Written by: R. Reeder
Well, time is winding down. We are in the final stretch, as much as we are trying to deny it. One of our fellow researchers, Sebastian, was the first to leave the station, after working with the spider monkeys for a year. To make the most out of his last day, we all took the day off and hiked the Maquisapa trail. None of us had ever done the entire trail before. It is four kilometers, the longest trail here in the trail system. It’s a beautiful trail, with high elevation points where the forest thins out a little more so you can see further into the distance, and low points where the trail can flood if there is a substantial amount of rain. The trail meets the Puma plot on the eastern and western sides, which is a well-known area for the spider monkey researchers, as it is an area the spider group MQ-1 frequents. Sebastian was hoping, of course, to see some spider monkeys along the way to say one last goodbye. Unfortunately, they were nowhere to be found. We heard woolly monkeys; saw some sakis, and also some howlers, but no spiders. It wasn’t a big deal though; Sebastian had visited several members of the group in the days prior to this last day and had said his goodbyes. Once we reached a lagoon, which touches the southwestern side of the trail, we decided it would be a great adventure if we could canoe out of the lagoon to the Rio Tiputini, and then float down to camp. The other option was simply to walk back down the Lago trail, about another two kilometers, to camp. It should come as no surprise that we thought about the options for maybe a minute, and in the next minute all seven of us were all clambering into the rickety wooden canoe tied to the dock.
Once we were all situated, we pushed off and headed into the maze of spiky trunks that dominate the flora in the lagoon. We had a very comedic time just trying to find the river, as none of us had ever done this before either. There was much “To the left, to the left!” and “Stop!” and general miscommunication as we tried to find a path through the maze. The excitement of the unknown and the near tipping of the boat also provided much laughter. We did have to turn around and backtrack at one point when the foliage grew too thick and impossible to push through, but we found a successful path on our second attempt. Just as we saw the Tiputini a hundred meters ahead of us, a group of spider monkeys appeared, moving above us in the trees. I like to think that they had raced to the spot to say one last goodbye to Sebastian before he departed TBS forever, since they had missed him in the Puma plot. We also saw a sizable boa slithering in the trees just ahead of us, which made all of us a bit nervous. Once we popped out onto the river, we relaxed and let the current take us to camp. A few of us even jumped out of the canoe and went for a swim to escape the heat from the glaring Amazonian sun. We came back to camp hungry, but content. We work so hard while we’re here that we rarely have time for these sorts of outings as a group. But that just makes these adventures all the more special and memorable. I can’t speak for the others, but the day was a sweet reminder of how lucky I feel to be working and living here, surrounded by such a great group of people.