Sunday, 9 May 2010

The Manu Jungle

The lodge in Pilcopata was very nice, waking at 6am for a cold open air shower was an experience... What a great way to wake up! We had a fantastic cooked breakfast, my first one in South America, and a nice change from bread. It was only an hours drive to the boat in Atalaya, but the road was very very boggy and the minibus got stuck in the mud just after driving through a waterfall. Everyone got off and the drive jacked the bus up to place rocks underneath the tyres, but that didn´t work. A couple of passing motorcylists stopped to help too and eventually we were on our way again. We took a long boat from Atalaya to our lodge for the night, Soga De Ora. We had to walk through a very muddy and slippy jungle path with our luggage to the lodge but as we walked into the clearing and caught our first glimpse of the lodge we all said wow! It was so beautiful and looked so tranquil. There were a couple of large wooden lodges on stilts with decks and hammocks to chill out in, perfect!
After lunch, we put our wellies on and took the boat across the river to a hiking trail. It was amazing, really boggy underfoot and lots of log walkways to negotiate over the really muddy parts. Our guide Fredy was brought up in the jungle in Atalaya so had really good local knowledge of the area and all the animals, flora and fauna. We took a raft, literally some logs bound together, and with an inch of water round our ankles, we punted across the lagoon. It was so relaxing and we saw plenty of different birds. On the other side we took another trail through the rainforest. We returned to the raft as it got dark, and punted back across the lagoon in the pitch black looking for caymen eyes glowing in the water. The night sky was amazing, the stars were so bright, and the jungle noises were so clear. We hiked back through the jungle to our boat, which was fun in the dark. An absolutely fantastic day, the jungle was everything I expected and more!

On day two we got up at 5am to visit a clay lick in the river bank, where parrots and parakeets meet to feed on the mineral soil and salt to supplement their diet. It had rained all night and only stopped just as we left so we didn´t get to see many parrots. We had a great breakfast on the boat of pancakes and papaya, before heading down river for another hike. We took a very steep and tricky path and as it had been raining all night, it was very slippy and boggy, with lots of streams to cross on narrow log bridges with no hand rail. I have discovered that I don´t enjoy crossing log bridges as I worry too much about falling in. It rained nearly the whole time we were hiking and our ponchos came down past our knees which made it difficult to clamber over logs and I kept tripping up mine on the steep paths. The highlight for me was seeing some small monkeys high up in the trees towards the end of our hike, they were so cute, it made it all worthwhile. I was relieved to make it back to the boat without having fallen in the mud or in a stream, despite some near misses! We had lunch back at the lodge and a rest in the hammock, before catching the boat back to Atalaya, and then our bus back to Pilcopata for our last night in the jungle.

We had another early start the next day for our long, bumpy journey home. It was a fantastic 4 day adventure, and I loved every minute of it.

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