Day 10

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Tenth Day Ė Boat Safari

When I woke up the next morning, the sun was not quite over the horizon yet. Despite being very tired the night before, I had not slept well. The hammock was comfortable enough, but between every dog in the village apparently trying to communicate with every other dog, and a collection of roosters that didnít know what time it was and made me think chicken dinner, I kept getting woken up. When we did get up, we ate a small and hurried breakfast, then went to get on the boat before the sun came up.

Iguana in upper left, hoatzin in upper rightOut on the water, we watched as the sun came up and bathed everything in its rosy glow. Birds all along the river made a surprising amount of sound, everything from squawks from parrots to chirps made by brightly colored little songbirds. When we had watched for a few minutes, we returned to the bank quickly to let Kat off. She was not feeling well, and had asked to be excused from the morning boat ride.

After we had dropped Kat off, we moved along the river until we came to a place where several currents came together. Alan had told us about pink river dolphins, and since there were lots of fish where different streams combined, this was a good place to see them. Sure enough, it only took a few minutes before a round head with a distinctive dolphin snout broke the surface. Soon the dolphin came close enough for us to see it clearly. It seemed to be alone, but acted almost as playful as an ocean dolphin in a pod would, jumping into the air, circling us, turning one eye to face us, and other tricks like that. It had almost no dorsal fin, since it had to be able to enter very shallow water. Its top had a pinkish tinge to the usual dolphin gray, and the underside was quite distinctly pink. It was one of only a few freshwater dolphin species. Although supposedly they are a common sight on the river, we did not see any others.

Big, red and noisyAfter the dolphin swam away, we toured along the river for a while. Seeing the caimans in daylight was both more and less exciting then seeing them at night; their eyes had no red glow and it was actually difficult to spot them in the mud, but you get a definite appreciation for the size and number of teeth they had. Up in the trees, we found hoatzins and several other birds, including parrots and scarlet ibis. Once again, Alan displayed an amazing talent for finding and identifying the various birds we saw. We also found two kinds of monkeys. Spider monkeys, which have black fur and long limbs (including tail,) and howler monkeys, which are red and constantly make a short, loud call.

At one point, Alan had the driver motor us to a bank where he tied the boat and told us to get out. When we did, I could clearly see signs of humans; huts with hammocks swinging and a narrow, barbed spear that I figured was for fishing. Alan guided us down a trail to a farm. A large family lived on the farm, and they welcomed us, showing us around and letting us see the animals. They had quite a variety of animals, including parrots and monkeys, plus a jaguar skin.

Get over here!After visiting the farm, we returned to the boat and began heading back towards the car. However, before we got back, we stopped to watch a very interesting scene. Several boats, similar to ours, were being used to move cattle across the river. It appeared that a large number of people had come to watch on shore, so we tied the boat and went up to join them. The process was quite interesting to watch. First off, each animal was prodded to the riverís edge, where people on a waiting boat took a line that ran around their necks. The boat then drove out onto the river, pulling the startled cattle after them. Once they were swimming, the crew of the boat would take the animal by the horns and pull it across, at slow speed, to the other side where a small group of people watched the slowly growing herd. I was not sure why the cattle were being herded across, but Alan said he had never seen it before either, and he had been making the trip for years. We stayed and watched until all the animals were ashore, then returned to the place where we had spent the night. When we got there, we found Kat feeling much better, and a huge lunch of tuna, salads, and pasta waiting for us.

Beatiful, misty cloud forestAfter we had all eaten lunch, we got in the car and began the long drive back up into the mountains, to the ranch where we would go horseback riding on the last day of the tour. The drive took from early afternoon until evening, almost without stopping. Along the way, we reentered the forest, drove along the rims of valleys, and left the hot lowlands behind us. One thing that caught my interest as we drove was a large trout farm along a river. Apparently, trout are sold commercially and are a significant food source.

The sun was setting as we arrived at the farm, and we had no real time to look around before it was too dark. The night was surprisingly cool, and I was glad I had brought some warm clothes (warm compared to what I usually wear in the Caribbean, I mean. They would be quite ordinary in the Seattle winter.) After we had put our baggage in our rooms, we went up for dinner. Like all the others, this meal was very good; this time it was trout and vegetables. After dinner, the owners of the ranch invited us up to a comfortable room with a fire, where we sat, talking for a while. I slept well that night.

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