It's been 12 days (and a little over 200 emails) since I was last in town, but I came back to Manaus for one night and am trying to remember what it's like to wear clean clothes and have a long shower. I have to admit, I had a hard time sleeping as it was too silent - I have grown accustomed to the jungle soundtrack, with its never-ending cacophony of frogs, insects and birds. Those sounds remind me that I am completely surrounded by life - a thick green ocean of it, and makes me feel a little more mortal and human and connected with the world! I prefer it to the horn-honking and television-blaring of Manaus - not that I'm complaining about the shower. Or the ability to read the news!
But there have been many adventures here, and since I have to catch a truck back to the site in half an hour, I don't have time to begin. So here's the concise version: the day before heading out, we took a river trip on the Amazon (and saw those giant lily pads, the meeting of the rivers that signals the true start of the Amazon river, caiman, and even went piranha fishing).
Definitely fun, and a good initial bonding experience for all of us... Taking a half-million dollar piece of equipment out to the field site was an adventure, but after a few days (and numerous power failures), we had it all up and running, and took the opportunities (read: power failures) to go for a few walks and climb some of the other research towers in the area. Highlights have included seeing numerous groups of scarlet macaws fly overhead, bands of monkeys playing in the trees next to the dining room and 2-meter long worms crossing the path after a rainstorm.
Numerous insects - one enormous, tarantula-like hairy spider that emerged from the floor boards under one of the dining tables during dinner and made it's way across to the other table, much to everyone's surprise (either you grabbed your camera, or you got up on the bench to get out of its way - i got up on the bench, but it was about a foot away from my toes, so I have no qualms about that decision). The only other drama was seeing a snake in the middle of the path (see photo). We were about to take a walk down one of the smaller paths, when I noticed this guy under some leaves in the middle of the trail. What scared me is that even when I pointed him out, it took a while for the other people with me to notice him. We then had a discussion as to whether he (or she?) was venomous. I think yes (note slightly flat, triangular shaped head common of vipers), but it's up for contention (and a bet over a beer). Any thoughts?
The most dangerous creatures we've encountered so far are, ironically, the field station dogs. We have nickname the puppy the Amazonian Anklebiter, due to his tendency to nibble on shoes - and ankles. Fortunately I had my rabies shots, so I just have to watch him for sypmtoms for the next week... We renamed this incredibly cute - but desperately in need of a chew-toy - dog the "piranha". Until we were told that that's the term used in Manaus for a streetworker/prostitute.
But I must head back out to the excitement of the jungle - an odd combination of occasional adrenaline rush and general relaxation. Rather like a cheap version of an eco-lodge...