The Fading Amazon
       
     
Slash and Burn
       
     
Scouting the Road
       
     
Into the Forest
       
     
Pruning the trail
       
     
The Sacred Waters
       
     
Macgyver Moment
       
     
Poza del Shapishicu
       
     
Bubbles
       
     
Mayantuyacu
       
     
Error...
       
     
48.8º C (119.84º F)
       
     
La Bomba
       
     
The Sumiruna pool
       
     
98º in the shade , 100% humidity, 192.92º Water
       
     
Boiling River
       
     
A long day at the office
       
     
Fingerprinting Water
       
     
Leaf Mimicking Toad
       
     
Teaching the ways of the plants
       
     
Tambo by the River
       
     
Racing the night
       
     
Roberto, the Shaman's Helper
       
     
Steamy Night
       
     
Passed out
       
     
Mystery of the Caiman
       
     
Catching Up
       
     
Cleansing with Mapacho
       
     
Chiri sanango
       
     
Preparation for Ceremony
       
     
Tonkiri
       
     
Sampling 206º F Water isn't easy
       
     
Aguas Sagradas
       
     
Rapids at the Sulphur Plaza
       
     
Rapids at the Sulphur Plaza
       
     
Meteoric Waters
       
     
A local showing his Chacruna harvest
       
     
Amidst the Chacruna
       
     
Meeting the locals
       
     
Water Sampling
       
     
End of the day
       
     
The Fading Amazon
       
     
The Fading Amazon

Heading out of Pucallpa, a scent of smoke was in the air. After an hour driving through a growing urban sprawl, we started to enter jungle. No sooner had we made it onto the dirt roads (typical throughout the Amazon) then smoke became clear in the distance. As we approached the Agua Caliente Dome, which surrounds the Boiling River, we came across a stark and darkened landscape. Here, clear burning is being practiced to open up the forest for development and livestock. 

Slash and Burn
       
     
Slash and Burn

Heading deeper into the Agua Caliente Dome (which surrounds the Boiling River) the fires continued, with smoke rising from all directions. Here, clear burning is being practiced to open up the forest for development and livestock. This slash and burn push into the Agua Caliente Dome is unprecedented, it presents a very real threat to the future of the unique Boiling River ecosystem. 

Scouting the Road
       
     
Scouting the Road

Two local brothers, Mauro and Felipe, along with Andrés stand lookout from the back of a Toyota truck bed. The road to the Boiling River are hazardous at best, more than once the truck slipped off the road. 

 

 

Into the Forest
       
     
Into the Forest

For decades, the easiest point of access to the Boiling River has been an old and abandoned oil road from the 1930's.  

Pruning the trail
       
     
Pruning the trail

Trails are only momentary in the jungle, as the forest regrows quickly. Machetes are mandatory hiking tools, and often still leave a lot to be desired.  

The Sacred Waters
       
     
The Sacred Waters

The Aguas Sagradas (Sacred Waters) stretch along almost 100 meters of the Boiling River. Churning, violent, boiling, and steaming, the scene looks other worldy. Over eons, the Boiling River cut deeper into the Agua Caliente bedrock, eventually following a remarkable fault that feeds geothermal water directly to the river. At this location, we measured the water at 96.8º C (206.24º F), though it was likely hotter deeper into the river-the location was to dangerous to reach. 

Macgyver Moment
       
     
Macgyver Moment

Ingenuity is a requisite for science in the Amazon. Here, Andrés improvises a guy line from duct tape and fishing line to lower a high resolution temperature probe off a cliff into  pool below. 

Poza del Shapishicu
       
     
Poza del Shapishicu

Andrés steadies a newly crafted crane as he lowers a high resolution temperature probe into the  Poza del Shapishicu below. The pool is named after a mythical Ashanínka spirit associated with the jungle itself. The spirit reportedly comes in the form of one's close relative, it then guides the unsuspecting deep into the jungle until they are so hopelessly lost that there is no chance of return to the world of humans. Eventually, they then become jungle spirits themselves. Thankfully, nothing like that happened while we were there. 

 

Bubbles
       
     
Bubbles

The Boiling River is full of bubbles. Underwater inspection through cameras has revealed these vent directly from fractures in the bedrock. With this curious origin, the question remains as to whether these bubbles are from water reaching boiling point, or from another source. At present, the exact gas composition of these mysterious bubbles remains unknown.

Mayantuyacu
       
     
Mayantuyacu

The Asháninka community of Mayantuyacu is set along the most compelling section of the Boiling River, known as the Mayantuyacu rapids. Oral traditions recound Mayantuyacu as where the most powerful Asháninka and Shipibo shamans would come to commune with nature and gain power through the Boiling River, the plants around it, and jaguars that live along the upper reaches of the river. 

 

 

Error...
       
     
Error...

