The man at Karine, the fruit stand in the Mercado, still remembers me. I catch his eye as I approach the line of fruit stands (having passed the line of shoe stands and the line of plastic bucket stands) and he starts laughing, probably remembering the earlier fruit excursion - mounds of apples, plums and grenadillas, plus three avocadoes all squirreled away to sustain us during the strike. A polite kiss on the cheek later, I explain that, sadly, this is my last morning in Peru and I wanted to buy some fruit for the plane. And say goodbye, of course. I take a plum and he adds a grenadilla to my bag. "This is your food for the plane?" he asks. When I nod, he takes the back back from me and adds a kiwi,, three apples, and an unidentified fruit that looks suspiciously like a tomato,but, he assures me, is really a fruit from the forest. He won't let me pay for them, and waves goodbye. "Ojalá, nos vemos!"
Two days earlier, I was sixty meters in the air. The sun had just peaked out over the horizon, and within one minute shone brightly in its entirety. Coincident with the sunrise, a flock of scarlet macaws flew by 30 feet below me but still high above the canopy. The sounds of titis and howlers reaffirming their territories' integrity filtered up to where I sat. Ronald and I sat against the metal poles on the platform, the two of us still wearing the rock climbing harnesses we'd hooked onto the wire guideline as we scaled the ladder to the platform. Minutes pass and the forest below us wakes up. The nightjars, jaguars, and owl monkeys are asleep and now the screaming peahens and emperor tamarins take over.
Ronald and I head down to Puerto together. We managed to avoid the Collectivo by hitching a ride on a boat from Boca Amigos going down with a motor to be fixed and a huge quantity of cases full of empty beer bottles to return in Puerto. It started raining at 2:00 in the morning with a brief lull at 4 when I ran from my cabin to the lab without getting completely soaked. On the river, though, with my raincoat, a poncho and a tarp over my head, I am drenched and sit in cold water for about five hours. On the bright side - this is the first time in four months that I've shivered!
And now, here I am, taking off. The air conditioning in the plane sends visible clouds into the humid rainforest air that followed me on. I guess it's similar to whatever fogs your breath on chilly mornings. My seatbelt is fastened, the trees speed past, and now I'm up in the air. People are all very clean, and my seat is squishy and comfortable. There are no baby monkeys peeing in my hair, no fer-de-lances hiding next to the doors. For a while I follow he meanders of Rio Madre de Dios through the green below, but now we're up above the clouds and the only thing I can see is white, punctuated by occasional mountain tops. Away we go!