2 Months in Peru-May 18 to 21, 2015; Day 50-53
18.05.2015 - 21.05.2015 68 °F
[Karen has been doing an awesome job, writing the jungle blogs!! I (Rick) have been having trouble with the computer and hard drive where I store the photos I take. I had a memory card full of Giant Otter photos. Transferring it to the hard drive through Lightroom ( photo management software) I managed to lose the photos. In my haste (the days are full) I erased the card before I was sure the photos were properly saved to the hard drive. I used photo recovery software to try and recover the images, but they are gone! Sorry we can't share some of the otters with you, but they live on in our memories!
Monday, May 18th Day 50
Pre dawn was misty and fogged in. We were off in the boat by 05:30 for a short journey to the lake trail, then a 1 km hike to the lake. We were on the Salvador Lake catamaran by 0600. Our river boatman and his deckhand paddled the craft around the lake. We quietly approached the Giant Otter feeding area, and saw many of the group, adults and pups, swimming and fishing close to the shore. There were about 9 otters in the group. Pups crying for fish or their mothers, adults eating the fish they caught, all the while keeping a wary eye on us! There were, of course, lots of birds and black Carmen in the lake too.
Riva, our guide, told us he was one of the paddlers for the cameraman shooting David Attenborough at Salvador Lake for his BBC segment on Manu Park!
For the afternoon we crossed the Manu River in our motorized canoe and walked down a jungle path occasionally used by the "uncontacted." We were instructed to wear bland coloured clothes, and not take photos, make loud noises, run, or act excited or frightened if we encountered any of them! We were actually looking for two types of monkeys that were only on that side. The Manu River seems to be a formidable monkey barrier, what with caiman, piranhas, and a swift current! We heard and saw the sought for monkeys on the walk, and no "uncontacted" crossed our path. Then back to the Salvador Lake catamaran to look for the glowing caiman "night eyes" before a final night walk (we do mean DARK) back to camp. There are lots of very large nocturnal spiders in their webs waiting for prey, and even an occasional tree snake!
A late dinner and off to bed in preparation for a 0530 departure in the morning.
May 19--Blog Day 51
An early departure at 0530, headed back to the Madre de Dios River and then to the Tambo Blanquillo Lodge, about 8 hours away. Two or three hours into the journey we stopped at the ranger station to check out of the park, and be inspected for contraband. Last year a guide tried to smuggle out about 200 turtle eggs! An hour later, a 20 minute stop at the village of Boca Manu, then on to the destination.
The distances are large here. The park is about the size of Wales, or New Hampshire! It took us two and a half days from Cusco to get in to the park, we got to spend about one and one half days there, and it's about three days, with stops to get back to Cusco. The last day will be a 14 hour journey, the river canoe, a taxi, another boat and then a long tour van ride over the Andes, topping out at 5000 meters before descending to Cusco! Whew!
Today we settle back enjoy the jungle scenery from the canoe (it's all the same after a while), look for birds and caiman on the shore, look for monkeys in the trees, and doze a bit.
We arrive at the lodge at about 2:30 and get shown to our rooms. It's a nice place. The sun came out today during the travel, and it has warmed up quite a bit. Riva says this is typical jungle weather. The plan is to climb a 140 meter tower in the jungle, next to an ancient Kapok tree, and get a view from above the tree canopy, perhaps watch the sunset from there, then take a night walk back to the canoe for a ride back to the lodge.
The lodge and grounds are very nice. The dormitory has individual 3 bed rooms, common flush toilets and solar hot water showers, 4 each for up to 30 guests. It is early in the tourist season, so we are the only ones here! There is even a bar/lounge, but it is closed. It takes us several minutes to identify the eerie deep rumbling/ scraping sound as that of the Howler monkeys. Hearing that for the first time when alone at night in the dark jungle would definitely raise the hairs on the back of your neck!
After settling in a bit, we head, by canoe, for the jungle tower. It was built about 10 years ago, and is amazing. You don't realize how high 140 meters is until you climb it. At the top there was a large platform placed on the branches of the kapok tree. The views were amazing, clear in all directions, nothing but jungle trees and marshes. We spotted an occasional bird, a toucan and a couple parrots.
