Manu National Park

Trip Start Sep 20, 2004
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24
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Trip End Mar 30, 2005


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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Manu National Park

Manu National Park was established in 1977 and in recognition of its uniqueness was designated a world heritage site ten years later. Manu is internationally acclaimed as one of the most biodiverse areas on earth.

Wake up call at 4.30am which would start the trend for the next week. Pretty harsh I thought considering !

After the usual tour of Cusco to pick up the rest of our group we left the town and after 10min driving through the suburbs of Cusco we pulled up to meet our truck which would take us part was into the jungle before switching to boat to continue up the Alto Maadre de dios river and then the manu river into the reserve zone. The truck was a beast an ex Russian mining vehicle, about the only thing capable of making it over the roads and through the cloud forest. After an early stop of at an Inca sight ( and an appropriate place for a quick wheel change) we passed though a small Town called Paucartambo and on for lunch al fresco next to a gushing waterfall. The next part of the journey got more precarious as the road got progressively narrower with winding tracks through the dense vegetation.

We stopped at a coca plantation to see the crops and picking process with the kids hanging in the doorway shading from the rain doing their homework. From here we continued on foot to the site famous for the cock of the rock. The male is bright red bird with a large long round head, eyes wide apart on either side making look quite surreal. It comes to the same place daily to generally show off and make mating calls to the female who seems to normally too busy fetching food and looking after the family to notice the male giving it the large one. Sounds familiar...

Onward though the clouds that hang over the forest at this altitude and through tunnels cut into the rock before reaching our first destination for sleeping. We had small huts with beds and mosquito nets so we could hear the noises of the jungle all around. Dark by 6pm, we had a candlelit dinner and fell into a slumber listening to the crickets...

Awoke at 5am (told you it was harsh) and headed onwards. Stopped in a town on the way to pick up supplies and had a venture around to explore. This town was right in the middle of the jungle with big wide streets that gave the air of the old wild west. On the dirt cross roads that marked the centre of the activity there was some serious pineapple trading going on and various other stalls with a whole variety of fruits, vegetables and
a small market for other essentials. The temperature was rising and at our next stop the sun was blazing down as we waved off the truck and embarked onto our small boat.

We set off in a group of 10. The rest of the day set us up for our trip. Cruising down the river at the right speed to spot beautiful birds and check out the rainforest. You could see the primary and secondary rainforest on either side of the bank as we cut through the muddy waters weaving to catch the current.

Our camp for the night was to be on a sand bank/beach on the side of the river and we pulled up and started to set up our tents on the riverside. Darwin our guide urged us to get a move on as there was some pretty dubious clouds gathering overhead and a wind was picking up.

Safe in the knowledge that ours tents were up (not particularly sturdy) we donned our swim wear and dived into the river. Quickly gave up the idea of swimming as the current started to sweep us off but with feet safely anchored in we had a bath in the river as the rain came down. Little did we expect that it was going to turn into a torrential down pour. But thats why they call it the rainforest right ??

So there we were stranded in the river with the rain hurtling down on us, tents quivering and our guide, cook and boatmen huddled on the boat from the rain. So we decided to do the decent thing and crack open a bottle of rouge, seeing as our chance of
sheltering in a dry spot were looking pretty remote ! It was probably one of the best glasses of wine Iīve ever had, shoulder deep in the amazon river (well almost) with the thunder and lightening overhead. Once the bottle was finished we decided that getting struck by lightening in the river was covered by our insurance so we scrambled out and took refuge (once the rain has stopped). Pleased to say that we still managed to light a fire and so we sat around to have dinner and getting sozzled with another bottle of rouge. Jessica one of our group had also had the same idea as us, so we cracked open another bottle and sat by the fire in the night until the embers burned down......Couldnīt be better !

Awoke to the sunrise beaming through the tent door over the river......

The next few days were spent in the reserved zone sleeping in huts under the stars, cruising down the river spotting Camen and turtles, drifting across lakes watching all different kinds of monkeys (spider, howler, cappacino, squirrel etc) jump from the trees and catching piranha and on various day and night walks through the jungle spotting wild pigs, tarantula, frogs and generally feeling like we had scrambled onto the set of an Indianna Jones movie (but better).

Our guide Darwin did a stupendous job of showing us every kind of tree, plant, bird and animal and let us into some of the stories of his yearly explorations through the jungle to find lost Inca sites. After some particularly good coca leaves he told us how he had one year come across (with his four other explorers) one of the indigenous tribes in the jungle who still have no or little contact with the outside world. He had been invited to stay with the tribe for some days as he has learned some of the tribal dialect and told us tales of what had occurred whilst he had been with them.

Too much to describe right now without it seeming like an episode from Mr Ben so Iīll save it for another day.

On our final day we made it to Boca Manu airport. A small field in the middle of the jungle with was being mown as we checked in. We then had to jump on some scales to make sure we hadnīt eaten too many pies and would crash the plane with our combined weight. It was close but being a lightweight I compensated for B and our bags(?!)

The 20 seater soared up out of the jungle and floated out over the clouds leaving the winding Manu River and oxbow lakes below..

-L


Ok, what are the odds of this? The other English speaker in our group hails from Berryville, VA!! For those of you who donīt know, I grew up in Bluemont, VA. About 5 miles away. Heck she even went to Lincoln Elementry School -- before moving to the sticks. I mean itīs not Round Hill, but close...

Jessica was great to have along -- she helped translate the spanish/italian mess and we had a blast talking about our trips. She happens to have a travelpod site as well...and has done loads of traveling. So go check it out! www.travelpod.com/members/jesshiggins

(and donīt hold it against her that she moved to California...she didnīt know any better!!)

-B
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