look for the elusive new Pheidole species at 9:10. I decided to start looking at Chorongo 150; within an hour I had found five twig nests that looked like they might be Pheidole and came back to the lab at 10:20. I searched through the twigs until lunch but didnít find anything that looked like the species Amy wanted, though three of the five were Pheidole.



    Dinner was a burrito bar Ė one of the best dinners they have here. There were home made tortillas, black beans, rice, guacamole, tomatoes, onions, cheese and more. I put two tortillas down on my plate and piled them high with everything but lettuce and green peppers, then put a third tortilla on top of it all. It was sooo good. I went back for seconds and made a burrito I could actually roll up, partly because I was full and partly because there werenít many black beans left. As we were all sitting around enjoying our burritos, a bat fell onto one of the tables, jumped down and started running across the floor just as a huge (fruit?) bat soared past the lab side of the dining hall. Everyone yelled ďBAT!Ē but I didnít realize there was one on the floor until a few seconds later when the German woman practically dove from her table over to grab the bat from the floor. Apparently itís a free-tailed insectivorous bat that is almost never caught in mist nets and she was really excited to have caught one. She decided to keep it until morning so she could get a clear recording of its echolocation calls, since at night there are so many bats flying around that it is difficult to differentiate between them. Once everyone had a good look at the bat we went back to gorging ourselves on burrito fixings. Dessert was tasty as well; babaco flavored with cinnamon and sugar tastes almost exactly like apple pie filling.



    March 23: After lunch I did the Guacamayo-Danta-Lago loop with Alex, which was really nice. We saw lots of cool bugs, including an assassin bug that had long front legs that seemed to look more like a praying mantis.



    We met back at the dining hall at 8 for a night float, and though the stars were amazing we didnít really see much wildlife. The pickings were so slim, in fact, that Mayer had the boat pull over to look at a tree frog on some riverside vegetation.



    When we returned the bat people were processing animals in the dining hall; I took a few photos and then continued on to avoid the crowd, but then had to stop again at the bridge mist net because Alex was getting yet another bat out and everyone had stopped to watch. Iím sure Alex loved the audience (not really), but I had to push through to get back to the lab.



    March 24: After breakfast I went back to the cabin and saw a group of Wooly monkeys passing directly by our clearing. I ran back to the lab to tell everyone, grabbed my camera and spent 15 minutes or so taking photos of them. They came down pretty low and hung there by their tails, literally just hanging out. As they passed the cabins one ended up in a tree with Oropendola nests, and he went out on the narrow limbs to grab the nests and rip them open looking for baby birds or eggs to eat. It was pretty cool to watch, though he didnít find anything in the nests.



    After lunch I spent a few hours reading again, and then at 3 Noah and I went out to the lake. About 2 minutes into the walk the torrential rain started, and in short order we were soaked to the bone. It was kind of fun because weíd been planning on the rain, and after a while I just started running flat out through the forest, sliding through muddy sections and leaping over logs. It felt like some crazy 3D hunting game or something and I really felt happy to have good depth perception. Hooray for binocular vision!

    After a while, though, our boots started to fill up with water, and after the second stop to empty them out I was done running. We walked quickly for the remaining few hundred meters to the lake, but when we arrived both boats were pretty well swamped and we couldnít find any paddles. We both searched around for 10 minutes or so but when we really couldnít find them we decided to go up the tower instead since weíd come all that way and felt we should do something interesting. The tower was definitely nice, we both stripped down to our boxers and hung everything up to dry in the sun and light breeze on the top platform. We saw a pair of green parrots and some other random birds, plus a small green lizard out on a branch of a nearby tree. It was mostly just relaxing to be up on the tower with nothing to do but bask in the sun and dry off. We left around 5 and got back to camp at about 6, showered and hung out until dinner since there was no class with Kelly gone for the next few days.




    Still 40 typed pages left in the journal, but that's the end of my photos for now. I think I'll turn them into thumbnails only when I post the next part since I haven't figured out an appropriate/efficient way to watermark yet. Gah, I really want to go back now.
    Last edited by backpack; 04-22-2007 at 12:07 PM.

  3. #3
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    March 25: We had lunch at noon in the kitchen since the dining hall roof had been demolished after breakfast, which was interesting and kind of nice, if a bit of a surprise.

    Later on everyone came back from dinner and wanted to do a night walk, so I went with them since they aren't technically supposed to be out walking on the trails at night without a guide. We went down matapalo for a while and saw some cool spiders, a snake, a salamander, lizard, and a few frogs. Not bad for a 20 minute walk, really.




    March 26: Shawn and Noah woke me up with cookies. I've been talking about how much I hoped they'd make cookies for us this time since so many researchers had raved about them and I'd never had a chance to try one, so I guess they figured they should bring me some, which was nice. I munched on them half asleep and then passed out again.

