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Peru : Into the Amazon

Cusco to Puerto Maldonado

Tuesday 28th August – Into the Rainforest

posadas-amazonas-peru_48872868112_o.jpg We had a leisurely early morning and even a chance to have a dawn walk to the plaza (very pretty, and quiet) before the taxi took us to the airport. Originally the plane was supposed to leave mid morning but it was delayed for ages (apparently there had been a problem at Lima) and very little information was forthcoming. Finally it came and we got onboard (it had already got a full complement from Lima, but about 2/3 of them got off at Cusco). The mountains around Cusco are quite high, so the plane’s runway was quite short and the plane needed height quickly. Hence our lady pilot had to taxi full throttle, then VERY QUICKLY fly it up and up. Quite an interesting take-off. Kudos to the pilots who do this every day. As it was a clear day we had a brilliant view over the mountains and could see many Inca (and pre-Inca) sites below us as we climbed. It was not a long flight before we started to descend over the Amazon.
We could see the Amazon and its tributaries below us as we headed towards Puerto Maldonado. When we landed we immediately noticed the lower altitude (breathing was SO easy) and the, as we walked across the runway tarmac, the heat and humidity. A rep (Ines) from the lodge met us and a minibus drove us to their waiting lodge in Puerto Maldonado to wait for the people on the next plane. It was an open air hut with quite a bit of wildlife around, including several Woolly monkeys who came in and said hello to us (the lodge people there said they were wild, but they weren’t really, as they came and sat on our laps).
Woolly Monkey
The Woolly is an unusually furry medium sized monkey with a long, strong prehensile tail perfect to balance and grip onto branches. It gets its name from its soft, thick, curly fur brown (black/ grey). They live in large groups (troops), which split to smaller groups to forage for food. They mainly eat fruit, but also will eat nuts, seeds, leaves, flowers, nectar, insects, small rodents and even reptiles. As a larger primate its main predators are birds of prey, eagles, ocelots and jaguars main predators. Due to deforestation, it is considered vulnerable extinction.
Some people put their essentials in a smaller backpack, and left their large ones at the lodge, but we hadn’t been warned about this and had no smaller backpacks to use, so tough.

At last the last people arrived and the bus was loaded to drive us to the river. The bus left Puerto Maldonado almost immediately and drove down increasingly small and dusty tracks (I had a huge hornet buzzing in my window, which was sort-of annoying but also meant I kept looking outside and saw loads of birds). En route we were given snacks- plantain crisps and dried banana slices. The roads (ahem) looked like they often flooded and the bridges (ahem) were 2-plank contraptions that needed careful manoeuvring by the bus to cross (2 tyres each plank) as we headed to a small pontoon on the river. Once there we got on board a motor launch/canoe (life jackets obligatory) to go down the river. Our baggage made its own way! The trip down the river (Madre de Dios/ Tambopata) was brilliant- not too fast to look at the riverbanks for life. The river edges were surprisingly sandy, with parrots and macaws around. We came across a few locals, mainly finishing their fishing (for...I wonder?). We had another snack as we cruised (a sort of sticky rice dish wrapped in a banana leaf). The boat trip took about 45 mins, so we arrived at early dusk and walked up a steep, sandy path towards the lodge. Amazingly as we walked two troops of monkeys (some Spider Monkeys and Golden Lion Tamarins) went past us.
spider-monkeys_48876482388_o.jpgspider-monkeys-tambopata-peru_48876480428_o.jpgSpider Monkey
The Spider Monkey is a small monkey (2 foot minus a long tail) that lives high in the rainforest canopy. It eats fruit, seeds and leaves. This monkey likes to hang upside down using its powerful tail to hold branches.
Golden Lion Tamarin
The colourful Tamarin is another small monkey (a 1 foot body + a 1 foot tail) and is an omnivore, eating fruits, insects, spiders and lizards. It is closely related to marmosets (Pygmy Marmoset).
We even spotted a sloth (and we never thought we would, given their lack of movement and near-perfect camouflage). The sloth group is divided in Three-toed and Two-toed varieties. Sloths live in the rainforest canopy, rarely if ever coming to the ground (although they can walk and swim).
They eat fruit, leaves and small insects from the branches that they hang upside down in using their long arms and hooked claws. A sloth rarely moves far, staying up to 20% of its life in a single tree. Sloths sleep 15-18 hours each day and are active for only brief periods. They descend every 8 or so days to defecate in the soil. The sloth gets its distinctive colour from the commensal algae that co-exists in its fur. The outer (guard) hairs are stiff and lie over soft underfur, which has no medulla and instead has microscopic cracks for the algae to inhabit. A moth also lives in the fur and lays eggs in the dung. Very young or old sloths have no algae. Oddly sloths have no appendix, gall bladder or abdominal ceacum.