With a variety of coffee cups at hand, Andrés works diligently to calibrate an instrument he's lugged over 3,000 miles to the Boiling River. Though not quite a lab, the Mayantuyacu kitchen tombo is as good a spot to calibrate gear as exists at the Boiling River. Unfortunately, the device seriously malfunctioned rendering it unusable for the trip. This left us without a temperature corrected pH for the river and its springs.

48.8º C (119.84º F)
       
     
48.8º C (119.84º F)

Every year since his first visit, Andrés has taken water samples of Mayantuyacu creek. It is a hot creek which divides the Mayantuyacu community, but serves as the focal point for bathing and washing clothes. The creek itself follows a fault line, with continually hotter vents feeding into it until it reaches the Boiling River. Here, Andrés takes temperate measurement of the creek for his water samples

 

La Bomba
       
     
La Bomba

In the midst of the Aguas Sagradas, La Bomba is the most volatile and active geothermal vent feeding into the river.  

The Sumiruna pool
       
     
The Sumiruna pool

Andrés eyes possible locations to measure depth and temperature at the Sumiruna pool. Throughout the Amazon, the Sumiruna means slightly different things. In some regions, a Sumiruna is a shaman who has gained the power to go to the underwater realms, in other regions, like along the Boiling River, the Sumiruna is a mythical water spirit that can control the waters and give medicine songs to those who seek him. This pool is tied to that spirit, and to the power a shaman can gain in the underwater realms. 

98º in the shade , 100% humidity, 192.92º Water
       
     
98º in the shade , 100% humidity, 192.92º Water

With probe in hand and sweat pouring down, Roberto heads to help log another temperature measurement at the Aguas Sagrados. The instrument held in his hands is a high-precision temperature probe that sends feedback through wire line to an instrument Andrés works. The line itself is composed of silver cords inside of a stainless steel mesh, which allows real time temperature readings, when it works. Like many of our instruments, this malfunctioned for the first time the moment it was needed at the Boiling River. Miraculously, Andrés was able to fix it. 

 

Boiling River
       
     
Boiling River

The Boiling River is full of bubbles. Underwater inspection through cameras has revealed these vent directly from fractures in the bedrock. With this curious origin, the question remains as to whether these bubbles are from water reaching boiling point, or from another source. At present, the exact gas composition of these mysterious bubbles remains unknown.

A long day at the office
       
     
A long day at the office

Andrés and Roberto head back to basecamp after many hours and miles of fieldwork along the Boiling River. Steam rises from the river beside them. 

Fingerprinting Water
       
     
Fingerprinting Water

One of the key components of the 2015 field season was  taking water samples for elemental finger printing. This was the farthest up river samples were taken, some distance from the geothermal activity that gives the Boiling River its name. Here, the river is a calm and cool trickle. By comparing this water to water further down stream, Andrés is able to characterize their qualities and understand the origins of different the different waters that feed the river.

Leaf Mimicking Toad
       
     
Leaf Mimicking Toad

Leaf mimicking toads are common in the upper reaches of the Boiling River. Though certainly a member of the genus Bufo, the exact species remains unknown as little work with these toads has been done in this region. The possibility exists that this may be a new species. 

Teaching the ways of the plants
       
     
Teaching the ways of the plants

In the past decade, Mayantucaya has become a unique meeting ground for traditional Peruvian Amazonian healers and foreigners. Here, graduate student Jordan Grader learns how to mix and make plant medicines from one of the visiting curanderos. 

 

Tambo by the River
       
     
Tambo by the River

A traditional Ashanínka tambo appears momentarily from the steam along the Boiling River. 

Racing the night
       
     
Racing the night

 Carrying an assortment of scientific instruments, Andrés reaches a liana to sure his footing. Darkness has come quickly, signaling a hasty end to field work as the journey to camp begins. Scaling the steep walls of this section of the Boiling River can be monumental task, with mud, poisonous ants, steep terrain, and disorienting jungle, it's not hard to get lost. 

Roberto, the Shaman's Helper
       
     
Roberto, the Shaman's Helper

Roberto came from Mexico City to learn the ways of the plants at Mayantuyacu. His first experiences here left such an indelible and moving mark on him that he has decided to dedicate 1/4 of each year for the next 4 years to learning traditional medicine and healing techniques at Mayantuyacu. We met him on our first day along the Boiling River, he was very enthusiastic and resourceful and quickly became our field assistant for the remaining three days before he returnedto Mexico. 

Steamy Night
       
     
Steamy Night

Andrés explores the rising steam from the Mayantuyacu rapids. Each night, as the cold air from the Andes floods the Amazon, the Boiling River's surface is lost in steam, with columns rising in excess of 100 feet. 

Passed out
       
     
Passed out

After a long day in the field, sometimes the best place to rest is beside the river. The very bedrock the river flows through is heated by the river, creating a therapeutic relief for the day's aches and pains. 

