The closest Home Depot is 3300 km (~2000 miles) away in Miami. The nearest cement truck is on the other side of the Andes Mountain range. It requires two boats and a three-wheeled, motorcycle-driven cart to move materials from the nearest town. And when you arrive, there is no road to the construction site. There is also no lumber-yard, no back-hoe, no crane, no cell signal and no electrical grid. But there are also no building plans, no permits and no inspections.
These are just some of the challenges (and advantages!) of building a field station in the heart of the rainforest. When a violent windstorm took out some of our buildings at the Santa Cruz Forest Reserve in November 2020, I decided to document the rebuilding process, so as to share how remote field stations are actually constructed. Mind you, the Santa Cruz Forest Reserve is by no means truly "remote", and does not face some of the nearly unimaginable logistic, cultural and political challenges of other field sites (check out Searching for Pekpek, by Andrew Mack, a grad school colleague of mine who worked in Papua New Guinea).
Back to the Amazon however! We needed to build a completely new kitchen and caretaker housing at Santa Cruz. Simply repairing the damage wasn't an option as the photos below illustrate.
Top: left to right: The remains of one set of bathrooms & showers; the kitchen freezer narrowly missed a direct hit, but was still trashed; another view of the bathrooms.
Bottom: left to right: A flattened trail shelter; the water tank at the kitchen (the polypropylene tank amazingly popped back into shape when the tree was removed); the mangled remains of a bunk bed in the caretaker quarters.
I purchased my tickets to Peru, excited about the opportunity to travel again, despite the challenges of flying to Peru during the on-going pandemic. In preparation for my arrival, our manager, Fernando Rios, sent out a small work crew to clear away the building and tree-fall debris and prepare the site for the new construction. Opening up the trail leading from the river to the field site was, of course, the very first step.
I arrived in Iquitos early on 24 November, and within hours, most of the money I had brought was gone. Well, not truly gone, but transmogrified into cement, rebar, roofing, nails, files, chainsaw chains, gasoline, hammers, machetes, food, medication, TP, PVC tubing and a few dozen other miscellaneous and sundry items. The building materials and supplies were loaded on one of our boats in Iquitos that same day, and at 7 AM on 25 November, I and the rest of the work crew were ready to head to Santa Cruz. It was the first time I had seen our multi-talented crew since mid-March and the start of Peru's pandemic shutdown, so there were fist- and elbow-bumps all around. After months of enforced inactivity, the crew were as eager to get underway as I was. Putting some additional money into their pockets before the Christmas holiday season was an added reason for pushing ahead with the reconstruction as soon as possible.
Day 1 (25 November) of construction
With supplies already loaded, all it took was my arrival at the Bellavista port in Iquitos for the team to be underway. I'm usually the last to arrive for such departures. Not because I'm chronically irresponsible, but mostly because I'm frantically trying to finish up as many emails as possible before being out of cell phone range for an extended period of time. Bandwidth is seriously limited in Iquitos, and with many students trying to take their classes on-line, it slows to snails pace by 8 AM, and is invariably very slow late into the night. Generally I'm up at 4 AM to take advantage of a few hours of "reasonable" internet speed. Forget about attaching videos or full size photos though!
The first leg of our journey was a 35 km (~22 mile) boat ride from Iquitos to Indiana. At least we didn't need to go to New York, San Francisco, Canada, France or Ireland, all of which are much further downriver on the Amazon (sometimes you just have to haul out the old atlas to assign names to communities!). Upon arrival in Indiana, all the materials needed to be carried from the port area up to a 3 meter (9') wide road, loaded onto carts and transported some 30 minutes to the town of Mazan.
This is a land where humans battle (and profoundly respect) the implacable whims of the mighty Amazon River. Why hasn't anyone devised a motorized pulley system to haul heavy loads up from the river? The answer is easy - the river could carry it all away overnight. River levels change by up to 15 meters (48') over the course of the year, and the "port area" could be a few steps distant from the road, or several hundred meters (or yards) away. Sand-bars come and go, islands appear and disappear over the course of a year or two, and large sections of riverbank cave in on a regular basis. The Amazon River simply has "a thing" against permanent structures and it goes where ever it wants to go. As such, we're stuck with that most resilient and reliable of technologies - human muscle.
Workers carry sacks of river sand and bags of cement up from the edge of the Amazon river. The sand is for a school construction project in Indiana, the cement is for our field station. Each bag of cement weighs 42.5 kg (93.7 lb). The guy hauling 2 bags of cement is carrying 187.4 pounds. Uphill. In sandals. In 90% humidity and 30C (85+ F) temperatures. The sacks of sand are probably 70-80 kg (154-176 lb). I was sweating just taking the video!
