Tambopata Journal: Canopy Tower
April 5, 2011
Rick and I decided to mix it up and spend one night camping at another man’s property near El Gato. His name is Jaime and he is involved in conservation in the Tambopata Buffer Zone. He has a lovely canopy tower that he has built on a ridge above his property and he supports the conservation of his property by charging visitors to use it. We wanted to explore it at sunrise for birdwatching and photography. Mr. Ramirez took us over to Senor Jaime’s house in the boat around sunset and brought us up to the house. At first, it was unclear if Jaime was expecting us – he seemed confused by our presence and kept asking us about our stay at El Gato. We finally sorted it out and were able to set up our tent on his small porch.
Jaime’s person warrants some description. He is in his 70’s, but is buff and ripped (I believe I referenced him in a previous post as the oldest man I have ever checked out). In all seriousness though, his weathered, scarred skin makes his appear tough and intimidating and his wild eyes augment the effect.
We had a fantastic few minutes visiting with him. Although we were both eager to visit the canopy tower, he clearly wanted to talk and we felt it was rude to leave right away. So we sat down and he asked all the typical questions about where we are from and what the weather is like there. After a few minutes, there was a pause. He then asked if we had seen much wildlife. Prepared to answer with a list of our favorite sightings, we were cut short by a follow-up question – “Have you seen any capybaras?” Rick and I nodded our heads and I said how beautiful they are. He raised an eyebrow, scowls, and replied “Those capybaras are always f$%king with me. They eat my bananas and my yucca and they think its funny.” He then proceeded to mimic a gun, laughed a bit maniacally and said “So, I shoot the bastards.” Rick and I looked at each other to make sure we both heard him correctly and wanted to laugh, but were not sure if it is appropriate.
We excused ourselves and make our way to the canopy tower – both anticipating the coming dinner conversation. The canopy tower was fantastic! We got great views of emerald toucanets, a plum-throated cotinga, and a handful of other new birds. We watched the sunset from the tower and only made our way down after dark.
Jaime fed us boiled eggs and talked with us for an hour about rubber tapping when he was younger. It was a great cultural experience in addition to the wildlife viewing. We did not see any capybaras on his property.