    March 28: Kelly asked me to back up a memory card for him, and also asked if I would clean off his sensor since he had a few large chunks that were pretty visible in most photos.

    I turned on my computer and transferred his first card, then a second one that he brought in, and now it's 9 and I'm waiting for him to drop off his camera. I think he's still trying to figure out how to put it in sensor cleaning mode. Now it's 9:40 and still no camera to clean, so I think I'm going to go take a crap and go for a hike or something. I don't feel like wasting any more time.

    I went for a walk around camp and down Matapalo, Chorongo, and Guacamayo/Lago with Nir to get some photos using my wide-angle lens since I haven't used it yet and I figure I should try to get some decent photos of the forest in general. We saw a few cool bugs and the fungus covered moth on Lago, and the same snail I saw a few days ago at the intersection of Chorongo and Matapalo.



    Lunch was carrot soup with popcorn followed by vegetable fried rice with various random vegetables, walnuts and raisins. I didn't care too much for the rice, but I did drink a lot of Tang because I hadn't had anything to drink since lunch yesterday. I also brought along my camera with the 10-22 so I could get some shots of the open space where the dining hall used to be.



    Part of Numa getting to Chichico was flooded, but we found ways around the water and did the whole loop. The weather was really beautiful, with blue sky and no hint of rain. We saw some cool bugs and flowers, and at the end we scared what I think were caimans off the trail. They moved really fast and were clearly large, but we didn't get a close enough look to know what they were for sure.





    March 29: The last bridge between Chichico and Numa was almost underwater at the far end, so it has come up at least six inches or so over the past day. At the old dining hall one of the workers showed us a stingless bee nest in a tree they had just cut down, full of honey pots and lots of pissed off bees.



    We decided that a swim was in order after the hike since it was only 10:20 when we got back and we had plenty of time to kill before lunch. Nir, Noah, Rachel, and Annabelle went to the "service dock" to get in and swim downriver to the main dock, and I took their crap and walked to the main dock to get in. Nir, Noah, and Rachel all managed to get in to the main dock from the main current, but Annabelle wasn't strong enough and didn't start early enough to make it. She was swept downriver, and Nir jumped in to go help her. They ended up 100 meters or so downriver holding on to some overhanging vegetation, and eventually climbed up the bank to Numa and back down to the main dock on the trail. We all sat around on the dock until 11:30, then went back to camp. The cold water in the river was really nice, and when I went to take a shower it actually seemed warm because my torso was so cold from being in the river. At first I thought the water had been heated in the pipes by the sun or something it felt so warm.



    While eating our potato soup, a boa climbed up above the old door to the now demolished dining hall and then up onto the roof, all clearly visible through the screen wall.
    Last edited by backpack; 04-22-2007 at 12:07 PM.

  4. #4
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    March 30: Woke up at 5:55 to check rodent traps with Beth, which apparently was a mistake. First off, Alex woke up thinking it was his alarm and was dressed before I even got out of bed, then I sat at the lab until 6:20 waiting for Beth, who had neglected to tell me that they are getting up later to check traps now since it doesn't take very long to do.

    I spent the better part of the morning breaking apart the twig nest that Nir found yesterday, and though I suspected they might be solenopsis, I didn't really know and had to use a microscope and the genera key in the E.O. Wilson ant book to make sure. Of course, that took a while and a lot of looking up crazy ant physiology terms, but at least I am fairly confident in my identification now. Once that was finished, I knocked out some of the huge pheidole from Shawn's twig to show them how different the workers and soldiers are in that genus, then put all the crap away.



    Of course, everyone else left a few minutes ago and XXXXXX made sure to remind me to turn out the lights. Yea, like I need to be reminded, bitch. Plus, the generator's on, so it's not as if leaving the lights on during lunch is a major issue.

    They were burning the old dining hall steps, and the trees above were tossing around in the rising hot air.

    The first part of Puma up to someone's plot was well maintained, but after we passed the side trail they made the main trail deteriorated immediately. It wasn't hard to follow or anything, but there were some areas that were pretty overgrown and tree or branch falls that we had to go around. Harpia was better but not great, and I was kind of glad to get onto Chorongo at the end and have a nice easy to follow path for the last twenty minutes.



    I went to dinner hoping that we would have a burrito bar again, but alas we had vegetable fettuccini alfredo. It was pretty good, especially with the garlic bread, but the emphasis was on lots of steamed vegetables which isn't my idea of a good time.

    I went to the cabin and as I walked over to my bed I stepped on what felt like a hot nail, but that didn't make sense. I looked down and realized I'd stepped on a Conga ant, and promptly squished it with a candle holder. The sting was pretty painful, though not nearly as bad as everyone says they are. There was a nice purple spot surrounded by a white circle where I'd been stung, and the point where it had entered throbbed with shooting pain. Basically like a wasp sting but somewhat more powerful.