While materials were being loaded onto "trucks", I headed on to Mazan with everyone's personal gear, and to meet up with Emerson Torres, the supervisor of the Santa Cruz Forest Reserve. We made some last minute purchases at small shops in Mazan, and waited for the building materials and rest of the crew to arrive. At our port on the Napo River in Mazan, our boat was already waiting, but it was the tricked-out yacht that pulled in that really caught my eye. The yacht had it all - entertainment system, organic gardening area, laundromat, fuel depot, depth finder, twin propulsion and more.
Top - from left: Our transportation from Indiana to Santa Cruz, the wooden boat at right; An Amazon river (pamacari-style) yacht pulls into port with the crewman at the prow manning the depth-finder.
Bottom - from left: Yes, that really IS a satellite TV dish on the back of the yacht - just above the chicken coop and generator, and behind the herb garden and fuel storage area. Twin peke-peke motors provide reliable but ear-splitting propulsion. Right - another view of the port area with some of our supplies on the dock waiting to be loaded.
Eventually the rest of the crew and the building materials arrived, we loaded up as much material as would fit without sinking the boat, and the first trip was underway. It took two trips to carry everything since 40 bags of cement, 45 sheets of roofing, 30 rebar and a wide assortment of other materials, crew and food weigh a lot! I stayed behind for the first trip to keep an eye on things. The crew returned some two hours later, and after the last items were loaded and we were underway, it was definitely 5 PM somewhere.
Our crew loading cement onto our transport boat in Mazan.
From left: The "truck" with our roofing materials arrives at port; a view of the houses overlooking the port (in all fairness, the closest house is abandoned, the next one over is available for rent - "river view"); we start the second run with construction materials at "5 PM" out to the Santa Cruz Forest Reserve up the Mazan River.
Arriving at the field station port area, it was still a 1.8 km (1.1 mile) hike inland to the construction site. Every bag of cement, every sack of sand, every re-bar, every roofing panel and every nail, bolt, screw and washer made that trip on someone's back or shoulder. Usually not mine, however. After sitting in front of a computer for most of the past eight months, I was surprised at how out of shape I actually was. I elected to stay at our facilities down at the river edge, so I had a couple of extra trips to make each day. If I wanted coffee in the morning, it was a 6 AM hike up to the construction site. At the end of the day it was another hike back to the river, and sometimes a couple of round trips during the day as well. I quickly started to get back in form.
Arriving at the field station, the remains of the old kitchen and bathrooms had been cleared away. Young fellows from the nearby community were already starting to carry bags of cement and re-bar up from the river, and the work crew started to get immediately to work.
Top from left: The cleared kitchen site, ready to start work; the rubble of the old kitchen & caretaker housing - some of this material was repurposed during the rebuilding process.
Bottom from left: Salvaged boards from the old structure. The wood is andiroba (Carapa guianensis), a very durable and insect-resistant wood. A little trimming on the ends and these boards will serve for decades; sacks of sand already on site, hauled up from the river prior to my arrival.
After consulting our SOYP* software, we laid out the orientation and dimensions of the new structure. Our mason (and expert snake finder) Edwin started assembling reinforcing bar supports for the concrete columns of the building, and others began the work of excavating the footers for the columns. Not an easy task when you are working in clay soils that stick to everything and you have to continually scrape the clay off your shovel. The rest of the crew headed out to select and prepare downed trees for lumbering - clearing away the branches and vines, and clearing away storm debris on the trail to the selected trees.
Top from left: Edwin starts assembling the re-bar columns (1 & 2); Antonio, the local caretaker, works on digging a column footing.
Bottom from left: Juan Luis (foreground) and Walker (back) work on additional footings; By the end of the afternoon, nine column footings, each about 80 cm x 80 cm x 80 cm (~30" x 30" x 30"), were excavated.
Day 2 (26 November) of construction
The heavy lifting really started on this day as we settled into a regular routine. Coffee at 6 AM (or earlier), followed by a couple hours of work, then a large Peruvian Amazon breakfast, more work, a large Peruvian lunch in the early afternoon followed by a digestive pause, then more work till about 5 PM. After that, there was time to clean up before the sun went down at about 6 PM. After a bit of reading, I was in bed most nights by 8 PM, but also up at 5 AM when the bird chorus started to overtake the frog chorus.
