And thus it beginns...
[09.05.07]

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Wednesday was a great day for Humanity!

Well, at leastfor that part of humanty that travelled to Kourou specifically to watch otherwise  harmless leaves rot in a stream...

Umm, a small part of Humanity, but still a GREAT DAY!!!

For it was today that we brought the samples we prepared during the past few weeks to our field site and thus start our experiment for real.From now on decomposition happens! Yeah!

I have no crawlers and critters for you today, because we had no time to look for animals during our intense field work. So instead I tell you a little traffic related story:

Todays adventure started not in the forest, but already a few kilometers out of Kourou: After a short drive over lonesome, tree-bordered roads I noticed that our fuel gauge was very close to "E", which as we all know means "empty" and not "enough". Gas stations arenot a common feature in tropical rainforests, and we had to decide whether to turn back to refuel, or take the rsik and go on to our field site, hoping the tank would not suddenly fill completely with air before we get back home. As an experienced vHornet-pilot - a human subspecies with an almost religious respect for fuel gauges - I wanted to head to the closest gas station (in Kourou), but I lost in the ballot. Democracy sucks, sometimes, and we continued our drive into the forest.

500 meters from our field site (not possible to get closer with the car) we got equipped for work: rubber boots on, Swiss Army Knife and compass fitted, drinking water checked, and packed with 36 0.5m long iron rebars, big hammer, three 30m- and two 20-m iron chains, machete, temperature datalogger, non-functional (!) multimeter and other vital equipment... Ready? GO!


Quickly we got swallowed again by the Big Green and hacked ourselves through the jungle, jingling with chains and sweating like Pekari's,
stalked by hungry mosquitoes, nasty vipers, jaguars and, ahaha, a rather livid imagination...                                                                 

 
By the river we placed one chain each 50m on the ground and distributed our samples in random order along each chain, always with a    
distance of about 40cm between two bags (l.). The bags were then attached to the chains using cable binders - probably one of the        

coolest inventions since we fell out of the trees!                                                                                                                                  


See how fast we work? Andy actually blurs even in Matrix-Style…


The completed chains were then elegantly slung       
over one arm (quite heavy...) and carried into the  
stream channel, where they were placed in the       
water and fixated with the iron bars hammered     
into the substarte.                                                

By the way, water cooled boots are wonderful in the hot forest - except if you step into the same 40cm mudhole for five times in a row. Terrible thing, that lack of short time memory. Also always good for a chuckle (by the colleagues of course) is to hide most of the environment with the brim of one's hat so much that one doesn't see the trees anymore and then stands up under a thick hard branch... *PLONK!"


In the end a whole block of 50 samples winds through the stream liek toad eggs (l.). Also terestrial ecologists are impressed by the          
efficient and elegant chain method of the aquatic people.                                                                                                                     


Now all samples are sunk in the five blocks along a 300m stretch of   
our stream and we're ready to head home. Sweaty, smelly, scratched
and of course wet - but also happy! And leaves in front of the visage
simply is a necessary part of jungle life, Andy means...                    

 
Ah, (almost) untouched forest! Maaaaarvelous!!!


Anyone knows Pratchett's "Bromelian Trilogy"? Well, here the real     
bromelia, although without frogs. Mip mip...                                   

 
And juicy green wherever you look! No, the leaf on the right pic has not been hot-glued onto that tree  
by some confused biologists, but by ants: the little insects worked hard to get a leaf up the tree and    
now buld their nest under its protection.                                                                                            

We worked our way out of the forest and got shreddered a bit by the local flora. They have for example a real killer grass here: looks quite harmles on the first step, attaches gently to your skin on the secons step, and rips a deep wound into you with its saw like edges on your third step...). Luckily this grass only occurs on the borders of the forest, next to roads and suchlike, as there's enough light available in such areas...
Another interesting aspect of travelling through the jungle is navigation and communication: sound is swallowed up very quickly in the dense vegetation and you can barely hear someone talking who stands only 20m away! And distances are difficult to guess and even harder to cross, as a lot of organic material lies cluttered everywhere, and only with some practice (and a compass) you're able to see whether ypu've been here bofore or which direction that damn road lies! Well, this might sound scary to some, but it's actually quite exhilarating to stand really in the middle of nature for a change. Too many people spend too much of their life walking on asphalt...

 
Fatigued Ecologists...                                                                    

Finally we break out of the underbrush and drive to a carbet to eat lunch. This time it's bread, salami and cheese which - surprisingly enough - had melted into a Fondue-like quality (Note to self: dont leave chees in car in tropical sunshine). The citrus fruit visible on the table is a neat thing: the Chadeque can be handled absolutels juice- and mess-free, but contains heaps of tasty, refreshing fruit and juice. This kind of grapefruit has a 3cm thick spongy skin which can be even used as a napkin and to clean army kives. And it's 100% biodegradable too!

And contrary to my pessimistic beliefs the almost empty tank of our car remained that: almost empty! Didn't even fall into reserve until we got back to Kourou! Well, on the way back we not only watched the gas gauge, but planed the evening. Unanimously we decided to conduct some severe PTP.
PTP now doesn't stand for post-transcendal-psychosis, but means Pool & Ti'Punch! I'd have loved to attach also a "-M" to the abreviation, as after all the carrying of heavy chains and stuff a massage would have come in handy, but as we lacked someone who would be willing thred the knobbly backs of us ecologists, we had to drop that. 


According to someone who doesn't want to be named, I'm not allowed to publish photos like that as we're not on holiday. But see if I care!
 

 
And here now, as according to phrophecy, the        
ingredients and effects of PTP:                             
- Ti'Punch                                                     
- Ingredients thereof                                    
- Tired PhD student relaxing after work         

For dinner I prepares something completely atypical for tropic Guiana: Nidwaudner Äuplermaggronä, a typical mountain farmer's dish from my region in Switzerland, consisting of pasta, onions, cheese and cream. Just perfect to refill the batteries after a day of hard work! Just the cider normaly served with it was missing...

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