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Orchids & Riverboats & Monkeys & Arboreal Cows – Day 2 in Manu!

Sunday, July 24, 2011
Day 2 in Manu:
We left the bamboo lodge on foot, walking slowly, looking for birds and other animals.  This region was called “Kosnipata” by the Incas, which means “Smokey land,” because it’s so often covered by clouds. Back in the van, we drove onwards to Pilcopata, another little outpost in the jungle. Abraham and the cook needed to stop for supplies so we wandered down the one road in town and checked out the river.


Under this bridge is the Madre de Dios, the Mother of God river, so called because of a story about an expedition of Spanish along the river, who were killed by natives; later, another Spanish expedition came through and found their crashed boat, including a statue of Mary.  Hence, Mother of God river.  This is one of the main rivers of Manu Park.
Not far from this village, our van pulled over again next to an unmarked path (getting a theme here?).  The path took us to the Jardin Botanica Orquideas, a garden of orchids.  A friend of Abraham’s loves orchids, and started collecting specimens from trees that fall in the jungle.  Now he has this amazing little garden with hundreds of varieties, from miniscule to huge, and every color of the rainbow.

Orchid Garden

By late morning, we made it to the tiny village of Atalaya, the end of our time on the road and the start of our boat journey.  Beyond this point the road goes just a little bit farther, then it’s only via boat (or the aforementioned airplane) that you can get any deeper into the jungle.

Port of Atalaya

Here we met up with the last two members of our expedition: two boatman who were our “drivers” for the next few days.  They slept on the boat, and from what I could tell, pretty much just hung out on the boat in between giving us rides.

Riverboat captain

Signing in & arriving to the lake

After dropping off our bags and some hammock time at Abraham’s Sogo de Oro Lodge, just a 30-min ride upriver from Atalaya, we set out for an afternoon excursion.  The boat took us up the river just a little bit further, dropped us off on a rocky shore, and we tromped in our rubber boots through 2-story tall palms and grasses towards a little lake.  This is a protected area, so we had to sign in with the ranger and pay a little fee for visiting.  I couldn’t help but think what a relaxing job for a local – to monitor this peaceful spot in the jungle.  I wasn’t sure what the allure of this lake was, or why it was one of our first stops in the jungle, but I soon found out why Abraham made sure to take all his tours to the Machu Huasi Oxbow Lake.
We had to wear rubber boots for this excursion, as there aren’t official boat docks in the jungle and you never know when you might sink into a mud puddle.  I felt like a true explorer, on a quest to find the lost Incan city of gold… all I need is a machete and I’m ready to go!


Dusky Titi Monkey & Parrot

Through the woods on the way to the lake, we saw our second monkey!  This little guy is the Dusky Titi Monkey.  On the right is a parrot we saw earlier in the day.

And for your listening pleasure, here’s a little clip of monkey sounds from Manu:

This oxbow lake, which was originally part of the river but was created over time by silt building up and slowly separating the river from the lake, is home to a special bird: the hoatzin, described in one bird book as an “arboreal cow.”  This funky-looking prehistoric bird has 4 stomachs like a cow, can’t fly very well, and protects itself from predators by falling in the water – after which, it crawls back up to its perch using strong claws.  The birds are used to visitors, so we boarded a balsa raft and Abraham slowly guided us around the lake to check out these creatures.  From a viewing platform, we saw a capybara – the world’s largest rodent, kind of like a giant swimming hamster – cut through the water.  Floating on the lake, quietly observing the birds, watching the sky change colors in the late afternoon… this was one of the most peaceful moments I’d had on the trip.  This is about when I understood what Abraham meant when he told us, “Time is different in the jungle.  You don’t look at your watch, it doesn’t matter.  Just… slow down.”

Machu Huasi Oxbow Lake

Machu Huasi Oxbow Lake

Hoatzin birds in Manu

These birds have a rasping call, and deep in the tropics, with no modern sounds, it wasn’t hard to imagine that we were time-travelers to a prehistoric land.

After our boat ride, we hung out with the rangers at their little hut, waiting for the sun to set.  In the dark, we set out on a night walk, and our trusty guide Abraham showed us caimans, spiders, ants, and more.  Proving once again his amazing ear for bird sounds, he not only heard an owl, but was able to locate it with his flashlight and set his telescope so we could all see!  This is a Tawny-Bellied Screech Owl, and it was amazing to see its body moving as it called back to us.

Tawny-Bellied Screech Owl & Walking Palm Tree

Next to the owl is a picture of a walking palm tree.  This fascinating tree sends out numerous roots, and will actually move around to find the best light in its area.

Here’s a short clip of night jungle sounds – I believe this is the night monkey, which we weren’t able to locate, but you can hear the sound and get a taste of what it’s like to try to spot anything at night in the jungle:

After the night walk, we boated it back to the lodge for supper and crashed early in our beds; the next morning, we had to leave around 5:20am to try to catch macaws at their breakfast spot upriver.  More birds and vine-swinging and jungle swimming to come!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Shephard permalink
    Sunday, July 24, 2011 11:37 am

    The sounds are amazing– I loved the laughing monkeys and the night sounds! And I love the Hoatzins. 🙂

    • Kristen permalink*
      Sunday, July 24, 2011 11:51 am

      Thank you! One of my favorite things about the jungle was the sounds – it was like being in a real-life jungle soundtrack!

  2. Monday, July 25, 2011 10:37 am

    The jungle sounds are amazing! It sounds like those piped in jungle sounds at zoos. I am happy to know that this is actually what it sounds like in the jungle.

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