I am a proud

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Oxbow - Yarinacocha, Central Peruvian Jungle

Along the shore of the Oxbow
Shipibo dance during worship at an evangelical church
Majas - in the little zoo along the Oxbow
Fun at the zoo
Airport promotion of shamanism
One of our favorite things to do when we visit Yarinacocha in the central jungle of Peru is take a boat out on the Oxbow. Yarinacocha was formed as the Ucayali River shifted its path as it winds its way north towards the Amazon River. As we fly over the jungle in a small Cessna we have the opportunity to see numerous oxbow formations. It's not all that uncommon. The shores of Yarinacocha is populated by the Shipibo people. Their jungle fishing and yucca cultivating traditions have given way today to the production of artisan work which the women sell on the streets of Pucallpa and Yarinacocha daily. Some have developed tourism centering around their shamans and the use of plants grown in the jungle that produce hallucinations. Tourist come from many places to "find themselves". They pay a pretty penny to spend a couple of weeks "drinking the kool-aid" (so to speak), hallucinating, being incredibly sick to their stomachs and then having a shaman interpret their hallucinations so that they can determine where the spirits are guiding them in life. In our quest to help the people develop tourism we've steered clear of this particular activity and have focused more on geocaching associated with eco-tourism. Thankfully there is a large population of Shipibo who call the shamanism tourism industry a deception; completely rejecting it. They tell me that in their past only the shamans took the these drugs and that it was never considered a source of economic income until it recently became popular with gullible tourist. Sad! If you come to Yarinacocha be sure to rent a boat in the small port and take a trip up the banks of the Oxbow Lake. You'll see lots of fauna and some wildlife (birds, sloths, fresh water dolphins, etc.) along the way. One of our favorite stops is at the privately-owned zoo that is only accessible by boat. It's a small time operation but worth the time. The boat ride and the zoo trip are inexpensive. If you rent the boat you can direct the operator to take you to visit The Oxbow (GC3A7G1). The cache is just a short walk from the bank of the lake in small little public park-like area. Be sure to check out the other caches in Yarinacocha and Pucallpa while there. I hope you enjoy your visit to Yarincocha.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Leishmaniasis - Poison Ivy isn't the worst of it for this geocacher!

The pimple that wouldn't go away
Friendly sand fly
Thankful for these folks
Nurse Rosita giving me the daily injection...don't make me look
Where I spend part of my mornings
Probably the worst thing geocaching got me into was a patch of poison ivy. I remember when I went after a cache in Greensboro, NC called I Am Mrs Ego (GC1JQAG) during the summer. My wife said, "don't go in there" but I didn't listen. Well, I found something worse! Recently I published a blog about the Utuquinia River in Peru. I had a great time surveying for possible locations for a geocache series that might be combined with eco-tourism. Along with my partners on this trip I explored rivers, hiked jungle trails, camped and generally had a great time. We covered up in bug repellent but the bugs found their way through it all. One particular silent and painless biting bug that got to me during the course of this trip is known locally as the Mantablanca (the white blanket). It's official name is Lutzomyia. In plain English it is a sand fly, frequenting sandbanks along the rivers and streams in the jungle and in the mountains. The trip took place in the first week of May 2012. In early July I started noticing what looked like a pimple above my right eye near the hairline. It simply wouldn't go away. I went to see a doctor and was referred to a dermatologist. After several weeks of antibiotic treatment the doctor did a biopsy. Within the week the results indicated that I have Leishmaniasis, also locally known as Uta. Apparently an infected female sand fly enjoyed a blood meal and deposited the protozoa in the bite area. After several months the protozoa formed the leishmaniasis parasite under the skin and began to form a boil. I was fortunate to have access to good medical care in the capital city and received a quick diagnosis. I'm away from my geocaching activities in the jungle to get this treated. Cutaneous leishmaniasis, if untreated, will usually lead to disfiguring ulcers in the location of the bite. It can also progress to a more serious type that attacks the internal organs. My dermatologist introduced me to the head of the leishmaniasis department at the Institute for Tropical Medicine at the Cayetano Heredia Hospital in Lima. They began the treatments. They consist of a daily injection of sodium estriboglucante directly into a vein in my arm or hand. The side effects make you feel worse than the disease. Nonetheless I stayed in the capital city to take the three weeks of treatment. I was their "gringo" case study and they took pride in showing me off to the doctors that came through from numerous countries to study tropical diseases. I'm an anomaly too. They've never seen leishmaniasis on the scalp. I currently have three lesions healing up slowly and nicely thanks to the good doctors at the hospital. Thanks to the Peruvian government there are no charges for the treatment. Yes, it's all free. Will I go back out to the jungle. You bet! There's more work to do, caches to hide and tourism to organize before I retire! If coming to the jungles of South America, particularly in Peru and Brazil be sure to wear long sleeves in the jungle and spray all your exposed skin with a deet-based insect repellent for protection. I learned that there is a strain of leischmaniasis that is readily available in the mountains too. If you are anywhere around sand take these precautions. I've met lots of folks who come from all over the mountains and jungle of Peru, Venezuela and Ecuador for treatment here. Many are poor and live far out into the jungle where medical facilities aren't readily available. They contract the disease and don't seek treatment until their skin ulcers are quite large. Not a pretty sight. Thank you for praying for me. I have to have regular check ups over the next year to make sure that the parasites are gone and don't start their mischief again. Thanks to Gustavo for the sand fly photo.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Building a home for a missionary friend, Yarinacocha Peru

