May 2012

The Peruvian Jungle

On the banks of the Las Piedras river

Peru was the most inspirational journey of my life to date. Something happened to me during that time which is hard to define .... all I know is I'll never be the same again.

It was a universe away from the microchip world we live in, surrounded by hundreds of miles of lush green jungle - deep, deep into the midst, encircled by nothing but forest and wildlife. Our humble abode was a small, remote, eco-lodge set beside the oxbow lake Soledad, reached by a forest path on foot from the banks of Las Piedras river. The ten hour journey up river is the only way into or out of this area, it's untouched by the modern world and truly wonderful.

The Journey Begins

Life on the streets of Lima

It was a very long day today, John and I were travelling with my parents and we stayed at their house the last night. The taxi picked us up at 3:45am to much excitement about what the next few weeks will bring. Arriving at Heathrow we joined the queue for Iberia Airlines, where we waited for hours and started to get fairly worried at one point that we would miss the flight to Madrid for our connecting flight on to Lima. The checking in desks were at a standstill as the computerised system kept breaking down.

Into The Jungle

A kissing bug in the Peruvian jungle

We arrived back at Jorge Chavez International Airport and boarded a flight for Puerto Maldonado, over the snow-capped Andes and into the Amazonian Rainforest. The guides taking us into the jungle met us from the flight and after a short drive through tropical farmland we arrived at the 'port' where our motorised canoe was waiting to take us on our 110 mile journey up the Las Piedras River.

Amazon Rainforest Conservation Centre (ARCC)

Turtles in the Amazon jungle

The sights from the boat this morning were incredible, the was mist was curling across the river and you could see the shapes of the trees on the banks through the it. Silence surrounded us and it felt quite eerie, like I was in an adventure movie where we were looking for some long lost artefact. As the sun rose and the mist burnt off, the jungle started to come alive, lots of colourful birds started to fly around and before long the caiman were coming out onto the banks to take up their sunbathing positions

The Giant Otters

 

The boat we used on the ox-bow lake Soledad

I drifted off to sleep and was woken up about 7am by Pepe banging on our door telling us that the giant otters were on the lake which was just outside our room. I was starting to feel better again and we quickly got dressed and raced outside to be rewarded with a magnificent view of three giant otters, playing and swimming in the lake.

The Chair

Cinka

Another 4am start today and this morning we were making a vertical journey to the rainforest canopy platform, which is a wooden platform constructed 120ft up in the boughs of a giant ironwood tree. It is accessed basically by sitting in a metal framed canvas chair, which is then hoisted on winches by some very strong men. As you sit in the chair and begin your upwards journey you suddenly become aware of the space around you and the fact that you can see the tops of bushes, then the tops of small trees, then the tops of bigger trees.

The Bushmaster Snake

The banks of the Las Piedras river

We had a slight lay in this morning, we were due for a knock on the door at 4am, but it didn't come until 4.30am, that extra half hour makes all the difference believe me!!

We were going back out on the catamaran canoe this morning, but it was so misty that Joselyn thought we would benefit more from the half hour extra in bed instead. The lake looked mystical shrouded in mist and whilst there was nothing really to be seen in the way of wildlife it was still great to be out on the lake, the air was fresh and cool and a far cry from the hot humid weather we had experienced so far. The sun came up, but it was masked by the mist for quite some time.

Another Sleepless Night

 

Early morning on the Las Piedras river

Today was a very sad day, it was time to make our way back out of the jungle, it would be our last breakfast at ARCC before boarding the motorised canoe and heading back down river to overnight again at Tipischa camp.

We stopped en-route at a known Macaw clay lick, the engine of the boat was turned off and we drifted into the trees at the bank of the river, we had a great view of the clay lick on the opposite bank. Macaws are very nervous birds, so we sat watching them drop further and further down in the trees, making sure no predators were around before they finally made for the clay lick about an hour later. Once one braved it, one quickly turned to ten and ten quickly turned to a hundred or more and soon the whole clay lick was alive with blue and red flashes as they flew onto the clay lick, tore off a lump of clay and flew into a nearby tree branch to eat it. The clay they eat serves to detoxify the poisons found in their natural seed diet in the rainforest. The noise these birds made alone was a spectacle and to see them in their natural environment as opposed to seeing them caged as we do in the UK, was magnificent.

Jungle To Cusco

Peruvian Railway

John slept most of the boat ride back and I drifted in and out of sleep most of the way as well. Lunch was served on the boat again - another Peruvian delight of chicken and rice steamed in a plantain leaf.

Arriving at Puerto Maldonado we made the short trip to the airport and boarded a plane for Cusco. The temperature in Cusco was several degrees lower than what we had been experiencing and the air was very thin, it affected some more than others, we had guessed it would affect my dad and we were right, it was a relatively short time before he felt short of breath. We made our way to the hotel, where we were greeted with a cup of coca tea, which increases the absorption of oxygen in the blood and helps to combat altitude sickness. Cusco looked like a very interesting place, but John and I were both unbelievebly tired and as it was mid afternoon we decided we would go and get a couple of hours sleep and investigate tonight, I think we were in our room for about 5 minutes before we were both sound asleep.

The Sacred Valley And Pisac

The Mayor (on the left) of Pisac district

It was a later start today, we met Lucrezia and set off just before 9am for another exciting day. With fresh eyes we could see that Cusco was definitely a place we wanted to take a closer look at, there were lots of Incan built stone walls lining the central streets, a beautiful 17th century cathedral and lots of other buildings with great architectural interest - for now though we were on our way to the lakes of Huacarpay for some bird watching before making our way to the Incan ruins of Pisac.

The scenery at and around Huacarpay lakes was spectacular. We walked along a small track towards a marshy area where birds such as Hooded Siskin, Yellow-winged Blackbirds, Speckled Teal and Yellow-billed Pintail

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