    The benadryl didn't really help me fall asleep nor dull the pain, so I lay there feeling like someone was holding a blowtorch to my foot until about three in the morning when I finally fell asleep.

    (NOTE: Conga ant == Bullet Ant == Paraponera clavata)

    <--- not my photo... google images.

    March 31: Woke up this morning when everyone went to breakfast to a much less painful foot, though I had a weird dream about superheroes robbing a bank and me having to call my dad to warn him that the bank was going to shoot them with a tranquilizer dart from a few blocks away. Very odd. When I woke up the second time my left foot didn't hurt at all, but I'd had another weird dream about how I'd had everyone over to my house for dinner and I hadn't told my parents to have a vegetarian entrťe so all the vegetarians were really pissed off.

    It was 9:30 and I thought I heard monkeys crashing through the trees near our cabin, so I ran out to look but didn't see anything. I did, however, realize that walking around on my foot made it hurt again, and walking to the lab a few minutes later was a little bit painful.

    I asked if anyone wanted to go for a walk, but no one was forthcoming with a positive answer, so at 1:30 I went to take a poop in our bathroom. Later, in mid-BM, Alex came by and asked if I wanted to do Matapalo. I said yes as long as they'd wait for me to finish my dump, so I met them in the lab to grab my camera and off we went. Heather had to collect leaves for her herbivory project so Alex, Beth and I continued on and said we might meet up again further along. When we reached the turn off for Murcialago and the canopy walkways, we decided to head down and see how the construction was progressing. It isn't too far down to the tower, and soon we were watching the welder fastening the scaffolding together midway up.



    We sat around there for a few minutes and then headed back to Matapalo. A bit further along there was another obvious trail off to the right, and we decided to take it and see what was over there. We came to a clearing around a huge tree, with lots of old boards lying around and a bunch of scaffolding and stairs stacked up to one side. This was obviously where Tower 1 had been and would soon be again, but it was also clear that it wouldn't be finished until after we've left Tiputini.



    Towards the end it became a long push to get back; Alex was really tired and I was pretty dehydrated. We made it to our cabin in short order, and I took a shower while Alex decided to wait until he went to bed since he didn't have any clean clothes to change into. Apparently they decided to push our laundry day back to Saturday and didn't tell us until today, so a lot of people are having issues with their outfit planning.



    After showering, I headed out to the lab, taking some insect photos along the way. I managed to find the small super-camouflaged mantis on a tree near the Hilton, and spent several minutes and mosquito bites shooting it.

    Last edited by backpack; 04-22-2007 at 12:07 PM.

  5. #5
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    April 1: We left at 1:15 and headed out Matapalo, then turned left onto Harpia. Harpia was nice, we saw a lot of insects along with some birds, lizards, and monkeys. About halfway to the Matamata turn off we passed Jesse doing herp plots, then didnít see anyone again until we were back in camp. Matamata is somewhat less developed than the other trails, lacking bridges at several stream crossings where wading would put water into your boots. We leapt across those, and waded through some of the shallower ones. There was also one bad treefall that required us to walk around behind the root ball and back to the trail, but it turned out not to be too big of a deal. Midway down Matamata we saw a forest falcon (I think it was Buckleyís, but I havenít had a chance to look through the plates to identify it) and then noticed a large group of squirrel monkeys in the trees above and in front of us. One of them even came down to below eye level about 10 feet away in clear view, which was really cool. Still, weíve seen so many squirrel monkeys by now that they arenít particularly exciting and I didnít bother to take my camera out.



    Alex and Nicole were sitting in the hammock house as we passed, so we stopped to talk to them for a few minutes and Noah told them we had seen an Anaconda. I played along and we made up the story as we went; I think they were pretty convinced.

    After showering, I came back to the lab and saw still more squirrel monkeys passing by the cabin clearing.

    It was a good thing, because though the beef stew and rice wasnít anything special, the chocolate Oreo ice cream on fresh whipped cream was incredible. Not just for Tiputini Ė it was probably the best ice cream Iíve had in Ecuador.

    April 2: I was soaked in sweat after that, so I took a shower and then headed to the lab, where I met Shawn and Nir coming back from doing twig ant plots. They had to return early because they had filled all their plastic bags after just three plots, so I had a lot of twigs to sort through. First I looked at each twig in its bag, trying to identify some of them as Chromatagaster so I wouldnít have to dig through all of them. Of course, every single one looked like Pheidole, so I didnít gain anything by my diligent pre-search. I did have Nir and Shawn measure each twig before I tore them apart, though, so they wouldnít have to guesstimate the length and width from the sawdust that is sometimes all I leave after a total destruction search.



    Dinner was the traditional Sunday night barbeque, this time with the garlic cream sauce Iíve been pining for since we got here. I gave away my beans and corn to Nicole and Beth, respectively, and then smothered my chicken and mashed potatoes in the garlic sauce. It was extremely tasty. I got a little bit more potatoes so I could finish the garlic sauce off, then managed to stuff down a big piece of lemon cake for dessert. I felt like a stuffed turkey.

