Its Jungle Time!!

Published: October 24th 2011
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After the physical strain of Machu Picchu, we decided to have a day of rest when we got back to Cusco as we were going to the jungle the following day as well. So our day consisted of; attempting to get some compensation for the Machu Picchu hiccup, going to KFC and getting a massage! In the evening we went to another hostel to meet people from our first Macchu Pichu group and ended up a little bit drunk.

Following morning we woke up feeling a bit sorry for ourselves after the night before but got up and waited to be picked up for our 3 day jungle tour in Peurto Maldonado. We were half expecting to not be picked up again, due to the South American's innate organisational skills but luckily for us, at 10am almost on the dot a van arrived to take us to the airport! We checked in at the airport, had some breakfast and then went to the departure lounge feeling slightly dazzled that everything for once seemed to be running smoothly...not for long. The flight was subject to over 2 hour delays due to "bad weather" but while we sat waiting, other airlines were flying to Peurto Maldonado, on time, no problems...something was up. When we finally arrived in Peurto Maldonado nearly 3 hours late we mentioned the supposed bad weather and were told "oh no, its been lovely here"...bloody StarPeru!

To get to our lodge we had sail down the Madre de Dios river for about half an hour, Ben was allowed to drive the boat for a while which we was very happy about. When we arrived, lunch was already waiting for us (I think it had been ready for about 3 hours by that time) and our guide, Hugo, told us that we would be going for a walk around the jungle by the lodge in an hour. We went to our room to get ready, applied copious amounts of mosquito repellent and then set off into the jungle.

We started walking through the jungle and the guide would stop at something interesting and tell us about it. We saw a walking palm tree, which is able to move by up to 30cm a year in search of sunlight! We saw loads of weird and wonderful insects and then as it started to get dark we could see loads of fireflies hovering around like little fairies in the night. It was crazy how dark it gets in the jungle, at one point we turned off our torches and you really couldnt see anything in front of you. We said how scary it would be to be lost in the jungle at night, as all you can hear is an orchestra of different animal sounds, which seems to change every 10 minutes. We carried on walking for a bit then Hugo stopped and started poking a twig into a hole in the ground, while we all stood there unsure of what he was doing. Suddenly a massive tarantula came out of the hole trying to eat the stick!! I had to do everything in my power not to scream and run away as Hugo kept poking the stick into the nest everytime the spider went back in and it kept running out trying to attack the stick! After the walk we went back to the lodge and had dinner and then went to bed under our little mosquito nets.

Next morning we woke up at 5am to go to Sandoval Lake. We took the boat again to the national reserve and walked for about an hour (in the pouring rain! They dont call it the rainforest for nothing!) until we came to a little river channel with loads of big paddle boats waiting. We all piled into the boat and set off down the channel and out onto the main lake. We stayed close to the edge of the lake and looked for all the wildlife in the trees around the sides. On the way out of the little channel we could hear wild pigs hunting for food and Hugo made me take off my bright pink poncho in case it scared the pigs away! (oops! didnt think of that when I decided pink was the best colour for a rain poncho!)

As we made our way around the edge of the lake we saw loads different kinds of birds, Caimans, a red howler monkey, a spider monkey, bats and giant river otters (which are really endangered). After about 2 and half hours we went back down the little channel and walked back through the national reserve and went back to the lodge for lunch. Hugo told us that at 4pm (as long as it wasnt raining) we would be going to "Monkey Island" to find monkies. Ben and I were really tired so we had a little nap for 2 hours and then got up and ready to spot some monkies! In the boat on the way Hugo explained to us that we might not be able to see any monkies because it had been raining during the afternoon. He explained that the monkies are clever enough that if it rains in the afternoon they will hide so they dont get wet as they wont get dry in time for dark and will be cold at night. We arrived at Monkey Island and started walking to one fo the prime "monkey spotting" locations but there wasnt any sign of any monkies! We walked around for about 45minutes but didnt see a single monkey. Hugo was making pretend monkey cries to try and attract them but no luck, so in the end we ate the bananas Hugo had bought with him to leave for the monkies and headed back to the boat, all feeling a little disappointed.

In the boat on the way back from Monkey Island, as it started to get dark, we did a bit of Caimen spotting. Hugo had a big torch powered by a generator and he would shine it around the edges of the river amoungst the reeds and looked for the reflection of their eyes in the light. We saw a few baby caimens as they tend to be easier to find and one normal sized one. When we got back to the lodge we had dinner and then Hugo gave us a little lecture about Caimens, which although was very interesting, everyone was too tired to listen properly. Hugo told us that the next morning we would be getting up at 4am to go to the parrot claylick at sunrise(which is a big clay wall where hundreds of parrots congregate and eat the clay) but he said that if it was raining again then we wouldnt be able to fo because no parrots would be there in the rain. We went to bed praying it wouldnt rain in the morning.

