River Trips at Kapawi Days 5/8 - Tuesday 27th/ Friday 30th March I referred to our first river trip to the Rio Pastaza sandbanks in my blog for 26th March. I have now accumulated the various river trips by motorised canoe for the other four days.
Kapawi Ecolodge is located a 10 minute river ride from the major Rio Pastaza. Our tributary is the Rio Capahuari. The lodges are situated at the edge of a flooded oxbow lake, or cocha. When we arrived the stilts supporting the lodges had dry feet and the lagoon was almost dry with vegetation extensive. During the next three days the river and lagoon levels would rise some 11 feet (3.5m), as the tropical rains falling on the eastern Andes arrived at Kapawi.
rst early morning trips was to the banks of the Rio Pastaza, where we gradually drifted shorewards from the middle of the 250m wide river, The Ashuar boatman maintained our position against the building current, keeping a wary eye open for debris. Apparently, the parrots, macaws and parakeets ingest the mud from the forrested river banks as an aid to digestion, in view of all the fruit and seeds that that they eat. The parrot-lick provides a very useful way of getting close. I discard my earlier photos as we drift nearer. The noise is impressive. Especially when alarmed, some 150 Chestnut-fronted Macaws, Ara severa, see photo, (Chestnut-fronted Macaws) rise as one, circle and crash back into the foliage. A flurry of Dusky-headed Parakeets, Aratinga weddellii, see photo, (Dusky-headed Parakeets -above), maintain their prime spot beneath the overhanging bushes, despite the best efforts of the Macaws to dislodge them. As the colourful birds alight on the branches their bright colours merge with the varied foliage, photo. (Acrobatic Chestnut-fronted Macaws
One afternoon we motor the 4km upriver to the junction of the Rios Capahuari and Kusutkau where we fish for Piranha. Our bait is thin strips of red meat. Immediately, small, fat-bellied, black and yellow Piranha miniatures are razoring the bait from our hooks. As we coax them to the surface they dart away. Naturally, the local Ashuar, the boatman and our guide demonstrate the method. Soon, a respectable number of the more familiar Piranha have been landed, demanding some initiative to remove the hook from those eager jaws. The gringos make a small contribution. Returning along the Capahuari we spot a Pink River Dolphin, Inia geoffrensis. The gentle creature rises a number of times as we follow its path, but we fail to get a photo. The guides suggest that they are coming this far up because river levels are rising. We also glimpse a medium sized Capybara, Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris, as it swims into the vegetation. Its'' reddish rectangular head held above the surface. That evening we dine with an elegant side dish of grilled Piranha. Highly recommended. On other morning river excursions many birds and the occasional monkey, see photo, (Red Howler monkey) could be seen from the boat as we drifted along the Rio Capahuari and its creeks. There were regular sightings of the noisy and garrulous Hoatzin, (Opithocomous hoazin),see photo, (Hoatzin) as small groups perched ungainly in the tops of the riverside bushes. These colourful turkey-like birds hissed and croaked their
displeasure at our presence.
The local indigenous Ashuar pole their dugout canoe upstream, clinging to the slacker waters of the shallows.(Dugout punt), The morning light mirrors the vegetation of the river banks, see photo, (Capahuari reflections). As morning
develops, the birds quieten and breakfast beckons.
Our final river trip was in a 12ft rubber dinghy (rib), which was taken several km upstream strapped to the bows of the canoe. We then drifted lazily with the current. Three of us decided to go for a swim. The water was blissfully cool as our sweaty bodies were cleansed. Our legs were not nibbled, (piranhas preferring the slacker waters), we had seen no Caimen, and only one water snake. We had heard stories of strange methods of entry by parasites, but the water was coo......ool. We drifted with the dinghy. As we turned to swim back to the boat, we recognised the pull of the current. It was a tough swim the 30m back, during which time we probably drifted 300m.
The attraction of this vessel was the silent approach, No vibrating , chuntering outboard, no clanking gearbox. We see a number of birds. A sleek flycatcher, the Tropical Kingbird, Tyrannus melancholicus , that tirelessly and repeatedly dives into the water after insects, See photo,(Tropical Kingbird). two other birds of particular note, which also drew enthusiastic murmurings from the guides were, the Plumbeous Kite, Ictinea plumbea,see photo, (Plumbeous Kite) and the Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, Cathartes melambrotus, photo (Greater Yellow-headed Vulture).
Our Friday morning river trip was cancelled due to torrential rain from 04:00 hrs. I was awake at six, and dressed nonetheless to watch the sun rise a few minutes later. As I looked over the cocha from my dry verandah, the rain formed a moving curtain in front of me. Gradually it stopped. The cocha had now filled from the shallow connection to the Capahuari. The water was only 3 feet below my feet. Four days ago the water had ben less than a foot deep, and some 14 feet below. The level had risen 11 feet in less than three days. The rain stopped. As it did, the Philodendron plants, an antidote to the mosquito, were occupied by the morning chorus. Three yellow-breasted Social Flycatchers scattered back and forth, photo (Social Flycatcher). A pair of Masked Crimson Tanagers courted brazenly between the large round leaves, photo (Masked Crimson Tanagers). An Amazonian Kingfisher, Chloroceryle amazona, photo,(Amazonian Kingfisher), vies with a White-winged Swallow, Tachycineta albiventer, photo (White-winged Swallow), for the best perch. Two poles in the mud and the boardwalk rail, perfect models!