Sunday, September 4, 2011

Baking and Birding at Cristalino Jungle Lodge

The last clients I had while guiding here at Cristalino Jungle Lodge were a young German couple who were interested in seeing any kind of wildlife and plants, learning about tropical ecosystems, and enjoying time on the river. So one exceptionally pleasant afternoon was spent drifting down the Cristalino River by kayak. We ended up seeing two Brazilian Tapirs at the end of the day, as well as a complete display flight of a Sunbittern, followed by three having some sort of interaction together on the beach.
Tayler (another volunteer guide here for a few months) and I are still mostly interested in birds, so we were quite pleased to successfully show this couple a gorgeous male Rose-breasted Chat in a small canopy flock on our hike up the Serra (a small granite mountain) a couple days ago. That's not easy even with avid birders. But even though they were clearly impressed by the glowing colors of this difficult-to-see bird, they will surely have better memories of the rich, lemon-ginger perfume of the Cacaui trees (Theobroma speciosum) that permeated the forest understory that day. Here's the cauliflorous tree and the people being intoxicated by the smells.

I've since had a few days off this week and have begun to spend more time in the Cristalino kitchen with the wonderful staff. Arlene is the main cook and seems to always welcome my presence.

I've taken their whole-grain bread recipe and added a twist. Using half the amount of yeast called for, I put the loaves in the refrigerator for the second rise overnight. They all exclaim that the bread is much better – in both taste and texture. Now I'm afraid I'll get called to the kitchen each day to make the bread.

Another thing I got to do while not with clients is hike up a new trail with a few of the other guides. It's one of the longer trails at about 1.6 km each way, but it goes to the top of a different granite dome on the right bank of the Cristalino River (right as you face downstream). I visited here briefly in October 2006 before they had scouted out the best route to the top and had to scramble and bushwhack up a bouldery slope, but now the trail is quite good and not steep at all. And it was on this new route that I finally found my most-wanted plant here – the only cycad known to grow in this region. Listed as Zamia cf. ulei by the team of botanists including specialists from Kew Gardens, it's a very primitive conifer that looks something like an immature palm but has the flowers more like a pine. Furthermore, cycads are the host plant for a very small and aberrant group of hairstreaks called cycadians. I haven't heard of anyone having seen the Amazonian species of Eumaeus here, but if it does occur, this would be the place to look. I think I'll be back soon.

1 comment:

  1. I was there with you!!! haha Rafael Bonelli