We woke up at 4am to the sound of torrential rain and Hugo knocked on our door at 4:30 saying we wouldnt be going and that we would be going on a walk at 6am instead. so at 6am we set off into the jungle to look for more wildlife. This time we saw some fungus thing which I remembered seeing on the Planet Earth series which was pretty cool to see it in real life amd we saw strangler trees, which grow around other trees and slowly kill them. Hugo pulled a big leaf off of a tree and then asked me and the other girl in the group to pick a number...I said 4, she said 2...I won apparently. Then Hugo said that the women wear the leaves to dance in at traditional festivals and then proceeded to dress me up in the leaves much to Bens amusement.

When we got back to the lodge we had breakfast and then Ben and I had to get to the airport for our flight back to Cusco. We said goodbye to everyone and were on our way to the airport at 9:30. We got to the airport and had to wait about 2 hours until our flight so we bought some American magazines from a stall in the airport and read them while we waited. We waited...and waited...and waited and our flight wasnt called. After a while I went to check the board and our flight time had magically changed to an hour and a half later than it was supposed to be...without any explanation. Thanks again StarPeru! Eventually, 2 hours late again, we boarded the plane ready for the 45minute flight back to Cusco.

When we arrived back we were pretty hungry so we went in search of somewhere to eat, which is often a struggle for us for some reason. We headed up to a place which was recommened in the Lonely Planet only to find it "no existe". Next we attempted to go somewhere else that a guy had recommened to us, only they didnt want anything to do with us! We asked them if they had a set menu which they said they didnt, even though it was written on a massive board above her head. Sensing we werent welcome there we attempted to find somewhere else. Ben had noticed an Indian restuarant on the map we had and said he wanted a curry, so we went all the way back across town to the Indian...only to find it was closed on Mondays!! By now we were starving, so we settled on the next place we could find with a cheap set menu and finally got our dinner! After dinner we went back to the hostel and watched a film before having another early night.

Next day, and our last day in Cusco, we decided to do a free walking tour of the city which we had seen advertised on some posters. At 11:30 we met at a hostel about 5 minutes away from ours and then headed out with a group of about 8 of us. The tour started off kind of normal then he started just telling us where the KFC and McDonalds were and which nightclubs were open and when. It wasnt exactly what we had in mind...we were expecting more of a historical talk about different places in the city. We go to the plain Plaza and two girls had had enough of the tour already so left as the guide told us we were going to come Asian/Peruvian restuarant, we all followed him bemused. Luckily the restuarant was closed so we didnt have to go in but next, he said, we were going to a bar to get a Pisco Sour demonstration. We went into a bar (which happened to be one of the most expensive in Cusco) and were shown how to make Pisco Sours and were given a little shot glass of it to try. I answered a question correctly and so was made to go behind the bar and try to a Pisco Sour myself, Ben said I was a shit barmaid! The tour continued much in the same way...he seemed to take us to some very strange places, including a sandwich shop! He also said he would give $50 to anyone who could run up this massive flight of stairs, Ben never one to turn down a challenge then proceeded to run up the stairs with relative ease, much to the shock of the guide, as obviously, he didnt actually have $50! He bought Ben a Coke instead to make up for it. The tour ended in a gaybar (why! I dont know!) where we were presented with menus which we all quickly put down and left as it was super expensive.

After the tour we had about an hour and a half until our chocolate making class which we had booked that morning (My choice obviously!) so Ben decided that as he hadnt got his curry yesterday he wanted one today. He had found an advert for a place which was an all your can eat buffet for about 3pounds, so we headed there. The food was pretty good but I got too full and couldnt finish my food. We tried to pay the bill and leave but the woman said to me "please, I have no leftovers in my restuarant. Dont worry, take your time, please finish it". Now, there was pretty much no way I could finish it as I was already so full so Ben had to force it down if we were going to be allowed to leave the place!!

Afterwards, we made our way over to the chocolate museum for our class. The class was supposed to show us how chocolate is made "from bean to bar" and we would make our own chocolates to take away with us. A very nice little lady took us through all of the processes from roasting, to grinding and moulding the chocolate and then we were set free with a bowl of chocolate and 20 different flavours to create our own chocolates. After the class we had to go back to the hostel to collect our bags and then back to the chocolate factory to collect our chocolates and then we headed to the bus station to catch our night bus to Arequipa. We turned up at the bus station a little later than we should have only to be told "your bus leaves from a different bus twenty minutes" so we had to quickly run and get a cab in order to make it to the other bus station in time for our bus. We made it with about 5 minutes to spare luckily and got on the bus. They showed some strange promotional film for Peru, which loads of Peruvians went to a small town in America also called Peru and made them eat loads of Peruvian food and showed them Peruvian dancing. Afterwards, they gave out bingo cards and we played bingo. I was one number away when the winning spot was stolen from me by a man at the back! I dont know what he won though but he looked pretty happy with himself. We attempted to sleep with little success and arrived in Arequipa at about 5:30am and got a cab to our hostel.


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