Wednesday, July 1, 2009

tunki y mariposa huntin'

This past Sunday several members of our UAC-CP gringo community set out for an all-day adventure to "hunt" down some of the natural wonders of our beloved Yungas. In particular, we really wanted to see: butterflies and a tunki (or Cocks-of-the-Rock, as they're called in English).

After catching the first public mini-bus out of Carmen Pampa at 7am, we contracted a ride from Coroico to Chairo. The small village, home to a couple UAC-CP students, is snuggled in a little corner of the Yungas mountains along a river.  Chairo is best known as the end (or stop along the way, depending) of the Choro/Inca Trail.

UAC-CP volunteers Mary Murphy (Smith College) and Lee Lechtenberg (Franciscan Mission Service) listen as our guide shows different types of butterfly species found in Chairo.

For about three years, the community of Chairo has been working to implement an economically sustainable project that, simultaneously, protects and preserves the environment. With help of outside experts and funding, they developed Nayriri -- a butterfly house and orchid sanctuary.  

Led by two 20-something Chairo natives, we first visited the laboratory where they grow and harvest butterflies. We later saw the greenhouse where they plant and cultivate orchids.  Our final stop was inside the net-covered butterfly garden. Unfortunately, we didn't see many butterflies. But we did get a better idea of how the community project functions -- the future goals it has for tourism, land restoration and preservation, and butterfly exportation.

Sign outside the ranger station at Cotapata National Park.

From Chairo, our 6-member contingent backtracked toward Coroico and stopped off at the ranger station for Bolivia's Cotapata National Park.  After a brief peanut butter and bread lunch, we hiked up the river bed in search of the electric-orange-colored tunki.

Butterflies congregate along the riverbed.

While it was gorgeous day to be out and about, the Tunki was nowhere to be seen. The emblematic bird of the Municipality of Coroico escaped us. But our trip wasn't in vain. We saw giant, colorful orchids in bloom and a variety of butterfly and bird species. Trudging in and out of the river, we also saw animal tracks. At one point, I sat and watched a small school of fish zip around a shallow pool of water.

Back at the ranger's station, the national park employee wasn't at all surprised to hear that we didn't see a Tunki.  I need to come back in the madrugada, he said.  Considering transportation and distance, I think the only way to place me there in the early morning is if I return for an overnight camping trip. Which, I'd welcome.  ...Anything to see a tunki!

1 comment:

KC Jensen said...

Well I am jealous Sarah! I loved thw alk up that river bed in search of the Tunki - fortunately we were able to see a few of them as well as a toucan and the white-throated dipper popping in and out of the swift water. I love keeping up with your work there. All my best - KC