Wednesday afternoon, January 23, 2019
One of our guides, Ricardo, conducted a class on the fruits of the Amazon. We’ve had the opportunity to try many of them already, in juices and sauces, as well as fresh. Some of the fruits featured were (please forgive any misspellings): Granadilla (good for cholesterol), Mouriche palm fruit (also called Aguaje), Ivory Palm (Tagua), Fava Beans (enjoyed by monkeys), Kapok palm fruit (blood thinner, high in Vitamin A and Beta Carotene), Peach Palm (used to make fire water, or for hearts of palm), Cocona or yellow tomato (very tart, good in sauces), Charapita (tiny berry that is very hot), Cacao, and Copoazu (rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium), Macambo (also called monkey brain because of the pattern on the seed), and Anacardicia (related to the cashew).
The Tagua nut is also called vegetable ivory. There is a liquid inside the seed pod that, when left to dry for a few months, becomes hard enough to carve into jewelry and small sculptures. It also takes dye quite easily, and is very light weight and sturdy – a good replacement for plastic. I have several necklaces and earrings made from Tagua, and they are practically indestructible.
The Mouriche Palm fruit, Aguaje, is good as a juice, with vitamins A, B & E, but it has an even greater value as an oil, used in soaps, in massage, cosmetics and even as mosquito repellant. A quart of this oil can fetch $200 in the market. It’s also a favorite food for Macaws.
In our afternoon skiff ride on Lake Calvert, we were greeted by some Gray as well as Pink Dolphins. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get any photos, maybe another time. We observed a Green Iguana basking in a tree overhead, then stopped to watch some foraging Spider Monkeys, but we were on the lookout for the smallest monkey in the world – the Pygmy Marmoset. Luckily, we found a few out looking for food. The Pygmy Marmoset’s body is only about 5 inches long, with a tail equally as long. Rather than having fingernails like other monkeys, the marmoset has long claws which allows it to gouge out pits in tree bark and access the sap.
We also saw a small Yellow-crowned Brushtail Rat in a tree hole. It has a head like a guinea pig, really cute, and is mostly nocturnal. We spied a mature male sloth sitting in a tree. It has a distinctive yellow/orange stripe which differentiates it from the female.
No rain this afternoon, but the surrounding thunderheads contributed to a gorgeous sunset. It was another good day in the Amazon.
We have been dining on gourmet meals all week, probably gaining 20 pounds. We have fresh fruits and vegetables every day. We frequently have freshly caught fish. Fresh juices, local cheeses and meats all come from this region. The homemade ice creams are usually sweet and tart, so refreshing. The pastry chef creates bread sculptures each day, iguanas, turtles, caimans and more. The kitchen crew has been very responsive to people’s dietary needs. One couple is vegan, and their dishes were among the prettiest I’ve ever seen – makes me consider switching to vegan myself. Mark and I hate cilantro (tastes and smells like soap or turpentine), so our meals were prepared without cilantro for the most part. To all of you cilantro lovers, it isn’t that we dislike the flavor that you get from the cilantro, it’s that we, along with about 20% of the population, have an enzyme that interprets the flavor in an obnoxious way. We can eat the cardamom berry without detecting a soapy flavor, it’s just the leaves that are an issue.