Collecting in Río Tigre / Río Pucacuro 2010
by Tom Christoffersen
In October 2010, I visited the Peruvian Amazon again, exploring
dwarf cichlid habitats and collecting fish ( among other things ).
As last year, Mark Breeze (Microman) was accompanying me.
From the jungle capital Iquitos, we carried out several expeditions to
examine different biotopes, fish and their habitats.
One of these expeditions brought us far up the Río Tigre,
and to it's tributary Río Pucacuro and the Zona Reservada Pucacuro
We heard about some possible Apistogramma (cf.) payaminonis far up in the Río Tigre / Río Pucacuro area.
We showed pictures to the fisherman who said he knew where to find it, and he confirmed that this was the fish he could take us to.
Although we were skeptical to what species to find, it would anyway be an amazing trip to an area where very few collectors ever go.
He also told us that he actually discovered the Apistogramma pantalone, Apistogramma martini, and Nannostomus mortenthaleri, and that he could take us to the actual locations.
In Iquitos, Peru
In October 2010,
I was in Iquitos,
This map shows where it's located,
in the Peruvian Amazon:
The actual area for this expedition:
Click here to see a larger map (SHIFT+click to open in a new window)
We wanted to go from Iquitos (Marked yellow on the map) by a big ferry and upstream the Río Tigre all the way to Intuto (The capital of the area, marked purple on the map). This was supposed to take 3 days...
In Intuto we hoped to find a rentable small boat, and go to the mouth of the Río Pucacuro (marked green on the map). There we were told we might find Apistogramma (cf.) payaminonis.
We found out that the ferry was supposed to leave Iquitos in two days, so we sent the fisherman to buy tickets and to reserve room for our hammocks on the ferry (by actually hanging up our hammocks in the boat). And so he did.
The next day, we were told that the owner of the ferry suddenly had decided not go!
Not later, not the next day, but not at all!
Maybe caused by the extreme low level of water in the big rivers......
(Mike Wise's words crossed our minds: "Every plan in South America is subject to change!")
We then decided to try to rent a fast boat in Nauta, and use this boat for the entire trip.....
We found the owner of a nice boat, the negotiations about the costs where done in a few hours,
and we had a deal, and a new plan.
The boat had a roof, 15 seats, and a lavatory! It had a 200 HP outboard motor, and could reach Intuto in approximately 9 hours, from Nauta. At least 300 gallons of fuel would be necessary for the planned trip!
The revised plan: To go from Iquitos (Marked yellow on the map) to Nauta (Marked red) by a car (the only road in the entire area),
then by the rented boat from there and upstream the Río Tigre all the way to Intuto (Marked purple on the map),
and from there to the mouth of the Río Pucacuro (Marked green on the map).
On our way back, we intended to stop to collect several other interesting fish...
The whole trip was assumed to last 5 days.
Off we went:
We left Iquitos in a taxi on Monday at 15:00, arrived Nauta one hour and a half later,
and booked a room in Nauta Inn, the local hotel:
We went down to the harbour, to inspect "our" boat, and to monitor the filling of 300 gallons of petrol,
to insure none of it "disappeared":
The most luxury way we ever have travelled by boat! This amazing boat just for 5 people: the owner,
a driver, our fisherman, and Mark and I.:
The water level of the Río Marañon was extremely low:
While we went to bed in our hotel, we left our fisherman in the boat for the night (to look after all the fuel):
The next morning at 04:30 am:
At 05:00 am we left Nauta, heading for new, exiting adventures :-)) :
After two and a half hours and 72 km on the Río Marañon from Nauta, we could turn right
and enter the mouth of the Río Tigre :
Very low water:
We had been awake since 03:00 am, and Mark .....
We passed several small villages. Here the people have collected sand on the shores
to make concrete walkways in the muddy roads:
Most of these sandy shores are hidden below water most of the year. This is why we always have to
follow the river's outer curve when travelling by boat on the rivers:
The river was partly very shallow, and care had to be taken :
The eroded clay from the shores could at first look resemble huge stones:
Suddenly: At 09:30 am, after 4 and a half hours drive from Nauta, the engine produced a high, nasty sound,
and then it died!
And every effort to repair it, failed.
We managed to manoeuvre the boat to the shore. The owner jumped ashore, and started to walk
to a small village we had passed a while ago.
He found some fishermen there, and they took our boat in tow to their village. They had no
communications to the outside world there, so we had to go further back, to another village,
where they had radio communication, and we could call somebody for help.
