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Our field teams have to climb the trees in order to collect leaves and flowers, which are used to identify the species. Our best climber is a Brazilian man named “Tio Romeo,” which means "Uncle Romeo" in English—a name he earned because he is a big flirt with the ladies. Uncle Romeo is an unbelievable tree-climber—I honestly think he puts the monkeys to shame. How do you suppose he climbs? With a ladder? With special climbing equipment? No, all he uses is a simple cloth belt, which he ties loosely around his ankles. Then he grabs ahold of the tree, clamps his feet around each side of the trunk, and takes off straight up into the canopy like a giant inchworm. Uncle Romeo can climb a sixty-foot-tall tree in less time than it would take you to walk up a long flight of stairs.

Oh yes, there’s one other thing I forgot to mention about Uncle Romeo. He is 62 years old. Probably about the same age as your grandparents. Can you imagine your grandfather climbing trees for eight hours a day?

We always keep our eyes peeled when we hike in the rainforest. One of the most dangerous things we watch for are widowmakers. Widowmakers are broken tree limbs that dangle high overhead in tangles of vines. Trip over the wrong vine and a two-hundred-pound limb could suddenly come crashing down on your head like a guillotine. (You can see Uncle Romeo at work in LFRF Program 3!)

Bill’s Journals A Day In The Amazon Rainforest    1     2     3     4