Monday, 18 March 2013

Amazon - Pt two, Things That Make You Go AAAARRGG

Craig Writes 17/03/13; Here is a big metaphor for life if ever I've seen one. It doesn't matter how big or ugly you are in the jungle there is always something else bigger or uglier that  can to kill ya. The high flying monkeys and sloths that reign supreme way up in the canopies are food for the Harpy and the Crest eagles that fly over head. They regularly pluck them from the tree tops to feed them alive to their hungry young chicks. The palm size Pink Toed Tree Tarantulas that live in the Ficus trees, the Red Rump Tunnel Dwelling Tarantula and even the dinner plate size Bird Eating Tarantulas have a fate worst than death at the hands of their predator.  See if this is a familiar sounding plot. The Pepsis Wasp will fly into the burrow or nest of the tarantulas forcing them out into the open were they inject a paralyzing poison into their abdomen. Once the poison has taken effect and the spider lay their conscious and helpless the Pepsis, using the claws on the bottom of their long legs, will drag their suffering prey to their nest. After the Bullet Ant it is the second most painful bite in the insect world. The female wasp will then lay one or two eggs into their nice warm abdomen. The spider will stay alive but paralyzed while the larvae develop, feeding on the insides of the poor host. Eventually eating it to death then bursting forth from its gutted abdomen to start a life as young Pepsis Wasp.

The Bullet Ant, is named not only because of the size comparison but that first initial searing pain has been compared to a gunshot wound. It is the most painful bite you can receive from an insect.  It is intense and relentless, lasting for at least 24 hours before it slowly starts to ease. Our guide Orlando had a friend who was bitten and he said he cried for 24 hours the pain was so unbearable. But, the Bullet Ant also has a mortal enemy. The Zombie Fungus. The Zombie Fungus burrows into the brain of the ants sending them into a disorientated frenzy. Their movements become erratic and their behavior odd. When this is noticed by their fellow ants they are effectively exciled from the nest. They then wander aimlessly until death approaches where for some bizarre reason they are driven to find a plant where they climb to approximately 25cm from the jungle floor. The ideal height for The Zombie Fungus to grow. Once there they latch onto the leaves and die. At this point the fungus has eaten the brain and commences to grow and sprout through the top of the ants skull where it now sits at the perfect height to release more spores onto the unsuspecting ant life below. There has to be a movie in this somewhere. 

The Bullet Ant. I'd rather use my foot for Piranha bait than get bit by one of these
One thing we didn't see were the vipers. Perhaps not a bad thing. There are four types, all highly venomous and apparently not in short supply. They prefer to come out at night which was a fact gladly told to us the night AFTER our night time jungle walk. I asked Orlando what people in the jungle were most afraid off.  The Pitt Viper, it kills within two hours and finds it's prey by detecting it's body heat.

We had our daytime walk through the jungle today. While lacking the intensity of last nights walk, being be able to see further was a big plus. This is where the money spent on a guide pays for itself ten fold.  We would have walked past, on and over just about everything he pointed out to us. First thing we did was stop by a small rubber plant. We're looking for Poisonous Dart Frogs. They're a bright iridescent orange and the natives use them to make the curare for the darts for their blow pipes. He proceeds to kick the crap out of this little tree and all off a sudden a small orange spark shoots off into the leaves at our feet. Him and I are on our knees flicking through the leaves to try and catch it but the little buggers apparently have a really big hop on them and that's the last we see of him. Further along we see a huge Iguana sitting atop a large palm soaking up the sun.

Hey buddy, your blockin my sun
 A large hole in the ground about the size of a 50 cent piece is home to a Red Rump Tarantula so we stop while Orlando gets a stick and teases it out of it's hole. They're big from a distance, up close they're damn huge. 
What you don't see is me with a stick trying to poke it back in
We saw some playful Tamarind monkeys jumping huge distances from tree to tree and I nearly trod on a deadly Black spider. We also got to swing Tarzan like from the vines of the original Cebia Tree that the resort is named after.  A monstrous 70 metre highs, it is around 150 years old with a base at least thirty metres in circumference. A truly beautiful piece of nature. 

Orlando, you've got about two seconds to move buddy.
The Ceiba Tree; It's only 150 years old, how big it's gonna be when it grows up?
After lunch we hit the river to find one of the tributaries that the rising river opens up at this time of the year. We were fishing for piranha. Most of the fish, with the exception of the bottom dwelling Cat Fish, head to these tributaries to eat the fruit and seeds that fall into the river. Orlando found one he liked and we turned in. It was about 50 metres wide and a few metres deep. We slow down as he pans the seemingly impenetrable banks, speaking in Spanish to our driver. Suddenly the boat takes a sharp turn to the right and we head straight towards the bank. As we get closer a small opening not much wider than the boat appears and we crash through.
Seriously, we're going in there?
Large Ficus trees and tall thick bunches of river weed surround and scrap the edge of our boat. Your first thought is how the hell is he going to turn this thing around. They obviously know what they're doing as a short distance in the trees and vegetation retreat a little leaving small pockets of water where we can drop a line. We stop in under a canopy of trees to try our luck. The rods are thin switches of a Topilla tree, very much like balsa wood, light, flexible and very strong. They're rigged with a simple hook attached to about two metres of line. The pickings are slim here and apart from seeing a Three Toed Sloth high up in a tree there is nothing to be had. 
These damn things go through more beef than a WWF buffet
Nothing biting but the insects
We head out and eventually get back to the river where Orlando finds another spot. This time, lots of bites, piranha apparently, but while there eating us out of beef bait with their clever speedy nibbling, none are biting the damn hook. It was fun but time to head back for a couple of drinks by the pool and an early night. Orlando wants to pick us up at 6.30am tomorrow and take us to a local market down the river that a lot of tourist don't go too.
We didn't get any fish but we're on The Amazon and we've got the wind in our hair, all is good.
18/03/13; Up bright and early and off to a village called Indiana. It is a missionary town established 75 years ago by someone from Indiana in the States. 
This was great, just us and the locals
The markets open at 6am and are finished by 8am every day of the week. Once again, no refrigeration so all the fish is either fresh that morning or has been salted. One vendors fish were that fresh they were still sucking air as they lay on the table. 

Gasping for air, fresh? yes! a bit brutal? definitely!
We tried some deep fried Piranha and a dish called Juane which is widely eaten during the feast of St John the Baptist. Rice, salt, egg and chicken wrapped in banana leaves to look like a head, cooked for an hour and eaten.  Really nice for a dish that symbolizes you eating the head of a dead Saint. Back for a regular breakfast and get ready to go to Monkey Island.  
Piranha, you can run but you can't hide.
Charlie ploughing into a platter of St John the Baptists head's
For no reason other than I like the shot, my boys in action. :)))

1 comment:

Neil said...

Amazing adventure