Monday, September 10, 2007

Jungle Adventures

Felix seems to have left a very damp weather pattern in his wake. We had hard rain almost all day on Wednesday last week, which was a direct result of Felix, and since then it seems that almost every day we’ve had nice mornings, and rain in the afternoons. It hasn’t really mattered, since between showers Tom and Selwyn managed to get the roof on the bathroom addition of the second cabin, so now when it’s not raining they’re working on the deck of the porch, and when it rains they work on the bathrooms under the roofing. We had a rainy Sunday yesterday, and Hector came over wanting to chop with Tom, but since it was raining Tom and Hector worked on the bathroom addition under the roof too.

In between showers, Tom and Selwyn also cleared a lot of the brush between the two cabins. Selwyn had taken out a lot of the scrub a few months ago, but between the weight of the dead vines in the trees he left and the weight of the rest of the leaves from the rain, it was filling in again. Now it’s clearer than it’s been since we’ve been here, and we’re starting to envision a spot for a future pool!

I’ve also been taking advantage of the cooler weather that has come with the rain, and have been riding all three horses. All three horses are getting better. Tony is walking out a little more with slightly less than constant encouragement, Glinda lets me get on almost like a normal horse and is going through just about anything, and Esmerelda is still a ton of fun since both she and I love going forward at top speed! It didn’t rain Friday afternoon, so I took Glinda out for a ride. We were at the top of the hill on the Vista trail, trotting through a fairly flat and sandy spot where the going is good because the trail is an old logging road, when I saw a cat’s head appear about 25 yards in front of me. At first I thought it was a jaguarondi because we’ve seen a few of them around lately. Then I realized it wasn’t as dark as a jaguarondi, and much bigger. Jaguarondis are about the size of large house cats, and between its nose and its tail, this cat stretched across the entire width of the logging road, which is probably about six feet from brush to brush. It was completely in the brush when Glinda and I reached there, and as we went past I caught movement out of the corner of my eye so I turned Glinda back to take a look. The cat was still in the brush, although the undergrowth was thick enough that I couldn’t get a good look at it, and could see only a little movement and color. When the cat realized that we were stopped in the trail and looking at it, it turned and went deeper into the brush.

When we got home, I asked Selwyn what was bigger than a jaguarondi and a dark red color. He asked how big, and I told him how it stretched across the road, and estimated its weight at about the same as Beli and Stout, who are now up to 55 to 60 pounds each. Selwyn got that wide-eyed look again, and told me that I’d just seen a “red tiger,” or puma. He and Tom both yelled at me for going back to take a look, but just like when Esmerelda and I encountered whatever it was that made her run away, I didn’t even think about being in any danger – and I don’t think I was. I didn’t think it was a puma when I saw it, because I thought pumas were bigger, and that they were a sort of a buff color, like a deer. Since this cat was relatively small (puppy size!) and reddish, the thought never crossed my mind. However, after talking to Selwyn I checked our mammal book, and it confirmed that 50 pounds, while small, is in the size range for a puma, and they are occasionally a dark red – hence the local name of red tiger. I actually feel lucky to have spotted one of these rarely seen animals, and I’m glad I was riding Glinda instead of Es, since Glinda didn’t have the sense to turn tail and run!

Tom and I went for a ride to Sapodilla Falls on Saturday. As we got to the top of the hill and crossed the road, we could see dark clouds in the distance. However, we frequently see dark clouds in the distance here, and it frequently doesn’t rain. We weren’t so lucky on Saturday, and we were almost to the falls when the heavens opened. Fortunately we were in the broadleaf forest, and sharp-eyed Tom spotted a bay palm at the perfect height to act as an umbrella for us. Both horses fit under its leaves, and while we got a little damp from the dripping, the palm protected us from the worst of the deluge. It rained hard for about a half hour, and then slowed down enough that it was only dripping in the jungle, so we continued to the falls. By the time we got there the sun was out, so we sat on the warm rocks in the sun, ate our lunch, and dried out a little. We took our bathing suits, but we didn’t swim because we were a little chilled from being wet, because there was a lot of water in the falls and we could see the river current even the normally calm pools, and because if I took my damp jeans off and they didn’t dry all the way, there was no way I was going to re-clothe myself in wet pants and riding home through the jungle in a bathing suit isn’t really practical.

This week Tom and Selwyn are continuing work on the second cabin, and by the end of the week hope to have the porch done except for the screening, the showers framed in the bathrooms, walls on the bathrooms, and a start at digging the soakaway for the gray water from that cabin. That’s a pretty ambitious set of goals for the week, and doesn’t allow for the inevitable surprises and distractions we’re sure to encounter this week – but if at least part of it gets done, we’ll still be moving forward!

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