My priorities can at times seem a little odd to the untrained eye. Why you may ask do I buy a $60 titanium cookset to save on weight and then bring along War and Peace, a 3 pound monster of a book that looked like it ate a few smaller books?- Don’t ask so many questions!
In another bright move I didn’t bring along any kind of padding, in fact no sleeping bag either (this unfortunately is a theme, as I also didn’t bring one when I went to a fly camp for geological surveying a couple years ago in below freezing conditions, yet I pride myself on my MacGyver like skills of having fashioned a sleeping bag from tarps, clothes stuffed into every crevice, garbage bags, duffel bags and duck tape, that it had turned into a chinese death trap by morning is besides the point). So I woke up groggy, despite having had an intense 24 hrs. I stank of course and so I looked to bathe first off. What no hose? No shower? No problem…did I mention my MacGyver like skills. I finished my golden grahams cereal and used the bag to gather the clean, non-sedimented water off the puddles of the road. I might not be considered ‘refined’ per say, but I certainly felt much better.
I inspected the bushes and found some treehopper (Membracid) nymphs. I swung into action, grabbed my camera, locked on the macro lens, affixed the twin light flash, mounted the diffuser and rolled out of my tent and I started clicking away taking photos.
Animal and insect behaviour has always held a distinct fascination for me. Here you can see treehopper nymphs sucking on plant, extracting the sugary phloem of their diet. However you may also notice ants running about. These ants are actually farming the treehoppers like cattle ranchers. They move them to more fertile grounds if a branch doesn’t look favourable, they protect them against would be predators and they massage them. Yes you read that right, they massage them! So 2 questions; 1) Now what on earth could be the biological significance behind an ant massaging a treehopper and 2) Where the hell can I get some massaging ants?
A) The ants slowly pat the posteriors of the treehoppers with their antennae, stroking and massaging. A ritual which actually helps coax the treehoppers into excreting more honeydew, the sugary byproduct of the ingested plant phloem.
However, the ants don’t always succeed in removing all the predators from the vicinity, especially very quick ones like this jumping spider.
I continued photographing, while the occasional person passed by and stared unabashedly at me. One guy, a local Guyanese was curious, stopped and we chatted for a bit. I wanted to make sure I was on the right road so I asked how far to Pamela’s landing. “Couple hours, not far”, he said in his slow Caribbean drawl. “Where you go?” “Overland to Kaieteur falls”, I answered. “Me too, me too”, he said. “We go together”. I stared at him slightly suspiciously but nodded my acceptance. “I’ll be along in a bit”, I explained and took some more photos and then broke camp. The god-awful heat and humidity was stifling. My shirt soaked through in minutes, then my pants and then it started dripping from my sleeves. “This pack, this damnable pack”…I cursed after no more than 45 minutes on the road. The War and Peace seemed like a particularly regrettable article at this moment, “I hate you Tolstoy, I really effing hate you”. I honestly began questioning how on earth I would manage to hike through an unpaved jungle with this pack for hours on end? I walked, filtered a puddle, walked, filtered a puddle, and so the pattern continued until I made it to Pamela’s landing. Here, the man Sammy (not his real name) mentioned that we were in luck, a boat driver would take us up that very day! Usually one had to wait longer but finally my luck was looking up!
Sammy was making some lunch but didn’t have a pot, so I lent him my brand new, never used cooking pot with a gleam of pride in my eye. He takes is casually, fills it with rice and puts it over the fire. Naturally the thing falls in the fire, is left like that for 20 minutes and I come back to find my cookset to be a charred mess. Sammy grunts, “must have fallen in”. He puts on another batch of rice, but from that moment on, the coal black residue on my pot stains whatever comes into contact with it and makes every meal slightly less appealing. Let’s just say Sammy isn’t one for making great first impressions. I bathe down by the Potaro river and we wait. Halfway through the day we find out no boat will take us that day. So, Sammy strings up his hammock, I set up my tent and we wait.