We arrived in the evening and drank icy cold beers while listening to the nightly chorus of animals. We assembled early the next morning for bird watching. As an added bonus spider monkeys dropped from the trees to feast on bunches of bananas left for them by the docks.
After breakfast we boarded a canoe to visit a schoolhouse and meet some of the children before eating a traditional lunch hosted by one of the families living in the area. The lunch required us to prepare some of the meal, including a packet of fat juicy larvae wrapped securely in a banana leaf. I was squeamish and could only stroke the soft, wrinkled skin of the wriggling grub, but my mother prepared 8 of them. First she crushed their heads with her thumb to kill them before threading a skewer through the soft, silky body. Then she sliced the flesh with a knife to let the guts ooze out to prevent them from exploding while cooking.
I ate the crunchy head of a cooked one with my meal of fresh fish, plantains, yuca, bananas, and salsa. It tasted like crispy chicken skin.
Next to the house was a Kapok tree, one of the tallest in the jungle. It can live for hundreds of years.
In the afternoon we learned more about the plants and their medicinal properties. One of my favorites was the Dragon Blood Tree. Our jungle guide cut into one with his machete and extracted a red, viscous sap. He rubbed it over a scrape of mine turning the sap into a fluffy pinkish-white cream. Another favorite was the Walking Palm, which grows roots to pull the tree towards a light source. In this way the palm “walks” 10-20cm a year!
In the evening we boarded the motor-powered canoe to see another side of the jungle, the oil industry. Oil is mined from deep in the jungle leaving pollution and residue behind.
We restored ourselves after by visiting a lagoon in 4 smaller canoes to listen. Lightening bugs twinkled around us and their eggs glowed brightly on floating plants. A few people glimpsed the glowing, fiery eyes of a caiman in the water and of a bird called a Great Potoo in a tree.