The walk through the forests is gorgeous. We are woken by the roar of red howler monkeys, and in our walk in the lush tall forest we glimpse black weasel-like tayras, a tapir and peccaries. The paths are laced with the busy flapping green trails of leafcutter ants, and the dance of butterflies, most notably the giant iridescent blue flash of the morpho butterfly.
The plots have been installed by Walter and his team with incredible expertise, precision and competency. Every measurement is perfectly set up, and the whole plot takes about 12 days from zero to complete installation.
Just beyond the higher plot there is a mirador (viewpoint), which gazes out over lowland Amazonia. When we first get there the scene is immersed in clouds, but gradually they disperse to reveal a mesmerising vista. The scene is carpeted with lush green lowland Amazonian forest, at a closeness where you can see the texturie and details of tree crowns. To the right sparkles the River Alto Madre de Dois, winding its way to become the mighty Madre de Dios (Mother of God) in the distances. To the left are the rolling hills and vast protected expanses of Manu National Park. In my mind's eye I see this forest stretching east, almost unbroken, for thousands of miles across the continent until it reaches the Atlantic near Belem. We sit and ponder at the rim of Amazonia and its still wild, vast and magnificent expanses.
In the afternoon we start our journey back to the highlands. The first few hours are a wonderful meander up the shallow rapids of the Alto Madre de Dios and warm blue skies, with the cloud-shrouded hills beckoning beyond. I soak up the humid enveloping warmth, savouring it on my skin in advance of the cool of the high mountains only a few hours away.
Yadvinder Malhi is an ecosytem ecologist and Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University