Valle de Caynarachi

April 30th, 2005

Last night we arrived at Lima. Everson, a friend of Rainer, was waiting for us at the airport. We stayed at his place for the night. He had an apartment along the coast at Marbella, a suburb of Lima. This morning a nice surprise, we were just looking outside the window to enjoy the view and saw several dolphins passing by. This morning we went first to Miraflores, to get our tickets for Tarapoto. We were told that Miraflores is a nice quarter to go out at night, with many cosy restaurants and bars, but we wanted to leave Lima as soon as possible. After we had picked up our tickets we still had some time before we had to be at the airport, so Everson showed us a little of Barranco, an old and pleasing colonial quarter. At 12.30 we arrived at the airport and within 2 minutes we were checked in, but we left Lima with quite some delay. At Tarapoto Rainer picked us up. Close to his house we had a nice small hotel ‘Mirador’, very hospitable, clean and not expensive. After we had brought our stuff to the room, we went to Rainer. He lives in an old adobe house with quite some space, at least for a house in the middle of a town. Of course he showed us soon his ‘lab’. He had some beautiful frogs, lizards and snakes in terrariums. A part of his ‘lab’ he had turned into a covered garden. Here he could photograph better the frogs and their behaviour. As it was getting dark, we did not see that many frogs at this part of his ‘lab’. Later at night Rainer gave us a sightseeing tour of ‘Tarapoto by night’.

May 1st, 2005 

007.jpgThis morning we went with Rainer and his wife Mariana on the way to his biological station, where we would stay for several days. This station is located along the road to Yurimaguas, an unpaved road through the mountains. A little outside Tarapoto the rainforest started, along the road you saw everywhere heleconia's and other beautiful flowers. Slopes were completely covered by heleconia’s. Unfortunately soon the sun disappeared and it started to rain. We left the windows open, as Rainer told us, watch well along the road, you can find there E. bassleri and D. imitator. And indeed, soon we saw our first bassleri, in the small current along the road, we stopped to take some pictures and repeated this ritual several times. We did not expect to see in the rain several bassleri’s. The imitators we heard at several spots in the heleconia’s, but these were quite difficult to spot. Meanwhile the road got muddier and muddier, Rainer had a Toyota pickup truck, with 4WD, and you really needed a 4WD here. At a certain moment we saw a truck in front of us who got stuck in the mud, with some difficulty we could pass him, but the after the following corner, just in front of a tunnel several trucks stood still. These trucks would be even more difficult to pass. 009.jpgBut it turned out that right behind the tunnel a part of the slope had fallen down, some enormous rocks blocked the road. So we went to watch it, it looked like a tourist attraction, over 50 people were watching the blockade, several of them were throwing the smaller rocks downhill or tried to roll them down with some piles. But there was no way they could move the enormous rocks. They had to wait until a bulldozer came from Tarapoto or Yurimaguas, to push the rocks away. As it was Sunday, this could take a while, more likely that it would take until tomorrow. Meanwhile several truck drivers came with huge mauls, maybe they could cut the rocks in smaller pieces, but also this was a hopeless task. At both sides of the blocked stood a dozen of trucks and more were coming. They couldn’t go forward nor backward as everything had turned in one big slough, big stones were put behind the wheels of the trucks so they would not slide backwards, as the road inclined a little. At many spots the road was too small to pass one other, you had everywhere special spots where you could wait until a car or truck had passed by before you could continue. We had the luck we were close to a spot so that we could make a turn, we just had 2 trucks behind us, the last truck was so nice to drive a little backwards to this spot, so we had place to pass by 002.jpgand return to Tarapoto. Trucks could not turn around and had to wait until the road was open again. On the way back we made again some stops, meanwhile the rain had turned into drizzle. We saw a bassleri with larvas at his back, he was just depositing his larvas. We also saw some young bassleri, a few months old, they didn’t have their yellow/orange colour like their parents, first we thought it were colosthetus species, but if you looked well, you could see it was a bassleri. The adult ones were quite big, 4-5 cm. Some jumped away if you approached too much, others didn’t mind and continued whatever they were doing. At a small cascade we saw a Colosthetus nexipus, a real beauty with a bright red line at his side. We saw also several water anoles, but these jumped right away under the stones. Back at Tarapoto we checked in at our hotel and went with Rainer and Mariana to Lamas, an Indian village in the mountains not far from Tarapoto. You have a great view over Tarapoto and surroundings from there. Lamas has a softer climate, not that hot and heavy as in Tarapoto. Rainer was thinking about buying some land at Lamas, to raise some Atelopus species, as the climate was ideal for many Atelopus. Also Mariana would love to live at Lamas, her grandmother was from Lamas. Both had something special with Lamas, they got married there. But finally it was just too far from Tarapoto, 35 km. Although, you have a metalled road up to Lamas.

