Boots, Birds, and Binocs... Peru 2011
Today we left Manu, boarding the boat in the morning, boarding a bus in the afternoon, and reaching San Pedro by night. Being away from Cocha Cashu for a full day has brought mixed emotions. The travel has given us plenty of time to reflect on our stay, bringing about all sort and manner of nostalgia. It isn't an experience which will soon be forgotten, or ever be forgotten for that matter. As we bounced down the road, bruising our kidneys and bananas, I couldn't help but miss my tent, dinners with the spiders, and of course the view of the stars from the canoe on a still lake. At the same time, however, departure is a bit exciting. The promise of a hot shower, seeing friends and family, and Taco Bell contribute to the feeling, but even more so is the promise of an opportunity to pass on what has happened to us here. We have discussed, time and again, plans for our return, what we will do, and how we will bring what we have seen back. An absolutely miniscule number of people will ever be able to see what we have, and that in an of itself is almost enough to begin convincing people that this is something worth saving. Thousands of pictures and thousands of words can't hurt, either. My return marks the beginning of my chance to do what I can to preserve the wonderful places on this Earth which have gone largely untouched by people, whether you call it wilderness or just something worth saving. So, despite the obligate sadness felt when leaving a place this... well, magical seems a fitting adjective, if not a bit cliche, I can rest assured that it stands as a beginning to something much more important than my own experience.

 It feels weird to be gone from Cocha Cashu. This evening we arrived at Yine Lodge and discovered a number of luxuries that had become foreign to us. Bathrooms, showers, beds and a large dinner table felt like relics from our past. For some people our experience tonight would be “roughing it” but for me it feels as comfortable as a 5 star hotel.  So, while I enjoyed all these things, I am starting to lose the sense that I am in the rainforest. This morning started in Cocha Cashu, where I woke early to collect one last data set and pack my things. At nine, we set off from the shore, leaving the research station behind.  Once out on the water, I was reminded why I had enjoyed the other boat trips so much. As we rode, a gentle cool breeze flowed over the boat and the warmth of the day combined with the slight rocking of the boat lulled me to sleep. When I woke, I spent some time enjoying the trip and since most of the others were sleeping, it gave me time to reflect on the value of a place like Cocha Cashu. 

Cocha Cashu is a pretty incredible place. Set apart even within a National Park, it has some of the most impressive natural beauty I have ever seen. It is a small unassuming place, just three small buildings on the shore of a cashew shaped lake (hence the name). But it is surrounded by the Amazon rainforest and an extensive trail system, so that even the most adventurous would have a tough time exploring the entire area. Waking up each day, I was met by the smell of fresh air and the sounds of animals echoing through the forest. I had the opportunity to walk through the trails surrounded by wildlife; monkeys climb through the branches just above my head and birds singing as they flew through the canopy. But, there was also the constant threat of insects and spiders. Mosquitoes were quite a nuisance throughout the day and at night it seemed as if hand sized spiders were lurking in every corner. Yet, the dangers can be easily overlooked in light of the overwhelming beauty of the area. 

Reflecting back now, it is sad to be gone and sadder to think about the future of a place like Cocha Cashu. Over the course of the trip, we have done a lot of reading about threats to the Amazon. Whether it be logging, or mining, or even the people living within the park itself, there are a number of serious threats out there. While we discussed many ways to help solve the problems, to help bring protection to such a beautiful area of the world, I think the real issue is that people don’t know what the rainforest is like. They haven’t experienced  its beauty, they haven’t seen its trees or its birds or even its rare flat frogs for that matter. Too many people are missing out on one of the greatest aspects of our world. And yes, it is impossible and impractical to try and get everyone to experience the rainforest in a direct way, but indirectly there must be ways to express its value. Hopefully this blog can serve as such an avenue. By reading it, one can be taken along on our trip and gain a greater appreciation for the rainforest.