    April 3: At eleven I went for a walk with Alex out Harpia; we walked for a half hour out and then turned around to come back for lunch, so it wasnít a long hike or anything. We didnít see much, just a few bugs and spiders, until the last bridge where we saw two big lizards sunning themselves. I got a couple of pictures of one of them before it ran off, and we got back to camp at 11:50. Lunch was vegetable soup followed by lentils, rice, and chicken fried steak. Not so great.



    April 4: I woke up and came to the lab around 8:30, and decided to go to the newly finished walkway tower with Alex, Beth, Meghan and Nir. We talked to Meyer about something, and then asked if he wanted to walk out to the tower with us. He agreed, and came after us with a butterfly net. For some reason he didnít seem to want to go in front, so I led and I missed a few things that I had to go back to see when he told the people at the end about them. The coolest thing on the way to the tower was a bunch of newly hatched praying mantises. They were bright blue and orange and were really cute. Our attentions scared them up the tree, though, where they were feasted upon by a small lizard.



    He took us off the trail down the ridge from the canopy walkways and kept us occupied with various insects all morning.

    Last edited by backpack; 04-22-2007 at 12:07 PM.

  6. #6
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    April 5: This morning I got up earlier than usual and went to the lab before 8. Guacamayo at 10:15 with Alex. It was a nice walk; we got to the broken bridge and decided to turn around. I didnít see much other than a pretty cool stick grasshopper, and on the way back it started to rain so we picked up the pace and arrived at our cabin at 11:20.



    Lunch was a tasty vegetable bean soup and plain cheese pizza that was a lot better than their usual pizza. I had seconds on the pizza before they brought out more cookiesÖ I would have skipped the second slice had I known about the dessert. Hopefully weíll get burritos for dinner tonight and this will be a good day for food.

    At 2:20 I decided I was ridiculously cold from sitting under the air conditioner and I also needed to pee like a racehorse. I ended up napping in my room to warm up and then came down to the lab at 3 for the float which ended up being postponed until the rain stopped. We left on the float at 3:30, headed upriver until 5:20 or so, and were back in camp at 5:55. There wasnít a whole lot of exciting stuff to see other than the scenery, which was beautiful as it stopped raining and the sun came out. We did see several groups of wooly monkeys and a bunch of birds (mostly raptors) perched high in riverside trees. It was mostly just a relaxing afternoon on the boat so no one felt bad about being unproductive.



    April 6: I didnít leave until 10:30 after pooping and helping Shawn identify a few colonies, and thus didnít arrive at the tower until 11:30. There wasnít much on the way there, so I only stopped once or twice to look at bugs. The tower was supposedly fixed, but they hadnít done much to the cracked steps on the way up other than to replace two of them with pretty thin planks that I donít think will last very long. The top platform, however, has a completely new deck, and most of the lateral support beams were replaced as well. They did a very nice job and I really like how it looks. I sat up there for an hour and a half and didnít really see anything, though I did hear parrots and crashing in the trees below that might have been monkeys. At 12:45 I started to hear thunder coming from the approaching clouds and decided I should leave soon to avoid both rain and possible lightning. The sweat bees were starting to get a bit annoying as well.



    I left the tower at 1:15 and made it back to camp by 2:30. Along the way I saw some cool bugs and towards the end I ran into a group of squirrel monkeys in the trees above Lago 250 or so. They were so close I could almost have reached up and grabbed one, and they werenít scared by my walking by.



    I caught a green beetle that posed nicely for a while before I put it back in its bag to show to Kelly.




    Nir also mentioned that we would be having burritos for dinner, and sure enough, after lecture we all ran down to the kitchen to find a burrito bar set up where we usually grab our plated dinners. Nir and Noah were ahead of me along with Mike, the squirrel monkey guy, and they really took their time making burritos. I hadnít eaten all day and I was about to jump in and grab some stuff, but I kept it together and piled the tomatoes, black beans, guacamole, onions, rice and cheese on two tortillas until I felt guilty putting so much stuff on top. I ate quickly so I could get in line for seconds, and ended up in line after everyone from the researcher table. I had one more burrito and then for dessert we had half a canned peach each. It was pretty good, but not that amazing after the burritos.

    April 7: Woke up thinking that Iíd have to get up at 7:15 to do the blackwater float, but it had been raining for a while and Kelly decided to cancel it.



