Trip To Jau National Park

Mario Cohn-Haft - December 1996

    The trip to the campina was the most physically demanding and punishing field trip I’ve made (and hope never to repeat). Sergio had led us to believe that it was a 3-hr walk to the first camp and another hour to the camp near the campina, which, depending on whether there was any water in the stream, we could fix up or just commute past from the farther camp. But in reality, it took us nine hours to walk into the campina from the boat drop off. On the first day, we walked for 7 hours to the first camp, where we stayed for a few days and made the 4 hour round trip to the campina each day from there.

That first day, carrying a pack that must have weighed almost as much as I do, I learned 1) that it’s best to get in shape BEFORE tackling a challenging field trip, and 2) what it must be like to be really fat! My pack is great and real comfortable, but the sheer weight of it was punishing. Walking on the flat was fairly smooth with a certain momentum, but I realized just what “momentum” means whenever I stubbed my toe or shin on a twig, thus stopping the forward movement of an enormous weight with one tiny portion of my body. The ups and downs and over and under fallen trunks, which were plenty, presented their own challenges. At the end of the first day, I was a wreck, especially my feet.

Curtis, one of the bird crew, was not used to hiking in the rainforest. He’d never owned or even used a backpack before and had bought this one in Manaus at my insistence. He also carried an enormous reel-to-reel tape recorder and bulky parabolic microphone for recording bird sounds. After two hours and two kilometers of walking and stopping and everyone taking turns with Curtis’ pack, we stopped to reevaluate the progress we were making and our chances of arriving at even the first camp that day. We had arrived at the first “bridge,” which was a 1-ft diameter, mossy tree trunk fallen across a ravine about 15 ft over a stream and sloping slightly downhill, with no handrail or even branches to grab onto. Maybe the sight of this bridge had something to do with it, but Curtis graciously (and maybe even gratefully) accepted my suggestion that he return to the river edge and stay at the house of the “caboclo” who was helping us carry our junk. (Caboclos are substinence farmers who make their living in the rainforest.) From there, Curtis could work the terra firme for Buff-throated Woodcreepers, his study species, and could come out to the campina with just a hammock on our last day to see the place. The caboclo’s wife and kids would be at home when Curtis arrived, so we taught him to say “muito cansado, eu fico aqui.” (“Very tired, I stay here.”) He trundled off the other way practicing his phrase, no doubt wishing he hadn’t lugged all his stuff 2 km out just to return with it. We slogged ahead.

Back to Field Journals Menu Mario Cohn-Haft's BIOgraphy Trip To Jau National Park     1    2    3    4    5