(Hammock pic from left to right: Eric Ostrander, Brandon Pollard, Collin McManus)
After being surrounded by the city atmosphere for sometime, it was time for us to go off the grid, or on the side of a volcano for that matter. Having left our luxurious Wyndham hotel, our next destination was Yanayacu, a research station in which our professor and colleagues do most of their work. It was located on the side of the Volcano of known as Antisanaand was the site of our first rigorous hike in the highland rainforest. While I was expecting to see a multitude of vicious insects and mammals for miles to come, the highland amazon rainforest was very tame and featured many majestic creatures such as: scarab beetles, clear winged butterflies, emerald toucanets and the deadly assassin bug that could pass on chagas disease from a simple bit. Later that night, we went of our first night hike, and while we did not see much, our study board group was able to bond through catching lightning bug larvae and attending to one of the members noise bleed (the altitude was no joke). Arriving back at Yanayacu, we put up a white sheet and reflected light on it to attract insects and inspect them for a bit; witnessed moths, butterflies and a bunch of other neat creatures. Next followed us all going to sleep, where I easily has the best sleep of my leave due to my extreme level of exhaustion (once again, that altitude was no joke).
After rising from the dead, we were onto our next location, Cotococha which was a sustainable ecolodge. This place was located along the lowlands of the amazon and featured a whole different environment of vicious beast, I mean nature. The lodge was very fancy and focused on trying to use as little energy as possible in order to function and meet the needs of its customers, something I was a big fan of. Following getting settled in, we all decided to hit up the pool and mentally prepare ourselves for the night hike that was upon us.
I remember when I was younger and would often see movies where hollywood would exaggerate the dangers of the amazon rainforest. However, after attending this night hike, all of the stereotypes I had had about the rainforest had come to light. From cockroaches, to bullet ants, and my biggest fear of all… spiders, being that I have arachnophobia (I am more than convinced), this hike was definitely one for the books and to be honest, I am both surprised and thankful that I was able to survive. After the hike however is where the real terror began. When we arrived back to the premises of the Cotococha eco lounge, one of our tour guides, who was familiar with the area, decided to present a tarantula to us. Now apparently this certain species was seen as less violent and did not sting or bite. Nonetheless, my arachnophobia took over and I could not bring myself to hold the beast, I mean animal. Instead, I gave my fellow classmates moral support and served as their photographer while they passed the creature around like it was nothing.
P.s: Luckily we got to play with different species of frogs afterwards. Seeing the amazing tree frog was more than enough to cleanse my nerves. All in all, it was a good day.