Stories from the Amazon

  • Sloth and red faced monkey

    Jacobs Has Encounters with the Creatures of the Amazon

    “Touch nothing.”

    “Touch nothing as you walk, watch where you put your feet, never grab a branch on a tree,” said Cliver, my guide. Our boat was cruising down the river toward our jungle destination.

    I said quietly to myself, “What about breathing?”

    I was on my way back into the jungle and that made me very happy. After countless hours on a boat watching the rain forest go by, I was ready to enter the jungle and see what was waiting to be discovered.

    The rain forest is dense with life. It is also a place where a huge battle for survival takes place every day. Plants produce chemicals to repel insects; insects learn how to consume the plant before the chemicals are released. Poisonous frogs are colorful as a warning to potential predators; other frogs mimic the color to scare predators away. There are also the snakes, spiders and ever-present ants.

    Bottom line — it’s not a place to go alone.

    Our boat continued up the Rio Yanayacu for an hour. At times, we struggled through the flotilla of plant islands being flushed from the lakes into the river because of rising waters.

    “Did you bring bug spray? The mosquitoes will be bad,” Cliver said.

    “Yes, and a netting to hang over my hat,” I responded.

    I was with two other guests from the lodge, a couple from Sweden. They decided to cover themselves with hooded sweatshirts to try and keep the mosquitoes at bay. They actually each created a mobile sweat lodge.

    Our boat weaved around trees through the flooded forest until we finally reached land.

    “Here’s where we get out. Remember, touch nothing,” Cliver repeated once again.

    Before even getting out of the boat, a cloud of mosquitoes swirled around my head. I draped the black netting over my hat and sighed with relief that I brought it. The down side of the netting is air does not easily pass through it. This meant my head started to cook.

    Sweat instantly began running down the sides of my head.

    After securing the boat, Cliver and George, the boat driver, started hiking through the rain forest.

    “Look there, a short-tailed parrot,” Cliver said. I strained my eyes, looking through the dense forest. I spotted the parrot as it flew from one branch to another.

    “Stop,” Cliver said, standing in the middle of the trail. “Right in front of me is one of the most poisonous snakes of the forest.”

    I slowly approached Cliver.

    Looking straight at us was a brown snake that reminded me of a rattlesnake without the rattle. Generally, snakes dart away when spotted in the forest. They are afraid of human contact. Not this guy. He coiled up right in the middle of our path, head cocked back and ready to strike.

    The markings above its eyes pointed down. This gave it an extra mean look, as if daring us to even consider continuing down the trail.

    “Normally we leave animals alone, but this snake is aggressive and very dangerous,” Cliver said.

    A day later we heard about a local village woman who was bitten by the same kind of snake. She was with the local Shaman trying to survive.

    Cliver took a long stick and, with one powerful blow, whacked the snake across the head killing it. He picked it up and hung it across a tree branch.

    “This will make some eagle’s day,” he said.

    Nothing goes to waste in the jungle.

    I took a closer look at the motionless snake; even dead it looked mean.

    We continued down the trail and came to a muddy area. Cliver pointed to a track in the soil.

    “A fresh jaguar print, probably early this morning,” he said.

    I bent down to take a closer look, and I placed my hand next to the paw print. My hand and the paw print were nearly the same size.

    I wondered if the jaguar was watching us at that moment.

    Our hike through the jungle continued for another four hours. On our way back to the lodge, Cliver needed to make a phone call at the one spot along the river where he could actually get a signal.

    Our boat pulled up to the bank next to a farmer’s hut. I hopped out to look around while Cliver made his call.

    One of the people in the hut waved me over to show me something.

    In the farmer’s hut was a wooden crate and inside was a huge yellow anaconda. Apparently, it was caught that morning trying to eat the farmer’s chickens.

    Cliver explained, “They will keep it for a day and then return it back into the forest. The local people believe the anaconda has lots of power and that it will bring them luck to turn it loose.”

    The last time Cliver said he saw an anaconda was six months ago. Seeing one is rare.

    Apparently, the luck of the anaconda was already working for us.

    Lizard and snake

    Fremont Tribune

Copyright © Dean Jacobs 2019. All Rights Reserved.