Belluda Caño and Rio Dorado
We absorbed the sounds in silence; pink Amazonian river dolphins breathing nearby, horned screamers hooting and booming far, thunder approaching from the east, parrots chattering in their tree top. The early morning outing had all of these and more...wood storks flew overhead in numbers, red-capped cardinals, gray-breasted martins, southern rough-winged swallows, and black-headed parrots were a real highlight, as their bright yellow plumage contrasts so starkly with the black and green on their heads. Good, wide-angle binoculars are key to penetrating the mysteries and sights, for discovering who is making the sounds, and general understanding of this deep, complicated ecosystem we know as the Amazonian rainforest.
Just as breakfast was getting underway, the rain started to fall – a good, heavy Amazonian downpour. However it lasted just until we needed to board the skiffs, and so we did – in the sunshine. Toucans and blue-and-yellow macaws were spotted as we arrived at our landing site on the banks of Belludo Caño...and so did a rain cloud. It was fascinating to see a literal “wall” of rain cross the river from one bank towards us, giving us just enough time (about one minute), to distribute ponchos and throw them on. Five minutes later they could be removed, and were no longer needed for the remainder of our morning's visit. Welcome to Amazonian rains!
The walk was a delight, along a narrow path with the need for machete use every now and then. The long walkers were finally foiled in our attempts to take a circuit trail because of tree falls, but we managed to see the blue-and-yellow macaws once more, as well as walk around one of the huge ceiba trees, with arches between the enormous buttress roots. Those who explorations covered less ground saw squirrel monkeys as their prize for the morning among a variety of other interesting things.
Back on board for lunch, we were treated to a spectacular tropical thunderstorm which we could watch from the comfort of the dining room and its three-sided picture windows out the stern. The wind was ferocious, the lightning flashed, the rain pelted down, and we stayed nice and dry inside. Just in time for our afternoon excursion, it let up, and away we sailed off up-river, leaving the Delfin II to continue her stately way up-river behind us.
Because of low river conditions, and exceptionally low levels this year, our entrance into the Rio Dorado had to be experienced to be believed. I would never have thought our drivers could get the skiffs up the 2-meter-wide torrent of muddy water pouring down between muddy banks titled with blocks of deep clay sediment. But they did, and we arrived at the top into perfectly flat, calm waters of a river channel that when the levels rise in a few weeks, will be a breeze to enter with a lazy turn and not a thought beyond.
A sun bittern was almost the first sighting we had – an extremely good omen for the rest of the afternoon. Parrots, Cocoi herons, hawks and a pygmy kingfisher were all spotted, as were squirrel monkeys and a spot-breasted woodpecker. A bizarre scenario played itself out at the junction of a small tributary stream: piranhas were coming to the surface long enough for us to see their red bellies well. Then the evening got darker and lights came out, with which we searched for spectacled caiman, and found not only these, but a boat-billed heron eating a piranha and a bufo marinus (marine toad) out on shore as well as a great potoo no longer pretending to be an extension of a woody snag, but on the lookout for dinner. The potoo we could only briefly view as by then the skiff was on her return journey down the muddy toboggan run into the Ucayali, and there really wasn't the chance to stop for a better look at that moment in time!
Today has been everything a rain forest should be: unexpected, wet, sunny, and filled with unusual sounds and sights – especially when we all got up and danced after dinner!