Sensory Overload

By Samantha Wilson, Executive Project Manager; Jason Swartz, Director of Photography & Formatting; Sylvan Greyson, Director of Writing & Editing; and Atticus Rice, Director of Editing & Style.

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It begins to rain shortly after you start out on the trail, unsurprising given the heavy clouds that have been creeping up over the canopy this afternoon. Everything around you is saturated with water already, the rainy season in Madre de Dios, Peru often bringing over 400mm of rain per month. Having only just arrived in the rainforest, it still takes you a couple minutes to orient yourself in the immensity of these surroundings. It is an environment that forces its presence to be known and felt, no avoiding the deluge of sensations you encounter with each step into the forest.

BUTTRESS ROOTS & MUDDY BOOTS: Take an ecological and cultural trek through the rainforests of the Rio Piedras watershed in Madre de Dios, Peru.

Eyes are greeted with a textural tapestry as you try to peer further than the forest’s edge. It feels as if you must walk with eyes forced wide in order to drink up the layers of vine against leaf against spiny bark. But it is not the eye-opening feeling of a city’s neon colours and cloud-topped towers. Instead, it is a glowing green landscape, growth spreading from every cranny and sunny spot, pushing your eyelids open in order to more fully understand it all.

But the sensations of standing as a small human in this forest are incomplete without the sound of rain as it topples from the sky, first onto the leaves and branches above you and then down further still to splat onto your head and shoulders. Through the wild crackling of rain, you hear a distant throaty clamour: howler monkeys hooting out their warning chorus. And beneath it all, you realize, is the whine of a mosquito, undeterred by the rain.

 

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Returning from your ear drums to the feeling of your body as a new sprout among the old-growth and the buttress roots, you notice that while standing in one spot, your feet have sunk down, and your rubber boots are now surrounded by a cool gritty cushion of mud. You try to take a step forward and nearly fall out of your boot, slurpingmud behind you as you move towards drier ground. But nothing is truly dry, you have to remind yourself, as you notice how your rain jacket adheres to your skin, sweat on one side and rain on the other.

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You’re brought back to your muddy boots as you take a deep breath through your nose and get a sudden whiff of some tangy putrid Amazon mud. Another breath in reminds you of your newfound mushroom obsession, the wild tendrils and fibrous sponges giving the air a subtle hint of their nutty scent.

You take stock one last time of all that’s around you and then head out on your squelching way, buoyed by the keenness of sensation that the forest lures from you and by the taste of maracuya juice whose biting sweetness lingers from lunch. It’ll be another glorious day of muddy boots and buttress roots.

Click here or on the image to take your ecological and cultural trek.

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