At last another, quite large, local boat passed us downstream. We were towed out to it, tied to it,
and towed down the river like that.
The children on the other boat found "the Gringos" quite interesting:
They left us in a village called Nuevo York, which means New York (!)
The owner of our boat told us he managed to contact some friends in Nauta, and that they would arrive in approximately 5 hours, with a new boat.
So we just had to relax and wait, in the very sunny and warm weather (more than 35 degrees C).
Some local people had captured and tamed this creature ((Cuniculus paca), Spotted Paca,
called "majás" or "picuro" in Peru), and kept it as a pet:
They threw it in the water, and it almost immediately appeared under the pier:
and it hurried up to his house again, to avoid more swimming
The night approached, and no replacement boat to see....
We stayed in the boat all night, disappointed, bored, warm, and hungry.
Early next morning:
Lots of local people were already out to collect sand to make concrete:
At last, after waiting almost for 24 hours, our replacement-boat arrived:
Mark had been ready to leave for several hours, but first all the petrol had to be moved from one boat to another; this was done by a manual pump.
At last, Wednesday at 09:45 am, we again were heading for Intuto:
During the night, we had been visited by some inhabitants of the area
(We didn't know then, that we should meet a lot more of these later on):
We made a longed for stop in the small village of Libertad:
Amazingly, they could serve us cold drinks ("Bimbo"):
A dugout canoe under construction:
We soon after had to leave (to reach Intuto before the dark):
One of the very few local boats we met:
At 15:15 we passed the mouth of the Río Corrientes:
which is the home of
"Otocinclus orange" = Nannoptopoma sp. "Striped" / "Peru":
and the Otocinclus cocama:
After 388 kilometres on the rivers, we reached Intuto at 17:30,
in heavy rain, less than half an hour before dark:
We went to the only "hotel" in the town, and I got a very nice room:
Looks nice, but neither the shower or the toilette had ever been
connected to water:
Nest morning: Activities of daily life in Intuto:
The school area:
Waiting for the fisherman:
Back home, we keep this as a house plant.
English name: Angels' wings Latin name: Caladium bicolor:
We had to go to the official office taking care of the reserve, Zona Reservada Pucacuro,
to get permission to enter the protected area:
They have an informative map of the area on the wall:
and we had to identify ourselves and register in the local police station:
The one in the middle was not very tall, but he really was the boss :-) :
Our fisherman, William, bought some food:
The paperwork had taken several hours, but at last, Thursday at 11:40 am,
we left Intuto, heading upstream the Río Tigre:
At 14:00 we reached the mouth of the Río Pucacuro:
The guards where building a guard station:
The mouth of Río Pucacuro entering the Río Tigre:
After having registered and identified us for the official guard, carried our luggage ashore,
and stretched the legs a little bit, we left to see if we could find any interesting fish.
Since it was forbidden to travel inside the protected area with a boat-engine as powerful as ours,
we had to bring with us a dugout canoe to use further upstream:
After a while up the river, we moored the boat, and went into the jungle:
After half an hour, in heavy rain, we came to a small stream:
And we found an Apistogramma! Seemed quite similar to Apistogramma sp. "Masken":
After a more than one and a half hours "walk" (we almost had to run, to keep up with our guides!) into the jungle:
And we found a fish species I've been dreaming of collecting for several years:
pH: 5,78 Conductivity: 11 MicroSiemens/cm Temperature: 26,8 °C
All the presumed dwarf cichlids there were hiding or had moved on, because of the heavy rain,
which also caused a very muddy water:
Since our fisherman told us there used to be Apistogramma (cf.) payaminonis in these small streams,
we decided to try again the next day.
After all those hours of walking, climbing, sliding and struggling in the jungle,
we were quite exhausted.
Back at the guards' house, we installed ourselves:
The next morning, we could clearly see the color difference of the two meeting rivers:
We sent our fisherman back to the streams to see if the conditions were better,
so they could find what we were looking for.
After a few pictures from around the station:
Mark and I let two of the guards lead us to an other stream, less than an hour of walking from the station:
High up in the trees some creatures were not happy about our disturbance:
Red Howler Monkeys (Alouatta seniculus):
They were trying to scare us away, by throwing branches and cones on us!
