The View from Here


Peruvian Amazon 2008
March 29, 2009, 1:26 pm
Filed under: Adventures

We’re doing another time jump back to last year again. 2008 was a great year for me, travel-wise. Besides getting to see an Ivory Billed Woodpecker in the river swamps of northern Florida, I got to visit Peru and Thailand.
The Peruvian Amazon has some of the best preserves and wildlife of the remaining natural areas of the Amazon Basin. We first visited back in 2004, and returned to same the lodge run by Amazonia Expeditions (www.perujungle.com). They have a great facility and wonderful personal guides. We were able to see and photograph such a variety of wildlife because of the expert guides. These guys grew up in the area, and know the natural history (down to the Latin name) of almost every creature we encountered. Still, nearly every day we saw something that even the guides had never seen before, a testament to the diversity of the area. The place in question is the Area de Conservacion Regional Comunal de Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo, or the Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Regional Communal Conservation Area. It is a 1.1 million acre reserve for the substainable use of the local inhabitants. You can find more info about the area here: http://www.perujungle.com/rctt.html

This is one of the areas in the Amazon known as a refugio, a place that escaped the drying during the last Ice Age that turned much of the Amazon basin into a grassy savannah.  It has remained rainforest for perhaps 60 million years. That is why this area displays so much diversity. It is one of the few places on earth that biologists call “megadiverse.”  It is also  an area that has not been studied thoroughly. Do you want to discover a new species?  I was told by one researcher that perhaps 50% of the species present in this forest have never been described by science. 

 

The lodge is on stilts to accommodate the seasonal flooding

The lodge is on stilts to accommodate the seasonal flooding

An Amazon Tree boa that lives in the thatched roof of the lodge

An Amazon Tree boa that lives in the thatched roof of the lodge

 

My primary interest was in  photographing herps and birds for art references. I shot over 1,200 images, and got some interesting stuff. My new digital SLR camera was a great tool, being able to use extremely high ISO numbers for shooting in the dim recesses of the forest, or switching on the next frame to ISO 25 for a bird out in the bright equatorial sun.

 

Being middle-aged and out of shape, I didn’t fair so well hiking around in the forest. After about 30 minutes of hiking, the heat and humidity got to be too much (this is the austral summer time, in January). The dug outs and larger boats were a real pleasure, though. The water was up high enough in its 20ft+ annual fluctuation that we could travel a long way into the varsea forest. We were also able to travel far upstream on the Tahuayo and Rio Blanco rivers.
Travel by boat is, I think, a better way to find wildlife than hiking. This is primarily because you can be so much quieter. Some things, like the Dart Frogs that live in the upland valleys, you do have to hike to see. You always returned drenched, whether it rained or not. Despite the discomforts, you usually come back saying it was worth it, but I find it pretty difficult to hike in that climate. I really enjoy the little upland streams, stained red by tannic acid, and full of little fish you are used to seeing in aquaria. Fluorescent red dragonflies dart among the vines and palms along the banks.  There are other delights in the upland areas, such as giant tree ferns and other flora you won’t see in the varsea (annually flooded) forest. So, one does have to get out on foot to really take in all the area has to offer.

A red-water creek in the upland forest

A red-water creek in the upland forest

My favorite thing was motoring far upriver on the Tahuayo, and then drifting downstream , quietly listening to exotic bird songs, and seeing monkeys, sloths, river dolphin and lots of birds along the way.  We weren’t lucky enough to see a jaguar, but the knowledge that they were around kept us on the alert. A fresh kill (a giant armadillo) and tracks behind the lodge reminded us of their presence.

 

A Wire-Tailed Manakin photographed from the canoe

A Wire-Tailed Manakin photographed from the canoe

I have not attempted plein air painting in the Amazon forest, beyond sitting on the deck of the lodge. The forest has too many distractions to be able to concentrate on painting. There is the constant whine of mosquitos in your ears and eyes, army ant soldiers biting your ankles,  and of course, the sweat dripping into your eyes. I almost feel guilty about not even making the attempt.  Perhaps it was previous experience: I did drag my French easel all the way to Borneo in 2006, but made only one abortive attempt out in the boonies, succumbing to jet lag, heat and bugs before I got much done.  I have done a few paintings using photo references I took in the Amazon, the intent of taking all those photographs.  Here are a few:

 

"Wire-Tailed Manakin" acrylic on board, 15 x 20

"Wire-Tailed Manakin" acrylic on board, 15 x 20

 

"Peruvian Madonna"  Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20

"Peruvian Madonna" Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20

 

"Dendrobates duellmani" acrylic on board, 8x8

"Dendrobates duellmani" acrylic on board, 8x8

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1 Comment so far
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Your painting of the Wire-Tailed Manakin is amazing. I absolutly love how you have done the background!
DJ

Comment by DJ




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