    I missed a walk with some of the students on Chorongo, and planned to do Matapalo myself but my right calf was sore for some reason so I took an hour nap and then did Matapalo before class with Nir, Noah, and Beth. We didnít see a whole lot until the last bridge where there were some Howler monkeys feeding. One female in particular was hanging upside down with a baby on her back eating leaves on a tree next to the trail; we all took a bunch of pictures of her and then moved on as it was getting dark. Nir and I got a bunch of pictures of the evening light filtering through the trees, then got back to the lab for class. Kelly talked about snakes for the hour and a half lecture, and almost got to antivenin (which everyone has been waiting a few days for) but not quite. When we got back from the walk the weekend group had moved in and the students were wandering around camp.



    Dinner was red beans and rice Ė one of my favorite dinners after burritos and barbeque chicken. For dessert we had a lemon cornbread cake that was really tasty, but after seeing how many beans were left over I should have had seconds on that instead of cake.

    April 8: Woke up this morning at 6:30 when the weekenders went to breakfast and I couldnít really go back to sleep. I got up at 7:30 when everyone else went to breakfast, came to the lab and got my crap together for the float, then met everyone at the service dock to get a tow up to the black water stream.

    We saw a small toucan almost immediately, which was really cool because Iíve never seen one of the small species before. Along the way we also saw a couple of kingfishers, one of which dove and caught a fish in front of our boat. Other than the few birds, though, it was mostly just a relaxing float through the forest. When we got back to the Tiputini we saw a huge heron that Kelly was pretty excited about, it perched and sat there as we floated by.



    As we pulled up to the dock it started to rain Ė perfect timing. I did have everything in a waterproof bag so it didnít really matter, but itís nice not to be in your rain gear the whole time. My butt was asleep from sitting on a board for three hours, and I was kind of glad to be back. We went back to the lab and found out that the rodent group had finally caught something. They had taken it out of the trap and were looking at it when I got back; it was an introduced species of house mouse, the first confirmed sighting at Tiputini. On the one hand it was kind of cool to be able to confirm a ďnewĒ species, but at the same time itís sad that it had to be an introduced mouse and not something native that they hadnít seen here before.



    Lunch was a not so great soup followed by llapangacha, pork, and a fried egg. They made homemade aji for the lunch, and that made it all much better. It really helps to have good hot sauce.
    Last edited by backpack; 04-22-2007 at 12:07 PM.

  7. #7
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    As I was finishing lunch, I overheard Alex asking Kelly about the canopy walkways, and I jumped on it as soon as I heard they were open. We left quickly since there are only three harnesses and I didnít want to compete with everyone for access, and Nicole joined us when she heard about it back at the cabins. We headed out quickly, and got to the tower in about 15 minutes. The tower is a bit unnerving because the scaffolding and stairs werenít made for each other and though theyíre all welded together the tower is not quite straight and everything gets less aligned as you get higher. We got to the top of the tower just fine, though it is a lot higher than I thought it would be.



    The primary walkways themselves are in good shape, but once you get past the first platform the next two are a little bit sketchy. Also, getting on and off the platforms from the walkways feels a bit insecure because you have to clip off the safety line and move it somewhere else just as you are in the most exposed and unstable spot. Plus, the little ladders and other stuff they have for you to climb off the walkways werenít very easy to deal with and they were mostly covered in ants.



    I made it all the way out to the last platform, which doesnít have a ladder off the walkway and you have to climb down through the tree branches to the platform without any real safety line.



    Alex was way up high on the tiny platform out on a branch that you have to climb a rickety aluminum ladder to get to.



    Noah and I checked out the tents while Nir was showering to make sure everything was there, and apparently the current tents donít have poles so weíll just have to tie them to the tower. Of course, Alex clogged the toilet with a massive shit log, and I had to use someone elseís bathroom to drop my bomb.

    Apparently there wasnít anyone at the boat and they didnít know anything about picking up students at the tower, but Kelly said we could get a ride anyway and Noah brought someone from the workerís cabin to drive the boat. It took him a while to get the engines connected to the fuel lines and start them, but he managed it and soon we were off with both engines running full speed. We passed by the landing spot and if it werenít for the students there shining flashlights we would have missed it. Apparently there were two groups at the tower thinking theyíd be picked up, so it was a good thing weíd come. With all the delays, though, we didnít make it to the top of the tower until after sunset; we could still see some dark red clouds near the horizon but it was clear that the main event had past.

    We set up the tents while there was still a bit of natural light, putting them next to each other on the second platform so one had to push them aside to walk between them. Then we hung a rain fly above the two, tilted so any water would fall off the far side onto the stairs. It didnít take us too long to set everything up, and afterward we went up to the top platform and ate our dinners to go. I had already eaten one of my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while we waited for someone to drive the boat, so I ate my second sandwich, Oreos, festival cookies, and drank my orange juice and mora yogurt boxes.
    Last edited by backpack; 04-22-2007 at 12:07 PM.

