Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Manu National Park Day 2

Peru Day 7: We awoke before sunrise again for an early breakfast before setting out for the day. The courtyard in the center of the lodges itself was quite rich with wildlife, including several species of orchids. A feeder was effective at attracting several hummingbirds, darting back and forth faster than the eye could fully perceive. We also enjoyed seeing the sun set the clouds aflame as dawn slowly broke.
Huts at Bambu Lodge

Sunrise at Bambu Lodge

After eating, we strolled by the roadside as the van was prepared for the day. Even on an unassuming stretch of road, the amount of novel wildlife was quite impressive. Touch-me-not plants, hordes of soldier ants, and countless flowers dotted the roadside.

The van caught up with us and took us onward into the forest. Many birds dotted the sky, but Abraham was particularly adept at spotting the rarer species. He seemed to do this as much by sound as by sight, but the two senses were tightly paired. Even if he could identify a bird’s call, it would not be much use without being able to pinpoint the source. The highlight of this was spotting a toucan in a far off glade of trees, and then capturing the bird in flight.
Flying toucan
We saw many oropendelas (golden tailed birds) and parrots as well. As we went deeper into the forest, the bird density increased. Flocks of macaws flew overhead as we crossed one of the many streams.

Along the way, there was a petting zoo. While not fully ‘natural’, the animals were free to roam around the place, and let us see some of them up close. There were several species of parrots, a turtle, sloth, monkey, and a very friendly pig.

Similarly, we stopped by an orchid garden that was truly a labor of love of the gardner. I do not recall his name but he was generally regarded ‘The Orchid Professor.’ This was not just hyperbole as he actually had a species named after him! We saw dozens of species, including some of the tiniest orchids one can imagine, no bigger than a few grains of rice.
The Orchid Professor of Manu
We eventually ended up driving along a ridge overlooking a broad river plain surrounding the Atalaya River. Our tour shifted to its water-faring stage, as we unpacked the van into a boat. We did a short tour up and down the river for about an hour, seeing waterfalls and other river traffic as we motored along. Eventually, we pulled up to the banks of the river with a steep set of stairs leading up to our night lodging.

Unlike the Bambu Lodge of the night before, the Sago de Oro lodge had no electricity but it did have solar-heated hot water. This lodge was more deeply set in the jungle, with numerous birds darting around, in particular hummingbirds.

After a short break for lunch, Abraham took us for another hike around Machuwasi lake, which was more like a lagoon. We hopped back in the boat and headed downstream. We disembarked on a pebble-strewn beach on the opposite bank and started hiking into the jungle. The boots sure came in handy with all the mud! After about 45 minutes, we came into a clearing where we waited to board a raft.

The raft slowly drifted through a lagoon, with Abraham occasionally paddling but mostly pointing out the various animals around. We saw many bird species but the most interesting to me was the baby capybara! The capybara is a South American mammal that resembles a giant guinea pig. The evening was quite tranquil and memorable.

On the hike back, night befell us. We were prepared from the night before, so we felt more comfortable when Abraham wanted to stop and try to spot a caiman, the South American version of an alligator. He spotted one and centered the scope on it, but initially I had a tough time making it out against the muddy background, until all of a sudden, his yellow eye came into focus, staring right back at me! It was chilling because one could easily imagine wading into the water unaware of the danger lurking nearby. We soon made our way back to the boat and lodge, settling in early for another early rise the next day.


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