Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tabatinga and Santa Rosa

We started the morning with a sighting of our first (wild) bird, a common potoo.

Junior explained that we're hoping to get on our way downriver today, but the local officials in Tabatinga are giving us trouble and (evidently) trying to find reasons to prevent us from continuing -- all in the name of a process called "fiscalization".  They've already boarded the boat multiple times, confiscated medical supplies, tried to argue that the boat isn't up to code, and required additional paperwork.  As it stands now, Junior and the team are bending over backwards to meet their requirements, and we will all have to be extra vigilant about things like life jackets while we are in the port, as we don't want to give them any excuse to detain us.

While waiting for approval/permission, we spent the morning exploring Tabatinga and the nearby town of Santa Rosa, Peru (across the river).  Tabatinga is similar to Leticia, but the markets seem nicer to me.  Still lots of stray dogs and motorbike exhaust.  Junior picked up a few necessary supplies and some food and we jumped back into the canoes.  

We then headed toward Santa Rosa, which is smaller and quieter.  There were scarlet macaws hanging around in an empty sort of shelter house, eating bananas and crackers and looking bedraggled.  Lots of stray cats, who hung around as local families cleaned and prepared fish.  Some of the group stopped to play pool, and the rest of us ended up in a nearby bar (hotel? restaurant?) along the water.  The place was mostly empty, except for some cats and a large carved wooden statue of a boto (pink dolphin) in the form of a mythical creature which Mike told us about.  (He's and expert on pink dolphins.)  Evidently, Brazilian folklore has a mysterious character who originates as a boto, but dons a stingray for a hat, an anaconda belt, and fish shoes and transforms into a human-lookalike and seduces women.

Chickens and guinea pigs in the Tabatinga market
Locals enjoying watermelon.
Arriving in Santa Rosa
Scarlet macaws
This macaw was grabbing crackers, stepping up onto the edge of that bucket, dipping the crackers in the water, then stepping back down to eat the moistened crackers.  No idea why, but it was funny to watch.
A Peruvian Blazer-lookalike :)
In the afternoon, we headed back to the boat (though we were stopped for the Brazilian authorities for a "safety check"), and then (finally!) left the port and headed down river.

Charlie and Annette by the bananas
Beautiful skies!
Kari is diligently journaling
Enjoying the ride
Bia brought us fried salted banana chips! (Delicious and not at all like those dried banana chips)
Enjoying the chips and the sunset
The birders are already up to their birding ways
Beautiful cloudy sunset
(Sorry, Oia.  The Amazon has you beat.)
After dinner, the boat stopped in an area Junior called Munguba (after the tree the boat was tied to), and we went on a night exploration into the flooded forest.  This consisted of the canoes motoring along in the dark, with one crew member steering the canoe from the engine in the back, and another navigating, shining a spotlight out into the trees and waterline looking for reflections of eyes, and using the machete as needed to clear our way through the trees.  Every time they spotted something, the canoes would congregate to check out the animal.

We saw some night birds, including more potoo (common and great potoo) and a pauraque, an Amazon tree boa (yellow), a pretty tree frog (which we later identified as a convict tree frog), and an olingo (a type of slinky-looking raccoon with a long spotted tail), as well as a three-toed sloth.  Also, something bit/stung Nikki's hand, and it started to swell up, but was determined to be okay (and did, in fact, go back to normal later).

*A note on animals: I didn't bring a fancy camera, but many people did.  So rather than take a bunch of blurry shots of far distant birds from a moving canoe, I left that to the experts and their giant zoom lenses, since the plan is to share photos.  So, I plan to post some of their excellent photos of some of the things we saw (giving appropriate credit), but will have to do so in later posts or updates to these posts.  The photos below are all thanks to Mary, who was amazingly diligent in her efforts to document all the cool things we saw.

The cute little convict tree frog.  He had a very loud, deep frog call, which we are laughing at, but then we found him and we were all just impressed.
(Trying to escape/escaping?)
The Amazon tree boa!
Junior tried to catch him, of course.
(I felt right at home, thanks to living with KC for so long.)
He's escaping our view, after snapping at Junior and then moving out of reach.
Look how strong he is!
(Also, pretty.  His white underbelly was sort of sparkly.)

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