Birding-from-bed in the Amazon is always an interesting experience - various owls, nightjars, potoos, ibises, falcons and other species chime in, and there are usually some shrieks, squeals and raucous maniacal laughs that can't be precisely identified, but which add to the many Amazonian legends of ghosts and spirits, both human and animal. As the day shift takes over, chachalacas, nunbirds, wrens, orioles, antbirds, parrots and many other bird species start their daily chatter.
But what, you ask, is a Peruvian Amazon breakfast? This is clearly the most important thing to know! For starters, it isn't something that is likely to be on the menu at IHOP or Denny's any time soon. It is almost invariably a soup or stew, and definitely hearty and tasty! For the record, I do NOT post pictures of my meals on Facebook, and rarely take pictures of them to start with. This is a rare exception. The first grouping are all piping hot breakfast dishes, and there was always a selection of spicy Amazon peppers to heat things up even more.
Top from left: Mealtime with the work crew; a beef, noodle, carrot and plantain stew; chicken soup with potatoes, carrots, pasta shells, noodles and cilantro.
Middle from left: Beef soup with potatoes, carrots, noodles and plantain; a variant of beef stew with noodles, potatoes, cilantro and plantain; majas stew (a large rainforest rodent - Cuniculus [Agouti] paca) with noodles, potatoes, ginger, carrots and plantain.
Bottom from left: Mazamorra of shovelnose catfish (Pseudoplatystoma sp.) with fariña (toasted cassava), plantain and cilantro; fish soup (Semaprochilodus taeniatus) with fariña and plantain; Chicken soup with potatoes, carrots, noodles and cilantro.
A couple of lunch meals (invariably with rice!) and a decidedly non-Amazonian breakfast at Le Bateau Doré, a French-Belgian restaurant in Iquitos...
From left: Roasted chicken with spicy Peruvian cream sauce, split peas, rice, egg, and beet and heart-of-palm salad; Catfish with beans, rice and vegetable salsa; the "countryman's breakfast" at Le Bateau Doré.
The serious chainsaw work got underway on this day. We needed a large quantity of timbers of various dimensions for the construction, as well as boards for concrete column forms. Our master carpenters - Emerson Torres and Segundo Rios, pulled out the SOYP* software, ran the calculations, and came up with a list of how many beams of each dimension we would need. The previous day, they had selected a large fallen caimitillo (kai-mee-tee-oh) tree (Pouteria sp., Sapotaceae) as "the tree". It was close to the construction side, and had fallen across a trail, so cutting it up served two useful purposes.
Clockwise from top left: Emerson (orange shirt), Segundo (cap) and Rider (blue shirt) inspect the fallen trunk; the trunk sectioned into 5 meter (~16') lengths; another view of a section of trunk with Segundo and Armando (light blue shirt); rot at the base of the tree, a contributing factor to its fall; white latex, characteristic of plants in the Sapotaceae family, oozing from a cut section of trunk.
The largest section of trunk closest to the base of the tree was a bit of a challenge. Even with a 36" chainsaw blade, we couldn't cut all the way through the log. It required the use of makeshift wedges to spread the the two halves of the trunk apart enough to be able to insert the chainsaw body (as opposed to just the blade) far enough to make the deeper cuts that would split the log in two. This was tough work. In the next video, Segundo starts to cut the first section of trunk in half.
Preparing a tree trunk often takes longer than the eventual cutting of beams and boards. Splitting a log is the first step - you need to have a flat surface on the wood to work from.
After the initial cut with the chainsaw to the depth that the blade would reach, Armando used wedges of wood to start to spread apart the two sides of the partially split trunk.
Then it was more cutting with the chainsaw, and larger wedges to spit the two halves even more.
Rider (with chainsaw) and Armando (sweat flying!) work at getting that first trunk section split.
As the trunk halves were split apart to a greater degree, it became possible to get the body of the chainsaw itself between the two parts, giving the blade sufficient reach to make the final cuts.
Of course, right when I hit "pause" on the video, Rider casually reached over and gave one half of the trunk a shove, and over it toppled. I missed the "dramatic" moment! In reality, the following videos where the other half was tipped over (after some trimming) was much more dramatic.
Segundo trims off an offending bulge on the 2nd half of the trunk.
And, with a little help from his friends, over it goes!