  8. #8
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    April 9: After 5 I couldnít really fall back asleep and when the alarm went off at 5:30 I got up and sat around in the tent. Everyone else went up to the top platform, but I stayed in the tent killing mosquitoes on the outside of the mesh for a while since everything was fogged in. I went up eventually and took some photos of the forest in the fog until 7 when we took the tents down, then back up for a while before we headed down to the river at 7:20. I had lost track of time until we heard the boat coming, and we had to rush down to the water hoping we wouldnít miss it. Of course, we did miss it by about a minute, and the group coming up was the same we saved yesterday so it was kind of annoying that they didnít hold the boat for us even though we mentioned that we were coming back on the boat at 7:30 that morning.



    We considered walking back but remembered that Kelly would be coming by on his way to the black water stream, so we waited around at the end of Anaconda and listened to Noah read The Lord of the Rings for about an hour. Kelly came by and saw us yelling and whistling and motioned that he would tell the boat to get us on its way back to the station. We waited around for another 15 minutes or so with Noah reading before the boat came back; the boatman was really good and didnít even go down to turn around he just did a sweeping turn and softly bumped the prow into the bank. He didnít seem to happy to be picking us up, though it only took about a minute from him turning into the spot to heading back down towards camp.

    Back in camp I went immediately to the cabin to change pants and put on my sandals, then went to breakfast with the rest of the canopy tower campers. We had a big plate of scrambled eggs each and a bowl of cereal Ė they finally had coco puffs again so I had cereal too. [...] then went swimming with Nir, Heather and Beth for a few hours.



    We got back at 4:30 and I took another quick shower, then came to the library and took photos of the beetle Nir caught yesterday. Class was at 6, but we were distracted talking about the building of Tiputini and how the USFQ lawyer was corrupt and contracted a crappy company to build everything. Apparently the flooded buildings down by the volleyball court used to cover the court itself and they flooded within a month of being built. Kelly and another scientist had told the lawyer and the construction crew that it would flood but they didnít listen to ďtwo gringosĒ and they also built all the buildings with the cheapest materials possible. Apparently within three years of construction they had to start patching the buildings, which is pretty insane.

    The lecture, once we got to it, was about birds, specifically parrots and their relatives in Psittacidae.



    April 10: I left the library at 10:15 to go pee in my room since both toilets in the lab are clogged with huge amounts of poo due to the lack of water this morning. I decided once I was there that I should go ahead and shave since I havenít for a few weeks.

    Lunch was pretty tasty pizza with ham, I had seconds and some people got thirds. It stopped raining a bit before lunch and the afternoon was really sunny. I went out for a walk just as Nir and Noah got back in from the walkways and decided to go swimming with everyone instead of hiking. The swim was fun; I went from the main dock and swam upstream to a log they were all sitting on. We would all climb onto the log and one person would stand on the submerged far end, count to three and we all jumped off together, launching them up into the air. Everyone took a turn, and it was pretty fun though I didnít get as high as some people. After a while Alex swam up from the main dock and ten minutes later we all swam back downstream to sit around on the underwater platform. We took a group photo for Shelia and then everyone got pushed off the dock. I went under and didnít really know what was happening until I wiped off my eyes and put my glasses on and realized I was drifting downstream along with most of the guys. I swam quickly back to the dock and within a few minutes everyone was back. We sat around until past 4:30 before walking back to camp. I had to wait for everyone else to take a shower, and was afraid that weíd run out of water before I got a chance. I did have enough water to wash my hair and rinse off at least, then came back to the library and watched the South Park ďAll About the MormonsĒ episode before class. It was kind of funny, actually, how Kelly came in and started writing stuff on the board and for a few minutes half the people didnít realize it was time to stop working on papers and watching movies to listen. He talked mostly about birds this time, with only a few distractions, one of which was the jumping spider we had seen earlier but didnít quite catch.



    Dinner wasnít particularly exciting tonight, just chickpeas with rice and a bit of overcooked beef. The chickpeas were really good, but the rice and meat were barely edible. For dessert we had a caramel pudding that was quite tasty, about as good as the chocolate pudding.
    Last edited by backpack; 04-22-2007 at 12:07 PM.

  9. #9
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    April 11: Woke up at 8:30 to a conversation about the safety of water at the camp. Apparently they werenít sure it was safe to drink water from the tap, even though all the water here is the same no matter where you get it. I went to the library at 9 and agreed to go on a walk with Nir on Chorongo. We left at 9:20 and walked quickly around the loop, only stopping a few times for bug photos. About half way we saw Wooly monkeys, and after that we didnít really see anything. Back in camp we went directly into the library to cool off.



