Tayrona National Park

Went scuba diving with a dive shop in Taganga. It was a two tank morning dive. Boat departed Taganga harbor about 8AM and our first dive began around 9:30. Dive spot was Aguja  island that is part of Tayrona park.P1070750This young lady led the second dive

Water visibility was between 50 to 70 feet. Seas were calm. Water temperature nearing 80 F.  The bedrock of the coastline of Tayrona park, including the islands is granite rock.  No actual ‘coral reefs’ only sporadic corals and sponges growing on the (sand) sea floor, or atop rocks near the rocky coast.

Do not have underwater photos. I did see large healthy brain corals and sponges. Very small staghorn corals. No fan corals.

Before the dive I was informed to not expect to see any large fish. They were right.  I saw no fish over ten inches in length. Here is a list of the animals I actually saw:  yellow  and queen angelfish, parrotfish, trumpetfish, pufferfish, blue tangs, clownfish, small groupers, squirrelfish, a spotted moray eel, a very small green eel. Turtles are often seen, I am told, but saw neither turtles nor barracuda that day.  Also saw small anemones of various colors.

Met a young Brit at the hostel who is taking lessons to qualify as ‘dive master’.  He has been on many dives in the area during his six week stay. He reports seeing one turtle and only one barracuda during that time.  He has sighted no sharks of any size or variety.  Last week he was treated to an unexpected delight as his dive boat was enroute to a dive site. Dolphins were seen playing far out in the bay. He donned mask, snorkel and fins and jumped in.

(Have more photos to upload but internet is too slow)

 

It is always a treat if and when you get a chance to swim in the water where real live oceanic dolphins are. They will come within 10 feet of a snorkeler or diver and hang in the water checking you out. Then, if you begin to swim towards them hoping to touch, with a few powerful flips of their tail they are gone. They are majestic, creatures who are obviously at home in the sea. It is their element. Humans are mere weaklings in their environment. They know it. We know it.

Dolphins worldwide have the ancient reputation of saving human lives. They are without doubt, sentient beings.  Sad, to think that the closest relationships between man and dolphin are conducted by the military. Dolphins have been trained to install mines or listening devices on the hulls of ‘enemy’ vessels.  Of course, the dolphins don’t know anything about human politics. They just do it for the reward of easy food and possibly for the ‘friendship’ of their adopted humans.

Day after the dive I hopped a collectivo  from Taganga to Santa Marta. After exiting the first ride, I asked about and found the correct station for a different bus to El Zaino.  El Zaino sits at the extreme  Eastern end of Tayrona park. Took nearly two hours total from Taganga to El Zaino.

Was pleasantly surprised to learn that for anyone 65 or older… including ‘extranjeros’ (visitor from another country) the entrance fee is waived. Normally, the entrance fee is around 20 dollars per entrance. Students, and Colombian citizens pay a reduced rate on a sliding scale.  If you go, be certain to bring your passport or ‘cedula’ (ID). You will not be allowed to enter the park without them.

That day, I hiked the Naranjilla ‘A’ trail (the longest one). It winds through a variety of terrains. The biggest surprise to me was how similar it was to New Hampshire (the granite state). Huge granite boulders sit together in strange formations through the tangle of vines and tall trees.  Imagine transporting Pawtuckaway to a Caribbean tropical coastline and you get the idea. Tropical plants are seen growing atop and between the groupings of granite boulders. Sunlight filters down through the canopy. You can distinctly hear the sound of the surf crashing on the sand several hundreds of feet on the other side of the jungle trail.

Near the crest of a long incline on the path, you are graced with your first glimpse of the Caribbean. Further on, you come to a small thatched gazebo overlooking  a view of the coastal rock formations and Canaveral beach.

What I  learned that day is that there are two terrestrial and one marine official entrances to the park.

The following day, after having studied the map and having familiarized myself with Taganga, I got a ride aboard the only boat departing Taganga harbor to Cabo San Juan, the only official marine entrance to the park. The boat was supposed to depart at 10:30AM. But, we were delayed by 3 chicas who called in late. The boat motored over the other end of the harbor to wait for them. The captain and one other crewman exited the boat to go hunt the girls down and to encourage them to get a move on.  They returned a half hour later. We were underway by 11:10AM. Business as usual around here.

The boat was built to hold 38 passengers. Aboard were 8 passengers, 2 crew, and the captain. Boat was powered by twin 115hp Yamaha outboards. The sea was rough that day and the sky was overcast. The passengers were instructed to sit astern. (near the rear of the boat). The helm was in the center at the very stern. The captain stood the whole journey managing the wheel and the engine controls. Standing, he could see beyond the bow and so judge the best orientation of the craft to the waves. We were heading into the wind and the seas were slightly off our port (left) side.

The boat would rise up out of the crest of the oncoming waves as the captain did his best to make way and to ease the length of the boat into the next valley. Not easy that day. Many times the bow crashed with a bang and shudder as it fell from the crest it had just exited. We pounded our way forward. Wind was 20knots or so.  Small white caps of waves were seen the whole trip. My hat nearly blew off even though I had it tethered with the attached cord under my chin.

As we passed each of the beaches along the rocky coastline the Captain would point them out. Playa Granate, Bahia Concha, Playa Chengue, Neguage, Playa Cristal, Cinto, and Palmarito.  By the time we arrived at Cabo San Juan, an hour or so later,  our butts were bruised and I’m pretty sure most were happy to be off the boat.  It was an exciting ride. The kind you are glad you did but are glad is over.

Cabo San Juan is spectacular. Two beaches are separated by a tiny natural isthmus and a small lagoon. There is a gazebo atop a rock promontory that affords a beautiful view of the entire area. Beautiful.

The park rules are that no walking along the trails is allowed after 5PM. There are three official camping areas. El Zaino has small ‘ecohabs’ for rent. El Cabo is the hot spot. There is a restaurant and small concession and restrooms and shower facilities that you would expect in any national park. You can rent a tent for 14 bucks a night per person or a hammock under a roof for 10.

The main ‘trek’ in Tayrona runs from Cabo San Juan to El Zaino (or vice verso). I was told to expect it to take about 3 hours.  Since we had arrived a bit late, having started late, I thought it best to not tarry too long in one spot. Needed to be in El Zaino by 5PM.

