Waking up before 5 a.m. was hard but necessary for a quick shower, complete body bug repellent and sun block application, and then the peeling on of clothing. Thankfully the weather was much cooler as we boarded a boat at 5:30 a.m. for a ten minute ride to the clay lick viewing huts. Along the way a family of capybara was swimming across the river and emerged on the other side. Despite being rodents of unusual size, they were cute! At the overlook, the birds began to arrive shortly after us; primarily parakeets, which squabbled with other bird species before flocking to the clay lick. After a half hour of observation, we returned to the lodge for some eats.
The couple that joined us had a different package that included a trip to El Gato waterfall, so we hopped back in the boat for a two and a half ride up the river. The weather began turning halfway through, bringing chill, winds, and rain. The driver had some difficulty navigating the low waters and the sandbars, rocks, and logs but did a great job. The rain was really coming down at El Gato, and the waterfall did not look like much during the dry season but did still have a strong flow. We were given the opportunity to swim in the lower river by the falls but were already quite wet.
As part of the tour we took a 45 minute hike in the rainforest (aptly named at this point), beginning with a demonstration of plant use by natives in ceremonies. S was painted with goji berries with orange shapes on the face and arms as well as a “beak” and “ears” using the pink leaves of a waxy flower. Lunch was served in the lodge afterwards, a leaf wrapped huayna but fancier than the lunch on the boat with rice, a piece of chicken, a whole hard-boiled egg, and some cooked peppers. We also had bananas and a cold drink that tasted like cinnamon coffee tea. By the end of lunch the rain had moved on so we took a few more photos and grabbed some star fruit off a tree near the lodge. An unusual experience just before leaving was a bathroom run; flushing didn’t release water but rather ants… I was glad not to have to figure that one out.
Everyone passed out on the long boat ride back; although because of the rain we had a higher chance of seeing a jaguar or puma. Only more birds and capybara around the river though. Two Danish college students that joined us spotted some spider monkeys on our walk back to Inotawa and went chasing after them. We couldn’t find them again, but later when everyone but I was napping, Mes and Andreas emerged from the forest having found the monkeys close by and showed me them as well as a poison dart frog that was caught in a large ditch. We hung out for a while on the hammocks until they went off on another wildlife spotting excursion.
While reading in the hammock my stomach became upset, and JJ ended up feeling unwell from poor sleep in the boat. So sadly only Herr and S were able to go see the fruit farm and plant a banana tree. The farm has a sad story of a father losing his son to a snake bite and later burning down the house and abandoning the farm. The banana tree they planted should be full grown in a year.
Because of my upset stomach, Daniel had the kitchen staff make me a chicken soup. He was very thoughtful about our health, especially because S later on would have a bad stomach problem as well. Mes and Andreas were convinced to join us at a game of Citadels that went very late. Andreas came surprisingly close to winning, a sleeper player, so to speak. That night we did not get nearly enough sleep.