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  • Day269

    Manu National Park, Peru (Part 2)

    July 13, 2017 in Peru ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Bugs and bites.

    We found a campsite that night. It was right on the rivers edge on flat and soft sand. Perfect. Except for the bugs, which took to our headtorches like flies on a carcass. Alas we spent much of the night in darkness and long sleeves, yet that wasn't enough to prevent Cat from being bitten on the bum, perhaps the bugs mistook her bum for a moon during a bathroom break. Hilarious from my point of view although I was suffering the second day itch from my indeterminable number of Machu Picchu bites.

    We did get the chance for an evening dip/wash in the river which we were assured was safe. It appeared so until two blokes tried to cross it and ended up getting washed so far downriver we almost lost sight of them. Everybody was extremely concerned except Fidel who assured us nobody had ever drowned on his tours.

    That night we built a fantastic Peruvian bonfire. I'm sure 'Peruvian' is not far from making the list of synonyms for lazy because that's what kind of fire this was. We chucked all the driftwood we could find in an enormous pile, scrunched up a heap of dry grass, lit it and stuffed it into the nearest nook. It actually worked surprisingly well and the result was an enormous flame. Way too big and hot to be anywhere near (especially in the already warm ambient temperature), which caused us to more or less evacuate the campsite until it cooled down sometime later. At least there was enough light to turn off the head torches!

    Meanwhile, our boat crew had sourced some unnaturally straight and branchless Amazonian wood to build our accommodation. They whipped up a frame in moments using just their machetes to cut and clean the wood, and to strip bark from a tree for rope. It was impressive work. In fact, I'd hire them if I could trust them not to make a bonfire. The tarp went on the roof and they even strung up mosquito nets over our camping mats. It was luxury. Well except for the fact it was only big enough for about eight people and we were 13. A quick overlap of the matresses and mosquito nets suddenly made the tent big enough (in their opinion) and it wasn't until we demonstrated the Amazon jungle's first thirteen man spoon did they understand that we wouldn't fit. I don't think they had another tarpaulin so the nights accomodation was beginning to look a little disastrous. They finally managed to find another tarp and whipped up another hut in no time.

    Fidel assured me there would be no rain that night yet mere moments after my head hit the (lack of) pillow, the pitter-patter began. We scrambled to get our bags under cover but there was so little space it made our accommodation look like a refugee boat. Ironic really, given the enormity of the jungle in which we lay. Anyway, nobody complained too loudly, or perhaps complaints in foreign languages didn't register and I got a reasonable night's sleep. I think I was the only one, as the next morning there were four wet campers (the ones on the end), many sore backs and quite a few poorly rested souls. Precious gringos we were - the crew just moved some rocks and crashed on the sandy beach in the rain, no nothing.

    That morning we were up before the sun to see the clay lick - an activity in which hundreds of parrots occupy a clay wall to supplement their diet by licking the clay. It sounded fascinating to me but somewhere between the previous night's rain and a dirty great big parrot-eating eagle, the parrots decided they weren't going to lick any clay. Just our luck. But it is the jungle after all and it wouldn't be much fun if they'd put all the parrots in a cage and thrown some clay at them, would it?

    Fidel showed us a video of the phenomenon from his last trip which made us all the more jealous and expedited our progress on getting out of there. Some boating and some vanning saw us back in the occupied areas of jungle, which surprisingly were not much less natural.

    We visited a lake which we toured by balsa raft. I got the honour of captaining a raft (powered like those in Venice) around the lake whilst we undertook the activity of birdwatching. Now I've never been much of a birdwatcher and in fact I've been known to say some fairly awful things about it, which is why it pains me to say I enjoyed this activity. Let's just say it was because boating was involved. We did get up close with some huge birds, as well as many little ones with fascinating nests and behaviour. There you go, I said it.

    Afterward we walked more through the jungle spotting lots of tiny monkeys (squirrel monkeys), a cayman crocodile, turtles, birds, plants, fruit and insects. It's an incredibly lush and diverse environment amd Fidel just kept impressing us with his knowledge and understanding of it. Again (seriously, every time) he got carried away and led us miles into the jungle before someone spoke up. It took us ages to get back despite his shortcuts through knee deep mud and rivers (luckily he provided gumboots). Our team had prepared lunch at the van (legends) and the hungry, thirsty and tired lot devoured it in silence before retiring to the van to begin the extraction process.

    We drove several hours back to the main lodge (not the jungle lodge - yes he has two lodges) where we enjoyed a well needed cold shower, clean bed and some free time which was spent drinking beer. Dinner was light that evening but nobody was bothered, we just wanted a snooze!

    The next morning we began the drive back to Cusco at nine. Fidel assured us it was six hours, despite it taking at least seven on the way there. At three pm we were hardly close and the driver was taking the corners with apprehension I didn't think Peruvians could have. It turns out their tourism licence expired while we were in the jungle and they were risking a $2000-4000 fine by being on the road (at least that's what he told us). Eventually we found the checkpoint (police move it around) and pulled over the van, just out of sight. Fidel encouraged us to board a local bus, leaving behind the van and it's driver to wait for the police to leave. A few German faces looked livid and Cat and my humour did little to relieve it. We didn't get into Cusco until around 6.30 where we disembarked and Fidel put us all in seperate taxis to be dropped at our accommodation, three hours late. I didn't mind, we had nowhere to be and if we saved him from paying the corrupt police a significant sum of money then I'm happy to have done it. The shambles of a process was actually quite amusing.

    Despite being in recovery for a good deal of the trip, it was an awesome adventure and a really unique one at that. I was surprised at the lack of mosquitoes (compared to my expectations) even though Cat is still scratching her bum. Fidel was the guide we hope for every tour and without him I'm certain it would have been a very different trip. I suppose we can thank Tripadvisor for that one.

    Upon cleaning ourselves up in Cusco (which included 6.5 kg of washing!) we realised this is our final tour of the trip. A moment of sadness was quickly overcome by the fact we don't have to put up with all the things we hate about tours anymore. Hurrah!
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