May 2nd, 2005
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This morning another attempt to reach the biological station, also called km 34. In the rainy season the road is quite dangerous, many skidding through the mud just along many ravines. If you skid too far you end up in the ravine, which happens regularly. Meanwhile the giant rocks that had blocked the road, were cleared, but the road had become at that part quite small, a part of the road was washed away as well. Trucks just could pass, therefore they almost had to touch the slope at the other side. Fortunately at the end of the morning it stopped raining. All of a sudden we had great views, yesterday and in the morning you hardly saw anything of the surroundings due to lowering clouds.
The biological station, km 34, was nicely located, at the border of a very small hamlet. It’s a station under construction. Last month they just finished the toilet and a shower. In the station we could put up our tent. Rainer had told us to bring a tent with us, that was easier as hanging up musquito-nets. The windows were mainly filled up with cement blocks, as they still did not have glass. But you already can see, one day it w042.jpgill be a nice station. When we arrived Pascual, our guide, was not there. His brother was watching the station. Pascual lives in the station, as the station has to be guarded, if not everything would be taken away. After having lunch with Rainer and his son, in a road restaurant 1½  km before the station, Rainer left for Tarapoto. The following day Jason Brown, a student who had done investigations at the station before, would arrive. 2 Days later he would return with Jason and then we would travel together further to a lowland forest. Rainer had polio as a child and is crippled, now he has turned sixty, his leg plays a trick at him and he cannot enter the rainforest that well anymore. So he had arranged Pascual as a guide for us. Just before we reached the restaurant Rainer had pointed us out an interesting trail, in case we did not want to wait for Pascual. So after lunch we followed this path, already after a few steps we saw our first E. trivittatus, a yellow one with 3 stripes, this one also had some spots and was so big! Bigger than the trivittatus we have at home, at least 5 cm. The path was quite muddy and slippery, so we slipped several 098.jpgtimes. After I slipped for the 2nd time, the whole side of my mountaineering boot was torn apart. Not that nice, so at the beginning of our holidays. But fortunately Rainer had given us some rubber boots, you can use here better rubber boots. Rainer has back home a whole range of boots, visitors, biologists, students always buy boots here and when they leave, they leave the boots behind at Rainers. When we arrived at the biological station, Pascual had arrived. A nice and enthusiastic man. At night we went with him to find some tree frogs. Along the road you heard them everywhere, but to find them was quite difficult, it took a while. We saw many small yellow hyla, we couldn’t trace what kind of hyla specie as there are many yellow hyla who look a little alike.

