Palomo is one of the forest workers at the station. He is Nicaraguan and for a while a lot of the students thought he was so mysterious that Palomo was actually the only name he needed, so basically he was like Madonna. He is also from Nicaragua and fought in the civil war, but I don’t know too many details about that…yet.
Palomo knows the forest better than anyone else on site, it’s hard not to when your workday consists of going out and clearing trails. I was invited by some of the other long-term researchers here to go out and explore the primary and secondary forest with him Saturday morning. Weekends are oddly not really a thing for primatologists since monkeys don’t really know what a weekend is and the primatologists need data, so this little break with Palomo was going to be well worth not getting monkey data.
Therefore, my response was hells to the yeah I will go into the unmarked trail rainforest with super badass/mysterious Palomo.
Breakfast is still served at 7 and we leave around 8. David and Marvin (pronounced Dah-veed and Mar-veen), 2 other workers at the station, also come with us. We take the marked trail, crossing the river by walking over some rather shaky bamboo and almost falling a few times because the bridge washed out, and walk all the way to the end. On the way Palomo points out some ocelot tracks, some types of fruit, and different types of trees that all look the same to me but are amazing nonetheless.
Once we reach the end its time to pull out the 16-inch machetes and clear the trail. Both him and Marvin carried machetes and chopped away with the ease of a natural, a slight tap here and big swing there and we were through. At one point we emerged from what some of the girls call “the rabbit hole.” Very appropriately named because we emerged into a field of just tall grass and no tree coverage, then when we looked back to what we came from it was this tiny hole leading into the dense forest. And we were still just coming from the marked trail at this point.
Next we went into the part with zero marked trails. We walked in the trees instead of on a path around them. Wonderfully tall Almendra trees were pointed out and Palomo said they are a favorite of the Macaw bird. Unfortunately, no Macaws were out, but there was something even better…a white hawk. Apparently it’s super rare, it was also super far away, this did not stop me from utilizing the super intense zoom feature on my camera to get a semi decent look at it. I also discovered Instagrams new filter, rainforest humidity, it made a cool vignette-like edge blur around the picture. And while I’m sure it wasn’t the greatest thing for my camera I really think I could be onto something with this instagram filter.
We continued walking around, though I don’t know how much you can call it walking because the floor is so slippery from humidity and there are tree roots sticking out everywhere and those are slippery and then you have to watch out for spider webs because those just come up out of no where and sometimes we have to cross more sections of river which is actually pretty tricky because you never know what parts of the mud are 3 inches deep versus the parts that are 2 feet deep. One of the girls found that out the hard way. Also, not all pieces of wood/logs are as atable as you think they might be because of the humidity and sometimes they will just crumble right out from underneath you. As far as I can tell there are a lot of downsides to humidity, most of the upsides involve some chemical reactions all happening below the surface/help the plants breathe and whatnot. But in terms of laundry it is about the least helpful thing you can imagine, some of my clothes smell sour.
Anyways, so we are gallivanting around the forest and I’m channeling my Joseph Conrad to see if there are any grand speculations about the nature (and horrors) of humanity I can make but then I get distracted by Palomo pointing to a small little leaf sprouting out of the ground, then pointing to a very large tree a couple feet away and tell me they are the same thing which just absolutely blew my mind and I was so in awe that I just stopped and looked up and gave nature a mental high five…make that mental double high five with some extra gusto because she deserves it.
There was also a point when we couldn’t find ourselves on the small GPS one of the researchers brought and a few points where I saw Palomo look around one too many times. But after about 4 and half hours of walking in what I could only perceive as a bunch of squiggly lines we made it back and I filled a bowl with white rice and black beans, not even bothering to change my sweat and dirt stained clothes or wash off my deet-ridden body…and I ate until I was full, took a very lazy shower, and fell into bed with a happy stomach and a slightly aching body.