We get a late start and are ferried across the river to the search site, which is ten times larger than I expected.  It is densely vegetated throughout and involves steep climbing through vines and up and down narrow ravines.  Huge Ciba trees loom overhead.  Our local guides wield our new machetes like pros, widening the trail admirably, but leaving the whole route at about a 5 foot height.  My hat is soon an insect raft and when I take my turn carrying Ash, his hair works like fly paper.  My clothes are drenched with sweat and my pure white, Michael Jackson-esque boots are caked with mud, but up we climb.  Here you try not to use tree branches to help you up the slopes because they are frequently crawling with Bullet ants. These big, black ants wander everywhere with no fear.  They can deliver a bite and a sting so loaded with formic acid that the pain, which lasts for 24 hours, is said to resemble being shot with a bullet.  After a few hours, the team splits into two groups; one heads to the plateau where on Thomas’ satellite maps there is a clearing of sorts, the other to the site where the locals have seen stone foundations.  I go with that group.

a P1130273 carrying ashAfter another hour of hiking, a very promising place is revealed to us.  This area is unusually flat compared to the rest of this undulating jungle and the whole site is about the size of a small baseball field.  It is split into two levels, the rear one about 15 ft higher than the front.  We discover many man-made scraps of metal here, too modern for our objectives, but also we find old cement foundations.  However, my experience with old houses in Seattle suggest these too are no more than a hundred years old at most.  This is one of many times we feel like we are finding old rubber Baron operations left over from around the turn of the 20th century.  It has already been a long day and we are too exhausted to explore this place properly, so we head down to the river to meet the rest of our team and head back to San Marjin.

That evening, by the light of flickering candles and the sounds of the jungle and Aguarunas voices behind our bamboo slat walls, we plot and scheme tomorrow’s objectives.  Mostly because often, in the jungle, people re-build in places built on before, we agree that we will return to the rubber Baron site in the morning and explore it thoroughly.