Down from the tower it was dark and we did a night walk, looking for jungle tarantulas. We found several, they were all substantially larger than Karen's garden tarantula! They were coal black, and one chased Riva when he coaxed it out of its den! Then, on the way back to the canoe, we spotted, not one but two boa constrictors denned up in a crosscut end crack of a large log! They appeared to be 1-2 meters long, one a yellow boa, the larger a rainbow boa.
Then back to the lodge by canoe, in preparation for tomorrow's big day.
May 20 - day 52
Up at the crack of o dark thirty (05:30) to get in a boat and go to the clay lick, down river a short ways - 10 minutes or so. The clay cliffs go a long ways but the Tambo lodge has set up a huge viewing area with an attached photography area as well.
We were the only group there - we set up our breakfast stuff and had it there in the cool of the morning- there were chairs and there was even a bathroom (#1 only please).
Other than the bugs we were quite comfortable until Karen sat on a bee and was stung on the thigh. Not badly. We saw an amazing assortment of macaws and parrots in the trees -at one point we saw at least 31 macaws - but none ventured to the clay lick. Rick got some good pictures anyway. It was kind of interesting as every time a great white egret or cocoi heron flew near these large macaws scattered. I actually didn't realize how many different types of macaws there were - and their brilliant colours are amazing.
After this wonderful outing we boated back to the lodge, had some down time, and headed out to another oxbow lake in the later afternoon. On the way to the boat we all got to check out a green snake in a tree the staff had spotted - it was not poisonous but according to Riva, very aggressive.
We hiked past the Kapok tree platform on the other side of the river and took a catamaran on the oxbow lake. It was so peaceful and pleasant and bug free. We saw a lot of birds - the ever present Hoatzins - 3 to a group - always two males and one female ( she requires 2 males to help raise their broods-they both mate with her - it's anyone's guess who's kids they are). But many other birds and caiman were to be seen-jacanas, cocoi, and a beautiful orange bird whose name I can't remember.
We hiked back in the twilight and Riva teased out more tarantulas for us ( smaller ones this time). Back across the river near the lodge we had to exit the boat early due to the shallowness of the river and we hiked back a short ways to the lodge grounds.
Dinner was lovely as usual and the cook, Ciro, had baked a goodbye cake for us.
Perfect end to a great day.
May 21- day 53- leaving the jungle
We were all up at 04:30 to leave by 05:10 to hike with our packs down to a deeper place in the river so we could load up everything and head back out of Manu park. We had seen lightning and now heard thunder and it was starting to rain. It took them awhile to get the boat down to us and we finally got started downriver out of Manu park to Madre de Dios river. It was raining off and on but not as cold as it had been, and there were always lots of birds to see. We checked out at the ranger station and carried on.....
We joined up with the Madre de Dios river, and far down, with it still spitting rain, our boat captain, Boa, started yelling something and turned the boat about. Quickly our guide started exclaiming - jaguar - and sure enough, there on the rocky beach, in the spitting rain, was a magnificent specimen. Over 2 meters long, yawning at times, striding on the beach - he was a site to behold. None of us could get a picture as we didn't have our cameras out due to the inclement weather - we all savoured the sweet moment.
Riva had not seen a jaguar this year - so he was excited as we were. Fabulous.
Next stop, the port of Colorado, where we changed to a taxi and drove overland for about an hour to another river port where we took a quick boat across (20 minutes) in the rain to then get on the small Mercedes van which would take us back to Cusco. This port had many tankers present - it was clearly a significant supply port for the jungle.
We travelled about 3/4 of an hour on a crummy dirt road before we reached the Trans-Oceanic Highway - still a two lane affair that was curvy and winding up up up to the first pass - 4,725 meters ( about 15,000 ft, give or take)- where we got out in the sleet and snow to view the surrounding peaks (and to take a bano break ). Then it was down to 3500 m, up again to 4100 m and down to Cusco which is at 3500m. We passed many small mountain towns and remnants of old Inca or other archeological sites on the way.
It was freezing in Cuzco! We got settled back in our hotel and then it was off to Paddys pub - we noticed that the beer tasted funny.....and it had been so good before. We were experiencing first hand the side effects of diamox which we had started the day before to see if it would help with altitude problems. All it did for us really was make carbonated drinks (ie - beer) taste bitter......bummer.
Off to bed - it had been a really long day.