Yesterday afternoon, I arrived in Macoa, a bustling town on the East side of the Southern Andes. It lies in the foothills and is the beginning of the Amazon Basin. It was a dramatic change from the cool mountain weather of the previous days. The plants and animals are now totally tropical. I find myself in a hot jungle adorned with palm trees, strange strangling vines, butterflies, monkeys, colorful strange chirping birds and, as shown above, in the habitat of that weird looking character, the lowland tapir.
In a small animal sanctuary owned by the district and created for illegally kept or hurt animals, I was able to see up close this amazing endangered animal, which is incredibly difficult to stumble on in the wild, since it is scarce and lives, usually solitary, in the densest of jungle.
The tapir is an ancient animal and has changed little since its inception in the Eocene, forty million years ago. It is an herbivore, munching on a wide assortment of leaves, and is distantly related to horses and rhinos, since like them, it has an odd number of toes, similar teeth and wriggles its nose. There are four species, three of which can be found in Colombia. They have strong powerful legs, well adapted for walking in mud and on steep slopes. They also love swimming in ponds, which are essential for safety from jaguars and as a way to keep cool. For more information on tapirs you may want to check out tapirgal's website at http://www.tapirback.com/
Today we are going back into the highlands to spend several days among indigenous peoples around a sacred lagoon. I understand we will boat to some villages and meet with some shamans my guide knows. I will be out of touch during this time, but my spirit will send you loving thoughts.