Trip Start Jun 21, 2012
10Trip End Nov 14, 2012
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We then drove up to about 4000 meters above sea level, up and over the edge of the Andes and down into what is called the cloud forest. And it's just that, cloudy, misty and it kind of reminded me a bit of NZ. There was more vegetation and birds than the mountainous area of Cusco. It started to feel like we were getting closer to the rain forest but it was still very cold! We drove for another 5 hours until we reached the start of the rainiest, it was still very misty, rainy and cold. We stopped the bus early so we could walk the last hour to the lodge to look for birds. We got to see the Cock of the Rock, Peru's national bird (google it to see pictures if you like, its a funny looking bird... actually, be careful with google and that word!) and few others. The lodge was very nice and we each had a small bungalow and a hot shower (!!). Since Iquitos we were expecting cold showers and communal living but have been pleasantly surprised with our rooms.
The next day we got up early again to bus for another 5 hours or so to our boat. The drive was very nerve wracking, the road was about wide enough for one bus and it was a very steep and a very long drop on the side, and its pissing with rain. Each time we came across another bus, one would have to back back until there was just enough room for one to squeeze pass. Let's just say I had my hands over my eyes for most of the drive. About 1 hour before we reached the village where we were to carry on by boat, we pass a van of Peruvians coming the other way who tell us there has been a land slip! So, since I think this happens fairly often, our guides knew exactly what to do. They called the main office who then contacted someone in the village to bring another bus to meet us on the other side of the land slip (we would walk across the land slip to meet it). We soon arrive at the slip and there are other tour groups waiting for the same bus. When it arrives there's not enough room for our group so we make the decision to not wait for 2 hours for it to come back but to all pile into a big truck, which would take us into the village (I have no idea where the truck came from or who was driving it). So now there's about 12 guests plus our 2 guides, our 2 cooks and our 2 boat drivers and all our gear and food piled into a truck with no roof but just a tarp, it's pissing with rain. I'm quite happy to sit further inside and not watch the steep drops from the open back. We make it to the river in one piece and then drive for another 6 hours in an open boat in the cold and windy rain. Luckily they gave us huge yellow ponchos to keep the water out. It was a very long journey and we arrived at the Romero lodge just in time for dinner. The lodge is another lovely place with lots of surrounding jungle and warm showers. But the thing we can't help but notice is how cold it is, it feels like a mild winter in Auckland at night but all the lodges seem to be set up for warmer weather, with thin blankets and no walls, just mosquito mesh and curtains. So we pile on the merino before bed each night, which wasn't what we were expecting here in the jungle.
The next day we make our way by boat to a tented camp (no electricity) in the reserved zone of Manu. There are three zones in the park, the cultural zone, which is like a buffer, where people can fish and hunt animals but I think its not encouraged, then there's the reserved zone, which is protected and there are great restrictions on the accommodation, like our company had to bring in all the food, water, sheets, blankets (you're not allowed to do any laundry etc.), and the final zone is the National Park which we didn't enter into and I'm not sure of the details of that zone but I guess it's the most protected and I'm not sure if any tour groups can even enter into it.
We arrive at the tented camp and finally start to do some walking after sitting on boats and buses for days. We spot lots of monkeys, lots of birds, a capybara and cayman.
The next day we get up at 4am so we can walk to a lake called Cocha Salvador. We all pile onto a wooden catamaran to look for the giant otters as they fish for their breakfast. Our guides find them within minutes and we spend half an hour slowly following them along in the misty, silent lake as they chomp on huge fish. It was definitely one of my favourite animal experiences so far. They're so cool, they had cute babies and we could hear and see them so clearly from the catamaran. It was also a great time for our camera lens to fog up!
As we walk back to the lodge we spot more woolly monkeys, this time they were about 15 feet away, feeding in the trees above. So we sat and watched them and they watched us. After lunch we left the tented camp and headed back to the Romero Lodge. The weather had changed and the afternoon was warm and sunny. Perfect weather for animal spotting because they all come out after the cold. And a perfect time for the jaguars to come out to lie on the banks of the river in the sun. Sure enough, about an hour into our boat ride and our chef spots a jaguar. Our boat driver moves us closer and we watch the Jaguar relaxing in the sun with a perfect view from the boat for a good 20 minutes. It was one of the most exciting moments, it was unbelievable! After some time she got up and walked back into the jungle, revealing her beautiful spots and long tail. We were on a high for the rest of the day. They say about 30% of the tours get to see a jaguar.
A new day and more boat riding to our next lodge where we stayed for our final 4 nights. It was nice to unpack a bit and get settled after being on the road for 5 days. The lodge was huge and can sleep up to 60 guests. It has a gigantic dining room with a big bar, hammock room, kitchen and library. There are beautiful gardens with hummingbirds and parrots singing all day and even small monkeys that come to the surrounding trees to feed on fruit. There's plenty to explore in the area.
The next morning we take an early boat ride on the (very) misty river to the Macaw clay lick. In the area they've built a big hide high up off the ground and facing a cliff to watch the show. We sit at tables and eat our picnic breakfast while waiting for the birds to come. Some of the fruit that they eat have certain toxins (?) so they all come to the cliff to eat the clay and it helps with their digestion. The first birds to arrive are the parakeets, they're green birds, with blue or yellow heads. There were about a hundred or maybe more, first they sit on the trees above the lick waiting for the other birds to arrive. It's a dangerous task so they do it in numbers. When they're about to start, they take turns swooping down to check it out and make sure it's safe then they all head down to start eating the clay, all squawking and flapping about on the lick. Once the parakeets leave, about an hour later the macaws come. There were about 40 red and green macaws, again all perched on the side of the clay lick, flapping and squawking.
The next few days we spent walking the various trails surrounding the lodge, going out on another catamaran on another lake, swimming in the river, climbing a 40 meter tower to view the canopy of the jungle from way up high, relaxing at the lodge and meeting and chatting to the other guests.
On the last day we had the big task of getting back to Cusco. We traveled first for 3 hours by boat to a village where we were picked up by car and drove about an hour on a very bumpy, dusty road, then another short boat trip and then into a very cramped, hot bus for a couple of hours to the small airport of Puerto Maldonado and there we caught a quick 45 minute plane back to Cusco.
We had an amazing time in the Manu jungle, we spotted more animals to add to our already big list, our guide was great: knowledgeable and friendly, and the lodges were more comfortable than we expected. Before we left, I was starting to think 9 days might be too long for another Amazon trip, but it hasn't been at all.
And so now we leave Peru! We've had a wonderful month here and the people have been lovely. We did some amazing, adventurous things, I never could have imagined what it would be like sitting back in New Zealand. It's very sad to leave but I'm ready to as well. I think a month was the perfect amount of time for us. Of course Mark just wants to head back to Iquitos again but I'm ready for our new adventure in Mexico.