Saturday, February 15, 2014

February 11 to 14, 2014, Amazon Rain Forest

Ronald, the cab driver we met on Monday night has offered to get us to the airport on Tuesday morning and on the way we get to know a little about him. He spent two months in university before having to drop out due to a shortage of funds for tuition. Since dropping out he is taking English lessons by book and on the internet and speaks English very well. He seems determined and hopefully can return to school at some point to pursue his dream of furthering his education.
Arriving in Puerto Maldonado after a 45 minute plane ride we are met by Robin, our guide for the next four days. The temperature and altitude change from Cusco is extreme and we are pouring sweat within minutes of exiting the airplane. The Posada Amazonas lodge is an hour an half up the Tambopata River, the first leg is 45 minutes on a bus and another 45 minutes in a "canoe" that has a 75 HP motor and holds about 30 people.

 A view of the rain forest from the air.

 Even the chickens were looking for comfort in the cool sand.
 River canoes.
 Lunch on the canoe was a Peruvian dish with rice, eggs and vegetables wrapped in a leaf to keep it warm.
 Indigenous housing along the river.

When we arrive at the lodge it's about a 10 minute hike to the lodge and the very first thing you notice is how noisy the jungle is with all the sounds of insects and birds along with different types of monkeys calling each other.
 Our room with three walls and open to the jungle on one end.

After a quick orientation Robin takes our group on our first walk to a 30 meter high observation tower that takes us above the forest canopy where you get a great view of the river, birds, and monkeys. Our group consisted of Deana (Lima), Dan & Fiona (Australia but living in New York), Vanessa & Trevor (USA but Vanessa is teaching in Lima) and ourselves.

 Canopy tower.
A view from the canopy tower.
Diana, Fiona and Dan waiting for Robin to break the brazil nut shells. Each pod contains about 25 nuts and you need a machete to open the pod.

Day 2, we are awakened at 4 am for a 4:50 departure to Tres Chimbadas Oxbow Lake, a 30 minute boat ride and 45 minute hike. The whole time we are experiencing a true jungle downpour and between the rain, humidity and sweating we are totally soaked. We board a catamaran (two canoes lashed together with a deck) and are transported across the lake where we watch birds and stop to fish for Piranha's. They are fairly easy to catch and everyone is having a blast with the catch and release event.
Diana with a Yellow Bellied Piranha, much smaller than you see on the TV shows but their teeth are extremely sharp as we saw them bite off pieces of vegetation.

The rain continues to increase and the guides call off the balance of the trip on Oxbow Lake as the Giant River Otters (the whole reason for our trip here) will be in their dens. We are here in the rainy season and seeing wild life is somewhat more difficult than if we were here during the dry season. It's back to the lodge to dry out and have a snack. Our trip to the clay licks was also canceled due to the rain so we end up in the lounge learning how to make Pisco Sours. Pisco Sours is a Peruvian favorite made from a grape liquer and I was fortunate enough to be chosen as the bartender.
 Macaws in the trees above the clay lick.
Our trek to a botanical garden after lunch was also canceled due to the downpour so we spend the afternoon watching videos of the Amazon rainforest and manage to catch an hour nap.
After supper we go on a night hike through the rainforest and are successful in spotting many frogs, spiders, ants, walking sticks and other insects.
 Walking Stick
 Frog, can't remember its name.

Day 3, Awakened by howler monkeys at 4:00 am and hiking by 5:30, this time to the canopy tower for a view of the birds flying above the rainforest canopy. Returning to the lodge we have a quick breakfast at 7:30 am before taking a hike to the clay licks. The clay licks are where the Macaws and Parrots gather in large numbers, they ingest the clay which contains salt and minerals to neutralize the poisons in the plants that they eat. Unfortunately, the monkeys are extremely noisy and keep the Macaws in the tree tops rather than outside our blind.
 Squirrel monkeys having a lunch of beans.
 Bat falcon
 Chicken spider otherwise known to us as a Tarantula.
 Hoatzin, the bird has two stomachs like a cow.
 Brown Agouti, a rodent that eats vegetation.
 Brown Squirrel
 Duski Titi Monkey
 Squirrel Monkey
 Red Howler Monkey
After lunch, in the heat of the day Robin takes Vanessa & Trevor and Diana & I on a hike to see the largest Kapok (Ceiba) tree in all of the Amazons along with the largest Brazil Nut tree in Peru. The hike takes us through many swamps and at one point the water is just above my knees. There are monkeys every where and by now we are able to tell the difference by the noises they make. The spider monkeys are probably the most entertaining as they swing and jump between the tree limbs.  It's 6:30 pm, already dark and the last swamp we cross we notice 3 caimans lurking in the distance, you can't actually see them but their bright red eyes are unmistakable when your flashlight beam hits them.
 Walking through the jungle swamp.
 Our guide, Robin.
 Fire ants are venomous and have a painful sting.
 Can you spot the frog?
 Trevor and Vanessa on the swamp walk.
Squirrel Monkey 
This is the largest Kapok tree in all of the Amazons.
 Day 4, I am awakened at 4 am by howler monkeys, they are upset about something and continue howling for about a half hour. Somehow Diana sleeps through all the commotion. We have a quick breakfast before boarding the canoe at 8:30 for the return trip to Puerto Maldonado. Our return flight to Cusco has been delayed for 4 hours and once we get to Cusco we understand why, the roads are under a foot of water due to heavy rains earlier in the day. While at the airport I step onto the luggage scale as I'm certain I have lost weight since leaving home in November, no wonder my pants are loose in the waist as I've lost 23 pounds. Probably has something to do with the fact I've had stomach issues five times now.
Due to the delayed flight we've had to stay an extra day in Cusco so we could get all our laundry done before departing to Puno. The overnight temperature drops to 9 degrees C and our hotel room has no heat source so it's under the wool blankets to stay warm, quite the change from the rain forest where you slept with only a sheet. Our camera has a piece of dirt stuck in the telephoto lens and although we had over 300 photos we also know we missed some great shots. Fortunately, Trevor has offered to send us some photos at a later date and we will do an additional post of the rain forest . Hopefully we can get the camera repaired in Bolivia next week.

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