This is very heavy and hard wood that we were working with, and chainsaw teeth get dulled with use and require frequent sharpening. Fortunately we weren't working with bloodwood, which has a very high silica content, and is like using your chainsaw on sandpaper. As is often the case, there is more than one way to clean your teeth. The traditional method using regular chainsaw files as illustrated by Rider;
and the lazy man's way, using an angle grinder with a metal cutting blade (running off of solar power), as demonstrated by Segundo.
The above videos were not intended to serve in product placement, but for what it is worth, Stihl chainsaws are hands-down the best brand available in the Amazon, and the only brand that we use. It's hard to beat German engineering and manufacturing!
Back at the ranch, the rest of the crew were clearly slacking off (NOT!) - the rebar column sections had multiplied considerably (tribbles?), and a horde of Labidus sp. army ants had cleared out the cockroaches and other insects, but in their multi-hour passage, also required that you pay attention to where you stepped as they paraded directly though the middle of the work site. All the remaining construction materials were now on site as well. It was a good day.
Day 3 (27 November) of construction
Another busy busy day that started very early - and always with coffee. Rule #1?
The big event of the day was the arrival of the cement mixer. All that sand and the bags of cement that had been laboriously carried up from the river edge, needed to be mixed. The strength of the cement depends on the ratio of cement to sand (and/or gravel when that is available - it was not available here!). So a ratio of 7 to 10 units of sand to 1 unit of cement, depending on your usage. For load-bearing columns and foundations, you want a higher ratio of cement. For regular flooring, you don't need as much cement.
The cement mixer was a Juan-Luis (green T):Walker (black-T) model and functioned as shown in the videos below. Move that sand and cement back and forth a few times, and it effectively mixes it all together. All you need is a flat piece of ground, shovels, muscles and patience.
In the meantime, the column rebar reinforcements were being put in place, and as soon as each batch of wet concrete was ready, the footings were being "poured". Bits of broken concrete from the smashed bathrooms served as additional fill.
With the main footings poured, the next step was putting in the connecting rebar that would form the foundation to support the (eventual) brick walls.
Wooden forms would be needed to hold in the concrete along the foundations, so Rider sawed up one of the soft-wooded fallen trees next to the kitchen for single-use boards. It was only when I was reviewing video footage for this blog that I realized that he was barefoot. Don't do this at home. Please.
Back in the forest, the other crew were equally busy. Cut construction timbers were piling up, as were boards for concrete forms for the support columns themselves. Emerson and Segundo cut up another soft-wooded tree for the concrete forms, while Rider and Armando worked at the big caimitillo tree.
Emerson (with an assist by Segundo) cuts a board from a trunk (above), and soon the prepared boards pile up (below).
You guessed correctly, of course. All of those boards got carried on someone's back or shoulder to the construction site. Charlie and Lider do the honors below.
And work at the big tree continued apace.
Caimitillo beams piling up. The 3" x 5" beams are 5 meters (~16'+) long and each weighed about 70 kg (~155 lbs). These served as the floor base for the second story of the kitchen.
Day 4 (28 November) of construction
Pretty much more of the same sort of work as the previous day. The really visual advances in the construction would start a bit later. The foundation, however, advanced well, and most of the remaining boards and beams that were needed were cut. I spent the better part of the day working at cleaning some of the trails with Armando - I should have taken pictures of my hands afterward - plenty of cuts and scratches from the numerous thorns, hooks, and razor edges (even with gloves!).
Left and right - advances on the foundations of the new kitchen. Center - the worksite supervisor - Negra - the caretaker's very energetic and sociable dog who was thoroughly spoiled by everyone.
Left: View of the lake at the station (aka "Paiche pond", after the large 1.2. meter (~4') "paiche" (Arapaima gigas) fish that happily gulped down any meat scraps and bones that Negra didn't get.
Center: the caretaker's young daughters play video games on their mom's cell phone. Even in the Amazon, if you're having trouble with technology, just hand it to the youngest person present!
Right: The community cemetery at one corner of the Santa Cruz Forest Reserve. This is the only reliable spot for receiving cell signal, so to speak with the living, you have to visit the dead.
Day 5 (29 November) of (non) construction
A Sunday that starts with a downpour in the middle of the night, and which continues until the early afternoon is not a good day for making much progress on anything. I woke up about 3 AM to the following:
About 7 AM, I made the trek up to the construction site, arriving well soaked. Happily coffee was already on. We called the day a wash, and I returned to the river-edge accommodations, changed into dry clothes, and worked on the computer and read for the remainder of the morning. Once the rain cleared up by mid-afternoon, the crew all headed to the flat field past the cemetery to play soccer with the locals. Even impromptu soccer is taken very seriously with the players all putting money on the match. The winners take all and divide it up between them. It was a good game, and the crew came back happy and with heavier pockets.
