A long drive was ahead of us, so we were collected from our hotel at Cusco at 4am. As we headed for the rainforest it began to rain. As we entered the cloud forest, the clouds were hanging low as it was still raining. As we had reached the rainforest we were on the look-out for monkeys or birds, though it was hard to see much through the rain. We rumbled in the bus on the gravel roads in Manu National Park. We stopped to have a look at a bird spotting place, hidden away from the road. However, the rain and mist made it hard to spot. Because it was still raining, we couldn’t have lunch along the side of the road. Our guide found a place that allowed a roof over our head, while we had lunch. Perfectly situated with the view of a waterfall. As we finished lunch, we spotted the cock-of-the-rock, the national bird of Peru. Getting back in the bus, we headed further into the cultural zone of Manu NP and arrived at the rainforest lodge. We had dinner in a dining hall, before we went to bed in our little huts. Hiding away from any mozzies under the mozzie net.
After eating breakfast, we packed our things and got back in the little bus. Stopping every now and then, to look for animals. We hadn’t gone far before we got to see a Potoo sleeping in a tree. Not far after as we had a look at a coca plantation, we got to see macaws as well. We drove on till we reached the river Madre de Dios, where a boat was waiting for us. We were soon in the boat going further into the rainforest.
All of a sudden, our guide tells us to take our shoes of and come with him. He jumps out of the boat and onto a mudbank in the middle of the river. Without questioning we get barefoot out of the boat into water halfway up our calves. We walk onto land and try to keep up with our guide who has no problem running over the stones. When we catch up with him, we find out why we had to come. Howling monkeys. Several are sitting in a tree on the opposite side of the river. After enjoying the view for a little while, we got back into the boat and made our way to a natural hot spring. Here we had an hour’s break, enjoying the hot spring.
When we got back on the boat, we had our lunch. Then we went further on, until we reached the Bonanza lodge. We took our things, walked through the rainforest for 5 minutes and arrived at the lodge. We went straight for the hammocks and a moment to relax.
After dinner, we were giving Wellington boots and we went on an evening walk. Walking through the jungle, making our way to a bird tower and watched as the sun set. After the sun had left, we turned on our flashlights and went for a night walk through the jungle. Here we got to see a tarantula, bats, walking sticks, an owl and more.
After breakfast, we went for another walk in the jungle. We quickly came past a palm with coconuts, and our guide got two down. Moments later we came across both lime and lemon, and took some with us. When we had our snack break, we drank the coconuts and ate the limes. Coming back to the lodge, we had lunch, and enjoyed some time in the hammocks. Later in the afternoon, we got our sleeping bags and packed dinner, and went to the camouflaged house to stay for the night. We got prepared and then settled down for the evening. We were on the lookout for tapirs. It wasn’t before we were starting to doze off under our mozzie nets, that a tapir appeared. We watched it for a short while, before it left again and that was it for the night.
Having slept on and off all night, we finally got up at some point in the morning. We packed our things together and started walking back through the jungle and to the lodge. After having breakfast, we got tents and mattresses. We got it strapped to our bags and took our lunch with us, as we headed back out into the jungle. Glad for our wellington boots we walked through mud and water, some places with branches underneath so you didn’t sink. Other times we would be crossing smaller rivers, having to balance on a fallen tree of some long branches that had been put across. A couple of feet getting wet during the walk. After a while we had a break and our guide got out fishing hooks and worms. A hook was tied to a line and we started fishing in a little river. Learning the technique, we actually got to catch some fish, though they were very small.
We went further on, and found our cook and assistant guide having set up camp and preparing dinner for us. We set up our tents in the clearest area we could find and then had time to relax. Just as the sun was setting we sat down to have our dinner, and the assistant cook turned on a couple of candles. So we had a candlelight dinner in the middle of the jungle, talking until we went to bed.
After we had our breakfast in the middle of the jungle, we packed down the tents and walked back to the lodge. That meant walking through mud and water again, yet this time not as much. After being back at the lodge, there was time for a shower, before lunch. After lunch we took all our things and went back to the boat. Enjoying the view, we made our way back down the river. A few hours later, we stopped at a mudbank dividing the river in two. This was were we set up camp for the last night. We fished in the river, got bitten by sandflies, and looked at birds and howling monkeys on the river banks. As the sun set, we had dinner and wine to celebrate our last night. We had some local punch and sat talking until bedtime.
At a round 2am it started dripping on our tent, which then turned into rain. Lying awake, I remembered the story that our guide had told the night before. They had once been on a similar bank, when it had started to rain so much that they had to pack in the middle of the night and leave. At 5am we got up, as we had decided to leave early, as there was a long road ahead getting back to Cusco. Putting on our ponchos, we started packing our things and the tents down, and getting everything in the boat. As we drove away down the river, it was still dark and raining. Later on as the sun rose and the rain stopped, we started being on the lookout for any animals. Herons, a kingfisher, egrets and other birds were hanging out by the river. As breakfast was passed around on the boat, I suddenly noticed something moving in the water. A moment later a head popped up, and it was an otter. Even our guide was excited, as they rarely saw them. Here was one eating its breakfast, and a little away we saw a young one run up on the bank and into the bush.
Making the rest of the way on the river we got back to where we started at the river. Here the bus was waiting for us to take us back to Cusco. Our things were moved to the bus and we got in and left. At lunchtime, we stopped and set up our table and seats, and had our lunch at the side of the road. Enjoying the jungle before we would be leaving it, and the rumbling way back to Cusco.
NB: We went with Amazon Wildlife Peru on their 6 days/5 nights trip into the cultural zone of Manu.