Friday 21 August 2015

Sharp eyes

Now, this morning, there was teeming. Masses of birds, everywhere, as we glided along a side-river in the skiff; fish jumping out of the water; an actual 3-toed sloth hanging upside down high in a tree; and caimans (caimen?).
These were youngsters, lying low in the water, unblinking, hoping to be left alone; but one, almost a metre long, was scooped up for a photo shoot. Smooth, soft and wet, it lay passively in our hands, no doubt hoping for the best – and it was back in the water just a few minutes later as we continued on our little expedition.
We passed a village of thatched wooden huts on stilts, the women washing dishes in the river, the men untangling catfish from their nets as they sat in dugout canoes, a gaggle of kids standing bare-footed on the muddy bank, staring back at us. There’s not much in the way of education in the jungle.
And then we did some fishing for piranha: bits of tenderloin (nothing but the best) on hooks on bamboo poles, dropped into the brown water and, mostly, pulled out again empty just seconds later. I wondered if it would be more effective to stick a finger in there – but then Juan Luís showed us the large scar on his thumb. Someone else caught one, less than 15cm long, orange and white, and it fell into her backpack. When Luís pulled it out, it had a torn piece of the bag lining in its jaws, its tiny white triangular teeth clamped down hard on the nylon.
I eventually caught a couple, plus a tiny silver angelfish, and we took some back to the boat to eat with our lunch (so much more preferable than the other way around) – they’re actually quite tasty, though the white flesh is very bony.
In the afternoon we set off again on another – well, it’s hard not to call it a game drive, because that’s just what it was, everyone with their eyes peeled trying to be best spotter, but no-one better than the guide and the driver who were quite simply astonishing. How on earth are they able to spot something as well camouflaged as a potoo, which looks exactly like a broken branch, as they’re skimming along the river 75m away at about 25km/h? Phenomenal.

But spot things they did: a three-toed sloth moving branches in cliché slo-mo; a troupe of squirrel monkeys; a single monk saki monkey; a spectacled caiman. It was very impressive, and lots of fun too – especially the catching of the caiman – and just super-pleasant, to be gliding along with all this exotic scenery and wildlife passing by. Excellent work, Delfin II!

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