Day 6 (30 November) of construction
The work site started to look a lot different on this day. The foundation essentials were completed, and wooden frames for pouring the columns were put in place.
Emerson (green-T), Juan Luis (white-T), Walker (black-T) and Negra (black fur) mix cement and finish pouring and inspecting the foundations
Those freshly sawed boards from a couple of days previous get put to use! The 30 pounds of decking screws that I carried with me to Peru also start to get put to use. It was much easier and faster to assemble (and then disassemble) the concrete forms using screws vs nails.
Emerson and Walker are assisted by Rider (blue-T), Charlie (gray-T) and Antonio (no-T)
In the afternoon I headed back to Iquitos for 1.5 days to attend to administrative details and respond to emails, so I missed Day 7 (1 December) of construction. Much of that day's work was not immediately obvious, however, as concrete was mixed and poured in all of the columns. Other work continued on that day was the clearing of fallen trees from additional trails.
Day 8 (2 December) of construction
With the concrete columns all poured, the next step was working on the 2nd level flooring. Key pieces were bolted together with heavy-duty threaded metal dowels, allowing for future tightening and or replacement of individual timbers, without having to dismantle considerable parts of the structure. Our battery operated hand tools (go Ryobi!) proved to be very useful, and we continually had batteries recharging off of the solar panels.
Left: Under close supervision, Emerson drills a hole for a dowel in one of the building timbers.
Right: Building timbers start to pile up as they are carted out of the forest.
With some jungle scaffolding put to use, timbers are added to the structure and it start to take form.
Back in the forest, cutting of more timbers from the fallen caimitillo tree continues, as Rider works the chainsaw. A string dipped in used motor oil, and snapped on the flat surfaces of the log sections creates lines that serve as cutting guides. It takes practice, experience, and very steady hands to cut these timbers, none of which were put through an edger, planer or any other kind of timber processing machinery. The chainsaw was the only tool used.
Day 9 (3 December) of construction
The second story started to take shape on this day, with vertical timbers extending upward from the top of each column (but firmly bolted into place). As the process of connecting the vertical timbers together continued, the second floor structure became more and more stable.
Juan Luis (green-T) passes timbers up to Antonio (white+red-T) and Walker (black-T).
The first roofing support beams started to be put in place. This was time-consuming work, as beams needed to be pre-drilled for bolting together, and temporary scaffolding had to be erected for access. Meanwhile, preparation of floor boards (from wood salvaged from the destroyed kitchen) began, using our boat-motor-powered table saw that took five guys an hour to bring up from the river-edge facilities. It weighs a LOT.
Segundo (scrubs) and Edwin do some edging on salvaged boards. These will be used for the actual flooring of the second story.
Day 10 (4 December) of construction
Considerable advances to the upper structure continued, as flooring started to be installed and SOYP* engineered roofing beams were built and hoisted into place.
The second story floor starts to take place as floorboards are clamped together and then screwed into place (thanks to all the decking screws in my luggage; they are simply not available in Iquitos!)
Getting the roofing beams into place was definitely a team effort - they were not only bulky and awkward to handle, but also very very heavy!
Day 11 (5 December) of construction
More progress as the flooring rapidly continued, and transverse beams started to tie the roof beams together. Sometimes it was rather scary to watch though, as the crew clambered around high above the ground.
Segundo (cap) and Walker (back-T) and/or Antonio (white-T) make fast progress on the floor.
And the roof structure takes form.
Emerson (orange-T) is the master of ceremonies for the roof installation.
Day 12 (6 December) of construction
Another Sunday, but apparently I either lost the pictures, or didn't take any on this day! So skipping ahead to...
Day 13 (7 December) of construction
The roof advances by leaps and bounds. From the angle of the pictures, it might not look like the roof would give much rain protection if there was any wind, but it does extend a good meter (yard) beyond the flooring on all sides. Gutters to collect rainwater will eventually be installed, with the rainwater diverted directly into the water tank behind the structure.
When we built our first structures, we used palm thatch roofing throughout. At the time it was cheap and romantic, but the romance wears off when you have to replace it completely every 3-5 years, and also work continually to evict bats, rats, opossums, snakes, scorpions, tarantulas, and cockroaches, amongst other interlopers. Tin roofing is also cheap, but rusts fairly quickly (~10 year lifespan), so for any new roof work, we have been using durable plastic roofing that should last for several decades, provides a good, easily cleanable surface for water collection, and doesn't transmit heat (like tin roofing). The plastic roofing is also much easier to work with than tin.