Had some water and a snack in El Cabo and proceeded on the trail.  First area encountered from El Cabo to El Zaino is ‘La Piscina’.  This seems to be the safes place to swim. The reason being, is that it is protected from the ocean by a natural rock reef forming a relatively calm harbor. Although there may be some current there, it would be minimal. There are no ‘life guards’ who monitor swimmer in the park. If you get into trouble, you are on your own or may hope for help from fellow bathers.  Your safety is your responsibility.  La Piscina is a calm and peaceful place to spend the day swimming and lazing if you camp at Cabo.

Next spot beyond La Piscina is called Arenillo. This place has a tiny restaurant. There was a local artisan making wooden sculptures that he offered for sale.  I liked the looks of Arenillo because it seemed to have the least amount of tourists. It had the look and feel of a coastal fishing village, without the fishermen.  Looked like it would be relatively safe to venture into the water there as long as you did not venture far out.

After Arenillo, you hike through the coastal rainforest again, passing tall trees and granite rocks of immense size. Up and down rock steps that wind in gentle curves. Still, you hear the low thunder of the surf and the wind through the trees.  Saw only a few birds and lizards. Some fruiting sea grapes.

Then, once again you come to an incredible vista of the very long wide beach of Arrecifes.  This is an area that is marked ‘no swimming’, and for good reason. It is a wide expanse of sand that is directly exposed t the wild breeze and waves of the sea.  At the far end of Arrecifes, maybe  200 feet from the coast toward the jungle is a long lagoon. I sampled the water. It was barely tainted with salt. I saw a horse on the other side of the lagoon near a building that looked like someone’s house.  Horses need fresh water. The lagoon must be mostly runoff from the mountain slopes a half mile in the distance.

Then, you re-enter the coastal, granite lined, tropical forest pathway again. This is the longest of the relays of the route. Many visitors where exiting at this hour… 3PM. They wanted to be at El Zaino by 5PM.  Was passed by many younger folks along the route. I carry a walking stick to assist me  mostly in the rocky downhill parts. I call it my ‘third leg’.  It really does help.

Near the end of the trek there is a place that is very near a steep slope further inland. From those hills I heard the distinct sound of howler monkeys. A low grunt/growl that continues for many seconds and then there is a response from another monkey. They were too far away to see but they made their presence known.

I had trekked on this route the previous day coming from the other direction, less than a quarter of the distance toward Arrecifes.  It was about 3:45PM when I began recognizing familiar sights. I was close to the end of the trail.

Came upon the Ecohabs of El  Zaino and past the museum. Still had a few minutes left and I knew where I was so I took one farewell look at Playa Canaveral.

Three buses/ collectivos later I was back in Taganga.  I had been soaked in sweat from the days journey.  Stripped off my duds and enjoyed the luxury of a cool shower.  Had a bite to eat. Danced with a few of the hostel chicas and lay my head on the pillow in my lower bunk in the air conditioned dorm. Life is good. I’m not done yet.

 

 

 

Quinta San Pedro Alejandrino

I know, i know… I can hear the questions from here.

Quinta… what? P1070659

P1070663The Simon Bolivar equivalent of a Jefferson Memorial

Quinta San Pedro Alejandrino is the place where ‘El Libertador’ breathed his last. It is in the medium sized city of Santa Marta which sits on the Eastern Colombian Caribbean coastline.

Ever hear of a guy named Simon Bolivar ?  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sim%C3%B3n_Bol%C3%ADvar)

For many citizens of South America, Simon Bolivar is their equivalent of North American’s George Washington.  Simon Bolivar’s vision was to achieve complete independence from Spain (which his efforts accomplished) and to see a South American version of ‘united states’.  His ‘united states’ of South America idea never caught on. There were too many factions to allow that kind of unity.

The facts of history and the writings of men who knew Simon Bolivar all point to this man as being in the forefront of the effort to end Spanish domination in the South American colonies.  He is by all accounts the man responsible for spearheading the South American independence movement.  P1070615Bolivars last words

Here are some of Bolivar’s more famous memorable quotes:http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Sim%C3%B3n_Bol%C3%ADvar

The Bolivar family had been ‘aristocrats’ in the Basque region of Spain. I remember meeting a young Basque in a hostel in Panama city, Panama.  I remember asking him to describe to me what part of Spain he came from. He said he did not come from Spain. He insisted that he was Basque.  And that Basques were not ‘Spanish’.  Apparently, Simon Bolivar did not identify as being a ‘Spaniard’ either.

Simon Bolivar was born in what is now Venezuela. As a young man, he had a mentor and private tutor, Simon Rodriguez, who had been accused of being a traitor of the Spanish ruling class in Caracas. Rodriguez had to leave the country. Bolivar never forgot. The young Bolivar was then enrolled in the military academy of Milicias de Veraguas where he showed great promise as a cadet.

http://www.improve.com/Simon-Bolivar/3304

To gain the support for independence from a majority of South Americans, Bolivar wrote a decree stating in no uncertain terms that if you were not FOR independence then you were de facto AGAINST independence. If you did not agree with those fighting for independence against Spain, you were to die.  It was that simple. His rallying treatise is called simply: Decree of War to the Death. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decree_of_War_to_the_Death

‘El Libertador’ is what he is known as throughout South America. He led many campaigns and was victorious more often than not. The battles of Boyaca, Carabobo , Pichincha secured the independence of Venezuela and Ecuador. Afterwards the federation of independent states was given the name ‘Gran Colombia’.  At the overwhelming support of those who followed him, he was named president of Gran Colombia.  The ‘union’ was short lived.

He wrote a constitution for Gran Colombia. Not everyone wanted to play that game. So… like so many well intentioned ‘revolutionaries’… he first declared himself ‘president for life’. When the bickering would not stop and it was clear that no political group was interested in living the ‘Gran Colombia’ dream.

P1070654A real life denizen of the Quinta today. Iguanas are pretty hardy critters if not hunted to extinction.

(Directly from Wikipedia:  Bolívar proclaimed himself dictator on 27 August 1828 through the Decree of Dictatorship. He considered this as a temporary measure, as a means to reestablish his authority and save the republic, although it increased dissatisfaction and anger among his political opponents.)

Factions formed and made it clear that they wanted out of the Gran Colombia plan.  There was at least one attempt on Bolivar’s life. In some reports his live in lover was complicit in an assassination attempt and in another report she tipped him off and averted one.

However it really happened, we will probably never know. What we are pretty sure of is that his last ride in a carriage and the place where he breathed his last breath was the estate of Joaquín de Mier. It name is: Quinta San Pedro Alejandrino.  ‘Quinta’ in Spanish means: a country house or a rural estate.P1070629Bolivar’s last carriage ride

Simon Bolivar had had enough of South American politics and was intending to sail to Europe where he hoped to stay. What his exact intentions might have been after arriving in Europe we shall never know.

