Sunday, January 30, 2011

Leeches and Monkeys





We decided as a group to do an early morning hike before breakfast thinking that early morning might be feeding time for animals in the wild. Eager to see some animals, we set off at 6:30am with umbrellas and leech socks. It is clear but very humid and we walk uphill toward the canopy. I start out with a poncho, which I quickly discard after feeling like I am walking in a hot sauna. Off of the main dirt road, there are 5 canopy walkways and several platforms of different heights and it is mystical being above the rainforest and in the clouds so early in the morning. There is no feeling quite like it. The air is damp and moisture fogs our glasses and camera lenses. There is a cacophony of forest noises – birds, frogs and insects, all awake at this early hour. What a treat to be among them. I overcome my fear of swinging bridges and walk gingerly along the canopy paths overwhelmed by this untouched and pristine part of the world. What lies below in the dense foliage, I wonder. How special this area is, the acres of protected land. How can we preserve such places from encroachment by development and how do we sustain the wildlife that live here? On the way back, our guide points out a red leaf monkey having his breakfast on top of a tree, right by the side of the road. Hand to mouth, he enjoys his food, not bothered by us watching him. A few minutes later, another one appears and the two frolick in the trees before disappearing. We are all excited about our first sighting.

Breakfast is an elegant spread of eggs, noodles, fried rice, breads and meats. The staff are very responsive to our needs and cater so nicely to the guests. We feel quite pampered. After breakfast, we set out again, though this time not as enthusiastically, as it is pouring. We hike up to the overlook, a 1.5 mile hike uphill in the rain, muddy, slippery and very humid. We sweat like hogs and try to avoid touching leaves so to stay away from the leeches which come out in droves in the rain! Sounds unpleasant? I would say it is not the most pleasant hike we have ever done, but a true rainforest experience. The cloud and fog are heavy and we do not see much from the overlook. Totally soaked inside and out, our pants and leech socks covered in mud and harboring some leeches, we end our hike. Other than millipedes, we don’t see any other life and decide to call it a day as far as trekking. We pick off a few leeches from inside our boots, on the leech socks and try to clean our pants and leech socks as best we can. It rains and rains and rains, lots of muddy puddles where even animals wouldn’t be caught outside! I find it more pleasant to sit at the lodge, looking out over the river and watch the clouds and mist roll past. Reading a book on their patio is bliss.

We spend much of our evening drying our clothes in preparation for tomorrow. We decide not to do the scheduled night walk as our guide tells us that we most likely will not see much in the dark when it is raining so hard. We learn that this is monsoon season (Oct. - March) and wonder if we should have picked a different time of year to come out. There is internet access in the lodge, no TV in the rooms or lodge, so we read and head to bed early, planning an early morning hike on our own.

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