In other work, the wooden concrete forms for the columns came down and the interior (ground-level) floor was prepped, including laying out drainage pipes for eventual sinks and a central floor drain. Stairs up to the second floor were also built.
Day 14 (8 December) of construction
Another productive and momentous day. The upstairs floor received its final detail work, while the ground floor floor was prepped and had concrete "poured". While at first glance, the structure doesn't seem to be that large, the pictures below start to give a better impression of its overall size.
Finalizing the upstairs floor, and the completed staircase (a hand-rail was added later).
The ground inside the foundation was leveled, and low spots filled with waste concrete bits from the old bathrooms. The ground was thoroughly packed down where needed. Antonio (light green-T) spreads concrete "gravel", then he and Emerson (orange-T) place reinforcing bars on the false floor (falso piso) layer of cement (a 10:1 sand to cement mix), on which the final cap of stronger cement would be poured. The site forewoman, Miss Negra, inspects at center.
The final floor is poured, smoothed and polished (with Edwin taking the lead on this). For this stage of construction, the site forewoman was locked up so that she couldn't add her imprint to the final product.
Day 15 (9 December) of construction
This was my last morning on site with the work crew. My flight back to the US was late morning on 10 December, and we had made great progress as far as I was concerned, and I was also very pleased with the quality and durability of what we had. We did a lot of site cleanup, and also installed roofing "gables" on the second floor. Allowing for full airflow through the roof structure is another "innovation" that I'm proud of. The way all roofs in rural areas are currently constructed can be seen in the front view of our dining hall (built back in 2010). The gables are tightly blocked off, which does help to keep some insects and bats out, but it also keeps all the heat in. On a sunny day, being inside feels like being in a sauna or toaster oven. With sufficient overlap of roofing sheets, however, rain can be excluded while allowing for free flow of air. There is no heat build-up, and comfort levels are dramatically different. Mosquito screening across the horizontal roofing beams works perfectly for keeping out insects, without impeding any airflow, and with the screening fully shaded from direct sun contact, it lasts for years (direct UV light degrades it quickly). The last photo shows the contrast between the gables of the old and new structures. The height of the new building will also help immensely with ensuring good airflow and high comfort levels.
With the Peruvian government using the pandemic as an opportunity for remodeling and building new schools throughout the country, and with the pandemic disrupting supply routes, some building supplies (bricks & cement) were in very short supply. To complete the concrete work, we had actually bought the last 40 bags of cement that were available at our regular supplier, and the price at other places was going up daily as stocks plummeted. The brickyards had orders backed up until after the new year as well. We put in an order for brick for mid-January, and will be able to continue with the ground floor walls and interior kitchen structure at that time.
The finished ground-level concrete floor. A happy and satisfied work crew ready to head back to Iquitos. From back left: the work supervisor, Mistress Negra and her enabler (Devon), Antonio, Charlie, Lider, Adolfo (the boat driver who came to take us back), Juan Luis, Emerson; 2nd row from left: Walker, Segundo; and front, Edwin. Missing: Rider & Armando. Great workers every one (with the exception of the pair at extreme left...)
Wrapping up everything, we headed back down the Mazan River to the town of Mazan, back-tracked overland to Indiana, and then headed back to Iquitos on our Mai-Kai speedboat (the only boat in the Amazon named after the famous Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Review in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, which provided funding for its construction).
Left-On the Mazan River, Segundo demonstrates exceptional foot steering abilities (a broken cable meant that a person back at the motor was doing the actual steering!)
Right-As we head back to Iquitos on the Amazon proper, it is once more 5 PM somewhere!
After my return to the US, we sent a smaller crew out for a few extra days to continue work on the structure and also to salvage more of the good wood that came down in the storm. Our manager, Fernando Rios, picked them up to bring them back to Iquitos on 20 December and sent the pictures below. With a little bit of screening, the upstairs "caretaker housing" will be ready for occupancy. The salvaged boards from the old kitchen do look a bit ratty at first glance, but with a bit of time and weathering, they will take on a more uniform appearance. They certainly do the job well, however.
Photos directly above by Fernando Rios
I'll update this when the structure is complete - hopefully I can get back in late January 2021, and we'll take care of the final details.
*SOYP: Seat Of Your Pants