What we know is that ‘El Libertador’ died at the Quinta.

It is here, where Simon Bolivar’s memory is kept alive. In addition to restoring the condition of the Quinta to what it might have been when Bolivar died, other monuments were built in homage to this important figure who earned his place at the forefront of  the South American Independence movement.

If we say we are interested in ‘Independence’ and ‘Liberty’ and ‘Freedom’ then we must include Simon Bolivar in our historical inquiry.  Perhaps some of his ideas are odd to the more ‘protestant’ mind. We must be careful to not judge anyone ‘out of context’. If I was not raised in his place and time, the best I can do is to exercise my imagination.  In so doing, my impression of historical figures and times and places is broadened.  What at first may seem backward, brutal, or ill conceived, when viewed from their own specific context(s) are in fact leaps forward for those times and places.

P1070606A Statue of Simon Bolivar, ‘El Libertador’

Taganga Easter

P1070467Taganga beach and harbor 2014 Easter sunset

Colombia has a Pacific coast and a Caribbean coast. Cartagena is situated about in the middle of Colombia’s Caribbean coast.  West of Cartagena is Turbo. East of Cartagena is Baranquilla, and Santa Marta.

Taganga  (http://wikitravel.org/en/Taganga)is a tiny fishing village a mere 8 km East of Santa Marta that has morphed into a laid back, international backpackers tourist spot. It is a surprisingly idyllic place. There are dozens of budget hostel options.  Many people qualify for a Padi (or Naui) scuba diving certificate in Taganga because of the comparatively low cost.

This area has the unique distinction of combining pristine Caribbean style beaches, and cuisine, and the  Tyrona nationa park (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tayrona_National_Natural_Park), with the directly adjacent Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sierra_Nevada_de_Santa_Marta).  Simon Bolivar peak is  the highest altitude in the world that is so near to a sea, ocean.

Sierra Nevada de Santa Mara is home to many indigenous tribal peoples.  One of the most interesting of those is the Kogi. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kogi_people) Some Kogi young men do not see the sun until they are 7 years old. They are raised in caves and taught the tribal ways and legends. The Kogi refer to so called ‘civilized peoples’ as ‘younger brother’. From the Kogi perspective, ‘younger brother’ has been messing with mother Nature to the point of weakening her severely. Not cool.  (http://youtu.be/LLrTPrp-fW8)

On my first visit to Colombia, during my grand motorcycle adventure with the intention of repairing my teeth, I did not get to Cartagena. My solution to crossing the ‘Darien gap’, the infamous ‘end of the road’ was to negotiate my way from Panama to Turbo, Colombia aboard 4 different boats. I successfully did that in May, 2012.

From Yazviza, Panama, (rode there on the bike to check things out in person) there is only jungle for 200 kms or so. People who enter the Darien jungle uninvited have a 50/50 chance of ever coming out again.  There are a number or reasons for those statistics, most of which are ‘political. I opted to increase my chances of survival and sought another route.  I went to  Kuna Yala territory.

The Kuna Yala are the native tribal people who are officially recognized as owning the San Blas Island chain. I passed all those islands and spent the night at the docks of a five of them.

My first ‘Darien gap’ boat ride was to Isla Carti in a 30 foot long 5 feet wide dug out canoe carved from a single mahogany log, powered by outboard motor. Rode the bike right into the canoe on an 8 inch wide plank, one end on the beach and the other on an old tire. Me, my 150lbs of gear, and four very sturdy Kuna Yala men motored on the glistening Caribbean sea to Isla Carti where the men hoisted bike and gear up and out of the canoe and onto the dock. The canoe was so stable that I did not so much as tie it down… it made the journey upright, resting on it’s kickstand.

Three more different boats and eight days later I arrived in Turbo, Colombia where there is a road. I was so happy to be on the road again that I skipped going East and headed directly South to Medellin.

I am seeing  the Colombian Caribbean coast for the first time.

Here are some photos I took around Taganga yesterday:

P1070367P1070397P1070386P1070366P1070365P1070493Of course I’m only looking at the sunset…

 

 

 

 

Cartagena

P1060734The LAN flight from Leticia to Cartagena was excellent.  The only minor negative was the 7 hour layover in Bogota airport.

P1060756Leticia and Amazon one minute after takeoffP1060774Clouds floating over the vastness of the Amazon

Connecting flight took off early from Bogota. Arrived Cartagena 20 minutes ahead of schedule. All equipment arrived after having been checked baggage in Letica.  Taxi to center Cartagena took only 10 minutes. First went to the Mamallena hostel because I’d had a good experience in Panama City, Panama with a hostel run by the same folks while on my eighteen month motorcycle adventure from NH to Argentina.

This being Semana Santa (Holy week), Cartagena is loaded with tourists.  Mamallena was full as were three others. Lugging equipment around a strange city at 11PM is an odd experience. Found a vacancy at the MamaWaldy hostel in Getsemani district. Only two spaces left.P1060833Hostel entrance is directly at the corner

MamaWaldi hosts mostly 20 to 30 something international travellers as is typical of most South American hostels. My dorm has 6 bunks. I was lucky to snag a lower berth. Lots of chicas from Germany, Denmark, Australia, Brittain, and US and a few Colombianas.  Hard to keep myself from ogling. This is a hot climate and so a minimum of clothing is worn. I am the only male in my dorm. Tough duty, I tell you.

Next morning after coffee I had a shower and went out to have my first look at Cartagena in the daylight. I had read James Michener’s book ‘Caribbean’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caribbean_%28novel%29) many years ago while living on the island of St. Croix and working on the Hess oil refinery there.  I therefore, had an idea about what I wanted to see.  Michener’s descriptions of the fortifications have been rolling around in my mind a long time.

I am always interested in the history of people and places. Being aware of past histories is the only method  I know that affords a glimmer of understanding regarding  the way people, places, and institutions got to be the way they are now.

Cartagena: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartagena,_Colombia) is one of the oldest fortified settlements in the ‘new world’…  which was not new at all to the millions of humans who had lived here long before the arrival of the Spaniards, Portuguese, Dutch, French, or Brits.

Imagine being one of the men who sailed across the mysterious ocean in small wooden boats to a land that had only been ‘discovered’ a few years prior.

