I wake up in my hammock to the rush of the Kwitaro River, and take a quick dip in the water – being careful to stay between the boats so the current doesn't wash me away. Cool stuff is everywhere at this site, but the scientists are experiencing unexpected problems, and have turned into a seething mass of discontent. "Almost no ants," moans Olivier. "Forest probably floods too much." "The vegetation doesn't change – probably because there are no hills," comments Wilmer, resting his chin on his hands, collecting-bag empty. And Jan sighs, "The creek here is too deep, I need a shallower one so the fishes don't get away."
|Sunlight makes its way through the top |
of the forest canopy.
PEOPLE: Meet Wilmer Díaz, botanist.
TOOLS: Discover botany equipment.
Since the whole purpose of being here is to enable the scientists to find out about biodiversity, we decide that action must be taken. (Not to mention, I couldn't imagine another week in camp with a group of frustrated scientists). So Jan, Jim and I set out up river to look for a better site to move our camp in the Kanuku hills.
We landed the boat a couple hours upstream at the closest place to the Kanuku mountain range we could find, and cut line, straight up the mountain. "Cut line." That's Guyanese for making a new trail through the forest.
I followed our indigenous guides as they picked out old hunting trails and animal paths to make the going easier, climbing trees now and then to see that we were on track. Shins throbbing, ankles
twisted, and skin full of ticks, we explore the possibilities for a new site all day. Two small creeks and a swamp left my shoes soaked, but since the creeks make a great habitat for fish, frogs, and bats, I have to be forgiving.
Eventually, we find a new location: A steep hill with a rocky outcropping gives Wilmer a good variety of plants, Jim stands a better chance to see wild cats, and all of us will get a good work-out going up and down the embankment. I can personally testify to the ant diversity, since most of the forest's army ants crawled up my pant-leg during the trip.
We move camp tomorrow.
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