8 Days In The Jungle
17.09.2010 - 22.10.2010 30 °C
After returning from Machu Picchu Sanjay left us to start his long journey back to England. Me and Chris, on the other hand, spent a couple of days chilling out, drinking and getting mugged around Cusco. A day was then spent trying to sort out the consequences of said mugging before we headed off into the jungle to the north. The Manu national park is the largest in Peru and covers over 18,000 km² of jungle ranging from an altitude of 4000m to 150m above sea level. The reserve is split into three sections and the largest of these is out of bounds to anyone save a few scientists. The other two zones are known as the cultural and reserve zones. The first three days would be spent heading down river through the cultural zone via motor canoe before entering the civilization-free reserve zone where we hoped to see otters, monkeys and perhaps even a jaguar.
As you can imagine, after being in the jungle for 8 days and not keeping a diary my memory is pretty sketchy so I'm just going to recall certain events that for one reason or another (or perhaps no reason at all) have stuck in my head. I will start with the first 4 days.
Day 1. After many hours sat on a bus we arrived at the entrance to Manu national park where we duly began to descend into the cloud forest. As the light began to fade we pulled up at the side of the road to take a 5 minute walk to see Peru's national bird: the cock of the rock. The peculiar birds didn't seem to have what you'd call a head, more of an orange lump with two little eyes stuck on either side.
Day 2. A short bit of rafting down some rapids was followed by a more prolonged canoe journey to the next lodge where after an exhausting, mosquito-ridden trek we arrived at a series of zip lines set up in the canopy. Flying through the trees and over small valleys in the jungle was really pretty cool. Unfortunately there will be no photos of this uploaded as it turns out I like to gurn a lot while on a zip line.
Day 3. Many hours spent cruising the Madre de Dios river drifting in and out of consciousness, briefly waking to see macaws flying overhead and flocks of cormorants at the riverbank watching the world go by before suddenly taking to the skies.
Day 4. It was on this day that we finally arrived at the reserve zone. After an almighty feast for lunch we set out for a nearby lake. Unfortunately at this point a searing headache decided to make my life a hell and we'd been floating about on the lake for maybe 20 minutes before I could grasp what was going on. However, as the headache lifted I was able to appreciate the serenity and beauty of the lake and surrounding jungle. We floated on out rickety raft over to a dead tree jutting into the lake, branches bleached to ivory by the sun. A family of birds (I forget their name) had made their home here, weaving a warren of nests through the branches. Eternally occupied by home improvement, the birds would dart back and forth, adding to their homes one piece of grass at a time.
After watching the birds working away for several minutes we floated to the other side of the lake. Soon enough we came across some monkeys playing and eating by the lakeside. The larger spider monkeys seemed rather skittish and swung off into the jungle fairly rapidly. The much smaller capuchins, however, put on a better show. Wrestling in the canopy, often only using their tails to remain fixed to the branches, monkeys fell, jumped and leapt through the trees in front of us. As the sun dropped into the canopy, turning a shade of orange only seen in the jungle, we headed for shore.
As we walked back to the camp darkness engulfed the jungle and the birdsong of day was replaced by a different, more eery, chorus. Cicadas, as ever hummed away while owls and monkeys reverberated their solos through the forest. Fireflies darted through the vegetation, leading trails of bright, orange light; the jungle's shooting stars. Eventually the trees and shrubs gave way to huts and fireflies gave way to the light of candles as we returned to camp.