Peru – Manu BiosphereBack to Story

Amazon adventures

One of the key things we wanted to experience while traveling to South America was a visit to the jungle.  After a lot of research on access to the Amazon from Peru we decided on the Manu Biosphere, which is inland from Cusco.  A good 1.5 days driving inland.  We were incredibly lucky to find both our guide and lodges to ourselves on what was to prove a magical experience.

While on the long dusty road up to jungle our guide asks if we’d like to explore a local village because there is a festival happening and people will have come for miles.  The festival is a catholic and is centered around the local church but here the similarities ended.  When the Inca’s were conquered we are told Catholicism became the principle religion but individuality and culture was expressed through the costumes worn on those days.  This was no exception.  The color was vivid and costumes elaborate.  There was singing and dancing in the streets and food stalls serving up local delicacies. One of those unexpected but amazing travel experiences.

Cloud Forest

Onward we travel to the Manu Cloud Forest Lodge.  With our guide we stop along the road and here begins our geeky start at binocular tourism.  Even if you don’t consider yourself much of a bird watcher you will be mesmorised by the beauty and grace of the inhabitants of the jungle.  The cloud forest has a different type of foliage and as a result birds and wildlife.  We are fortunate and spot some Woolly monkeys before heading to the Cloud forest Lodge.

The lodge is exactly as you’d expect rainforest lodgings.  Its perked overlooking a gushing stream.  I can’t help but be worried it would be swept away in a flood but that is the New Zealander coming out in me.  In fact I feel like this could be the West Coast of New Zealand.  On studying some of the material in the lodge I discover that this type of forest exists in among other places Vancouver Island and New Zealand.  Having grown up in New Zealand and lived in Canada I am obviously drawn to both the climate and vegetation. One of the great experiences of travel finding things on the other side of the world sometimes the same and sometime completely different but always interesting.

We head out at dusk to see to Andean Cock-of –the Rock which is the national bird for Peru.  These large birds parade around at dusk with the males trying the impress their ladies each with a dance and song.

The next day the van rattles down the hill and the road narrows as we reach the river point where we find our boat.  The vistas over the river network are amazing.  If you fly out you get to see them from the air as well.  On the way up the river we put into a river bank with a couple of huts with 40 galloon drums out the front.  An Amazon gas station. The river boat tank is filled, cash passes hands and we’re off again.

Manu River and Oxbow Lakes

There are a few hours to go up the river before we then hike into the lodge. It’s a long day but the scenery is second to none.  We stop at a hut on the way, which has gallon drums, which serve as the petrol station for the riverboats. There are only two other boats we see at the National Park hut but the only lodge in the biosphere is the one we’re in.

Luckily we have a skilled boat driver because it’s pretty shallow in parts of the river and there are moments when I feel like the rocks are going to come through the boat.  However we arrive safely in time to walk to our lodge at dusk.  Its built on a clearing on the shores of one of the Oxbow lakes. The lodge is basic but perfectly situated and cozy.

Our guide warns us as we drift off to the rooms that if we’re woken at dawn it’s the Howler monkeys.  Despite this I was unprepared for the racket.  It is like the ghosts of the world are outside your window and they’re not happy.  Once I reassure myself they can’t get in and it’s not a riot of the dead I marvel at the sounds of nature.  You couldn’t create a scarier and heart chilling noise if you tried.  Now that I am awake, and its light enough, I brave the trip out to the outside toilet block.  The lodge give you a bucket to pee in during the night but I decide I’d rather take my chances with the Howler monkeys.

That’s when I see and hear a couple of families of giant otters playing and feeding in the lake right off the pier.  They really look like seals they are so large, everything out here seems larger than life including the spiders.  They have a catch of fish and the older ones are sharing it around the group.  This involves a lot of chatter and messy munching.  A perfect start to the day and I begin wondering how we’re going to top that.

There are lots of different things you can do.  Walking on the trails we saw 6 of the 13 or so types of monkeys that you can see in the area.  We just missed a Tapir (one of the jungles largest animals) but could hear it bashing through the jungle within meters of where we stood. We did manage to catch sight of an Agouti (giant rodent) along the banks of the river but no jaguar.  The Giant Otters decided to travel to another lake while we were there and passed beside us in the creek bed.  The bird life is also amazing with many Macaws and exotic water hens featuring.

The exit from the river proved as eventful as arrival. We left the lodge on the Oxbow lake in the dark in order to get to the mouth of  the river and catch a small plane out.  Again in true Amazon style there is no actual flight times.  It seems that that seats are first come first serve basis and the plane goes back and forward to Cusco for the day until hopefully all the passengers get out. Not something I took well. What do you mean we don’t fly at 8:00am? Why bother printing it on the ticket then? Luckily for me we made it out just before lunch.  The airport itself is classic as well. Its a mown clearing in the jungle with a hut to one side which does have a concrete slab and a thatch roof.  The luggage is ferried too and fro the small planes in wheelbarrows. An Amazon conveyor belt.

Leaving the jungle behind left us with a commitment to go back and explore it further.

Travel photographs from the Manu Biosphere - including images the Cloud Forrest Lodge, Ox Bow Lake, Giant Otters, Andes village and flora and fauna

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