Your mission was to claim the land for your king and/or queen, to force your religion on those who knew absolutely nothing of your views about anything AND to steal as much gold and other goodies that you could and send them back to the folks who put up the dough to build your boat and outfit you and your crew.  That is a fairly accurate description of what the first Spanish ‘conquistadores’ were really all about.

P1060937This fellow founded Cartagena in 1533

You needed a pretty heavy duty fort if you were going to be able to hang on to the the gold that you stole from the Incas. Why? Because not long after word went out that gold had been looted and REALLY existed, there were other young lads called pirates who were willing to risk life and limb to steal your stolen gold from you.

There was another group known as ‘privateers’. A privateer is a kind of sanitized version of a pirate. A privateer worked for the king or queen of a different country. A privateer was ‘officially sanctioned’ to steal the booty in the name of the opposing nation.  A privateer’s vessel was bought and paid for and outfitted with funds directly from the king or queen of  some other nation.

Francis Drake was one such fellow. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Drake) You may notice that he dressed well and Queen Elizabeth even gave him a few  fancy titles.  She bought him a nice ship and paid for the equipment and crew for Francis. Why?

Well, the deal was that he was to attack those evil  Spaniards and steal the gold that they had stolen from the Incas and bring it back to merry old England.  Drake was an ‘official representative’ of England.  So, he wasn’t really actually… er, ah, stealing. He was just ‘warring’ with the bad guys.  And he was really good at it.

Human history is kind of funny once you get past being offended by all the high sounding  twisted truths that are inserted in the official history books and begin doing a bit of your own thinking about the situation(s).

 Cartagena was a strategic position.  From Cartagena ships could be dispatched to any part of the Caribbean, including what is now Panama (The Spanish Main) to pick up the Incan gold transported from Peru and across the isthmus  to the counting house in Portobello.  From Cartagena ships could also set a course to the Atlantic and South to Asuncion.

That is how Cartagena came to be arguably the most heavily fortified city in the Caribbean. If you could take Cartagena, you had a chance at putting a dent in the Spanish domination of South America, and hence, have a shot at grabbing the gold.

P1060846The clocktower of the walled (old) city of CartagenaP1060848The walls are made of carved coral rock and are 12 feet thick and 16 feet high. The wall encircles the old part of town. P1060887This rampart faces NW toward the Caribbean. P1060906P1060911P1060920The young ladies were visiting from Cucuta

Francis Drake captured Cartagena in 1586.   A continued effort was made to build higher, stronger, more strategic defenses.

One such effort manifested itself in the form of the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castillo_San_Felipe_de_Barajas)

Amazing is the only way to describe it.  If you want to get a different view of the place, get a dvd of the movie ‘Romancing the Stone’ (1984).  It is a  light romantic comedy with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088011/) The big showdown between the good guys and the bad guys happens in a place that looks just like this place.

The slaves who built San Felipe probably did not find much to laugh about. It is said that the stones were splashed with their blood. Cartagena was a major slave port. It is also known for being the first place to begin freeing African slaves.

P1060954Most of the tourists here are Colombians. Holy week is family vacation time. It was busy.

An even more strategically important location for the protection of Cartagena sits at the only entrance to Cartagena’s  harbor.  It sits on a long island called Terrabomba.  Took a boat to the island specifically to visit this spot. Received an impromtu history lesson about the fort from a local fisherman who spoke excellent English. He had been to the US and had traveled to many islands in the Caribbean.

The man informed me that Lawrence Washington  (George Washington’s older half brother)  had visited this very fort the name of which is now called Castillo San Fernando De Bocachica. Astonishing, what you discover about history, sometimes when you least expect it. Lawrence Washington accompanied a Vice admiral Edward Vernon to Gran Colombia in 1740.  The fort protects the entrance to Cartagena. Any ship wishing to sail to Cartagena city must pass this spot.

The British (Washington and Vernon) did take the fort which was then called Fort San Luis De Bocachica. Same location. The new fort (SanFernando de Bocachica) was built with the remnants of the old one.

Thus,  the British won that fort but they lost the battle. The battle of Cartagena de Indias (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Cartagena_de_Indias)

It is now believed that Mount Vernon, the Virginian estate of the Washington family was named ‘Vernon’ for a reason relating to the Battle of Cartagena de Indias. Lawrence Washington was so impressed with the military valor of Vice Admiral Edward Vernon that he named the family spread in his honor

P1070122Any vessel entering Cartagena harbor must pass this point. A view of the fort’s very small beach.

P1070129Fort of San Fernando de BocachicaP1070172A bit difficult to get past this spotP1070173View of the fort’s only ‘dock’ (muelle in Espanol)

P1060966Keep your powder dry mateys

Tikuna People

P1060538Arriving at the Tikuna village. The bank ahead is the beach of the Tikuna children who appear to be as much a part of this environment as the dolphins

Visited the Tikuna community of San Juan de los Lagos which is a short distance from Leticia.

On the day tour there was a Colombian middle aged couple who own a farm in a small town North of Bogota and a German woman who is teaching German in Bogota. She has lived in Colombia for a few years but must return to Germany soon. She says she will save her money and then wants to return.

DSC09906Barbara, the German teacher from Bogota dwarfed by the size of the tree behind her

The guide was a 20 something Colombian man who was fairly fluent in English. He has been visiting this Tikuna group for a while. He explained that there are three different Tikuna villages. The one we visited was the most remote. Most of the other villagers do not wish to continue their traditions. In the village we were visiting there was an older gent in his 60’s that has the respect of the last remainingTikuna who wish to remember their origins.

DSC00040DSC00043DSC00051

DSC00051

DSC00049The older children in the boat are returning from school

The village can be reached by boat four months of the year and there is a 3km pathway through the rainforest that can be accessed by a road that runs parallel with the river route from Leticia. The road is 22kms. long. The pathway to the village is at the furthest end of that road.

I learned a lot on this tour. The boat ride to the village passes a small island that separates a series of lagoons from the Amazon river.  Along the way we passed one of Pablo Escobar’s previous estates. The boat had just enough space for the motorman, the guide and we four tourists. We negotiated our way through a few tangles of aquatic plants and across a large open lagoon. Tall trees could be seen on the island in the distance and we saw water buffaloes on the bank of the land on the other side.

