From the Delfin II in the Amazon

Feb 25, 2012 - Delfin II

A fellow-paddler on the Iricahua
Scarlet macaws in flight
Orchid in bloom

Rio Ucayali: Iricahua & Flor de Castaña

We took advantage of this last full day of our trip. The morning was spent exploring the Iricahua River. This narrow channel winds into the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve, and sometimes the trees on either side of the channel become so close that their foliage forms a tunnel above us. Kayakers even ventured off of the channel to tuck under the intricate architecture of a ficus. Grandmother ficus, we decided to call it. It seemed like all of us could comfortably live in the fretwork of trunks that reached out, over, and down into the river around us. It’s not every day that you can drift in the embrace of a tree.

After breakfast, we headed further up the Iricahua. Monkeys, orchids, wild sienna, and other treats unveiled themselves, including the first fork-tailed flycatchers of the season. These migrants winged above us in loose flocks, perching in the caps of the trees as we gawked. Some skiffers were treated to a view of scarlet macaws in a tree. Perched! We mostly see macaws flying across us, and we strain and squint to get a good look at them against the sky. But this pair sat on a large limb, squawking to each other… and then they flew! The stretch of red wings against dark green foliage is something to behold.

The clouds of the morning had cleared, and the day was heating. On board the Delfin II, we took a bit of shelter. After lunch Renny shared stories from the river with us—dolphins that turn into men, strange ghosts in the forest, creatures with unevenly sized feet. Having been in the dark, still woods here and having listened to the sounds of the night, we could believe that the place has spirits.

In the late afternoon, we headed out to explore the lakes near Flor de Castaña. The second lake is a ghostly place, full of silvered trees that somehow had been killed by one of the shifts in the river. Perhaps an unusual deposition of sediment smothered their roots. We don’t know, but the leafless trunks supported parakeets, blue-headed parrots, and some splendid orchids. Without the scrim of leaves, we could see movement and color more clearly, and it was wonderful to see that there were still new habitats on this wild river for us to come to, still new places to explore. A week, while allowing us enough time to immerse ourselves and calibrate our eyes and ears, is nowhere close to enough to know this place thoroughly. We’ll have to return.

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About the Author

Liz Bradfield


A self-proclaimed “aspiring generalist,” Elizabeth, who goes by Liz, finds that the continued study of any place, animal, or ecology leads only to more interesting questions and interconnections and more fields to explore. She grew up on the waters of the Pacific Northwest, roaming the Salish Sea, and her interests have led her to work as a deckhand, kayak guide, marine mammal stranding responder, and field assistant for projects on kelp, humpback whales, and gray seals. Since 1999, Liz has worked as a marine educator and naturalist.

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