Me posing with a wild tagua palm. I was so, so thrilled to be able to see tagua in its native habitat and to get the chance to learn so much more about it.
A raw tagua nut – still in liquid state. And my blue dyed avatar hands. The dye was from a native fruit - a really interesting material. The fruit juices were clear when we put them on - in a few hours the dyes reacted with our skin and turned us deep indigo blue. Everywhere. It was supposed to last 2-3 days but instead lingered over a week - making going through customs/security to get back into the U.S. quite entertaining.
This is what the pod that holds a single tagua nut looks like.
Many of those pods are together in a big grouping - hard and strong like a mace. In rich soils, like along the river, these pods can grow to massive sizes, holding hundreds of nuts.
Obligatory rainforest explorer photo - tagua palm!
Yes, I'm a dork, and proud of it! The dye deepened in color with time. It was quite striking when we made it back to the city - many people in Cuzco were quite amused. Most people (even locals) did not know what the dye was - not many people venture into Manu and very few know of this particular fruit. Only a handful of the guides are familiar with it - so it was quite a unique experience! After about two weeks it had faded enough to make me look like I was a leprous bruise-covered crazy, again quite avoided at the gym. One really nice thing about the dye is that it is a natural mosquito repellent - really useful indeed!
Coca tea - great for waking up in the morning. Fox approved.
This was a tree which was being eaten from the inside out by some sort of fungus(hollow so you could walk through it) which smelled strongly of garlic. The whole tree inside (you could see up almost to the top) was hollowed out, though it was still alive.
Wild macaw trio.
The trees are just all so... massive and impressive!
The night walks were probably my favorite adventure in the forest - though our group was amazingly unenthusiastic and most people stayed back at the huts. I have no idea why! Mbala, EK, and myself took advantage of the time to go out with our guide. Here is a poison dart frog we spotted almost as soon as we left our camp.
Gorgeous giant moth.
Everything is bigger in the rainforest. :>
Sleeping bird we stumbled upon.
I was so happy that I spotted this guy (myself!) - it's actually easier to see wildlife at night - you can scan the forest with a flashlight near your line of vision and look for eyeshine, then follow and investigate. The forest is alive with spider eyes, it's crazy.
I was the only one excited to see tarantulas - it was amazing to see them in the wild.
They were actually incredibly shy - they would dart back into their holes as soon as we found them. Our guide was able to tempt them out of their holes with a small stick, pretending to be a floundering bug at the entrance of their hideouts.
My kind of rose!
These guys were quite huge - they were called 'night spiders' - they worked in the evening putting up a web and then took it down each morning. It was fascinating watching them work.
Hard at work.
Really cool vine.
There were three of these guys that I could see, chilling out at the edge of the river.
All the foliage is so well worn. Things really have to work to survive the competition of the rainforest - it's such a drastically different place than the manicured gardens favored by most people.
Scale for just how huge these root systems were. They towered over us!
Tiny snake! We saw lots of different colubrids walking around at night.
Next up : Andean mountain hike to Machu Pichu