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Published: October 14th 2017
September 7- We had built another free day in Cusco into our itinerary and it was so welcome to just be able to sleep and do nothing exertional other than get laundry done and walk to the Indian market. And then it was time to say good bye to Cusco and fly off to the Amazon with Star Peru. The Cusco airport is right in the middle of the city and Kelly had regaled us with stories of scary approaches and landings on his first visit here over 30 years ago, but the wind was in the right direction today and it was all a bit of a non event.
We were met in Puerto Maldonado by the crew from Corto Maltes Amazonia and taken to their office where we left most of our luggage, taking only what we would need for the next couple of days in plus 30 C temperatures. Then it was down to the Capitania port to catch our Amazonian boat for the 40 minute trip on the Madre De Dios River in a torrential downpour. On arrival at the lodge we were given a delicious passionfruit drink and a great lunch of salad and chicken.
The first activity scheduled for 3:30pm was cancelled due to the weather so we had lots of time to relax in our bungalows and appreciate our surroundings - local wildlife included 2 pet macaws, a couple of toucans and Peter the Guinea Pig. Right at dusk (and dawn) there was an extremely loud cacophany of cicadas and crickets. It almost did not sound natural.
At 7pm we headed out onto the river for some white caiman spotting. We were fortunate to see a number of these crocodilian reptiles hanging out near the river bank. We also saw 2 adult and 3 baby Capybara - these are the world’s largest rodent and can weigh up to 200 lbs!!!!! The adults just stood on the bank and ignored us! Apparently, they are relatives of the guinea pig. Then back to the lodge for dinner. We were part of a group of ten now - the four of us, a young german couple and 4 California girls. The latter had been 24 hours behind us on the trail and had endured 24 hours of rain which made the last day of trekking quite treacherous. We were certainly lucky with our trekking weather.
The program on day 2 included yet another early start (5:30am) for our adventure onto Lake Sandoval. We were given a bagged breakfast (ham and cheese sandwich, juice and fruit) before heading out onto the river for about 20 minutes to the landing area and entry point of the Tambopata National Reserve. The walk to the lake was about 3 km and Franklin our guide, pointed out various plants, termite mounds, butterflies and a group of very noisy howler monkeys. We had been given gumboots for this excursion because of the rain the day before turning the track into mud - although it was not as bad as expected. Once we reached the lake we got into a traditional rowboat for a three hour excursion that started out interesting but soon became interminable as we were sitting in the intense sun and not really seeing a lot. The first part was through a swampy area with a lot of trees where we were able to see quite a number of birds, but once on the lake proper we did a VERY SLOW circumnavigation, during which we saw a black caiman, river otters, kingfishers, snake birds and stink birds (Hoatzin).
All very interesting but about an hour too long. The walk back through the jungle was fascinating as every sunny, muddy spot on the trail hosted hundreds of colourful butterflies flitting around. And every now and again, a brilliant big blue one would wander by.
Back at the lodge again, I noticed that I am exhausted climbing up the stairs from the boat - and have absolutely no appetite. If there had been wifi, I am sure I would have self diagnosed myself with dire consequences. But the logical answer was delayed altitude sickness even though we were barely above sea level. The afternoon program was the aborted one from yesterday and only four of our group elected to go, the rest choosing to hang out at the pool. We had not even left the lodge rounds, when I got really short of breath and my vision went grey around the edges. Hmmmm…..think I had better sit this one out. The afternoon tour included lessons about the tropical trees and medicinal plants as well as seeing a brazil nut encampment and climbing a lookout to see above the jungle canopy. Oh… and larva eating. Vera can tell that story!!!!
As well as the forementioned macaws, toucans and guinea pigs that live on site, there are also some tarantulas that hang out in the local palm trees. The previous night they were hiding because of the rain but tonight they were out in full view although we did not get too close - apparently they can jump!
After dinner, as usual, Franklin gave us our program for the following day. We would be visiting a parrot clay lick before breakfast and then departing on the 10am boat for Puerto Maldonado and our 1:30pm flight back to Lima. The only problem with this plan was that our flight was at 11:30am. Impossible said Franklin, Star Peru does not have a flight to Lima at that time. Well, when we flew from Cuzco to PM, we got an email from Star Peru at the last minute, cancelling our original flight and rebooking us for 2 hours later. So it was highly possible that the same thing happened this time too. Sure enough, when emails were checked (wifi was operating again), our re scheduled flight was at 1:30pm. Whew!
September 10 - and yet another early start for the 20
minute walk to the blind at the parrot clay lick - they wanted us all settled in and silent before the birds started arriving. We waited quite a while for the first dusky headed parakeets to arrive, but in the meantime got to see a few other birds fly over, their colourful breast plumage illuminated by the rising sun. The parakeets come to this clay lick to ingest the minerals found there - these minerals are vital to the metabolic regulation of the birds. For over an hour we were entertained by the feeding (it would have been nicer to have been closer) and then suddenly, they all took off and the show was over.
After breakfast (fresh fruit and eggs) we returned to Puerta Maldonado by boat and picked up our waiting luggage at the office before being whisked off to the local public market for a quick tour of local produce - and we got a see a dried piranha up close.
Arriving back in Lima, we were now totally on our own for the next couple of days. We had already booked hotel rooms in Miraflores and it was so easy to get a taxi
there - 60 soles one way or prepay for a return trip for 110 sole. Driving along the waterfront we could see the para penters high above us riding the ridge line - and that was as close as we got to them. After checking in at Casa Suyay it was off to the Indian Market to buy Alpaca Blankets - we figured that buying together we would have better bargaining power. Dinner was a totally different experience - Burger King!!!!!! Sometimes you just need food that you are familiar with.
For our last full day in this area, we planned to visit the historical center of Lima (Lima Centro). We got a map from the hotel and they marked off the area that “we should not go to” which was basically all the side streets. Even our cab driver pointed out the same side streets and said “don’t go there and you should call me for the return trip as taxis here are not safe”. We were dropped off at Plaza St Martin and walked up the pedestrian street of Jiron de la Union to Plaza de Armas. Looking around this square it would be easy to think
you were in Europe with the colonial buildings and many Moorish styled balconies. After a couple of hours in Lima Centro, it was obvious why Miraflores was tourist central - other than the two beautiful squares there was not a lot here. So, after walking the forbidden side streets 😊, we flagged down a decent looking taxi and got the hell out of dodge.
I have mentioned before that we never eat in tourist areas, so imagine our surprise when we stumbled on the tourist restaurant street in Miraflores and it was CHEAPER than the non tourist area. Probably because everyone was competing for the same tourist dollar - but everyone had the same offer - 1 liter of beer for 10 sole AND a free Pisco Sour for everyone. The only restriction was the liter of beer could not be shared. So once we were comfortable, of course we ate a Pizza there too.
The final day and an early get up at 4am for the taxi to the airport. Another trip over and done with - and Machu Picchu checked off the bucket list.
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