How to Cut a Trail in Amazonia

How to Cut a Trail in Amazonia


– This is the trail into camp. This is el comedor, the dining area. This is Nigel’s tent. This is the biologist work station. This is the helipad. This is where we wash our clothes. This is our bathing area. There’s an electric eel in there. – Iquitos, Iquitos, campamento Iquitos. ?? – The camp radio. [How to cut a trail & build a camp in Amazonia] So Álvaro, what is it that you do
[Álvaro del Campo, coordination, field logistics, photography] for the Rapid Inventory?
[Álvaro del Campo, coordination, field logistics, photography] – I do all the coordination, like beforehand,
before the inventory, there’s many stages. First we
have to visit the communities, talk to them, they need to be informed about what we are going to do. We just invite all of them
to one large community so we have this
informed consent session, so they all have to sign
that they agree that we are going to
do this work here. The second stage,
after we do that, we do an over flight. So we fly over the area to
identify the points of interest from the air because
it’s much closer. Just imagine, just zoom in
the satellite image and then you’re right there. You see the kind of forest
much easier than here. And then the third stage would be
like I come with the advance team, just get like cabled down
with the helicopter. – So, like a helicopter
is flying over, like, you don’t have anywhere
for that helicopter to land, we are in the middle of nowhere, and it puts you in a harness
and they drop you down— – They drop me down. – —with a chainsaw just cutting an area to land. – Yeah, so I just go first and then two people with
chainsaws come after me. – Yeah. And those are people like…
– So you just put the harness… Local people from—
– Yeah, like the people… – Like the people who
are with us right now. So we just clear an area that
is like safe for the helicopter to just come down, and the helicopter comes back
with the rest of the team. There is like, one cook, and the rest are like two chainsaw
persons that help being the chainsaws, and the rest are like the rocheros. These guys make the beautiful trails
for the scientists to walk on. – Well, and it makes sense that
if somebody was going to come to a region like this
and try to understand an undocumented region
of the rainforest and you have so many people
from different disciplines, like an ornithologist and a geologist, like, scientifically, you
can’t draw any conclusions if they’re all going off
in different directions and, you know, just ambling
around the forest. So it makes so much sense to
have them go through the same trail— – Exactly. – —and say like, “oh at 5000 meters
on trail 4, did you see this?” and they’re like “Oh yeah,
I totally saw that!” – Absolutely right. They’re like, it’s great for
them to just come here and there’s already trail system
ready for them to walk. – Well, let’s keep going with
these guys and, and see. – Okay, I’m just going
to put the other marker so we have the two very obvious,
it has to be, remember, very obvious for the scientists to see
where the trail starts. And they know that two flagging
markings next to each other means the beginning of a trail. – There we go. [(fig. A) Making the trail] [Like leafcutter ants] [The team cuts a trail] – So we just advanced about 200 meters, so we’re at 100 meters away
from the first point – Okay.
– So we’re getting, getting there. – Getting close. Alright.
– Getting close to the first spot. – When you’re cutting
one of these trails, what is it that you’re
looking for on the map to identify where a trail should go? – Well, we begin in Chicago, after we get these beautiful
satellite images and we discuss with the botanists, we just ask—
because you’re the specialist, right? – Yeah. – But after so many years,
I sort of like, can tell the kind of forest
they would choose. So we do like a draft map of the
desired points in the satellite images, so they give me that,
and with that in mind, I just put those points in the GPS system and make like a trail system
that makes sense. And this kind of forest
looks very hilly, you see? – Yeah, it does. – So there’s just what we
call like colinas bajas, like low hills. – Okay.
– Low hill forests. It’s like a big
terrace next to the river, this is the Yanayacu right here. – Yeah. – And this is downstream, so we just decided to cut near
the river and through the hills. To see what we found. – Yeah, that’s cool. And so that’s how you came up
with like, the four different trails that kind of try to loop over
all of the different terrains, incorporate the different— Yeah.
– Different types of forests— Yeah. – Oh, that’s great.
– To find like more species. [(fig. B) Using the machete]
– Excellent! – Alright, Álvaro, I don’t want to
cut my leg off trying to do this. – Okay, Emily, you know this is
a really big machete, right? – Yeah, it’s—ve— – It’s very sharp, you saw him—
– Yeah. – —just, uh, sharpen the edges. – For like, an hour. – Exactly. So this is—this thing
is just really sharp. First, you’ll do this. Go behind me. If I just go too—
– Oh, God. – —way back, I can cut your eye, right?
– Yeah. – So they just don’t go any farther than this behind.
– Yeah. – So from here, up.
Choo, choo, choo. So you go like choo, choo, choo. – Okay. – And you just need to—
you don’t make to— you don’t need to make like a road, because the guys behind
are gonna make like a nice trail. So what you need to do
is just cut a few branches for us to go through and for the three ?? in the back to see the machete cuts
and they know where to go. – I don’t know what to cut. – Just cut a little bit of the palm leaves.
– Like this guy? Like— – Yeah. Yeah. Keep going.
– Okay, I cut that. – Anything that is in your
path, cut it. That leaf there. – Whoops.
– Like this. – Like that?
– You see? – Diagonal, diagonal, there we go. Cut it diagonally. There.
– Cha. Oh man! – There we go!
– Yeah! – Excellent. – This thing is really sharp. [(fig. C) Marking the trail] – Welcome to troche cinco.
– Troche cinco. So now that we’ve cut this trail, what—what is the next step? – We’re gonna mark it with
flagging every 50 meters. – Okay. – And for that, we have the help of Gomer, who was leading the path, now we have the trail,
[Gomer Macaya, local assistant] so we’re gonna mark it every
50 meters by using this 25 meter string. – So the scientists need to know
that for two reasons, right? One, so they don’t get off
the path accidentally, they know if they’re wandering around and all of a sudden, they don’t see
flagging for like, you know, 20 minutes, they’ve probably wandered
off the wrong way. – Yeah. – And when they’re taking
notes in the forest and making observations and they say ‘I saw a tapir over here’, they need to write down at
what point in the trail they saw it. – Yeah, mhmm.
– That’s good to know. – This goes in your—you write with
your right—left hand or right—? – Right hand.
– Right hand. – Yeah. – So this goes in your right pocket,
and this is your stick. – My stick. – And I will tie the rope into your pants. There we go. – Are we ready?
– I’m ready. – Okay. – So remember, when I—
when I scream ‘Ya!’, this means that this is
going to be at the end— – Okay, okay. – —and then you just boom,
and then keep walking. – And I’m gonna follow you,
and then give you the stick. – See you in 25 meters. – Ya! Ya! – I’m gonna mark it. And then I got this. – Yep. – Five— one— fifty meters. – Perfect. – And then you do that for
like, four more miles. – Could be monotonous at times, but then when you see
a bunch of monkeys, that makes a difference. – Yeah, yeah. Cool. Awesome. Well, Álvaro, thank you for
taking the time to show us how you make these beautiful trails so our scientists can
come in and do their work. – My pleasure.
– It’s great. “How to Cut a Trail & Build a Camp in Amazonia”
Amazon Adventure (no. 8) The Brain Scoop is brought to you by the Field Museum in Chicago It still has brains on it.