Go West, Passport To Knowledge!

Finally, the crew sits down over dinner in the hotel’s open air dining room. We get a chance to talk over the results of the day: we think we can make this location work and meet all the requirements for a PTK uplink. Basic facilities are good; there’s ample power, enclosed spaces for electronics sensitive to heat and humidity, we can transport the heavy satellite gear almost all the way by boat and we would not have to keep the crew out in the field in hammocks for weeks on end! And, in fact, the most important “plus” of the Ariau location for a live uplink is a large, flat platform with perfect views toward the ACTS satellite. (Remember, John could not “see” the satellite from Camp 41.) It’s their helicopter pad—only used for rare VIP’s like foreign Presidents and royalty and other dignitaries! (And apparently Microsoft’s Bill Gates visited and stayed here overnight during his honeymoon—in a tree-top room literally called Tarzan’s House!) During our broadcast times, the helipad will be surrounded by water, so it should be easy to float the satellite gear right up to it on boats, and then run cables down the short walkway to an adjacent tower.

Ann and John are sold for all the important technical reasons, Brian has a whole list of live camera locations with beautiful views—and now it’s just up to PTK to make the final decision and make sure this location works for educational purposes as well as telecommunications logistics.

It’s quite a relief for everyone. Until this point we had no technically workable location for the live, interactive TV shows, but now at least we have an option. Our reward? A good meal, a hot shower, relaxation, a well-deserved nap? No, we go looking for caiman! (That’s the local name for the Amazonian alligator—many species of which are, sadly, on the endangered list.) “You can only go caiman hunting at night,” says our guide. “That’s when you can see the reflections of their eyes right above the water as they sit and wait for prey.” Prey like...tourists?? Will they know that we’re really working, and not just on vacation?

But like everything at the hotel, the caiman hunting expedition was well organized and did not involve any danger to life and limb. The caimans’ eyes really did glow, brilliantly, which was a really spooky sight in the otherwise black water. When we encountered a small one ("You can tell how big they are by how wide apart their eyes are. That other one, that was too big!"), we pulled the boat up to it, and surprise! With a deft scoop into the water our guide came up with a little 2-footer. It was placid as the guide explained to us about the animals and showed off its wicked teeth, but, still, we gave it a respectful distance. (See LFRF Program 2 for video of the Caiman hunt.)

Set gently back into the water, the caiman went off in search of dinner, and we and the other ecotourists had a new respect and understanding for such creatures and their environment.

And, finally, set gently back at the hotel dock a few minutes later, the tired PTK crew went off in search of sleep.

Ann’s Journals Go West, Passport To Knowledge!    1     2     3     4     5