The boat then entered a small channel that was at times not more than 8 feet wide. The narrow waterway was flanked on either side by the trees that are the rainforest. There was at least one excellent example of the type of tree that requires multiple ‘roots’ that extend downward from branches. These ligatures attach themselves to the ground below. The reason for this is that the soil in most rainforest environments is very shallow so the root systems spread out rather than penetrate deep into the soil. The soil tends to be very hard clay and is not conducive to producing or retaining ’tilth’ of soil.  Thus, it is even more an incredible achievement for there to be such an astonishing variety of plants and trees.

DSC09798Shoots drop down from branches and become part of the root system

One of the things I learned is that the Native human inhabitants of the Amazon basin have been actively ‘gardening’ for thousands of years. It is not readily apparent because they never practiced monoculture. The developed systems of silvaculture and horticulture to assist them in their mostly nomadic lifestyle.

There are thousands of interconnected pathways throughout the Amazon basin. As an example of how these nomadic forest dwellers would intentionally arrange the plants is that they would plant many different types of known ‘medicinal’ plants along the pathways. They did this so that if they needed the medicines they would not have to scour the jungle to look for them, they knew right where to find them.  Ingenious, really.

Some tribes were less nomadic than others. These would form small family units that engaged in some agriculture along with the men hunting for monkeys, pecary, taipir, and other animals for protein and some fishing.  The type of agriculture that they did was known as ‘chagra’.  In this, each family would have four small plots of ground that was theirs to manage. The size of each ‘chagra’ was roughly an acre.  They would plant a variety of fruits and the staples of yucca and plantain/banana.  These plants were planted together, not in the monoculture pattern of Western civilizations.  They would rotate the production of each of these four plots so that only one would be intensively used and one was always fallow.

It was discovered some years ago that there are areas where the soil is a rich black loam underneath. On such plots there is to be found a much wider variety of plants.  In such areas the ground is called: ‘Terra preta’.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_preta

As it happens, these tribal peoples displayed an incredible intelligence in the way they chose to adapt to the conditions. Today in the West  the ‘terra preta’ practices of the ancient Amazon cultures is being mimicked when modern farmers make ‘biochar’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biochar.

Those Amazon cultures who practiced this were several centuries ahead of us it seems.  They did not know about their world through the lens of  scientific data.  They learned these things by accident and by observations passed from father to son and mother to daughter over the course hundreds of generations. They were the original ‘sustainable living’ practitioners.

The Tikuna villagers I met lived in a family group of 14 families consisting of 67 people. The children now go to school in Leticia.  They all speak Spanish. This elders in this village do what they can to teach the Tikuna language, legends, and customs to the young.  They are making the attempt to preserve their traditions.

Odd as it seems, these folks have electric lines from Leticia. There was a television in one of the houses. Many years ago they learned about the clay tiles that are used to build houses in Leticia. They had a discussion amongst themselves and decided to build their houses using the clay tiles. The advantage is that the houses will now outlast the occupants and not have to be rebuilt every five or six years. They do still build the Maloka, the community house, using the old ways.

P1060580The Maloka (traditional tribal meeting house)

I saw three ponds that are used to raise tilapia and a few other species of fish during the low water season when rain is sparse. Only one had water and was in active use. The other two were under construction. Each had to be dug by hand in the hard clay soil. The dimensions were approximately 100 x 40 x 3 feet deep. All of the men in the community help in the construction. Hard physical labor, I assure you.

They put on a traditional dance for us dressed in costumes made of tree bark. One elderly woman put on a play that tells some kind of a story about tortoises.  It was clear that they do not need to do this and that in some ways it seems artificial. But, the thing to keep in mind is that what I witnessed approximated how the older men and women grew up. The ‘new way’s have only become available during the past 40 years.

DSC00059Traditional dance and tree bark clothing 

I watched and listened as a man told their ‘creation story’.  It occurred to me that I was witnessing an Amazonian equivalent of Moses telling the tale of how the ‘gods’ created the forest and the people in it.  Part of the tale is about plants, part about different animals. There was a good guy and a bad guy ‘god’.  One of them wanted the best for humans and the other guy liked to trick humans.

When young women have their first period they go to live with their grandmother for a year. The grandmother teaches the girl all she needs to know to perform the things that are expected of women in this group.

They still perform the ritual of having a three day party where everyone gets drunk on fermented manioc… including the young lady coming of age. The villagers then pluck every hair from the young lady’s head. When it grows back, she is no longer a girl, but a woman.  A man from a different village is then allowed to woo the young lady and take her for a wife. In this way, installed in their stories and traditions, is a practical method of keeping the bloodlines from getting too narrow.

On the walk through the rainforest, the men explained the ‘chagra’ system and pointed out many, many varieties of medicinal plants and trees.

DSC00032This 3 year old boy is shooting a reed arrow from the small bow he and his brother made with instructions from other brothers. He and his 5 year old brother followed the group on our tour through the villages chagras. Both were barefoot (by preference)

Good to know that in these modern times, there still remain people who value the traditional knowledge passed to them that represents a long a painful process of trial and error that allowed them to make the rainforest their home. It was clear to me that the young people are now confronted daily with the contrasts of learning and preserving the valuable lessons of the past or that of moving into the ‘modern world’.  They now have a choice.

DSC00095This is the 5 year old brother of the 3 year old with the bow and arrow

It is my hope that the old ways and most especially the old knowledge will be preserved.  If there is a break in that thread, then the default way of ‘interpreting’ the experience of the tropical rainforest environment will be completely Westernized.

If the past if forgotten, the incalculable value contained in the viewpoint that human beings are a ‘part of’ the forest, not separate from it, will be lost.  Tragic, I think.

 

Iquitos To Santa Rosa/Leticia/Tabatinga

P1060161The interior of the boat

The boat ride from Iquitos to Santa Rosa was the most comfortable ride in any vehicle I have experienced during the entire course of this journey.

The name of the company that I chose was Transtur. There are two other ‘rapido’ services that offer the same route. You can choose any day of the week except Monday. One service operates Tue, Thurs, Sat and the other service operates Wed, Fri, and Sun.The motor on this boat was a Volvo Penta engine coupled with a jet drive. Very powerful, very smooth, and quiet as motors go. The interior of the boat mimicked the interior of a small commercial prop plane.

A small breakfast and a lunch is offered to each passenger as part of the fare.The reason for the breakfast (coffee and a roll) is that you must arrive on the dock by 5:00AM. The stated time of actual departure is 5:30. As is the usual case, the actual departure time is not scrupulously adhered to. In my case, the boat did not cast off until 6:10 and then we stopped not far from the place of embarkation at another dock for about 30 minutes to pick up the lunches. We were not fully underway until shortly before 7:00AM.