Drew at work
House about to fall down
A new house going up
Some special friends
Ayda, Raul and David with the final product
I'm impressed with the folks at MINAP (translated into English it means Peruvian Amazon Native Integrated Ministry). The missionaries in this group are all Peruvians who are from about five different tribes located in the central and southern jungle. They are Shipibo, Conibo, Juniquin, Yine and Machiguena people. The organization tends to rotate one of their field missionaries back into their headquarters for administrative duties. Recently they've brought in families to fill this administrative role who are suffering some jungle sickness and need a year or so to recuperate. This past year Raul and Ayda came to live in the Yarinacocha base for MINAP. It has been a pleasure to get to know them. We had the opportunity to become their friends. This has been nice. When we learned that the house they would live in was about to collapse from age, wind and wear we were able come up with a plan to replace it. The MINAP organization agreed to tear down the old two story house and with the lumber that was salvageable raise a roughed in house frame. It had no floor, no walls, no roof nor room divisions inside. Months out we invited some friends from a church in the US to come and help us. Five good friends took their vacation days to come and work in the hot sun to provide Raul and Ayda a nice jungle home. Geo-Turismo Amazonico is happy to have been able to participate in this activity. Together with some of the workers in this organization we are hoping to establish some geocaching series for tourist who come to the central jungle. If you get the chance to visit the central jungle be sure to stop by MINAP. It is located near the Restaurant Tuyuyo in Yarinacocha. Be sure to check out the geocaches placed by GTAbusquedor, Dav&Lin, and sumajman.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

9-11 Memorial - Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Twin Towers Memorial - Broadway at the Beach

One of the highlights of visiting Myrtle Beach is a trip to Broadway at the Beach, a shopping - eating -boardwalk type experience surrounding a large lake. We haven´t visited in about nine years. It was good to be back. My family enjoyed the shops. At 10 p.m. we were among several thousand tourist crowding the boardwalk to watch the spectacular and colorful fireworks show. Be sure to check the local schedule as this happens one night each week. While the family enjoyed the shops I enjoyed some night time geocaching. Most of the caches around Broadway at the Beach were located in the parking lot or just off the grounds. I particularly like We Will Never Forget (GC340RZ), a memorial to those who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001. The memorial is a small version of the Twin Towers. At the particular time we were visiting the flags were at half mast in mourning for those who were killed in the senseless shooting in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Be sure and check out the caches in this area if you get the chance to visit.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Utuquinia.... Jungle Cache

