Yucuruchi and the Ucayali River
We were now in the Ucayali River! Last night the ship had turned the corner from the Marañon, into the Amazon, then southwest to start up the Ucayali River for the remainder of the week. The early morning birdwatching excursion collected some wonderful new species today; Vermillion flycatcher (which was totally unexpected at this altitude and time of year), Greater anis, black-capped donacobius, marsh-tyrants, osprey carrying fish across the river, white-eyed parakeets to name just a few.
The sky was bright with few clouds, so when it came time to return, breakfast and a cooling break were a good incentive to head home. After a delicious breakfast consisting of native and local fruit juices and marmalades, we set off a little ways up the river to land at a location known as “Yucuruchi”, and followed an easy, flat trail into the forest. For most of us, we had already explored this same trail once before...last night! In an impromptu move we decided at dinner to offer a walk in the woods, with flashlights, to see what we could see. The perfect location was at hand, and our adventurous expedition paid-off big-time...a beautiful boa constrictor, over 6 feet long, was found slowly oh-so-slowly crossing the trail. Pink-toed tarantulas step aside! We all got a fabulous look (and some photos) of this newly-shed reptile before she moved off into the undergrowth and out of sight. When the lights were extinguished, fireflies flashed throughout the forest from ground-level to tree-top; the night seemed to celebrate being alive.
So on landing in daylight, we were on the look-out for the snake, but realistic enough to not expect to see her again in daylight. However, plenty of exiting sightings took place, among them green jacamar and white-eared jacamar, and straight-billed woodcreeper, russet-backed oropendolas and yellow-rumped caciques. Our goal was a small lagoon with the giant water-lilies, Victoria regia. On arrival they were found to be in flower, huge yellow blossoms reflecting in the still water. A surprise was found when someone pointed out a disturbance on the water’s edge. What looked like the back of an enormous frog, turned out to be a beautiful freshwater stingray with jaguar-like markings on its back. On our way back to the skiff, a female sloth with young was spotted in a tall Cecropia tree! Not too high up, we could see the youngster with arms wrapped tight around its mother, it occasionally took a peek out from under her armpit and scratched its hind leg.
The afternoon took a completely different turn for some of us. About half decided on a river trip by skiff to continue the search for more wildlife along the banks of the “young islands”. These are islands that have only recently formed, and therefore attract a different group of species compared to old-growth forest. They were successful in sighting squirrel monkeys along the riverbank – fast and acrobatic, and fun to watch!
The rest of us chose to land on a beach – yes, beach – of fine sand. These are depositions of finely-ground rock from the high Andes. Waiting for us on shore was an awning, benches, coolers, towels...and mud. It was fine clay of a deep gray color, dug out from the banks. We slathered ourselves with the slippery, dark mud from head to toe! Afterwards we took a walk and discovered several things: turtle tracks which had recently come up and down from the water's edge to lay eggs, and that the pools of remnant river water looked deceptively benign. It soon became apparent when John tried to help Enid who had been walking around the edge of one of these pools, that both were stuck, and well stuck, in mud up to their knees. One after another, sandals were lost, then found. I pulled, we all almost fell in. Hilarious laughter brought others our way, and soon we were heading back to the beach to partake of the second half of the treatment – a swim in the Ucayali River to wash off. Noodles were brought out as well as an ice-cold, refreshing fruit drink of camu-camu.
It was good to share some deep belly-laughs with friends in an environment that has no time for pretensions. Fabulous day!