Welcome to the Jungle…

Another day, another trip, this time the 5 days 4 night tour with Bonanza Tours of the cultural zone of Manu National Park. This post contains mostly photos (we saw around 100 different birds though we do not have photos of them all).

Another early start,  this one actually earlier than normal as there were road works and the only road would be closed for most of the day (similar to what we encountered in Indonesia)! At 4.30 am and we were off…to collect the rest of our group- Liz and John (UK), Malu and Remco (NL) along with our guide Moses, chef (he was just called chef), his son Ronaldo (the chef’s apprentice) and of course our driver we were finally on our way.

Our guide Moses grew up in the jungle up stream from the Bonanza lodge and has known the owners all his life. Over the next  few days led us on the most awesome adventure in the jungles of Manu National Park, the Peruvian Amazon….

From the village we continued on to the gateway to the park for our “snack” stop (there was a lot of driving the first and last days and, rather randomly, eating, we never were hungry on this tour) before descending into the cloud forest….stopping every time someone spotted something- which was a lot! So many birds to see as we wound our way down to the Rainforest lodge, our stop for the night.

Around 5 (I think it was) we pulled into the Rainforest lodge, our home for the first night. We were shown to a twin room on stilts, left to chill out and have a (cold) but refreshing shower before joining everyone for coffee and dinner and a little night walk to see what we could see around the lodge.

Day 2: The following morning we woke just before dawn to do a bit of bird watching before breakfast (we managed to spot the following before breakfast: purplish jay, chestnut eared aracari, sulphury flycatcher, pale-vented pigeon, white-faced parakeet, mealy parrot, chestnut fronted macaw, crimson crested woodpecker). Then after breakfast we packed up and headed down towards the village of Atalaya.

Atalaya, the gateway to the river into Manu.

After the springs we continued up the river to the Bonanza lodge….

After lunch it was time for another walk to an observation tower nearby. Moments after we left the lodge we almost stepped on a Fer-de-lance snake or Bothrops asper. This type of thing is the reason for the wellies. We took some photos and then gave it a wide berth.

Once dusk was well on its way we made our way back to the lodge for dinner before heading back out again on another night walk. I have about 20 photos of grasshoppers etc from this walk, so these are the highlights (scroll quickly over if you don’t like spiders-click to enlarge if you do).

While we were out looking at all of these rather cool insects (I could have spent another hour looking for things), we heard the distant calls of the night monkey, which was a little spook . Once we got back to the lodge we crossed to the river to look for a baby caiman (well the glint of the eye in the torchlight). As we were there we heard something heading at us from behind at quite a speed….

Oh he was so cute! Little Pablito. That night was the first (and only) night we slept in the Bonanza Lodge (it was the same set up as the previous place- two single beds with mosquito nets), and we slept amazingly well, even with the bat screeching over our heads for 15 minutes just as we were drifting off to sleep.

Day 3: We got a bit of a lie in on day three, and after breakfast we headed off into the jungle through a tertiary and secondary forest. En route we saw many things that there is no photos of such as a white throat toucan, yellow tufted woodpecker, black-fronted nunbird, Red squirrel and an agouti. But what did we see? Well….

Other notable plants we saw were the Judas ear mushroom which is edible and soft  (to touch) like beef and a type of belly palm which is used in making parquet flooring. There was also a tree that the bark could be used for rope or fabric as well as an ironwood and caber tree.

During this walk Moses told us a story about a rich logger who got lost in the jungle. He was attempting to retrace his steps cursing the jungle when his best friend approached him and offered to show him the way out. He asked how long it would be. Two days was the reply. The logger was getting tired and hungry but kept following his friend as he cleared a perfect path through the forest. They continued for two days and he asked again. We are nearly there, was the reply, only two days more. So they continued. After another two days had passed the logger had enough. He asked again “how much further?”. “Only another day at the most” his friend replied. Only now did the logger notice that his friend was hovering and had no feet beneath his cloak. He reeled back, horrified, exclaiming “you are not my friend! Who are you??”. At this point his friend’s face broke into a wide grin and he disappeared leaving the logger alone in the centre of the jungle to die for his crimes against the forest. That is the story of the spirit of the forest. Actually quite scary when you are in the middle of one.

After dinner we packed up and went deeper into the jungle to our camp for the night, an elevated hide over a clay pit- the salt lick.

Once we arrived back at the lodge, it was breakfast time and thankfully it stopped raining so we could get ready to leave. By the time we got back the mother of the owners of Bonanza had arrived. She had lived in Cusco for many years but the altitude made her quite ill so every so often she had to come to the lodge for a little break. So it was a quick hello and we were off in the boat, battling upstream towards Atalaya.

On arrival into Atalaya, we continued with day 2 in reverse getting the bus back to the Rainforest Lodge. We were running a bit late, when we arrived there was only a short time before dinner, enough to just grab a shower and freshen up really. Our last night Moses treated us to a bottle of wine, which was really nice. As a result though we ended up staying up late chatting.. not the best idea with a long day’s travelling left. Oh well it was great craic.

Day 5:  One last morning bird watching before breakfast and loading up the van to head back. Through the checkpoint (to prevent coca smuggling), through the small village of  Paucartambo for a lunch break and then the joy of road works before arriving that evening into Cusco.

This was a fantastic tour and I can highly recommend it. We only wish we had been able to spend a few more days at Bonanza or travel deeper into the jungle but it was not possible with our budget. Next time though…..!

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