The Lodge itself is in a clearing and we were taken to the Welcome area (like a covered verandah with free filtered water, small gift shop and some amazing skulls). We sat on the comfy settees drinking a welcome fruit cocktail whilst our bags moved themselves to our rooms. Then we had a brief introduction to the lodge (its ethos of ecotourism, its shared community management) before going to find our rooms, which were along one of the radiating raised walkways. Because of the clearing it was still fairly light and we could see out of the fourth “wall” (aka The Jungle) of our room. The rooms have three wood sides, one side open to the jungle with a hammock, a cloth “door” and a shower area (again open to the Amazon). We immediately spotted a leaf green katydid (looking very much like a leaf) sitting sunning him/herself by our hammock. He/She was completely unfazed by us and left when IT wanted to. Steve went to have a wash and shouted in surprise- a poison-dart frog was sitting in our basin plughole looking at us! It quickly left when the water touched it (not on purpose- we’d have liked to see it more). OK, perhaps not a total surprise in the jungle. Then I went to lift the toilet lid- a huge Monkey frog (aka Tree Frog) was sitting IN the toilet basin looking at me, with absolutely NO intention of leaving. Now, I believe that these frogs skins have psychotropic / hallucinogenic properties, so it didn’t seem like a good idea to touch it! Steve went to fetch the management and two turned up with the most ENORMOUS gloves (up to their armpits) and a bag to move it – I think we made the right call! Apparently this is NOT common, but obviously we knew no better then! I guess it was lucky the rooms were still on power (electric power is turned off for rooms at 10pm and only the main lodge stays on the generator (which is why you can charge up devices and use the internet there only).
Monkey Frog
The monkey frog is named because it frequently lives in trees and is a strong climber. It is a nocturnal hunter and can be heard calling loudly at night. The larger females make their nests out of leaves overhanging water, so when the eggs hatch the tadpoles fall into the water. The skin of a monkey frog secretes a milky fluid from its skin to protect it from snakes. The peptides in it include dermorphin- 30x stronger than morphine, but non-addictive. The Amazonian tribes use it in rituals.
Hyloxalus Poison Dart Frog
One of the oldest of this large group of poisonous frogs. Its feet discs are slightly adhesive.
Puerto Maldonado is the main city of the Department of Madre de Dios and the starting point for jungle trips. We made sure we had our Yellow Fever Vaccination Cards because we’d been told that local officials can ask for it even though not officially needed (or even try to give you a vaccination!).
Rainforest Expeditions Posada Amazonas is the closest lodge to town (45 mins by boat from Infierno) and only a short, sandy walk from the river. It belongs to the local Infierno community, the indigeneous Ese-Eje. The Tambopata Reserve is a communal reserve with rights for the local tribal communities. They manage it with a company and together keep ecotourism 'green' and sustainable.
Posada Amazonas Activities
●Canopy Tower – a 30 m scaffolding canopy tower, which gives spectacular views of vast expanses of forest and Tambopata River.
●Lake - Paddle Tres Chimbadas on a catamaran, looking for the resident Giant River Otter family and wildlife- hoatzin, caiman or horned screamers
●Cultural Activities – Visit an ethnobotanical trail.
We were properly hungry now and as dinner was a communal affair at a set time we headed to the main dining-bar-lounge area. Dinner was not ready so we ordered a jungle cocktail (of fruits I’d never heard of). Then dinner was ready, so we all lined up and helped ourselves- Peruvian buffet style. Nice wholesome food- nothing special but tasty and filling. The Lodge gave a self service 3 course meal every day of soup, hors d’oeuvre, salad, hot main course and pudding. Coffee, tea, fruit juice and filtered water was always available. Whilst we were eating Ines outlined our next day (if we wanted) to us, an Australian couple and an American couple (who all turned out to be lovely). A 5am get-up was planned (Steve said no way, he wasn’t going to; me- I said I WAS going, come what may) to get to Tres Chimbades oxbow lake, at dawn and watch the wildlife awake. Then a stroll back to the river looking at the jungle flora and fauna. We’d then return to the lodge for breakfast and have some rest time (they don’t know me- I don’t do rest time) before having a walk through the midday Amazon to the canopy tower and the clay lick. After lunch we would have our own time until mid afternoon when a Medicine Trail trip was proposed. Then it would be dinner and a night walk. This is what we call a FULL day. Of course, I agreed to the whole lot. Steve started bending, everyone else (except 1 lady) was up for it too.

After dinner we headed back to bed. The kerosene lamps were lit now (they get blown out at 10pm so the jungle can sleep too). Just as we walked into
the bathroom area yet ANOTHER frog wandered along our shelves! (The irony is that this is ALL the frogs we, or any of our group, saw in our whole
time in the Amazon- in the wild jungle:0 in our room:3). The mosquito nets were ready, there were hot water bottles (yes, go figure) in our beds and it was so dark we fell asleep quite quickly.

Peruvian Society under Spain
In Peru (as in most Spanish colonies) a class system was very evident.
At the top were Peninsulares – noble residents of Peru, born in Spain, white
Below them Criollos (Creoles) – locally born residents of Peru, mostly Spanish or white origin, not less than 1/8 Spanish
Below the Mezitsos – people of mixed descent less than 1/8 Spanish origin
Near the bottom Amerindians
At the lowest rung of all- African Slaves

These are large birds with bright yellow tails but plain bodies. They are colonial breeders, with each colony producing long woven basket-like nests in close trees. They can mimic other birds and tend to be a bit musty smelling. They eat anything.
Mealy Parrot
These parrots are one of the largest parrots. They get their name from the whitish flour or meal on their backs and neck.

Posted by PetersF 19:41 Archived in Peru Tagged animals birds monkeys rainforest peru amazon cusco puerto_maldonado

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