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Iwokrama Lodge

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I guess I'd better set the stage here for some more adventures in Guyana. We'd reached our final destination: Iwokrama Lodge on the big, wild Issequibo River. What a cool place--completely oriented toward ecotourism and research, bird and animalcentric. You know you're in a good spot when there's a table full of skulls right in the dining room. lowland tapir (right) and brocket deer (Mazama sp.), left.Jaguar skull. Possessed of the most powerful crushing bite in the cat family, this is what sabretoothed tigers became, I wager. Jaguars are built like sumo wrestlers, built to bring down lowland tapirs.

Diagnostic Zick habitat.
I burst out laughing when I sank a spoon into my dinner and found it toothed. Just fish, but still. That was one bony stew. What is proper etiquette when one finds oneself being chewed by one's soup? Spitting it across the room is out, that much I know.

Another thing not for the faint-hearted: taking a beloved and highly essential laptop to a place with nearly 100 percent humidity and what felt like nearly 100 degrees all the time. You want to talk computer bugs? Yes, that's a roach, and I found it on our cabin porch, and it is just a whisker short of 3" long. Communal shudder. Easton Apple Store dudes, this is how it happened:

After its ordeal at Atta Canopy Tower camp, when it poured for a day and a night, my computer started spontaneously shutting down. And then, arggggh, it wouldn't start up, either. And there was Internet at Iwokrama, as there is nearly everywhere we went in the interior, and I wanted to talk to my husband and kids. I also wanted my data, and my next book manuscript, and 20K photos, and sundry things like that. I was wiggin'.

I went cabin to cabin interviewing all the sympathetic and helpful gearheads, who also happened to be Mac people (I told you there were great people on this trip!) and we reached the consensus that my laptop had drowned. I should try setting it out in the sun. It had worked for my portrait lens, which I drowned when I put it in a fanny pack with an unscrewed water bottle. Drowning appliances is one of my many fortes. I have drowned three, count 'em, three cordless telephone handsets. I watered one and washed two in the machine.

But back to the Mac. Now, setting something out in the Guyanan sun is tantamount to broiling it. So I decided to set it out for only a half hour and see if it would start then. After about five minutes, I peeked at it. Tiny red ants were POURING out of the keyboard, running in crazy zigzags across the white-hot titanium. And each one had a cookie crumb in its jaws. That had to be a good thing. People go to spas to stick their feet in fishtanks and let little fish eat the dead skin off their feet. I thought this might be something similar. The pharoah ant treatment for your laptop.

Lo and behold, after its time on the tanning bed, it started. I've never been so happy to hear the annoying DAAAHHH! it makes when I wake it up. (Why can't it peep or twitter instead?) But I had to set it out in the sun every time I wanted to boot it up. That couldn't be a good thing. I am happy to report that my Fed-ex guy came up the sidewalk today with a laptop-shaped box, and the people at Apple had done something to the logic board, fixed the fan, and fixed the disc drive, too, and we are cookin' now, and she's not shutting down no mo'. And I am real, real glad I bought AppleCare. Real glad. Even though it expires in September. By then, MacIntosh is betting I'll have to have the new AirBook with a green battery that lasts eight hours. Too bad I'll have even less than no money by then.

Too bad I couldn't bring my REAL, 3" long computer bug back home.

ZICK ALERT: I will speak and sign books tomorrow, 6:30-8 pm. at Miami Middletown Downtown, 4 North Main St. Middletown, OH, as part of Miami University Middletown’s public lecture series. Contact email:; phone (513) 727-3248 (Dr. Eric Melbye). For more ZICK ALERTS, see my website's Meet Julie page.


Glad your mac works again - for what its worth I've had nothing but trouble with apple aftersales care (ipod/itouch issues) but then I'm not in the USA which I suspect is the root of my issues.

Anyhow this time in 3 weeks and I'll be in a similar looking lodge somewhere in venezuela hoping to see most of the cool stuff you saw in Guyana and some big big snakes! I was keen to try Guyana after all these posts but Angel Falls won out over Kaiteur (sp?) falls. I hope my adventure is as much fun as yours.

100% humidity and 100 degrees with three inch roaches? You sure that wasn't just Philly in July?

No cookie crumbs in my iMac keyboard; it's befouled with cat hair and the odd droplet of dark beer, mostly Bigfoot and Old Horizontal. Luckily, my mouth was food and bevvy free last week when one of Murr's posts induced an involuntary spit take.

That tapir skull made me think of Triceratops.

I howled over the Mac and ants carrying cookie crumbs story. I bet that your Mac techs had NEVER thought of that way both to clean and get the bugs out! You gotta tell 'em that one.

For your British readers what is a 'fanny pack'?!

Thanks for the great blogs :-)

Even though your computer "got bugs", I am so glad you could go to Guyana...and bring so much of it back to us ! Many thanks for the wonderful posts and natural history lessons.

Oh, Kate. I sent an entire bullet train car (London/Paris) into complete silence when I yelled to Bill to grab my fanny pack on his way by the luggage rack. It's a bum bag, OK? Apologies. I forget that there are international readers...

Colene, the Mac Geniuses weren't surprised at all, as they'd heard about ant invasions of Mac keyboards before. But then it's hard to surprise a Genius.

Aaah!! That kind of makes it!!

Gotta love Apple Care. Gotta love iMac period. I'll never go back to a PC. Never, ever, Amen. :c)

Glad you left that pet roach behind. Shiver...

I need a Chet fix please. ;)

Free business tip to the "newer, greener" Apple... Install a NatureBar next to the GeniusBar and offer bio-remediation services like ant-based gunk removal. Never met a used keyboard that didn't need gunk removed. Perhaps those ants could be trained to smell out the magnetic patterns of corrupt hard-drive sectors too?! Hey, you laugh, but who's to say what nature has yet to teach us...

Please send royalty checks to Julie who piloted the program for you.

On another note: Julie, I can recommend as a smart way to keep your intrepid and well traveled laptop backed up. Both Erica and I use it... files are automatically backed up over the internet, so we don't have to lug around an external drive or worry that the backup data will burn up in the same house fire as our computers. Something to consider!

Oh, and it should be emphasized too just how strange, wonderful, and odd it is that you can be deep in the heart of the jungle in Guyana, at a research station accessible only by canoe surrounded by tens of thousands of acres of uninhabited land, and still be able to video-skype back to your family and friends in the 'civilized' world. What did Paul Simon say about lasers in the jungle?

Luvvv your profile pic, Michael in SF!! and thanks for the tip. I bought my way onto but haven't yet quite figgered out how to back up onto it, durrr. It'll happen, but slowly--that's how things work in Science chimp land!

You are a far better woman than I am Julie! fish skulls in my soup and 3-inch cockroaches (shudder) uh-uh, no way!
What an unforgettable adventure you've had!

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