|Go West, Passport To Knowledge!
Our destination for this night, the Ariau Towers, was at once not what we expected and exactly what we expected. You might think "hotel", like a typical airport hotel, and youd be completely wrong. You might think hotel, like, oh, of course, Tarzans Lodge, and youdwell, youd be not far from the truth. The Ariau is one of a growing number of ecotourist lodges, which try to balance tourism with environmental awareness and public education. Many Brazilians (and other regions around the world, such as Costa Rica) now think that ecotourism could provide a sustainable source of income to regions whose environments are too fragile for traditional industries such as farming or mining. Regions like the Amazon. In fact while PTK was on location, the Brazilian Federal Government made two major announcements relating to this issue: the first was the signing of new laws announcing stiff fines for illegal logging and poaching of animal species, and the second an initiative providing the state of Amazonas [and other Amazon basin states] with funds to support ecotourism.
As befits a lodge designed for ecotourism, the hotel was well situated for exploration. The little tributary at the front dock wended its way off into ever smaller and more murky inlets. Fifteen minutes back in the direction wed come, youd be back on the Amazon itself, or more precisely, the main feeder river of the Amazon known as the Rio Negro (the name means black river, and thats precisely the look of the tea-like waters over which wed come.) Along the banks of the Rio Negro here were wide beaches, where scattered homes could be seen. The Ariau Towers themselves sit high up above a seasonally flooded forest; the ground that looked so solid, 20 feet or so below our walkways, would be almost completely covered by water in the months to come. The proximity of so many different rainforest features, and the varied plant and animal life associated with them, began to slowly win us over from our concern that this might not have the right look and feel for LIVE FROM THE RAINFOREST, while increasingly convincing us that this would have an appropriate level of logistical support to make live video interactions possible. (After all, we had broadcast from McMurdo Station and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, and from Palmer, NSFs Principal research bases in the Antarctic, not from truly isolated field sites far away from generators and radio communications.)
Pretty scenery aside, we had a lot of technical and logistical questions to resolve. The team will split up along specialities: Geoff and Flavio discussed permissions, housing and facilities with the hotel staff; Ann and John debated antenna placement and video and satellite cable runs, and Brian prowled the towers and walkways looking for camera angles. All to the great amusement of the tourists in residence, who clearly had not expected this to be part of their environmentally correct vacation!
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