There were a couple of streams like this:
After a couple of hours of working with our nets, we had quite a lot of beautiful
Apistogramma (cf.) bitaeniata:
And some very nice Sailfin Tetra (Crenuchus spilurus):
pH: 5,42 Conductivity: 44 MicroSiemens/cm Temperature: 26,2 °C
We also found a few other fish:
Mark's legs didn't look good at all:
During the last days and nights, some mosquitoes, or tiny sand flies, had attacked us.
They were so small they could pass THROUGH our mosquito-nets!
Loads of the strongest repellents we had didn't affect them at all, so we were defenceless!
We went back to the station:
Don't lean on this tree!!! :
The others came back, but the water had been quite muddy today too, combined with more rain,
and they only found more of the same fishes we had collected yesterday:
and Apistogramma cf. sp. "Masken":
I won't tell you what the locals called this plant :-) :
A good night sleep should do well:
The next day my legs looked like this: swollen and full of mosquito/fly bites:
Our arms, neck, ears, etc. were in the same condition.
Do you think it itched? YES!
We decided to send the fisherman back to the first stream one last time, to try to find the fish we wanted
(although we were quite skeptical to what species it might be). We sent him away at 07:15 am.
In the meantime, we had a look at the fauna and flora around the station:
An unknown species of Toucans:
A Tananger species?:
A spinetail or softtail species?:
A Tyrant (?):
Baeotus beotus, and some amazing bees:
Lasaia agesilas callaina ?:
Aphrissa statira? and more:
At 14:15 the fisherman came back from the stream. He was very happy,
as he at last had found the fish we had been looking for!:
Then I remembered that I, a couple of years ago, actually had experienced that some fishermen
had pointed out a picture of Apistogramma sp. "Zwilling" as Apistogramma payaminonis!
This was obviously A. sp. "Zwilling".
A very nice fish, and to see their natural habitats was anyway very exiting, so we were not disappointed at all.
On the top: A Nannostomus eques I collected from the pier where our boat was moored:
Then we left, heading downstream the Río Tigre, towards Intuto.
After around an hour, we entered a small tributary to the Río Tigre:
at a small creek:
Not much water now at the end of the dry season:
A wonderful habitat:
And we found fish!:
Beautiful Apistogramma (cf.) bitaeniata (Río Tigre)
This is one of them photographed in a tank after coming home to Norway:
We arrived Intuto, and met A LOT of trouble with the police and the officials protecting the Pucacuro-reserve,
because we had brought live fish out of the Reserve.
To be sure we did not do anything wrong, we had told both the police and the environmental authorities what we were looking for, and we even showed them pictures of the fish we were specifically looking for, when we registered before entering the protected area. When they had ascertained that this was not commercial, and that we only wanted to document habitats, measure water values like the pH and the tempeature, take pictures, and collect a few small fishes, we got the permissions we needed, and we were also provided with some special papers to show to the guards at the mouth of the Rio Pucacuro.
These guards even helped us to find and to collect the fish!
Why things were problematic when we came back, I never really understood.......
After some hours, we managed to solve the problems,
and we went to bed in the same "hotel" and beds as we had earlier.
The next morning; breakfast:
The landlady in her kitchen:
She always has fresh meat available in the kitchen:
After having filled another 40 Gallons of fuel, we left Intuto,
continuing downstream the Río Tigre:
We passed some local fishermen on the river; they had lots of fish,
and our travelling companions said it was a superb fish to eat,
so they bought lots of them:
After a while, we moored the boat at the shore, and went into the jungle.
Lots of the well known houseplant "Prayer Plant" (Maranta leuconeura) on the ground:
The jungle is completely flat here
(we were very happy to avoid the usual climbing):
A beautiful, small quebrada:
Any fish in there?
and among others; Apistogramma pantalone / Apistogramma martini:
Conductivity: My meter read 122 MicroSiemes/cm, but I doubt this is correct
Temperature: 25,3 °C
We had a marvellous time, exploring this little stream:
Surprisingly, we found lots of fry of Nannostomus mortenthaleri:
A very young pencilfish in the net:
And we found some of these.
Their fry probably serve as a good food source for the other fish in
this nutrient-poor very acid black water:
The stream also housed very young dwarf cichlids:
This is where all the fish were photographed:
We really wanted to stay in this paradise for a long time, but in order to reach Nauta before dark,
we just had to leave:
Then: Full speed back to Nauta, and then to Iquitos by taxi.
We left on a Monday, and we arrived Iquitos late night the Sunday after.
A wonderful 6 days adventure !
Thanks to William and Francisco who arranged everything!