Well, trapping in Fray Jorge went a little slower than expected, but we ended up coming back on Sunday after catching about 20 animals. Overall it was a great trip. We stayed in a cabin in the park, situated about 10 minutes past the park gate and an hour from the highway. The cabin is owned by Peter Meserve, a distinguished ecology scientist who’s had a program in the area for awhile now. We were lucky enough to see the part of the park cordoned off for his enclosures, a privilege granted only to research collaborators. The environment was somewhat reminiscent of the American southwest, with tons of cactus and denser low-lying shrubbery. The daily temperature swings were even more severe than in Santiago, getting as low as the high 20s at night and as high as 70 during the day. Nothing compared to the current heat wave in the US, but the heat of the sun felt considerable in comparison to the usual July regiment.
Also while at the park, we got to visit the cloud forest Fray Jorge is most well-known for, and a major contributor to the park achieving its UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve status. The tops of the hills to the west—along the coast—are almost always
blanketed with a layer of clouds, creating a habitat similar to that found more commonly in the south of Chile. Juan, the caretaker of the cabin and research enclosures, guided us on a private trail up to the forest to avoid the road (not that there is much traffic). The path that actually took us through the forest wasn’t extensive, but we were also treated with great views of the rocky, cliff-guarded coastline several hundred meters below. And, as I realized when were started to walk back to the cabin, at times we could see both the ocean and the Andes: across the entire country.
On another subject, before leaving for Fray Jorge it rained for a couple days, and we got a chance to visit Pablo Neruda’s house. Neruda (1904-1973), a poet, author, and diplomat, continues to be one of Chile’s most well-known cultural icons. He was a self-proclaimed communist during the advent of Augusto Pinochet’s militaristic dictatorship in the early 1970s, and notably his funeral was considered the first formal protest
against Pinochet. His Santiago abode is one of three, the other two being in Valparaiso and Isla Negra. He loved the sea, and built his house accordingly; for example, lots of the windows looked like portholes, and most of the rooms/furniture are built on a slant to mimic the rocking of a ship. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to use cameras indoors, but I took some pictures of the enclosed gardens.
Since returning to the city, things seem to have gotten a bit quieter. Some of that can be attributed to the termination of the Americas Cup, which finished for Chile mid-July with a 2-1 loss to Venezuela. Uruguay went on to win the Cup, defeating Paraguay3-0. I’m still amazed at the country’s universal interest in soccer. It seems like the game is something everyone has in common. Back in June and early July when Chile was still competing, we would be watching the games; as soon as Chile scored a goal, the veritable volcano of anticipation that was the city erupted with very vocal enthusiasm. Cars going down the street would start honking, and everybody in the nearby condos seemed to be yelling out their windows. After Chile won one of their games, some of us went out to dinner and the owner of the restaurant would chain the door shut after letting people in. It was quite an experience.
So now, we’ve had a couple of days to rest and compose our projects before heading back to Rinconada tomorrow. We’re finished taking blood samples for the time being, and now switch our focus to radiotelemetry. I leave to go back home on the 12th, so I’ll cover that as part of my last entry in Chile. For now, enjoy the new pictures I posted: an album for Fray Jorge, and a few I added to my first album.