May 3rd, 2005

017.jpgThis morning we went with Pascual on a hike, at the other side. We first had to cross 2 rivers, a bigger one and a small one. We had luck the water level was low and that we had boots. We could step from one stone to another, the most stones were just a little underwater, with help of a stick we had a good balance. When we reached the other side of the first river we saw many trivittatus, you saw them everywhere during this trip, as well close to the river and as well higher in the mountains. We also saw several semi adult ones, but the most were adult. Mostly you saw them already from far, they are so bright yellow, almost fluorescent and mostly in full sight, often at large green leaves. The second river was smaller and had 012.jpgmany large rocks, we followed this small river upstream. This was an athelopus area. A very great area, full with beautiful cascades, ponds, little streams, enormous rocks, covered with moss with on top many small palms like plants. Here we soon saw our first Athelopus pulcher. What a beauty, it was a young male. In this time of the season it is hard to find females along the river, only in the mating season you find here as well the females, the rest of the year they leave for the forest. We found several athelopus, mostly at the covered rocks. They stood quite stout at their legs. The further we followed the river the more beautiful the surroundings became, at a certain moment we arrived at paradise, you saw 3 cascades next to one other 045.jpgending in a pond and at the border of this pond along the whole width, small streams and cascades felt down, along many plants and rocks. The athelopus thoroughly have their own paradise. Along the cascade we climbed upstairs. Here we found one of the first INIBICI nurseries of poison dart frogs, at many trees were hanging plastic bottles cut in half, filled with water and some leaves at the bottom. Around those bottles we saw the first few D. variabilis. Some were just sitting at the border of the bottle or just above the bottle. In many bottles we saw tadpoles, some were just deposited, other had already legs. In this area you did not see that many bromeliads, apparently those bottles were welcoming deposit places for the 109.jpgvariabilis. You had here hundreds of deposit places. The first beauty of which we took some pictures, soon jumped at the other side of the tree, so Han also went to the backside, not watching where he was standing. Within a minute he was completely covered by ants, aggressive biting ants, who secured after their bite. But first we had to finish our photo shoot. After that Han had to pull off his blouse, I had to pick the ants one by one of his neck and back, quite nasty ants, Han stood in ‘fire’. I just had some bites at my hands and wrists. After that we saw one variabilis after one other. The D. fantasticus was more difficult to find, you heard them regularly, mostly above you in the trees. But a little later we found one in 019.jpga bottle, here we saw also a small clutch of eggs. At another bottle we saw a fantasticus tadpole that was almost coming ashore. We also found a semi adult D. azureiventris, a real beauty. We also found several colosthetes, some skinks and anoles, including a fuscoauratus and 2 Amphisbaena fuliginosa’s, a kind of earthworms, about 25 cm big. Normally you seldom find them as they live about 50 cm under the ground. But sometimes with some diggings they are found. While we were taking picture near the field of Pascual at the top of a mountain, Pascual did some digging and found those earthworms. At the way back we found some bufo’s. At night we had invited Pascual to the restaurant and at the way back 062.jpgwe went at a tree frog hunt. We were looking for some glass frogs, they had to live here in large numbers, but no glass frog, we found several other tree frogs. As a last attempt we would search at a small cascade behind the hamlet, he had heard them there as well. The most paths here, you hardly can call a path and at night in the dark it’s quite heavy to walk. You really needed boots, often we sunk away in the mud or slipped of the path along the wall of a small stream. But after slipping a lot, climbing many slippery rocks we reached the cascade. And indeed, here we found some glass frogs.

May 4th, 2005

Today we wanted to see the E. cainarachi, which you also can find here in the valley. This will be quite difficult, said Pascual. He only had seen a couple of times a cainarachi, at 3 places quite far from the station, with a lot of climbing and just little chance to spot them. But we wanted to go for it. First we followed the Athelopus valley, again we saw several males, no females. One we even found at a very steep 093.jpgrock wall, the wall had at some spots a small fern or palm like plant and at a height of 3-4 m an athelopus was sitting at a fern leaf. From a rock in the river we could see the athelopus quite well and could take a picture. A little later we left the path and a heavy hike through the rainforest started. Pascual was busy cutting some branches and lianas. After 1 ½ hour we came at the first possible place where he had found once a cainarachi. We walked and searched for over an hour, but no cainarachi. We walked an hour further, again we searched and searched and also no cainarachi. A little further we came on a small path and followed the path for a while. We were starting to fear that this heavy hike would bring no cainarachi. We had not seen for over 4 hours any frogs, even no bufo. In the beginning we still had seen some Colosthetus nexipus and a Lithodytes lineatus, but later nothing. Until we heard all of a sudden Pascual calling, ‘aca, venga, venga’, we jumped very fast the slope down to a very small 032.jpgwatercourse and indeed, 2 cainarachi’s. The female jumped away, but the male was quite willing so we could make a nice photoshoot. At a very small pond just a meter from the place where we had found the cainarachi we saw some just deposited tadpoles, tadpoles of the cainarachi? Pascual had earned his beer! After that it was still a long hike home, but we had seen the cainarachi. You really need here rubber boots, but you have no support from the boots and you feel every ruggedness at the bottom. Regularly your boot got stuck in the mud and you had to take care you did not step out of your boot. The last hour of the hike we arrived again in the frog habited world and we saw several trivittatus and variabilis. Completely exhausted and soaked from the sweat we arrived at home, but we had seen the cainarachi!

