I thought to myself that all these guys were pretty hot, but too young for me, except for Pete. But he was so brusque and business like, there was no way he was interested in me. Bill, excuse me, William, as he had told me he preferred to be called, struck me as kind of stuffy, but closer to me in age. So I would wait and see how that turned out. Mr. Butterfly kept his thoughts to himself as we walked back to base camp.
When we got there, breakfast was about ready as José had gone ahead and cooked everything. There was rice, as promised, the fish that Oscar had caught, and some fresh passion fruit that the rain forest had provided and the men had gathered.
There was also coffee. I was hungry. The fresh fruit was amazing and the fish was great. Rice at breakfast was going to take some getting used to, as was coffee made with iodized water. Ugh. We all cleared our own dishes, which were part of our own camp sets. Then, Pete began to draw our attention for our first briefing.
“Let me explain the setup of our organization to you.” said Pete. “We have four PhD.’s with us. They are Dr. Allen Wise and Mr. Butterfly who are Lepidopterists, and Dr. William Brandtley III and Dr. Sue Fairview who are Orchid specialists. We have two local guides. They are José and Oscar. They both speak English and Spanish and are trained in city touring, rainforest camping, cloud forest camping, mountaineering, rock climbing, gun handling, first aid, and they know their way around this area. We have three security specialists. They are all ex-Marines. They are Austin, Chuck and me. We will provide security for your trip. Ecuador is a pretty safe place, but there can be bandits and we will be carrying machine guns since this is what we would expect that they will have. Everyone is trained to help you with technical aspects of collection.
“We are going to break into three groups. The first group will contain Allen and Mr. Butterfly and me. We will remain in this rainforest looking for rare or new species of butterflies and moths. I will provide security. No guide will be needed since Allen was also here last year and speaks fluent Spanish. The second group will contain William, Austin and José and the third group will contain Sue, Chuck and Oscar. The two latter groups will climb to the cloud forests to collect orchid species and William and Sue will give you your briefings on that. We will now split into butterfly and orchid groups for those briefings. Thank you!”
Then Pete stepped aside and we broke into two groups. The butterfly group of three went outside and the orchid group stayed inside the tent.
William began our briefing to Oscar, Chuck, José and Austin.
“Our goal is to find out if any orchids of the genus Teaguiea exist on the mountains 3000 m above us and more importantly to find new species, and collect them to bring back to our greenhouses. I know that all you are already briefed on climbing in cloud forests at these altitudes and our guides actually have experience at this. I am here to tell you about these orchids so that you may help Sue and I collect them. We will be splitting up to maximize our coverage of the mountains above us. Much of this work has been done by Lou Jost. He first discovered the genus Teagueia in 1990 at 3400 m growing in some moss on a mountain called Mayordomo. Here is a slide showing that mountain.
“Teagueia have also been found on Cerro Negro, a nearby mountain. The next slide here shows a space shuttle image of the area that Lou Jost studied and the following slide is a blow up that includes the area that we are now in.
“You can see that we have areas of the Andes Mountains with cloud forests that are the same altitudes that he is at. Thus we hope that we may find the same orchids here.
“Teagueia are smallish creeping orchids and have broad sepals without tails that grow above the tree line. We have slides, since you may not be familiar with the terminology. This next slide shows what a Teagueia plant looks like when it is fully teased out of the moss it grows in. Please note that the ruler next to it is in centimetres, not inches, so they are pretty small.
“The next two slides show what Teagueia looks like growing in moss both in flower and not in flower. This is what you will be looking for.
“This slide shows thirteen of the newer Teagueia species in flower to scale.
“Sue will have a copy of this slide with her and so will I. But basically we will recognize a new one. There are currently a total of 32 known Teagueia species.
“However, if you see any orchids in bloom, please point them out to either Sue or myself. We will tell you what they are and if they are of interest to us. Over time you will learn what interests us or not. Are there any questions?
“Okay then. Let’s get ready to go.”
William then walked over to me and put his hand on my shoulder and said “Gee, Sue, I’m sorry; I forgot to ask you if you had anything to say.”
“That’s okay William, you covered everything just fine.” I replied feeling that I didn’t really like his hand on my shoulder. So, I said “Excuse me but I really must pack for the journey now.”, and then began to move away to begin to roll up my sleeping bag. He reluctantly dropped his hand off my shoulder. Thank god! I had said it with a big smile to make him feel a bit better about the whole thing. He looked a bit crestfallen though as if I had spoiled some master plan or something.
Soon enough, Mr. Butterfly came in to grab his camera, butterfly net, and some water. He was all excited because he and Allen were going out on their first butterfly hunt together.
About a fifteen minutes later the two orchid groups were assembled outside and ready for departure, and it was only 9:00 a.m.. José led William and Austin south to the mountains. I said my farewells to Mr. Butterfly, and then Oscar led Chuck and me north up into the mountains and the cloud forest beyond.