ihana.com - travels - peru 2000 - manu 1
We'd read about Manu in the guide book and it was supposed to be a fantastic experience. As we'd never been anywhere near any jungle before then it seemed like the chance of a lifetime to go and see it first hand. We shopped around and eventually chose a company in Cuzco called Vilnac??? who seemed to know what they were talking about. Also they were leaving by bus the next day and we could fly back too to save time. It cost $600 each but it was worth it.
We had the now familiar mad bus ride on narrow, twisty, bumpy roads with huge drops. Driving from Cuzco we soon started climbing over a mountain range and after about 5 hours we came to a village where we could spend a few minutes looking round at their preparations for a festival they were having that afternoon.
Here I managed to get a couple of good people pictures. The woman in red stood right in front of me while I was about to take a photo of the street so I saw my chance and grabbed a quick pic of her. We were walking along when we saw the woman cleaning the pig carcass in the sunlight coming through her doorway, another good picture opportunity.
We continued our bus journey and soon came into the edge of the Manu national park where I promptly got bitten by mosquitos! We descended through cloud forest and stopped for lunch beside a waterfall. After an excellent lunch we walked along the track while the bus drove a few kilometres ahead to wait for us. This is when we saw the 'Cock o' the Rock', a bright red bird which is Peru's national bird. We continued on to a small village which was now in a real jungle like area. We stayed the night in huts with beds and a communal shower.
We got back on the bus again for a short drive down to the river which is the only way to continue into the jungle. Our boat was pretty long with plenty of room for us 10 tourists, the guide, the driver and the cook together with supplies for a week. Although the temperature was warm and the river water was warm too, driving along in the boat was pretty cold and we often had to wear hats and rain jackets to keep the wind chill off. As soon as we got going in the boat I felt that the trip proper was starting. Everyone was alert and looking for signs of wildlife along the river banks. After a few hours we were incredibly luck and came across a jaguar, just sitting by the river. We turned the boat round and it just sat there while everyone stared, awestruck. Then it turned around slowly and padded off into the jungle. Amazing.
We spent the night camping by a jungle lodge next to the river. It rained during the night but had stopped by morning. Today we were going to the clay lick which is where the macaws and parakeets gather in the morning to lick the minerals from the clay banks of the river. We got into a special hide which looked like a floating house and were served omlettes and tea while we waited for the birds to come.
First came the parakeets, the noise and colour was a fantastic sight. Then, the parakeets suddenly left and a few miutes later the even more brightly coloured and larger macaws arrived. Limited by my biggest lens of 135mm I couldn't really get close up shots.
We came across capybara twice
During our many trips along the river we saw lots of Caymans (crocodiles) and one huge one which shot towards the boat like lightening, splashing half of us with water. Dotted along the river were herons and other birds too, we even came across some long nosed bats sleeping on a log in the middle of the river. There was always something to see.
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