P10601625:30AM Iquitos Transtur dock

The boat did make seven or eight stops along the way. Each of those stops was very quick, only to discharge or take on passengers… less that 5 minutes each stop. The ride, as stated above is very, very smooth. The speed was also the fastest of any of my previous ‘rapido’ experiences. I would guesstimate our average speed to have been close to 45 to 50 mph in relation to the land. In my case the journey was in the direction of the current which is about 6 mph or so. So plan on the reverse journey taking slightly longer.

P1060303 P1060324Check out these majestic Amazonian cloud patterns

Santa Rosa is a small island in the middle of the Amazon river. It is the official Peruvian border crossing town on the Amazon. Everyone who wishes to comply with the Peruvian immigration process must stop at Santa Rosa to have your passport stamped out, if departing Peru or stamped in if you plan to go further upriver towards Iquitos.

P1060406After baggage is inspected this is the route to Santa Rosa police and immigration offices

The boat tied up to the dock in Santa Rosa about 4PM. The first thing that happens is the some kind of uniformed officers check your passport and then they go through your luggage. Then, if you tell them that you plan to continue into either Brazil or Colombia you will directed to first visit the Peruvian National Police office. The man there looks at your passport and the separate piece of paper that you received on entry into Peru that you tuck inside your passport. The police then stamp on the back of that paper. Then, you are directed to the immigration office. There the official will check that piece of paper to make sure the police stamp is on it.  The immigration official will then stamp your passport as ‘exiting’ Peru. They will keep the separate piece of paper.

P1060401Santa Rosa, Peru immigration office

Next, you walk back to the dock and then get a small boat (there are many) to ferry you across the river to Leticia, Colombia.  Lectica, Colombia and Tabatinga, Brazil are essentially the same town, but are officially separated by a well marked area as they are in different countries.  There is no immigration nor aduana office at that area. The immigration office for Leticia, Colombia is at the Leticia airport.

Tri border areas are always a bit unusual. The practice is, that if you do not plan to go beyond the border area it is not necessary to do anything with your passport. In other words; if you are ‘stamped into’ Colombia, you may visit Tabatinga (which is actually in Brazil) or Santa Rosa (Peru) without bothering with passport stuff. But ONLY if you plan to continue to remain in Colombia. The same is true for people who are ‘stamped into’ Peru or Brazil. You may visit any of the border towns without bothering with passport stuff. Again; ONLY if you do not plan to go beyond the tri border region. The immigration officials get irritated with you if you do not understand this.

My boat arrived late in the afternoon and it takes a bit of time to go through the official Peruvian exit process. So, that coupled with the boat ride across the river, I did not arrive at the Leticia docks until about 5:30 or so. Was told that immigration office would probably not be open then and that a person has 24 hours to ‘stamp in’ from the time/date showing on your ‘exit stamp’.  I also needed to locate a hostel. I had an idea which one I was looking for but had forgotten the name. The mototaxi driver knew which one I wanted from my description.

Arrived at the Mahatu hostel close to dusk. Check in process was simple. My room has six bunks and it’s own bathroom. I’ve now been there for four nights. Mine is a lower bunk which works great for me.

P1060484Mahatu hostel property

The owner is a Colombian man (Gustavo) who sailed on a Colombian Navy three-masted training vessel in his youth. He says one of his classmates in college went on to become a president… I think his classmate was Santos.  Mahatu hostel is situated on 5 hectares (about 12 acres) of wetland. It is an easy walk to the center of town or the docks. The grounds include a natural lagoon setting. There are fish and turtles in the lagoon. Carefully arranged plantings line the entry drive. There are palm trees of various kinds. Bouganvilla and amarillas in bloom.

People come and go in hostels. It is the normal course of events. Have met people from Colombia, Israel, Norway, Canada, England, Germany, Australia and USA during my stay here. Many are young folks. It was unusual to have met a number of people 40’s and older.

A recent visitor was born in Wales but Australia had been his adopted home for forty years or so.  He is recently retired and is very happy about that. He described his current relationship with his wife as rocky. He is father to a son and a daughter. He lived in Perth. The story of how he arrived in Leitia is an unusual one.  He arrived here by slow cargo boat and had come all the way from Belem, Brazil which is the town where the Amazon meets the Atlantic Ocean. His first boat was from Belem to Manaus and then another one from Manaus to here.

I was very interested in his tale because I want to see the places he just came from. I will not be able to do that on this trip because Norte Americanos… including USA citizens, must arrive at the Brazilian border with a Brazilian visa attached to their passports. I can only get the visa by visiting a Brazilian embassy and handing over my passport to them for a couple of days. During which time, they paste the visa in it. The cost of the visa is about 160 dollars. It is good for 10 years. A person is limited to visiting Brazil to the normal 90 days per year during each of the 10 years the visa is valid.  I will have to postpone my visit to Brazil and further down the Amazon until next trip.

The man told me the first boat from Belem to Manaus took 6 days and the one from Manaus to Tabatinga took another 7 days or so. Then I inquired how he had gotten to Belem. His journey was most interesting and and unusual.

In Perth he had accidentally bumped into a captain of a ketch that had been a Norwegian herring vessel. It had been built in 1915 and built to withstand the heavy weather and cargo encountered in the North Sea.  The boat was heading to Auckland, New Zealand. From Auckland, the captain planned to go ‘around the horn’.  The infamous stretch of water that is the very tip of South America… South of Tierra del Fuego. It is a passage much written about and is reported to have some of the most unpredictable and rough weather and water conditions known to sailors.

Jack, the Welshman/Australian learned that there was room for another hand. A deal was struck. He scrambled to get money to the captain to secure his space aboard. Then, while the boat was underway to Auckland, Jack read up as much as he could on what he might need to be prepared for and bought as much appropriate gear as he thought he might need. He then flew to Auckland and became one of the crew members.

He described the captain as a well seasoned Norwegian skipper, but this would be his (and the vessel’s) first trip ‘round the horn’.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Horn) Jack filled in some details of the journey. He estimates they were in rough seas, weather and water for about two thirds of the way from Auckland to the Falklands where they restocked. 

The boat, the Tecla (http://www.tecla-sailing.com/nl/?page_id=13) then made it’s way North and was to have landed in Buenos Aires. They were about half way up the Rio Plata when the shipping agent the captain had made arrangements with emailed the captain with the ‘news’ that he wanted 10,000 dollars for the necessary paperwork to land in Buenos Aires. The captain immediately set a new course to a port in Uruguay, on the opposite side of the Rio Plata. No extortionist charges were required there. It was from there that many of the crew disembarked and each made their own plans.