    Lunch wasnít very good, just some beef with vegetables and rice, though it was my first meal in the new dining hall. I was going to go on a walk with Noah and some other people but they decided to go Chorongo and since I did that this morning I figured it would be better to head out to the canopy walkways and meet up with Alex who was already there according to the whiteboard. As I walked towards Murcielago in the stifling heat, a breeze began to blow through the treetops and the temperature rapidly dropped from sweltering to refreshing. The wind picked up steadily until there was a full on gale rushing through the canopy as I reached the walkways to find Alex taking off his harness below the tower. I took a few photos from below and we set off, hoping to get back to camp before the impending rain. A few hundred meters down Murcielago we ran into a freshly fallen set of trees which luckily werenít difficult to climb over. I decided to walk down the trunk of the tree across the trail to look for any cool canopy animals that might have fallen to the forest floor. Alex came along behind me and slipped on a clump of epiphytes, falling gracefully with a slow twist to land on his back in the leaf litter. Luckily, he didnít land on anything spiky or otherwise painful, and pretty much just got up and walked around looking for stuff on the ground. We didnít find anything after five or ten minutes of searching and could hear rain coming in the distance, so we bailed on the tree fall and headed back to camp. About halfway there it started raining with increasing ferocity until we were both completely soaked despite our running the last 500 meters or so at full speed.



    I went back to the room to take a shower and then a brief nap to wait out the rain. At 3:20 I heard people coming back to the rooms to get stuff before the float, so despite the rain it was going to happen at 3:30 as planned. The float was pretty nice, we saw Toucans on the way down, then Pygmy Marmosets at the tree we visited, and Macaws in a tree on the way back. I also saw a caiman walk into the water, but didnít get my camera out fast enough to get a shot of it.



    Class was good, we talked about rodents and other tidbits about mammals. Dinner (as Nir had told me earlier) was burritos, which was extremely exciting because I didnít think I would be getting another burrito night before I left Tiputini. We ate in the main dining hall again, and I gorged myself on five burritos. Really it was enough filling for seven because I piled the beans, tomatoes, cheese, and guacamole so high on the first plate that I had to heat half of it before I could roll the rest in the tortillas. So good, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. We had the lemon cornbread cake for dessert, which while good was unnecessary after the burritos.

    After dinner we headed back to the library and watched the South Park ďMormonsĒ episode with some of the girls from Davidís class who wanted to watch Lost as soon as we left. Oh, and Alex slept in Nicoleís room tonight.
    Last edited by backpack; 04-22-2007 at 12:07 PM.

  10. #10
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    April 12: We saw wooly monkeys just after passing the tower, and some of them came right down to look at us; one of the juveniles climbed down some vines and hung there watching us take photos and a large male came down and peered at us from a clump of dense vegetation about 20 feet overhead. A few cool bugs were all we saw for a while, then several Dentrobatids and fighting Conga ants. We also stopped to look at a massive leafcutter ant colony and also a nest of bees that are associated with leafcutter ants. Some squirrel monkeys came down near us as well, and though the mosquitoes were pretty bad we stopped to watch for a minute or two.



    At about 10 it started to drizzle, then rain, then pour. We went quickly back to camp, and didnít stop much to look at anything. The only real event was when Melissa hit her head against a small wasp nest and got stung on the face, and maybe when we crossed a bridge that was underwater on Chorongo. We were completely soaked, and our boots were full of water to the point that we would regularly pause to dump them out and within minutes they were heavy with liquid again.

    At 12:20 we arrived back in camp, and after dropping off my backpack at the lab I went to my room, took off my wet clothes and took a shower. After washing my hair the water pressure started to go down, and I barely managed to rinse off before we ran out of water. Noah had come in mid-rinse to take a nap, and after I finished showering I decided a nap was a good idea while it was still pouring outside.

    Dinner was white rice with mustard chicken and vinegar cabbage. Not the best ever but I guess after the burritos they decided to ďtake the night offĒ as it were. The vegetarians got lentils with riceÖ it would have been nice to have lentils instead of cabbage.

    Went down to the volleyball court with Noah, Shelia and Nir to look for frogs. We saw some cool ones and then on the way back to the lab they saw a spider eating a worm. At first Noah thought it was bait the spider was hanging out to attract insects, but when he left it became clear that the worm wasnít a bit happy to be eaten and it was slowly disappearing into the spiderís mouth. Noah also noticed a large wolf spider just up the log from the daddy longlegs worm spider, and just above that one was a millipede with a red back. It was pretty cool to see all that stuff, but it got better when Shelia noticed what we thought was a recently metamorphosed Dendrobatid frog. Kelly seemed to think it was a Hylid, and Iím guessing he was right, but either way it was pretty cool to see a frog that still had a bit of its tail and whose edges were still softened like a tadpole.



    We didnít see too much on the night walk, mostly just insects and spiders. There was a large Bufo sitting on a leaf about a half meter off the ground that was somewhat unusual, and a cool stick insect.

    Last edited by backpack; 04-22-2007 at 12:07 PM.

  11. #11
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    April 13: I ended up going with the turtle project people to the lake to release the baby turtles and then up to Tower 2 until 10. Of course I saw a bunch of cool bugs on the way down there, so I got behind everyone and arrived at the tower as they were leaving.



