And so we head on to Payamino, where the field course stays for around 10 days. After living here for the best part of 2014, the Timburi Cocha research station feels like home; but I still get a thrill every time the canoe turns the corner and I see the sweeping view of the pebble beach and the Amazon forest. I’ve put together a couple of posts featuring my favourite finds from this trip, so here’s the first one- introducing the destroyer of laptops, dropper of tails, resident of the palm roofs, and all-round cute guy- Gary the gecko.
In the jungle, one is always outside. Almost none of the buildings in the research station have doors, windows, or even walls that go from floor to ceiling. You wouldn’t want them to, as the heat and humidity would be oppressive; but this does mean that your experience of nature is very immersive. You could be writing up your morning transect results and be visited by beautiful butterflies, but you could also leave a sock out drying for too long and find a potter wasp had make a nest on it. I think I reached the pinnacle of this sort of living when I was chatting to somebody before breakfast when I realised that a cockroach was making its way up one of my pyjama legs- and, rather than jolting as I maybe would have before, calmly flicked it off and continued the conversation. Thankfully, where there are prey, there are also predators; and the most common one in the research station’s roofs was also one of the cutest.
Gary was the name we gave to all the turnip-tailed geckos living in Timburi Cocha. With incredible molten gold eyes, wide sticky feet, and a useful ability to hoover up moths and cockroaches, the Garys were always a welcome sight on the walls and roofs of the buildings. At night, they would appear from under the eaves, carefully stalking anything that had been attracted to the light fittings and grabbing the largest morsels. They were great little night guardians, tackling insects that were as large as their heads, and patrolling the surroundings of my bed so I could sleep a little easier.
That isn’t to say that living alongside them didn’t have its annoyances. Garys were, for instance, prone to having fights with each other, forgetting where they were, and falling from the roof into your lap just as you were nodding off in a hammock. They also had an uncanny ability to spot open laptops and, with astounding accuracy, defecate all over the keyboard. I lost count of the number of times I had to wipe away the product of all those large insects they were eating and go to town with the disinfectant. With each fresh attack, I learned to look up to see two little back legs dangling from the ceiling and a remorseless little gecko-face consistently turned up in a little half-smile.
The worst Gary related incident, however, occurred when one got itself stuck in one of our kitchen shelves. A helping hand trying to get him free was interpreted as an attack, and Gary did something I knew was theoretically possible but had never actually seen- he dropped his tail. Let me tell you, it was pretty horrifying- while the drastic move managed to get him unstuck from his shelving predicament, we watched as the disembodied tail continued to thrash around for a good few minutes. It was surprisingly bloody, and far more disconcerting than I’d anticipated- I can certainly see how a predator would be put off. Thankfully, they can grow them back- and I’m sure Gary was able to resume his role and pest controller and laptop-endangerer in no time.