I had a great time taking a trip down the Ucayali River and then up the Utuquinia River in the central Peruvian Jungle. Why do it? Me and some friends wanted to check out the possibilities for tourism in the area, particularly tourism revolving around eco-tourism and geo-tourism. We departed at sunrise from the jungle city of Pucallpa
Leaping fish
in a boat capable of carrying eleven of us and all our camping gear. It's amazing how wide the Ucayali is five days upriver from Iquitos, Peru. Iquitos is where it joins what becomes the Amazon River and from there flows easterly into Brazil. We traveled downstream making good time. In about 1.5 hours we were at the
Our first camp site
mouth of the Utuquinia River. Suddenly we were in a river 25 times smaller than where we'd been.
Crossing a small stream on the trail
As we traveled easterly up that river we noticed that the fish were jumping into our boat at the rate of one every five minutes. We had to be careful picking them up and throwing them back. Even though they rarely exceeded six inches in length they had some pretty long and sharp teeth ready to snag a finger. I don't know what kind of fish this was. They weren't piranha. A little further up the river we ran into a logging affair. A large tug boat with a barge. The barge had a large crane and was loading huge cut logs to be taken back up river to Pucallpa where they would be sold. Logging is a big industry here. Our trip took us past many Shipibo villages with children stopping to see who was coming by. Our peque peque motor labored on getting us to our first campsite by mid-afternoon. A Mestizo family was willing to allow us to camp by the river on a clearing they owned. We were also able to leave our peque motor with them when we took off on our jungle hike. Before taking off into the jungle we oriented five year old Kevin, the landowner's son, to the sport of geocaching. Together with him we hid Utuquinia (GC3K1PD). How long until someone finds this one? We spent a night underneath what we later learned was a supper moon. Luckily we had our tents up before dark to avoid moon burn. Early the next morning we broke camp, poled across the river and set off on our hike. We were following animal and human trails used by the local Shipibo people as well as hacking our way through some thick jungle. What an experience! We crossed through swamps, up and down creek embankments, across streams by wading or across logs, all the time sweating profusely. At lunch we stopped to filter water and replenish our bottles. The one thing we couldn't do without was water. It took us most of the day of hard hiking once we hit a clear stretch of trail to make it eight kilometers through the jungle where we found a nice campsite for the night. We were beside a nice cool stream. It was great relaxing in the cool water after an intense hike under the jungle canopy. Once again we found the moon to be extremely bright that night. The next day we pushed on a little deeper into the jungle. We saw monkey, all classes of birds, we smelled where a pack of huangana (a small, wild pig) had passed by within half an hour leaving an incredibly foul smell and we got to meet all the world's biting insects on this trip. At about the 10 kilometer point we decided to return to our camp for the evening. Early the next morning we began our hike back to the boat. We were really moving and this 56 year old found it a challenge to keep up with the younger men. We made the hike of 8 kilometers in under three hours and we were dripping wet with sweat. After a short rest we loaded the boat and were on our way with thoughts of Pucallpa and a ice cold Coke Zero waiting there. As we traveled down stream our guide told us about a nature canal that is open and navigable during rainy season. We were at the end of rainy season so he decided to try it. We were traveling upstream again, towards the waters of the Ucayali River as they flowed down this canal. After about an hour we came out into a large lake formed by the Ucayali River waters flowing towards the canal. We
crossed the lake, full of fisherman in their canoes, and through a narrow channel, entered the Ucayali River current. We could see Pucallpa eight miles away but against the current we were looking at almost two hours to get there. Together with my friends I was able to determine that this would be a great tourist location. It might possibly be a great geo-tourism option too. The big drawback being the distance from Pucallpa. It all depends on who is willing to travel this far. Did I enjoy it? You bet! Would others want to do it? I don't know. I think I'll wait and see if there is any interested, interest enough for someone to go after the geocache I placed along the river. If there is a turn out, it might be worth working with a local guide to set up a geocaching tour along the river. If you are coming to Peru why don't you check out my cache up the Utuquinia. You can rent a boat and a guide and make it in a day. Be sure to check the local travel agencies to find a knowledgable guide who can take you on the trails. You'll see the real jungle and be glad you did!