Mystery of the Caiman
       
     
Mystery of the Caiman

The upper reaches of the Boiling River are home to Schneider's dwarf caiman (Paleosuchus trigonatus), a relative of crocodiles and alligators. But with over 6 km of boiling water, dense forest, and steep hills and ravines between them and the closest known population of caiman, it remains a mystery as to how they ever arrived at the headwaters of the Boiling River. 

Catching Up
       
     
Catching Up

Maestro Don Flores-the head of the Mayantuyaco community-relaxes in his hammock as fellow Mayantuyaco community members, along with guests, listen to Andrés's most recent findings. This meeting lasted for hours, without many questions and attentive ears. 

Cleansing with Mapacho
       
     
Cleansing with Mapacho

Mapacho (Nicotiana rusticais an exceptionally strong form of tobacco native to South America. High in nicotine, the plant has been valued by indigenous healers for centuries. The mapacho Maestro Juan Flores smokes was grown by his brother, not far from the Boiling River. 

Chiri sanango
       
     
Chiri sanango

Already late into the night, Felipe hands Maestro Juan Flores a glass Chiri sanango (Brunfelsia grandiflora). Served in a serpentine chalice, beverage tastes of watered earth. The plant is considered one of the more powerful Amazonian plants by Shamans. It is also used to heal numerous diseases and ailments, as well as revive and strengthen the life force.

Preparation for Ceremony
       
     
Preparation for Ceremony

Maestro Juan Flores reaches for rosaries from his personal shrine. Though an Ashanínka curandero (sometimes referred to as a shaman) he practices a mixture of Catholicism and Ashanínka beliefs that have developed in the wake of European colonialism and more recent missionary work in the Amazon.

Tonkiri
       
     
Tonkiri

Maestro Juan Flores fastens his bracelets as he prepares to visit the Mayantuyacu rapids. He wears traditional Ashanínka robes which he says give him power and place. That morning we had seen a hummingbird, a tonkiri in Ashanínka. Maestro Juan's Ashanínka name is tonkiri, so the presence of the bird was taken as a good omen. 

Sampling 206º F Water isn't easy
       
     
Sampling 206º F Water isn't easy

All waters can be classified into certain groups depending on the source of the water, meteoric waters (i.e. water that falls to earth) have specific oxygen and hydrogen isotopes that are as unique as fingerprints. Likewise, water that comes through the earth (like a hot spring) has undergone many interactions that also give it unique isotope markers. By comparing water from throughout the Boiling River to rain water collected at the Boiling River, Andrés is able to understand the larger systems and cycles that cumulatively form the Boiling River.  

Aguas Sagradas
       
     
Aguas Sagradas

The Aguas Sagradas (Sacred Waters) stretch along almost 100 meters of the Boiling River. Churning, violent, boiling, and steaming, the scene looks other worldy. Over eons, the Boiling River cut deeper into the Agua Caliente bedrock, eventually following a remarkable fault that feeds geothermal water directly to the river. At this location, we measured the water at 96.8º C (206.24º F), though it was likely hotter deeper into the river-the location was to dangerous to reach. 

Rapids at the Sulphur Plaza
       
     
Rapids at the Sulphur Plaza

Amidst rapids over carbonate rocks, Andrés takes temperature readings. The carbonate rocks he stands on are the remnants of ancient hot springs which have now become part of the river system. 

Rapids at the Sulphur Plaza
       
     
Rapids at the Sulphur Plaza

Amidst rapids over carbonate rocks, Andrés takes temperature readings. The carbonate rocks he stands on are the remnants of ancient hot springs which have now become part of the river system. 

Meteoric Waters
       
     
Meteoric Waters

Rain feeds the rivers of the Amazon, the Boiling River is no exception.  But rain water has a unique chemical signature that allows it to be traced. As it feeds into the Boiling River, it can be studied and identified, to better understand the hydrologic nature of the river. 

A local showing his Chacruna harvest
       
     
A local showing his Chacruna harvest

A community elder of Santuario Huishtín holds up a handful of his Chacruna harvest. Chacruna (Psychotria viridis) is one of the key ingredients of Ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic beverage widely used in Amazonia. 

Amidst the Chacruna
       
     
Amidst the Chacruna

A community elder of Santuario Huishtín sits amidst his Chacruna harvest. Chacruna (Psychotria viridis) is one of the key ingredients of Ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic beverage widely used in Amazonia. 

Meeting the locals
       
     
Meeting the locals

Santuario Huishtín is the second Ashanínka community along the Boiling River. It is located a few kilometers downstream from Mayantuyacu and is about half the size. Here, Andrés shows a respected elder a thermal camera. 

Water Sampling
       
     
Water Sampling

Andrés samples the drinking water in the community of El Santuario Huishtín for elemental finger printing and microbial life. 

End of the day
       
     
End of the day