Up the Rio Madre de Dios, Peru

Submitted by Danny Catt on Mon, 2007/01/22 - 7:31pm.

Up the Rio Madre de Dios, PeruUp the Rio Madre de Dios, Peru

Once again I was up at the crack of dawn (another 5am morning!). Krista was originally going to meet me in Puerto Maldonado and join me on the trip up river but her schedule changed unexpectedly and so she set things up to make it as easy as possible (she knows my Spanish is limited) for me to get from town to the Los Amigos research station. The plan was to meet a vehicle outside the ACCA Los Amigos research station office (ACCA = Association for Amazonian Conservation) just down the street from my hotel at 6am for a transfer to a small community about a 45 minute drive from Puerto Maldonado where I would hop on a public boat (a colectivo) heading up river. I was there ready and roaring to go at 5:45am and just after 6am a vehicle pulled up and out hopped a young and enthusiastic driver. He threw some rapid sentences of espagnol at me, but when he saw the blank look on my face he just smiled, threw my bags in the back, and whisked me away.

Before leaving Puerto Maldonado we had to pick another person who worked at the station and who (luckily for me) was also heading up river to Los Amigos. We stopped briefly at the local mercado (market), to load up the taxi with fruits and vegetables for the station. We were heavily loaded as we sped our way down the slick muddy road to Laberinto. The road we were speeding down was in fact a section of the InterOceanica highway, a somewhat controversial road which when completed will connect the forests of Brazil with Peru’s Pacific coast.

There is so much development going on in the Amazon these days. Logging, cattle ranching, mining (mainly for gold) and soybean production are just some of the pressures that are impacting the Amazon, its people and its ecosystems. (Read George Sranko’s short essay on soybeans on the Global Connections page of this website). For further reading check out the most recent issue of National Geographic (January 2007) which has an article by Scott Wallace entitled ‘Last of the Amazon’. In his article Scott describes in detail some of the pressures and challenges that the forests, people and cultures of the Amazon basin face. Scott’s opening line tells the tale of development in the Amazon, ‘In the time it takes to read this article, an area of Brazil’s rain forest larger than 200 football fields will have been destroyed.’ In five years, from 2000 to 2005, Brazil lost 50,000 square miles of rainforest! In Peru, although not as heavily impacted as the forests of Brazil, the pressure is building.

We arrived in Laberinto in time for us to load our things on the collectivo, the public boat heading upriver. Only two of us were heading to the research station, the rest of the passengers (individuals, families and workers) were heading home to their communities along the river. When we got to the river it seemed that the boat was fairly full (with gear and people) but as I soon found out, the loading had only just begun! They piled as much as the boat could hold… bikes, beer, mechanical parts, food, and more people… and then when it seemed the boat could handle nothing more… they added a bit extra for good measure! The passengers were laying head to foot in order to get as many people in the boat as possible. Once all was set… we pulled away from shore and began our journey up the Rio Madre de Dios.

Head to Foot and Foot to HeadHead to Foot and Foot to Head

Krista had told me to keep my eyes open for mining operations along the river. I was not exactly sure what to expect or what to look for… a big mine? small operations? but it became quite obvious only minutes out of town. Around almost every bend (that is perhaps a slight exaggeration… but not by much) there are either active mining operations or old ones where piles of gravel lay beside the river, or in the river, evidence of the ongoing search for gold. Apparently the active mines are worked 24 hours a day… so in many areas along the gold producing rivers the magical night sounds of the Amazon are now being drowned out by the roar of pumps and generators.

Portable Mining Operation Along the Rio Madre de Dios, Peru

Portable Mining Operation Along the Rio Madre de Dios, Peru

We arrived at the research station about 9 hours after leaving Laberinto. It was a long, hot and sticky day on the river but the time passed quickly. Time always does when you are experiencing new places and new things. How often do you have the opportunity to chug your way up an amazing exotic river, with parrots flying overhead and amazing landscapes sliding by. Not very often!

Evening on the Rio Madre de DiosEvening on the Rio Madre de Dios

Krista welcomed me with a big smile and helped me settle in. It was a real pleasure to chat and catch up with her after almost three years to learn of the work she has been doing and the changes in her life. Teaching is such a great job that way. I often think back to the first days of September each year when new students arrive at BCIT. They are always so keen, eager and to ready to learn. As instructors we are able to follow their skill development and changes in confidence and then to see them one, three or five years after graduation is so very rewarding. Krista is a prime example of a grad who has done extremely well and is living the dream of many young conservation minded folks… working in the Amazon to conserve its wildlife and ecosystems. There are many other grads from our FWR program that we are proud of working in BC, across Canada and internationally. To have a look at what some other grads are doing click on the Global Connections page and read their Conservation in Action profiles.

This region of Peru is not that far south of the equator so sunset was quick and by 7pm or so the blue skies of day turned indigo, then purple then deep, dark black.

What follows is a bit of a description of my first night under a mosquito net in the Peruvian Amazon. (this may take me a bit of time to upload … but stay tuned!)

Submitted by Tamiko (not verified) on Mon, 2007/01/22 - 7:55pm.

I am just coming aboard for the journey, and what a journey it has been so far!  Are you truly all alone on this trip?  And are you/will you be uploading tons of photos to some other site?  May the Dios be with you!


Submitted by Danny Catt on Tue, 2007/01/23 - 7:53pm.

It is wonderful to receive a hello from you! I am on the coast of Chile and the seas are rough tonight. I think a lot of people are feeling the swells! I hope to catch up with my Blog posts soon... and I am so pleased you are following along.

Cheers, Danny :)

Submitted by Pikake on Thu, 2007/02/01 - 10:22pm.

As I am reading this, CBC is airing a program about our planet and this particular episode is about the Amazon. So I get to see the Emperor of the jungle and other strange creatures as I read along. Pretty cool.

Global warming is very hot these days, so your Catt-Trax2 - Making Global Connections is very timely. Lots of hits on the website. We are looking forward to more pictures, especially after the National Park. Hope the passenger made it to Patagonia safely and in time.

Stay safe - Terry

Submitted by The Cool Dude that likes cheese (not verified) on Fri, 2007/02/09 - 8:52am.
Dear Danny do you think you could try to use some different colours in your letters alot more often?!?!? Try some of these for example... abcd....... Plz get back to me ASAP. and in COLOURFUL COLOURZ!Z!!!!
Submitted by shrimpo (not verified) on Mon, 2007/02/19 - 2:34pm.
im in grade 5 and im following your journey in class the monkey kickin my teacher is jill french  write me back plz!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! se ya dude