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The Mighty Amazon

Madra de Dios

semi-overcast 33 °C
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Bugs, birds, monkies, spiders, mammals and plants galore...everything you expect in a jungle and more...

We arrived at the Pueto Maldanado airport an hour late as the airport was closed due to bad weather, 30C and raining. We flew in worse weather landing in Wellington. After a quick bus ride to the Madra de Dios river (a subsiduary of the Amazon). We hop on a river boat and head down stream about 25 mins to our lodge. The river is 600m wide and brown from all the rain. It seamed to be flowing fast, but in our time here we would observe it rise another 2 meters and increase in current speed twice fold.
When we arrived at the lodge we were quietly exited about the few days to follow. The lodge is what you expect, huts raised off the ground in case the river rises and to give the guests some distance from the creepy crawlies on the ground. The windows are just mesh screens and beds equipped with mosquito nets. The lodge makes an effort to be eco friendly using the river water for bathroom use. Within an hour of our arrival we saw a pack of Howler monkeys swinging in the trees behind our hut, got acquainted with some local birds including a tiny humming bird, and numerous interesting insects.

That afternoon, we took a quick trip down stream to Monkey Island! There are only 14 monkeys on the Island as the larger monkeys (howler, spider) do not like living in confined spaces (less than 10 acres). We walked down a jungle track with our guide Diego calling the alpha male, Chico, chico. Eventually we meet the 12 Capachino monkeys and 2 Squirrel monkeys. They threw bark off the trees at us and then began to follow us back to a designated feeding area. They scuttled down large vines, checked around for condors and other possible predators, then grabbed the slices of apple left for them. Some were greedy, taking 3-4 pieces and then struggling to climb back, or eating on the run.

Here the jungle was full of bright flowers, similar to the birds of Paradise and the many big butterflies kept trailing us on the path, including the electric blue flapper, BEAUTY! With the sun fading, we hopped back on the boat for some White Camin hunting (a small river Crocodile). Spotting them in the dark wasnt too hard, as their eyes glow red when you shine a torch light at them. Once we spotted one amongst the reeds, the boat glided closer to get a better look. In a flash Diego lurches out of the boat and comes up with a small Camin (1m long!) It was a true crocodile hunter moment. Tim got to hold the crock.

Day two - after a haunted sleep of jungle sounds. It wasn't comforting to being woken at 5am by howler monkeys, who sound like demonic gools. We had breakfast and were introduced to three Macaw parrots which like to greet visitors with an occasional "Hola", show off and beg for scraps of food.

Back on the boat we headed 1hr down stream to a 500 hectare nature reserve and animal rescue center. Here our guide showed us a site where the reserve tests out various new crops which could be cultivated in the area, like coffee, pineapple shrubs, cocao and strange plastic looking flowers. On the way through the jungle we saw a tarantula, and various different lizards.
DSC04243.jpg We then climbed a 45m high and 90m in length canopy walk to the top of a large tree. At the top we were able to observe more bird life, even spotted a bird of five colors.
In the reserve we observed monkeys that had been pets, Tapairs, weird rodent creatures and a Jaguar, that had lost its mate. We were comforted to know that the reserve is working to reintroduced these animals back to the jungle.
And no tourist trip is complete without the encounter,( or staged encounter) with the "native Indians", where we were lectured by a 64 year old man. Wearing a wood fiber mumu, he tried to convince us that he and the remaining people of his tribe never wear western clothes or shoes, and never eat salt or sugar. Because if they did they would get sick. We finished off the day with Monkey meet for dinner...



Day Three, the on/off rain didn´t deter us from traveling to a lake Sandoval nature reserve, famous for its varied wildlife inhabitants. The lake was once part of the river, as a shoehorn, then a build up of sediment created the lake which inhabits one of the last colony of giant otter. The lake is 7kms long so our chances of seeing them were not great. But as luck would have it, as soon as we got out of the jungle flood waters onto the lake, the otters were swimming towards us. DSC04319.jpg

We also saw a host of birds including, Heron, Stinky Birds, Giant Annie and Shags. Monkeys of several variety's clambered on the trees. On the way back it poured down and we were required to man the ores, we made it back in record time.

