Friday, February 29, 2008

An hour off the tarmac


To get to the site on a clear day, it's an hour on the tarmac and an hour off. That's with a professional driver and a 4-wheel drive. That means 50 km of paved road, and 34 km of dirt over the rolling, remote hills of the Amazon. The drivers laugh as we fishtail at 60 km/h.
But now I am sitting at the site, completely isolated and without power (though my computer still has several hours of battery left... which I am shamelessly using to write this, rather than analyze data. in my defense, Matlab is running in the background...), and am beginning to realize where I am.

Yesterday late afternoon, I went for a walk down the road with a friend, Dom. I was charged by our mutual friend to take care of Dom (who is not a field scientist) at the site, and was confident that nothing would happen, save a few mosquito bites. The walk was lovely in the dusk - a trio of macaws flew overhead, frogs chirping all around. We were just a few minutes from getting back to the generator and the lodging - and it wasn't dim enough to require flashlights. When all of a sudden Dom swears loudly, jumps towards me and I notice - not two feet away from him - is a stick lying in the road. A potentially very venomous stick. The snake was languidly stretched out with its head up - we gave it a wide berth as we skirted around, and then - in that kind of panicky-yet-fascinated adrenaline-filled way, took some photographs.

The jararaca was not my only venomous interaction of the evening (though he does literally top the list of the Most Poisonous Animals in Brazil poster at the site - perhaps the absence of suggested treatment under jararaca being the most telling about it's toxicity) - as I was walking down to the alojamento from the container, I saw a tiny scorpion walking up the path. As my fear of scorpions rivals my brother's fear of spiders, I again, quickly skirted around it and came back to the lodge.

Just in time to wait a couple of hours before the absolutely phenomenal lightning storm (we were surrounded - at points, it was as if we were in the middle of the day there was so much light in the sky) knocked out the generator. (A key part was "Frito" according to one of the technicians). A late night with flashlights ensued, complete with discussions of all the tropical diseases and venomous creatures we could encounter in Amazonia. I slept well - I have taken over a hammock, and am definitely enjoying it - once I figured out how to sleep on the diagonal.

It's been a lovely quiet morning - sleeping in, card games, reading. Token data analysis and discussions. We all seem to have forgotten - or perhaps come to terms with - our isolation. Watching the competitive chess is much more worthy of our attention...

1 comment:

Amanda said...

I am not sure it is wise to be using Fritos to build scientific instruments. Too much danger of the munchies!