P1060723Jack, the Aussie/Welshman who went around Cape Horn as a crew member aboard the Norwegian ketch Tecla

Not many ‘tall ships’ nor sailing vessels go ‘around the horn’ these days. The Panama canal route is the vastly favored one for vessels going from the Atlantic to the Pacific or vice versa. The ‘horn’ is well known as a very challenging route. His vessel did what is known as the ‘under and over’. 

What that refers to is the 50th degree latitude South.. To accomplish that a boat must pass under the 50th degree South latitude and then sail North above it before making landfall.  The Chatham islands is the last port of call on the West to East passage. Then the horn and the ‘straights of Lemire’ must be negotiated before making landfall on the Falklands. Jacks journey is considered by most… including those in the sailing community to be a most unique one these days.

Jack made it to Rio for carnival and eventually made his way up the Brazilian coast until arriving at Belem. He had had not any specific plans in mind for visiting the Amazon but thought to himself, “Well, why not?”  His story is one which I value because it shows a person who is willing to adapt to changing conditions. Doing so requires letting his inner self to lead the way in contrast to the way many travelers approach travel… armed with an ironclad itinerary.

Each method has its benefits and each person’s life circumstances are unique.  At this stage of my life, I like to have a very general plan/itinerary but allow myself the freedom to alter it along the way as seems fit to me from day to day.

 

Jungle Highlights

P1050665One of the larger trees encountered during a jungle walk

Anyone entering the Amazon jungle without the knowledge required to survive there is risking their life.  A person can become completely disoriented a very short distance from the rivers edge. Vegetation is everywhere. To the visitor everything looks the same, very quickly.  With the sun blocked out because of the the taller trees there is no reference for direction.  Sounds are distorted. The direction of sounds is not easily determined.  It is the perfect place to become very lost very quickly.

P1050666Let’s see… uh, I know which way is up and which is down… that’s a good start, right?

A guide is absolutely essential.  What better guide to have than one who grew up in this environment and learned the necessary survival skills from his father as a boy and onward?  Better still, if his father had also lived in this environment all his life and had learned the survival skills from his father…  in a tradition that extends backwards in time for many generations.  This is the heritage of my guide, Jorge.  His father and he are of the Jibaro lineage. The Jibaro tribal families  made the riverine Amazon jungle their home for generations.

P1050789Father and son. They both consider their real home to be the ‘selva’, the jungle.P1050795 P1050794

I was dangling a spider (out of focus)  from a finger while taking these photos. I was in the middle seat. With these two aboard I had nothing to fear.

I consider it a rare privilege to have had Jorge’s father accompany Jorge and me on a morning and afternoon fishing tour in a small canoe. .Jorge had not seen his father in a few months. Our nightly base for our forays into the local jungle was the modest home of one of Jorge’s brothers. His father lived there with his brother and wife and their children. Jorge’s wife and family live in another river town further up the Ucayali.

My visit to the jungle environment lasted five days. I spent four nights in a typical modest jungle home. I ate what they ate. Rosita cooks rice and boiled things with gas. Everything else is cooked on a wood fire. Rosita told me that last year there was  unusually high water.  Their house was flooded up to the top of the railing for three months. They did not leave. They slept in hammocks suspended higher up. I do not know how she managed cooking, but she and her neighbors did it somehow.

P1050525Home base. Rosita, her two sons and Jorge’s father

The river begins to rise in late January and reaches flood stage during April.  The Rio Yarapa is no more than 30 feet wide for about 8 months per year. Low water is May-December.  Jorge’s father said that all the rooms (5 of them) are full in July and August. That is the height of the tourist season.  I purposely wanted to see the Amazon region in flood stage.  Relatively few tourists experience the water flooding into the forest. Riding in a canoe through the trees in the Amazon jungle is a unique experience.

People who live here get used to the idea that they will have to canoe up to the front porch 4 months a year.  The rest of the year they actually have a yard. The trees, plants, and all other living things have adapted to these conditions.

I watched a pink dolphin from the front porch one afternoon as it was feeding on fish in the main channel of the Yarapa about 40 yards from the front steps of the house.  Herons are a daily sight not 10 yards away.  There is a slight current that continually flows under the house even though the main channel is 40 yards away.  Everyone has at least one canoe tied to their front porch. Most houses have two or three in various conditions.  Rosita, Jorge and the kids would hop into a canoe to visit the neighbor next door. They would do the same to visit us.  There are no utility lines here. Electricity comes from a small generator and is only on from about 7 to 8:30 PM.

The mosquitos come out in force when the sun goes down. There was a net covering my bed which was a cloth mattress on a simple wooden frame. I brought a few lights and would get inside the net and kill mosquitos for about half an hour before settling my head on my pillow.  Everyone else is completely used to them. They do get bitten regularly and they do swat them regularly. They use no repellents nor do they wear long sleeve, long pants or hats.  They accept that mosquitos and biting ants and all the other critters here are part of the jungle.

For me, and my civilized ways, the mosquitos and biting ants seemed to be  a real nuisance.  Night time in the jungle is dark and there are noises made by the creatures who live there. It is an extraordinarily peaceful place once you get used to it.

P1050564I watched as Jorge paddled and hunted at the same time

There is less than a foot clear visibility in the water. I saw nothing any of the times he threw the spear.  He tossed it about 10 feet ahead of the canoe. A river reed serves as the shaft. The reed is carefully fitted into the end of a trident tip.  I watched this man paddle with one hand and only grasp the reed at the opposite end from the tip when he spotted something.  He speared two fish in the space of half an hour. They were served for dinner. There are no supermarkets in the jungle. The typical jungle dish is called ‘pongo’. It is fish, fried plantains, and rice.

P1050835 P1050707 P1050696 P1050692 P1050691 P1050685 P1050683 P1050680 P1050678 P1050677 P1050573

Amazing is the only way to describe this place and the people who call this place home

Return From The Jungle

P1050398High water along the Nauta riverfront. Two months ago planks were placed on the decks which led to the bank which was 6 feet above.

Departed by boat from the conjunction of rios Yarapa and Ucayali.  Arrived Nauta yesterday afternoon 4PM. From riverbank docks of Nauta, mototaxi ride to van/car taxis that run between Nauta and Iquitos. Arrived Iquitos around 5:30PM just in time for afternoon rush hour.  Spent the night at Casa Del Frances, a haunt for younger international backpackers.  Did not experience a restful/peaceful night.

