For directed research, I’m working with Adrian, our tropical ecology professor. Our group is studying different aspects of tree ferns and how they are being impacted by climate change. An important aspect of this research is the differences between species or between the same species across an elevation gradient. So, last week, our DR group left Villa Carmen and headed back to Wayqecha. It was strange to split up from the rest of the group, but we were excited to be heading back to the incredible cloud forest of Peru. Along the way, we stopped and collected tree fern samples often.
The week in Wayqecha was wonderful — enjoying the views, studying our tree ferns, and taking lots of extra time to relax and enjoy where we were. I spent afternoons walking in the orchid garden alone, and evenings enjoying the company of friends. Our last morning, we had a hike planned in Manu National Park. As a group, we decided we wanted to get up super early and watch the sunrise from the starting point of our hike, so last Sunday morning, we woke up at 4 AM, packed into the car, and drove up a winding, bumpy road into Manu. The sunrise began to unfold while we were still in the car, and it looked like the sky was on fire. By the time we were settled on our mountaintop, the sun was just beginning to rise over the Andes. I have never seen anything so beautiful. We sat in silence as the sun was coming up. I think we were all a little too stunned by the beauty to say anything.
Once the sun was up, we enjoyed our breakfast and drank coffee while we continued to enjoy the view of the mountains. Then, we headed down the mountain and did a super fun but hard hike on a trail that has been used for hundreds of years to transport goods from the highlands to the lowlands and back.
On our drive home to Villa Carmen, we stopped and had an afternoon swim in the river that runs along the road. It was absolutely breathtaking. It’s amazing that we have the opportunity to conduct intensive research and still have time to enjoy the sights and sounds that makes Peru incredible.