    I went up and sat around enjoying the view. I saw some more cool bugs on the way back, but about half way there I ran into two girls from Davidís group, one of whom was dehydrated and complaining about being light headed. I hadnít had anything to drink since dinner last night, so I knew what she was talking about but I know itís going to happen if I donít bring a water bottle and I deal with it. I passed them when she stopped to sit and rest, and didnít stop for any other bugs until the volleyball court since they werenít too far behind and I didnít want to get stuck going slowly if they caught up and passed me.

    Last edited by backpack; 04-22-2007 at 12:07 PM.

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    Lunch was a bean and potato soup followed by canned tuna cebiche, rice, and popcorn. Not my favorite lunch, but the popcorn was pretty tasty. I sat next to one of the girls from Davidís class who was clearly unhappy in the rainforest and couldnít wait to get back to clubbing in Quito. At first I tried to be friendly but the super-bitch wouldnít lighten up and kept telling us not to talk about anything like insects, spiders, or anything to do with Tiputini, really. I brought over a Giganteops at one point to show around and she barely saw it and said ďIím not interested, take that thing away from meĒ even though I was showing it to Nir, not her.

    I also got stung by some ants while standing for the picture, which made people yell at me to look at the camera but it was like I had ants in my pants, literally. I ended up just walking around camp for the most part, and taking a bunch of pictures of a wasp dragging around a spider that it had killed or otherwise incapacitated.



    I went back to the lab and then changed to go swimming with everyone for a bit. They went to the log again, I got a few shots of them there and then headed over to the main dock to get in, taking a bunch of shoes with me. They all came down to the main dock as I arrived there, and we sat around in the water for a while before people started to head back in ones and twos. Alex went back to take a shower first, then Noah and Nir, and finally I was the last one to leave because Beth came down late and I felt bad leaving her alone. I was looking forward to a shower, but Noah was the last one to get water before the tank went dry. Nir and I were SOL. I even went back midway through class hoping there was water, but alas they didnít turn the pump on and there wasnít any.



    Our last dinner at Tiputini was fettuccini alfredo with steamed vegetables and garlic bread, which was pretty good, and apple crisp for desert. The apple crisp wasnít quite as amazing as the first time, but still a decent finish to the month.

    April 14: The boat ride was ok until one of the engines stopped working, and after that things went rather slowly. Just about everyone fell asleep within the first half hour, and we didnít see a whole lot of wildlife. At the bridge we did the typical load/unload routine, then some Huaorani came up to the chiva to sell us various crafts. Iíd never seen this before, and there was a film crew there, which made it even weirder for me. I didnít buy anything with what little money I had, but I guess some people enjoyed the spectacle and I do wish Iíd at least bought a bag or something since they were all truly traditional handmade souvenirs. Kelly said later that they were probably there because the film crew was from some Ecuadorian news magazine doing a special about the effects of tourism on indigenous people.



    We had some time at the dock in Coca, and for some reason we migrated over to the hostel where two squirrel monkeys had been ďdomesticated.Ē They went after Nirís gum, and then started climbing all over us, looking at their reflections in our camera lenses, digging through backpacks for fruit, and peering intently into LCD displays. It was really fun, even though it was sad because they were probably orphaned when their mothers were killed for food, but feeling a little monkey climb all over you with their super-soft hands is really really cool.



    Since all the restaurants and stores next to the airport were closed, we headed down the road a ways to the first place that was open. I had a tasty superhelado and we all sat around talking in the shade of the building for a while. At some point a procession came by just down the street, I think it was for Good Friday or something.

    Last edited by backpack; 04-22-2007 at 12:08 PM.

  13. #13
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    Done.

  14. #14
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    i've been keeping up with the installments, but now that it's all in one place...wow. that's awesome.

  15. #15
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    Nice work, mang. Looks like a sweet time.
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  16. #16
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    Awesome! I've never been to Tiputini, but Yasuni is real cool. Well the whole country is pretty cool. Great pics.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by PolaroidsfromMars View Post
    Awesome! I've never been to Tiputini, but Yasuni is real cool. Well the whole country is pretty cool. Great pics.
    What were you doing in Yasuni? Other than research at Tiputini or Catolica or work for an oil company there isn't much easy access... not too many people have been there so I'm curious.

  18. #18
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    That looks really really cool. The photos are beautiful!

  19. #19
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    Awesome. Stunning. Rad.

    My time in the Cuyabeno area was pretty mind-blowing and that was only for a week. I'd love to get back down there and really see some stuff. Who were you working for?
    Putting the "core" in corporate, one turn at a time.

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  20. #20
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    Wow, that looks like a really awesome time. Great pictures.
    Ride Fast, Live slow.

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  21. #21
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    thanks for taking the time to put that up

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by hop View Post
    Who were you working for?
    Boston University/Universidad San Francisco de Quito

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