My consciousness is now confronting the glaring distinctions between the way of life as experienced in close proximity to Nature vs. the way of life as experienced from the more civilized context.

The first thing I notice upon returning from the jungle is that I am besieged by a huge volume of sensory inputs that are generated by exclusively  human sources.  Human presence and activity exists in the jungle environment but it is clearly subdued. Humans and their activities do NOT dominate Life in the jungle.

P1060093Here a man uses natural materials and ancient skills to make roofing material for a typical house in a small river village.

For human visitors to the jungle who were born and raised in civilized environs unusual discomforts intrude.  One of those discomforts is adapting to the reduced amount of noise (perceived as ‘normal’) that is the result of specifically human activity: motorcycles, cars, electronic data; tv’s, radios, music from ‘devices’.  City sounds are replaced by jungle sounds. It can be unnerving. There are many animal nuisances in the jungle; mosquitos, ants, and other stinging insects.

Recent weirdness. As reported above; yesterday there was much traffic upon arriving Iquitos. As of this morning there is an eerie silence from the streets.  Walking around the streets of Iquitos this morning I noticed lots of trash in the streets and along the sidewalks, an unusually large amount in front of a bank. Police presence was visible everywhere in town. I saw police in helmets carrying clear lexan crowd control shields. Hundreds of relatively new motorcycles were parked in front of the local police headquarters. Local cops own motorcycles as their personal transportation.  Something was up.

P1060138 P1060139

Went to the supermarket in town. No cashiers were at the registers. Only the cafe workers (in the rear of the market) were on duty.  Had a coffee and an empanada. Returned to hostel. Took another shower. Changed out of my jungle duds into clean gear. Placed all my dirty clothes in bag and set out to find a laundry.  On the street at noon.

Eerie. Nearly everything was closed tight. A very, very few motorcycles on the street. 95% of all shops and restaurants were closed. The laundry was locked up tight, as was everything else. I happened across a few people standing in front of a pharmacy across from the main square in town. I inquired what was the cause of all the closures.

Political protest was the response.  The ‘trabajadores’ (workers) were protesting the fact that there were so few jobs with any benefits or retirement plan.  The man who explained the situation to me described it as there being two economies. One for people who work for big corporate  enterprises and government workers (such as police and professional army personnel).

Then, there was everyone else.  It was explained to me that the appearance of free market circumstances was in fact the case. Problem is that the people who eke out a meager existence in the free market have access to a smaller share of the economic pie than those who work for big corporate or government.

The protesters are letting the powers that be know that if things don’t change in their favor that there will be lots of garbage accumulating in the streets of Iquitos and the vast majority of shops, restaurants, and service industries will remain shuttered. The common laborers and vendors who have no benefits or other special privileges will not be showing up to work.

Use your imagination regarding what a tropical city of nearly a quarter million (urban center) inhabitants will look like after a week of all manner of garbage being dumped in the streets and near sidewalks. There is a large population of rats on the river banks. Tropical microorganisms and insects thrive in the hot, wet climate.  If the workers do not return sometime in the near future the public health consequences are scary.

P1060144

This is from one (dry) day of no trash pick ups. Add rain and more trash and you get garbage soup floating in the tropical heat. Stray dogs and cats will have a feast. So will rats, buzzards, insects and bacteria of myriad sorts.

The positive part of this is witnessing the obvious solidarity of the People here. There appears to be an over 90% participation in the strike.  Will the government respond to their demands?  It seems a sure bet. There are not enough police to force anyone into opening the shops or into returning to work. It is an evident fact.

The not so positive part of this is noticing that it is the People themselves who are demanding that the government provide them with benefits and or privileges that are commensurate with the employees of the big corps and government itself.

Is it possible to calculate the complete  value of all physical resources and the service value of all humans who transform and consume the physical resources?  What is fair compensation? What is just distribution?  Who gets to say?  These are the fundamental issues and questions.

Politics is the art of getting the People to accept a proposition that purports to be a fair and just one… or to trick them into believing it is.
If an agreement isn’t reached or if the People are not cajoled or tricked into agreeing with the government solution then usually one of two things happen, either the government in power is changed drastically or the standing government begins to exert physical force on the perceived troublemakers.

Humans… Civilization… Bah, humbug!… or not.  Observe these odd circumstances and the history of human organization and try to make sense of them. It strains the mind.

Meanwhile, back in the jungle…  dolphins are hunting for fish, insects are hunting for smaller critters, fish are nibbling on each other, snakes are digesting whatever they can stuff into their bellies, birds are scanning the land below for carrion or prey, plants are adapting to an astonishing variety of sunlight and mineral nutrient conditions. And humans who live there take only what they need to make it to the next day.

No denizen of the jungle worries or makes a fuss about ‘benefits and privileges’ nor do they have bank or retirement accounts. Yet somehow, they continue to exist… and it is under those conditions that our distant ancestors survived… and in an undeniably true sense, it remains so that Nature provides all Living creatures, humans included, with all that is necessary to survive… so long as the conditions exist that allow for Nature itself to exist.

Hear the sound of those chainsaws?  They are cutting down 500 year old trees so someone can have a new mahogany bed frame, dining room table and chairs, rifle stock, musical instrument, bar top or dashboard. When that one tree goes missing, so does the home for birds, insects and other animals and the plants that counted on the shade provided by the big tree will wither and die. Everything is connected. One tree harvested causes a chain reaction of events that is set in motion which impact the animal and plant life near it.

P1050991

This is ‘secondary’ forest. All the old trees were removed long ago. As a result many species no longer live here.

What does the word ‘precious’ really mean?  Is it not something that is rare and cannot be easily replaced? What amount of money, benefits or privileges can be offered to replace even one 500 year old tree?  Answer:  No amount of money.  It will, in fact, require 500 years of unhindered growth to replace a 500 year old tree. That is an accurate example of the real meaning of  the word ‘precious’.

Can members of the human species improve on that which took Nature millions of years to achieve?  Maybe, but I wouldn’t recommend betting the future of humankind (or the lives of your children) on it.

Nature itself  really has little to worry about. If human’s become too much of a ‘nuisance’ for Nature itself, insuperable processes will ensue and human history will be recorded in the archaeological record. Our existence may one day become something of interest to some other kind of future beings who will study our remains and speculate on what might have been the cause of our extinction.