Off road

Next day I sharpen my machete. No, this isn’t a metaphor for the honing of my PERFECT INSULT, it has grown dull with all the jungle bushwhacking and cutting through bureaucracy that I have been doing in town. However, the hardware stores only offer files and not a sharpening service, so I buy a file and set to work on it myself. Machete slung over my shoulder, rubber boots, travel stained pants, dirty long sleeved shirt, beard- I give the “don’t fuck with me” impression while walking down the street and most people give me a fairly wide berth and I briefly consider hiding behind the exit to the ministry to frighten the bureaucrat, but dismiss the idea when I consider that such an uptight woman probably has a rape whistle and a bottle of mace on her person and I would probably come out the loser of such an encounter. So instead I return to the guesthouse and lounge out on the couch, using the internet, editing photos and sitting in front of that glorious large fan that they have set up. From time to time I also get out my machete to sharpen with a sadistic grin on my face and mutter under my breath as I go over the events at the ministry. God, in retrospect I must have come across as a recently escaped convict (no offense to convicts intended). No wonder why despite a full guesthouse no one came in to chat with me!

Night slowly falls and I prepare myself to face whatever ordeals transpire with the transportation. However, fortunately everything goes smoothly, I relax to the pumping beat of the bar cum bus station and load my bags into the bus. We take off an hour later passing several check points and arrive at the ferry crossing at 4:00am.

Wanted to promote the gritty feel of the crossing so I put it into photomatix for some HDR tonemapping to alter the sky and decrease the saturation. Guy in front doesn’t look like he quite knows what to make of it. Kurupukari, Guyana.

I get off before the ferry crossing, head a little ways up the road. It really is a blessed sight!

Literally the main highway into the interior, this bumpy clay road has nearly untouched rainforest on either side for 100’s of kilometers! Kurupukari, Guyana.

And then cut straight into the jungle. I don’t really have  a clue where I’m going, I just know that I’m tracking where I’m going with my GPS and that I’ll stop when I find a good place to gather water. Within a few minutes, I stumble across an old mining trail. Happily, I follow this for a few hundred metres as it makes my job that much easier. I also cross a pool of water and make a note to myself to mark the location and grab some for dinner later on. The trail ends and I continue to make my way through the jungle for another few hundred meters before setting up camp. I can hear thunder and the clouds are gathering. “Don’t you dare…” I warn with a threatening shake of my fist and I hurry to set up camp. I am able to set up my hammock remarkably quickly, I think it’s love at first sight! I get the siltarp up  and then wrap all my belongings in the second tarp that came with the hammock and put all the electronics in the hammock, off the ground in a dry sac, within garbage bags. “I really hope that’s enough”, I pace nervously, looking from the sky to my fortifications against the rain. Still tired from the poor sleep I had on the bus I collapse into my hammock and promptly fall asleep.

Home sweet home…Above my Hennesy hammock is my siltarp, the rest of my gear has been thrown into the hammock or is resting below wrapped in another tarp. Here is my setup for the trail-less backwaters of the rainforest. Kurupukari crossing, Guyana.

There’s no rain, a not inconsiderable blessing! I wake up a few hours later, slightly groggy but excited. I immediately start exploring my surroundings, brandishing my machete I head off in a random direction, GPS in hand and the wide, wild jungle in front of me.

Immediately beside my camp I come across a small poison arrow frog. No more than a few centimetres long.

A small poison arrow frog (Allobates femoralis). Kurupukari, Guyana.
Camouflaged amongst the mosses, this orbweaver can usually be found in the middle of its web, however as soon as it is disturbed it will run to a branch where it will nestle as far as it is able into the crevices of branches. The abdomen is a mottled green to further this camouflage. Kurupukari, Guyana.

By day I see a few things but it is really by night that I do most of my viewing. So as night closed in I made my supper. Nothing more than tuna and rice, but it was wonderful in its simplicity. And then I began my nighthike where to my delight I saw quite a few interesting insects.

Crab spider with prey. The mottled white body help this spider to blend in seamlessly with the licheny branches.  Kurupukari, Guyana.
A lovely leaf mimicking katydid (Pterochroza ocellata) with a few surprises of its own. Kurupukari, Guyana.

Coming across the katydid I was duly impressed but I thought that it would be better to get it amongst the leaves so that I could really show its camouflage to good effect. And so I poked it around a little and it jumped from its perch on the branch to the forest floor. However several branches were still in the way so I proceeded to usher it into a better vantage from which I could photograph it. While poking and prodding, it obviously felt threatened and rewarded me with this display.

Leaf mimicking katydid (Pterochroza ocellata) in threat display. Kurupukari, Guyana.

The splayed front wings reveal an amazing pattern which appears like 2 large bird eyes to scare would be predators. The vibrant colours serve several purposes:

1) It features the large avian style eyes, designed to scare predators
2) The brilliant colours show aposematism
3) It is a flash display, showed briefly the predator is startled, the katydid will jump several hops with this display open and then close its wings again, hence returning to its camouflaged state and the predator is left wondering where that brilliant coloured insect went.

From the back the display is even more impressive.

Leaf mimicking katydid (Pterochroza ocellata) in threat display. Kurupukari, Guyana.

This first night looked extremely promising, and I couldn’t help but wonder what other marvels of nature I would come across in the coming days.

Take me to- how you got those amazing photos?!!!!-

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