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Regeneration is…

February 9, 2012

by Juliet and Yvan

Regeneration is at work in the cloud forest, and we here at Las Tangaras have a front-row seat.  An inch of rain falls each day, vanishing into the dark soil.  When the sun appears (fleetingly, and usually only in the mornings), we gather our damp clothing and dart outside to stand, blinking and bemused, in the unexpected warmth.  Glimpses of blue sky and raptors rising upward on thermal currents give us a strange sense of vertigo—as Yvan said one morning, “It looks so big up there.”  The few plants not used to this sort of cyclic inundation, mainly garden plants cultivated by previous managers, die limp, spotty, waterlogged deaths alongside the lodge.

It’s hard not to feel some sense of camaraderie with the poor vegetables; after all, we, too, are aliens here, unaccustomed to such mushroom-inducing weather.  During our two weeks at the reserve, we’ve learned a few object lessons in rainy-season life:

1) Everything is heavier.  This applies particularly to tree limbs: already laden with bromeliads and mosses, they take on dramatic gravity in rainstorms.  One crushed the nearest campsite to the lodge just before we arrived, and we spent several days hacking apart and re-forming its damaged skeleton into something strong enough (we hope) to resist the next stray limb that comes calling.

The renovated campsite

In the meantime, the same storm left us with a large, washed-out tree blocking the trail into the reserve.  This wouldn’t have been a problem if it weren’t for the fact that we were out of propane: the tree prevented a mule (necessary for packing in the heavy tanks) from passing.  During our first week at the reserve, still new to Mindo, we struggled to navigate a network of locals with saws, mules, trucks, and gas tanks, all the while cooking dinner over an arrangement of candles.  If you like your food to take twice as long to cook and end up half as warm, then by all means give this method a try.  When the tree was finally cut, and we managed to find someone whose mule hadn’t died or who wasn’t out of town indefinitely, and the propane finally arrived, we soon learned our second lesson…

2) Everything is muddier.  This includes, unfortunately, the river that supplies us with fresh water.

Yvan surveying the water supply

No sooner had we restored the kitchen to order than the water slowed to a trickle and disappeared.  Braving the heaviest rains of the day, we hiked an hour down the Fuente de Agua trail, checking the pipe (a long, thin, fragile-looking vein skirting one of the reserve’s sketchier trails) as we went.  Nothing.  We tried rearranging the intake and restoring the suction, but the pipe remained stubbornly empty.  It took another day, and another trip down the increasingly muddy trail, to discover the problem: a clog in the last link of pipe which, when we opened the conection, discharged a gush of muddy sludge before giving way to clear water.  As we went back down the trail, re-connecting sections of pipe, the water sprayed out in giddy arcs like childhood sprinklers.  But most of all, during our two weeks here, we’ve learned:

3) Take nothing for granted.  Not water, not gas, not sunshine.  The apocalyptic rains Dusti predicted in her introductory e-mail (the bridge might wash away!) have yet to materialize, but we’re not taking our access to the outside world for granted, either.  We enjoy every minute of sunlight and, when it rains, we find projects that don’t require sunshine: varnishing the boards of the back deck, watching mixed flocks of tanagers circumnavigate the lodge, restoring order to wayward collections of datasheets and tools.  Hopefully the weather and logistics will stabilize enough for us to begin our research in earnest (visiting the cock-of-the rock lek and looking more closely at patterns of use and attendance by color-banded males).  In the meantime, we have toucanets—gnomish, banana-nosed parrots—in the trees, impossibly cute booted racket-tails jockeying for positions at the feeders, tayras chattering at us from alongside the trails, and even the occasional early-morning earthquake to (I apologize) shake things up.

Crimson-rumped toucanet, blending in and staying dry

We may be aliens here, but we’re managing just fine.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Jamie McAulay permalink
    February 9, 2012 5:25 pm

    Hi guys,
    cool blog. loved reading about how things are going there. bummer about our vegies! just too wet! must be nearing the end of rainy season though huh.
    hope things go great for you, hopefully youve had your major challanges already.
    good luck,

    Jamie and Bex

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