Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Adventures: Day 7

Sept. 8th
We collected some moths on our way to breakfast at the tiny little restaurant in Quincemil. Gringos, it seems, get cheese sandwiches while everyone else gets vertebrae with rice or omelets. It could be that we simply arrived too early, but breakfast was sparse nonetheless. There was instant coffee and Claudia, my roommate, had acquired some bananas, which she shared with us. She's an undergraduate at a university, I forget where, and she has this crazy hat that looks like a sleeping animal on her head.
Anyhow, we loaded up and left after breakfast, stopping to chase butterflies just a couple km outside the town. We didn't find much, probably because it was too early, so when Gerardo and Claudia caught up with us, we moved down the road a bit. There's a picture from this site with me and my net, but I don't have it. I'll post it when I get it, though. The jungle is just gorgeous during the day. There are banana trees and all kinds of interesting plants besides. I recognized the banana trees because they had bananas growing on them. I hadn't seen bananas growing ever before, so I just thought that was the coolest. It would have been awesome to have a plant press, but probably difficult to bring back specimens.
Our second stop was so much fun, I can't even tell you. There were so many butterflies that at one point, I had one that I'd just caught in an envelope I held in my mouth and another in my net. Again, no pictures because we were too busy chasing butterflies.
The third time we stopped, it was because Andy had seen some Heliconius butterflies, his favorite group, and he just couldn't stand it any longer. What he found was a Heliconius and it's mimic in the same place. I promise you that it was a wicked cool find. I didn't catch much at all, but it was kind of fun to watch the guys running around. That's Andy in the 1st picture and on the left in the 2nd picture and Josh on the right in the 2nd picture.
Since we were in the Amazon Basin, there was nowhere to go but up. So, up we went.
We stopped at another site where I managed to snag a couple butterflies - even in the group that our grant is paying us to study! I was kind of excited about that. It was a bit too cool for them, so again, we didn't find much.
About two in the afternoon, we stopped in this one town to try and find a place to stay. Gerardo talks to the children in the town to locate someplace with a couple of rooms where we can stay. They had this wicked statue (I don't have a picture of any of this) of a condor attacking a cow. We were directed to another part of town where there was supposed to be somewhere we could stay. Gerardo went down the hill to investigate, so we waited at the top of the hill. While we waited, we saw a family slaughtering a cow. It was kind of interesting to see. I'll see if I can get Andy's pictures - his are better than mine because he kind of doesn't mind looking like a gringo tourist. Gerardo comes back up the hill, shaking his head. "Not to be recommended." he says, and we move on.

And up we went some more.

...and up some more.

...and after that we went up some more.

I can't very accurately describe how much up this is. It feels like you're at the very top of the whole world and then drive up the mountain. The haze in this picture is not just fog, it's a cloud. It's not even a low cloud.
As you can see, there's not very much here, but there are people and animals living even at these great altitudes. It's not the most robust existence, but they're there.
After a while, it became apparent that Gerardo's truck was not well. He ran out of gas far before he ought to have. At this point, it was beginning to get late and the temperature was dropping. Josh stayed with Gerardo and Claudia while Gerardo's driver, Marcelino, went with Andy and me to get some gas. It was about 55km to the nearest gas station. 55km is a long way as I soon learned. It's an even longer way when half the distance is one lane winding mountain roads with rapidly diminishing daylight and then dark. It must have taken an hour and a half to go from hither to yon and another hour and a half to go back again. I tried to stay awake, I really did, but between the altitude and the fact that I hadn't had a good night's sleep in some time, I ended up kind of awake, but unable to open my eyes for most of the way back.
We all managed to get back to the gas station together and we once again tried to find a place to stay. We once again failed. At least from here, the rest of the road was paved. We kept driving for most of the night and finally found a small hotel in Cuzco so late in the evening that it was beginning to get early. There was talk of getting something to eat, but I was so tired that I faceplanted in the bed and didn't get up until the next morning.
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