Monday, March 26, 2012

Scaphosepalum pleurothallodes round 2, first part

Please read the prelude to Scaphosepalum pleurothallodes published a little earlier.

Is 2010, a year after I got lost. This time I have Jeff who can navigate with his eyes closed, we have acquired a super GPS with a special sensor, done the research with Google Earth, generated probability models with MaxEnt and we are going after Scapsheoalum pleurothallodes again.  My secret weapon is that this time I have three kichwa friends with me and I have no intention of getting lost again. Did I mentioned it took me six months to get the permits? and I got those too!
My models indicated that I could find S. pleurothallodes in the forests along the tributaries of the Jatunyacu River so we went to explore the forests of the river Ibillichin.
The  picture on the left shows the entrance to the forest and it is the home to hundreds of Amazonian parrots.

I was super lucky to have Gabriel Grefa, German Shihuango and Hernan Grefa with us.  They have a house at the top of the mountain that is really incredible, if you wake up early in the morning before the clouds get in you can see Reventador, one of those incredible Amazonian Volcanoes.

The trail to get there is steeeeeep, good for the heart, not that good for the soul, and terrible for the knees and the vocabulary.  All along the trail is evident that  the forest is recovering from deforestation and farming so pleurothallids were not frequent, nevertheless, the common Stelis vulcanii, Stelis argentata, Platystele stenostachya were all over the trail forest. Our kichwa friends were so amazed by the size of these tiny orchids that it was fun to tell them about how are they pollinated.

After a long long walk we got to the house.  I have been so many years working in the field that I learnt that when you are struggling to get to a point the natives will always tell you that you are almost there, that is just after the curve, or by the time they finish their cigarette you will be there when in fact, the curve never ends, they finish a pack of cigarettes and you are still not there.  Now I just enjoy all fun sayings that they have to encourage us, the city people!
This is Gabriel's house up in the mountain in the buffer zone of the Llanganates Reserve, I am talking to Hernan and German about our breakfast that turned out to be rice with mayo and fresh lemongrass tea.
 The Reventador Volcano can still be seen at the back, the Amazonian clouds are coming in.

That night, our chefs cooked tuna spaghetti and popcorn. We were really lucky with our friends that helped us in so many ways.  Here you can see our stove and the chefs cooking underneath the house, on the left is German "Chef International" and on the right Hernan "El Chef Japones" since he is married to a Japanese lady and spent some time in Japan. After all these years I soooo admire people that can cook on the fire since I burn everything. We shared some stories over dinner and I think that our favorite was German telling his story of his first contact with chocolate.
German used to live in a very remote place where there was no contact with people from the city, once, a mission went to visit them for Christmas and gave him one chocolate wrapped on a golden foil paper, he describes it as been the best memory of his childhood.  Years later he went out to a little town that had a tienda and purchased a little golden rectangular thing that he thought was chocolate, but it turned out that it was a "cubo maggi" (concentrate bouillon paste) that was so salty....This was Thanksgiving day in the US and I thank Jeff for having eaten his tuna spaghetti (he hates tuna!) and for all the high happy spirits of the team!

Sleeping in that house was also incredible, the wind blows so hard that you really feel that you are going to fly away.

 For your delight and entretainmet a picture of  Suarezia.  This forest had also Octomerias and Myoxanthus!

Regarding Scaphosepalum pleurothallodes and making this story short, as embarrassing as this may be...Scaphosepalum pleurothallodes won again 2-0, we walked and walked and walked and we could not find this species. 
Us taking a break...I am too embarrassed to say that we should quit the search because the altitude is not the right one anymore...therefore my strange look. But I did not torture the crew anymore and we started our return...

Before I forget....Jeff and I treated the guys with a great meal at our return and we went to this restaurant that has three sloths that go around the restaurant.  Alex had taken me there after we got lost and I promised myself that I was going to do it again when I return to look for this plant.

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