Riddles on the river

Monday July 15

The morning started with rain. As the rain slowly fell onto the thatched roof at ExplorNapo we began to assemble in the dining hall. Passing along the bridge that connects the guest rooms with the dining hall, Rebecca stopped to watch the rain fall on the river. As drops slowly fell into the murky brown water, the impact caused ripples that spread across the surface. As more rain fell, the ripples began to overlap. The ripples on the water became our metaphor for the day.

After breakfast, an entomologist and researcher from the University of Oregon, Ryan Garrett, gave us an overview of leaf cutter ants, including an incredible inside look at their everyday lives. We learned that their colonies, which are easily identifiable above ground, are actually the entry point to an expansive underground farming network. The ants work meticulously, cleaning and then breaking down, the leaves that they harvest to grow the fungus that gives the colony life. The queen, who initiates the founding of a new colony, actually takes a piece of fungus from a preexisting colony. A piece of the old community becomes part of the new one – ripples of population expansion.

We later visited an indigenous community, the Maijuna. After four centuries of exploitation by outsiders, they were given title to a portion of their historic lands. Now, they welcome outsiders into their village in hopes that by sharing their story, they will gain allies and friends – more ripples. By sharing their story with visitors, their reach extends far beyond their beautiful community.

In the afternoon, we moved to our next lodging— ACTS (the Amazon Conservatory of Tropical Studies) to experience the rainforest canopy from a walkway of suspension bridges strung between the tops of 14 of the tallest trees. Many of us had anticipated this moment, and the excitement as we approached the access tower was palpable. However, with the highest platform reaching 118 feet above the forest floor, there was also some anxiety. Here, the ripples we experienced were ripples within our community. We encouraged one another and applauded one another every step of the way.

As we near the end of our Amazon adventure we are feeling humbled, inspired, connected, and thankful. We are now a part of this place, and this place is a part of us. As we return to our everyday lives there is no doubt that our ripples will extend far beyond ourselves.

“Ant-man” aka Ryan Garrett explains the amazing underground architecture of leaf cutter ant nests

Don Sebastian, leader of the Maijuna community, and Willy Flores, one of our guides, explain the traditional hunting and fishing practices of the Maijuna

Linda loved taking pictures from the canopy walkway platforms (and we thought that she looked radiant in this photo- unlike the rest of us, who were dripping with sweat and mud)