Once back at the lodge we went for a walk in the jungle behind the lodge, which is a 10 hec block. Diego explained how different plants were used as medicines, and even coached a tranchula out of its hole so we could all have a good look.
A giant snail oozed across the track and wild boar could be heard in the jungle. DSC04320.jpg

Day Four, up at 4.30am to travel upstream to a parrot clay lick. Every morning the parrots gather to lick the clay, it provides them with sodium and also lines there stomach so they do not get poisoned by certain seeds. Diego also spotted two sloths in a tree. With their backs turned to us clutching the tree, it resembled a termite pod, just a brown blob in the tree. As we circled around in our boat fighting a current, we startled them and their pair slowly unfolded. The long arms stretched out, it found some leaves to nibble as he shifted in search of a cushier canopy spot. After seeing the sloths, we could be content with our first jungle experience. DSC04324.jpg

Out time at the Tambopata Lodge was complete, but our flight back to Cusco weren't leaving untill the following day. So our guide Diego, dropped us off back in the jungle town of Puerto Maldonado. The small town is loud and dusty, the result of the constant motorbike traffic. Entire families are loaded onto 50cc scooters:Dad, mum, 10 year old in the middle and a baby under each arm. So we did as the locals did, we hired a motorbike for the afternoon.
In the end the shit hostel and the noise of traffic convinced us to leave. But the spirit of the jungle will draw us back for further exploration.

Posted by Tatyanazzz 13:35 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

The Journey to Machu Picchu

Cusco and the Sacred valley

22 °C
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After a somewhat stressful journey on a bus we finally arrived to the heart of the Inca civilazation, Cusco. With a recommended hostel in mind we were wisked off to the old part of the city. Our first impression was of the old coblestone roads, the width of a single car leaving only a 20cm gap for a pedestrian to cling to the the witewashed walls of the collonial buildings.
We spend a day crawling around the city discovering the amazing syndication of two archictechural styles, the great Inca stones and the Spanish tradition of plazas, courtyards and intricate little balconies. The Conquistadors desecrated the Inca sites by using the stone temples and fortresses as a quary to build their own cathedrals and homes. Most building in the old neighbourhoods retain the original Inka stone foundation, washed clean for display, these foundations hold up the various collonial establishments. Walking these streets brings the rich history of this place to life. On every block there is a grand chathedral dating back to 17th century but unfortunatly we weren´t able to enter most of them as they were either closed or have exuberant entry fees.
The only negative aspect about Cusco is that it heavily relies on tourists. It is low season at the moment, and everyone in hospitality is despirate to attract cliental. Even the street vendors are a constand barrage of harassement, buy this or that, try it on. This gets very hard, to the point where you dont want to approach their stalls but have to find different paths to avoid the harrassment. The prices for tourist attractions keep rising, the tourist is exploited here and made to turn there pocket inside out, entry to Machu Picchu is $US40.
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But this this is Perus archiological capital, full of history and vibrant culture, all preserved and sold to the eager tourists. Inka teraces, fortresses and temples. We got hooked and took a tour of the Sacred valley, a journey that took us through the countryside and to three Inka heritage sites: Pisac, Ollytaytambo and Chinchero. The fist two villages are a great exmple of Inka citadells. We learned a bit about the Inca culture and got to appreciate their achitechture, and feel the a bit of sympothy for the distruction that comes with colonisation. The Sacred Valley is well fiting name for the surrounding countryside, which ranges from lush agricultural valleys to high andean mountains still glistening with snow. Its a beauty!!!DSC04059.jpg

For the lack of time and organisation we weren,t able to get on a Inca trail. Although we had done our share of tramping around Machu Picchu nonetheless. For us it was also a challange to keep our expandidure below $US150 each, which is what most tour companies offer for a 2day excurtion to the tourist mecca. To get to the mounain we first caught a train to a small town at the foot of the mountain. Agua Caliente (Hot Water) is transient township for tourists with numerous hospitality outlets. After a good soak in the themal pools, which were some what dissapointing compared to what we are used to in NZ, we prepared for an early rise the following morning.
Awoken by neighbouring roosters and dogs, at 5am we were off to enter the postcard landscape of Machu Picchu. We arrived at the gates of the park early about 6.30 when the soft light of the sunrise was starting to illuminate the site. As we climed the initial terraces we were greeted by a couple of stern llamas doing their bit a keeping the place nice and tidy. Although it may not have been the same feeling of ellation as one would get after three days treck, we were certanly thrilled to finally be here. We were also pleased to share the site with only a handfull of other early birds. We spent our time walking around, admiring and observing some of the native fauna: vascuchas, lizards and numerous birds and butterflies.

Before 8am we started our treck up an adjasant mountain peek Wayna Picchu. This walk is a test of everyones endurance at altitude, its a steep climb up 200 meters of Inca steps. These steps are of various sizes both width and hight, at times next to a slipery cliff drops. Huffing and puffing we made to the top with in 45 min, to enjoy the spectacular view of Machu Picchu and the surrounding country side. Sitting on top of the rocks, we felt on top of the world, closer to the sky and to the Inca dieties.

Posted by Tatyanazzz 14:36 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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