Pto Maldonado – Work Days 1&2

The last 2 days have been exhausting! Let’s just say working for an entire day is a lot tougher than I expected. My day 1: waking up in a foreign country, breakfast with your guide, hit the road by 8:15am, in the field until lunch at 2:00pm, back to the field until dusk at 5:30pm, sit at computer until bed time around 10pm. It’s both physically exhausting (being out in the sun all day on a motor bike is tiring) and mentally exhausting (it’s all work and I don’t know my guide all too well, so I haven’t had any ‘let your guard down” / “me” time and probably won’t until I get back home)-

The weather is beautiful right now: sunny and around 90 during the day in the sun, and at night around 50-60 degrees. Now, that’s great and all, but taking a very cold shower in these conditions isn’t that much fun. In fact, I’m already over cold showers. I have 21 more days here and I am quite certain that I’m going to spend the S120 ($44) and stay one night every other week at the fancy hotel in town. I really like hot showers and English TV. Plus I really hope data collection continues to move as well as it has been so that I can take a few half days off. Twenty-two days straight of work is going to make me oh so tired.

So what am I doing for work? Basically my guide Richard and I hop on the motorbike and drive down a road. I stop every so often and just stand on the road (since to get off of the road you have to enter private land and I don’t want to get shot), get my GPS point, and then take photos, videos and notes about what is on either side of the road (grassland, agriculture land, orchard, shrubland, palm swamp/wetland, etc). It’s really not all that exciting. But the data I’m getting makes my study more valid.

Day 2. Just hanging out.

Last night, after watching a pirated version of the movie Rio (cute, but not all that fantastic, but it was in English!!), I hit the hay around 10:30pm, hoping to get a really good night’s sleep. Well, that wasn’t in order for me.  Around 11:45pm, I woke to a giant crash sound coming from the roof of my flat, followed by dogs barking. This giant crash, some dogs barking, quite for 15 minutes continued for around 5 hours. Richard thinks that there were dogs fighting with cats on my roof. Awesome. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again tonight.

So last night’s 3-4 hours of poor sleep made it incredibly hard to wake up this morning to go work. But I managed to drag myself out of bed, drink some coffee (mmm powdered coffee crystals) and we made our way out on the road around 8:15. Today we just drove all the way out of town on a dirt/clay road, and then headed back.  We made it to lunch around 2:30pm, headed back to the house, where I proceeded to take a shower and a 90 minute nap before beginning all my data organization.  I have to copy all the info from the data sheets I write in the field onto an Excel file, and then make sure each of the photos and videos that I collected get copied to my computer (the videos take an inordinate amount of time to copy) Then I get to dig through the photos and videos and decipher all of the file numbers and make sure I get the corresponding videos/photos with the right data point.  It’s a hell of a lot of organizational work.

Day 2, in front of a massive Blackwater ecosystem with Palms. The cliff behind me is about a 70-100m drop down below to the swamp.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 3 hours – data management – while watching Back to the Future (in Spanish) and Rio (yes, again. I miss the English language.)

We are trying to get a better motorbike for work starting tomorrow.  We’ve been using a little city-bike/scooter, which is fine enough, but it doesn’t have too much power and doesn’t handle too well in the crazy mud puddles on the clay roads. No crashes and no flat tires yet, but we’re going to try to get a real motorbike.

I don’t have any good photos of the crazy-water-covered clay roads we’ve been on. We’ve been too concerned about getting through or around them for me to stop and take photos. But I’ll be sure to take a photo of  the next one I encounter. At the rate I’m going I’ll see a few dozen bad patches tomorrow.

For comparison: here is a pic of the brand new cement highway.  Until around 2006-2007, there were only mud, dirt, and clay roads here in Puerto Maldonado. So this broad, beautiful expanse of highway is a very new thing.

A VERY nice highway.

So a new motorbike rental (but not from the guys who want to rent it for S130/day) is on the list for tomorrow, along with changing my flight back to Lima.  I am currently scheduled to come straight back to the US, leaving Pto Maldonado Tuesday, June 21 around noon and arriving back in Alabama at noon on Wednesday, June 22.  But I need to have a meeting in Lima on the 20th or 21st (my flight out of Lima is at 11:50pm on Tuesday night).  So hopefully I can change my plane ticket to leave Pto Maldonado on the afternoon of Saturday the 18th and stay in Lima. Then I can have a 3 or 4 hot showers on Sunday the 19th and do some of the 200 or so hours of work I have to complete before July 7 (when I go present this research in Boston at the ISID-NTD Conference). Then I’ll have that meeting on Monday or Tuesday and head back to the US Tuesday night.  Sitting in an air-conditioned apartment or hotel room in Lima doing work is far preferable to the jungle. I like civilization.

Lots to do. Enough time to do it. Now let’s all hope I don’t spend the entire time feeling this exhausted!


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