May 5th, 2005

Last night we really had heavy weather, lightning’s, for hours and hours downpour, which made quite some noise at the roof of the biological station. We were happy our tent stood inside, outside everything was flooded. Pascual said today there is nothing we can do, only along the road we can search for frogs. But outside a trivittatus or a hyla you will not find here much along the road. The best frog places are at the other side of the river. But both rivers, especially the first one would have too much water, which would make it too dangerous to cross due to the heavy current. But having a rest day is not easy for us, you have come that far to see things and not to relax. But sometime you have no choice. But now the sun was 046.jpgshining brightly. So after an hour we said to Pascual, we would like to see how high the water level in the river was, maybe we could cross it, if not we could follow the road for a while. The river that was yesterday spotlessly clean, you could see all the stones you had to step on to cross the river, but now it was a brown muddy and whirling mass and was at least twice as large as yesterday. Han wanted to make an attempt how deep the river was and how strong the current was to see if we could still cross the river. So boots and trousers off, and with a stick foot by foot, touching the bottom with the stick, forwards. After a few meters the water almost came to his groins but it turned out the water did not reach higher, but the current was quite strong, it costed him quite some strength to stay up. But in 10 minutes he reached the other side. But then he had to come back, it had costed him already some trouble to get his backpack and boots dry at the 047.jpgother side, it would cost me more trouble, so he had to carry my stuff. Sometimes I stagger a bit, so there is a chance I fall down for a moment and then you must not have your backpack with camera with you. The way back for Han went a little faster, now he had nothing to carry and had the current a little with him. When we crossed the river with the three of us (Pascual could not stand aside as two bloody tourists wanted to cross the river), Pascual lost his machete at the middle of the river. Fortunately he could place his foot at his machete so he could pick it up. A machete is of vital importance for a Peruvian in the mountains. The path to the second river was quite a muddy mass, the days before it was already quite slippery, now completely. The second smaller river had many big rocks. When you looked at the rocks you still could step from one big rock to another, but they were so slippery, so it was wiser to pull of again our boots and trousers and cross the river along the big rocks. But you had support of the big rocks to hold on. Today we went in search for the fantasticus, we had seen some the first day, but only one from close by. We searched for several hours, but no fantasticus, we had seen a dozen tadpoles, in the plastic bottles, 053.jpgcoming almost ashore and from the drawing at their back we could seen that it were fantasticus. We saw many trivittatus and variabilis, but finely at the end of the afternoon, some fantasticus, even once two sitting together. At the way back the level of the river had fallen, the 2nd river we could cross with boots, the rocks were not that slippery anymore. The first river had fallen about 15 cm, from this side it was easier to cross the river, you had a little the current with you. Back at the station, Rainer and Jason Brown had already arrived. A second tent stood next to ours. So first getting acquainted and sharing mutually some information. Jason had his laptop with him so soon he showed us his pictures he had taken here before and his presentation of his research here, about the  variabilis and imitator. Then it turned out we had seen several imitators which we thought to be variabilis. So they can imitate the variabilis quite well. From some of our pictures it was hard to say if it was a variabilis or imitator, sometimes Rainer and Jason did not agree, but from the most it was quite clear if you know the differences. The imitator has 2 spots at his nose and the spots at his legs are a little smaller. At a few pictures the 2 sports at the nose were quite clear, so it was nice to hear that we had seen the imitator as well. We knew the imitator was found here as well and we had hoped Jason could show them to us as Pascual did not know well enough the differences, just like us.

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