Welcome to the jungle!
Trip Start Oct 06, 2008
38Trip End Apr 18, 2009
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Travelling through the clouds, we were suddenly made aware of the road conditions that faced us for the next 6 hours. We were weaving our way down narrow, twisty "roads", with a sheer drop on our right hand side, accompanied by landslides and pot holes. One scary incident in particular forced 'Boo Boo', our brave bus driver, to practically ramp over a large landslide. Standing a safe distance away, we all cheered as he safley touched down!
Thankfully, we all arrived safley and in one piece at our first lodge, San Pedro, where we walked along the dirt road to see the Peruvian national bird, Cock of the Rock, performing its mating ritual. From an observatory platform, the red body of the dancing bird dramatically stood out against the green forest, leaving us satisfied with our first example of forest wildlife. We were even more thrilled to spot large wooly monkeys in the distance on our way back to the lodge!
The lodges we stayed at during the whole of our trip were all based on the same design. The rooms gave a distinct feeling of sleeping under the starst and amongst the insects, with just nets seperating us from the outside at some points. The bathrooms looked and smelt like farmyard barns, the showers using brown water from the river, and the lack of electricity meant that we had to carry a torch around with us at all times - in fear of stepping on snakes and poisonous insects!
That night - after what would become my nightly insect inpection of our room! - we settled down to sleep under our mosquito nets, Catrin squirming at each chirp of the cicadas!
The next morning, we walked again through the cloudforest, spotting a multitude of different birds (our favourite being the Oropendola), colourful butterflies and varying insects. Our guide ('Yo Yo') introduced us to the medicinal purpose of plants, by giving us the bud of a camomile flower to chew, which had the effect of numbing our mouths - used by the natives before any dental procediure.
Later that afternoon, we rafted down the river to our next lodge, Erika. Although the rapids were mild, it was enjoyable to be able to see the cloud forest behind us from a new perspective, and take a few minutes to swim in the river. Arriving at Erika (now at the beginning of the rainforest), we had lunch before our next activity - the canopy zip down. This involved hiking to the first of four platforms, situated high in the forest canopy. Once there, we were strapped into our harnesses, and hooked onto the high wire, stretching out across the jungle to the next platform. Zipping across from one platform to the other was exhilirating, however the slightest lapse in concentration would result in smashing into a tree - which I nearly found out the hard way! Each zip line gradually got steeper and faster, until we arrived at the final platform, where we absailed to the ground. The ziplining was fantastic, and it also gave us the opportunity to see unique insects that lived high in the forestsīcanopy - including a posonous insect that resembled a crocodile!
Waking up before the Sun, we took a short motorboat ride to a parrot clay lick to watch the birds congregate to obtain minerals needed for their diet. Although far away, we also managed to spot a Toucan amongst the trees through our ridiculously oversized binoculars. Later that morning we travelled deeper into the jungle on the motorboat, to the last village before Manuīs reserved zone, where we were greeted by the "hola!" of a friendly parrot. The reserved zone of the Manu National Park is a protected area of the Amazon jungle where it is forbifdden to cut trees, fish or even talk loudly, in order to preserve the natural environment of the plants and animals. Five minutes away from Boca Manu at our lodge, this became apparent, as two large red and blue macaus flew overhead squawking, and big, colourful spiders dominated the bushes surrounding our campsite.
That night, we went for a walk through the pitch black forest armed with our flashlights. We saw many insects, including; tarrantulas, enormous stick insects, a dangerous looking scorpion spider, crickets, and a poisonous frog amongst others. Since Catrin has plenty of experience in nervously spotting spiders around the house, she was particularly good at spider safari in the jungle!
Our wake up call the following morning was unique to say the least. At first, it sounded like a high wind was sweeping through the camp, but later that day we were informed that the howl was infact coming from howler monkeys that inhabited the nearby forest. After brerakfast, we signed in at a ranger station and entered the reserve zone. The Americans on our trip were eagerly anticipating the results of the election, so we listened to a crackly Peruvian newscast on the radio, announcing that Obama had won (much to our relief!).
After another six hour boat ride down river, we arrived at our furthest destination into the Amazon jungle, Sajino Safari Campsite. After dinner, we went for a long walk through the forest to Salvador Lake. 'Yo Yo' caried a large stick with him, in order to remove spiderwebs from our path (worryingly, he didnīt carry one for our night walk, presumibly what we didnīt see didnīt hurt us!). On the lake, we saw a caimen that measured about three meters and spotted the rare giant otters in the distance. We returned at night to the lake to try and spot more caiman, by shining flashlights accross the lake, which once in a while revelaed red eyes shining back at us! Using the same technique whilst travelling back to camp through the forest, we spotted a giant guinea pig-like animal that we think might be called a Capybara!
The next day, waking early to the now familiar sound of the howler monkeys, we returned to the lake in order to see the otters again, but closer this time, from a catamaran. It was easy to spot the otters due to the noisy young and we observed them for over an hour as they caught fish and played in the water. Afterwards, we walked to the watch tower high above an oxbow lake, however our visit was shortlived due to the fact that a swarm of dangerous wasps had taken residence in its roof!
After lunch, we crossed the river and walked to another lodge to meet the native people that ran the place. They are renowned for their knowledge of the jungle, and as a result, can charge extortionate prices to stay at their lodge during times of extreme weather. They taught us how they hunted with a bow and arrow and sold handicrafts to tourists. On the way, we saw three types of monkey, the cappuchin, spider and woolly. We were warned that the woolly monkey was very territorial and that they may urinate on us from the treetops if we got too close! The monkeys were extremely close, and playing right above our heads - although thankfully we didn't get wet!
The following day, we left Sajino Safari Campsite and returned to Boca Manu village, our first stop on our three day return trip back to Cusco. Whilst there, the tourist played an impromptu game of barefoot football againast the locals. Having lost 2-0, we returned to the boat with our heads hanging low, however our spirits were raised by the peculiarness of the next lodge...
Charging towards us from the forest upon our arrival came the resident tapir, Poncho! Not strictlz a pet, the juvanille tapir (although still very big) would often return to the lodge for easy food. Extremely friendley, the tapir would allow us to stroke it and it even swam with us later that afternoon! Another suprise was waiting for us in the dining room that night. In the roof's rafter were two huge tarantulas, which frightfully had disappeared by dinnertime.
On our penultimate day, we travelled back to Erika lodge, where we befriended the hyperactive child of the lodge owner, Washington! Understanding no English and being so close to nature, he would communicate with tourists by immitating jungle animals. Little ''Washi'' provided us with that afternoon's entertainment, running around like a monkey and jumping all over the furniture!
Begrudgingly getting back on the bus on our last day, we began the long journey back to Cusco. After a breakdown, and a quick stop to photograph a vine snake, we finally returned to Cusco after a 14 hour trip. Not wanting to say farwell to our new friemds, we arranged a night out the following day. We followed our friends to an Isreali restaurant, followed by salsa dancing at a local bar!