Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Cusco to Amazon Jungle eco lodge

September 12, 2006   Tuesday

Early to the airport and short flight to Puerto Maldonado to see the Amazon Jungle.  We are staying at the Corto Maltes Amazonia.  A rep met us at the airport upon our arrival and took us to the Corto Maltes office where we handled the paperwork/passport confirmations.  Then the rep took us to a local market --- by far the biggest and best local market we have ever seen.  Several stalls each had at least a dozen different rices, corns, beans and grains; each labeled by the region district number where it was grown.

We then stopped by a Pharmacia where Judy bought 10 Stugeron pills for 16 soles (about $5 US).  Stugeron is the highest praised drug for seasickness.  It is not sold in the US, but is sold over-the-counter most everywhere else.

We then loaded up our heavy luggage into a long, narrow river boat for the 45 minute ride to the jungle lodge.  These river boats are powered by exceptionally long shaft “outboards” which are really Daewoo car engines.  Hope the photo we took turns out to show this clearly.  The river is the Madre de Dios and is fairly wide.  We had a few interesting minutes when the engine died and we began floating downriver – which luckily was the direction we wanted to go at the time.  But, after a few minutes the guy was able to get the engine going again and we were back on our way.

Three times already we have been asked if we are vegetarians.  Apparently the lodge gets a lot of vegetarians from the US.  We told them we will eat just about anything except those guinea pigs.  We enjoyed a wonderful lunch.  First a cold vegetable plate that we thought was the entire lunch.  Then a plate of rice and chicken breasts in a peach sauce, all decorated with pretty edible flowers.  Then they even served us some tiny bananas baked in a passion fruit sauce and garnished with carambola (star fruit).  And a carafe of tart fresh lemonade.  We were surprised by such a large lunch.  Turned out that each lunch and dinner consists of minimum 3 courses.  That is a surprise.

There is another couple here at the lodge.  They are Brits who changed countries to Australia.  Even sound Australian now.  Nice people.  They have a different guide.  Our guide is just for the two of us.  Talk about personalized service.  Glad we picked a slightly slow time of the year to visit here.  Our guide’s name is Barli Carpio Collazos, pronounced as we would say “barely.”

Barli took us for a 2-hour walk through the jungle, pointing out medicinal plants and numerous plant and tree oddities.  Some of the ones we remember are:
Walking palm – can move 5-7cm per year to a sunnier area by rearranging its roots
Kapok tree – stores water in its swollen trunk but the water is not potable
Strangle tree – a parasite tree that starts as a vine that strangles its host.  Host is usually a palm tree.  When the strangle tree is fully grown, it is like a hollow tree and harbors bats, tarantulas & spiders in the hollow areas
High Cotton – they have a very tall cotton plant in this area
Rubber tree – exactly as it sounds
Palm trees with spikes on trunk (don’t remember name) – spikes used for blow gun darts
Brazil nut trees – very tall trees; nuts grow inside a huge very thick shell that looks like an enormous walnut.  It weighs 1-2 kilos; would kill someone if it fell on their head.  Inside this think shell are 12-15 Brazil nuts, each with their own thin shell.

We also saw the type palm fronds that are used for roofs and also for weaving baskets.  Saw a huge bromeliad cluster on a tree and several small individual ones.  Also saw a bat on a kapok tree trunk.  Learned about the Cat Claw trees but did not get a photo of one.  Cat Claw is now exported into the US and worldwide.  It can probably be found in a GNC type store.  Don’t know what it is supposed to be good for.

Our lodge is supposed to have electricity 3 times each day; an hour in the morning, an hour at lunch, and again from 5:30 until 10:30 p.m.  It is warm and humid.  A ceiling fan would be nice.  There are 2 hammocks on our front porch, in which we fall asleep every single time we lay down in one.  The grounds are nice and well-kept.  There are macaws and Toucans walking and jumping about the complex.  And some large parrots.  The macaws can mimmick sounds extremely well.  There is a French couple who work here and live on site.  They have a small baby.  The macaws can sound exactly like the baby crying.  Fooled us several times.

Shortly after dark Barli took us out caiman (alligator) spotting in a river boat.  He would shine a spotlight along the shoreline.  The caimans’ eyes reflect bright red in the light so it was easy to spot them.  We also saw a giant guinea pig enter the water, swim around and crawl back up the shore.  This is not the kind of guinea pig that they eat over in the Andes mountain area of Peru.  This thing weighs 50-55 kilos.  Barli said we are only the second group to see a giant guinea pig this year. 

Bill enjoyed this very much.  He used to go spot alligators on the Neches River at Port Neches near the cemetery.  Bill said that he has not done this since he was 14 years old, but they used to do it exactly the same way.

September 13, 2006  Wednesday
Corto Maltes Amazonia lodge

Up at 5:30 a.m. for 2 km jungle walk to the clay lick for parrots and parakeets.  Every morning the Amazon Green Parrots go to this particular wall on a creek through the jungle behind the lodge.  The birds require the minerals located in this wall in order to digest their food.  We saw around 100 parrots from 3 flocks.

Back to the lodge for our 8:00 breakfast.  Then down the river to Monkey Island.  We passed the gold miners who mine from the river.  Photos to follow later on our website.

Monkey Island is a project to re-acclimate monkeys from the town of Puerto Maldonado back into the wild.  These monkeys used to be pets.  They learned bad habits, like how to open pockets and backpacks and purses to take stuff.  Little simian pickpockets.  There are about 18 monkeys on the island from one species.

We hiked in to the area where the monkeys tend to stay.  Large stalks of bananas are brought to the island and placed high in the trees.  This is to get the monkeys used to eating their food in the wild.  Tourists are asked not to feed the monkeys because that defeats the effort to get them capable of surviving in the wild on their own again.

Everything was going as expected and we took several photos when suddenly the dominant male monkey rushed through the tree branches over our heads and past our guide.  The he came back over the guide as if to separate us.  Then he hung onto a tree with his tail and bared his teeth at Judy, making a yelling/growling sound.  Barli picked up a large heavy branch and started yelling at the snarling monkey in Spanish.  He diverted the monkey’s attention and we both hurried around past the monkey and got behind Barli.  By this time the other monkeys were clustering closer towards us.

The three of us backed down the trail – the dominant male monkey still raising hell at us and Barli still making swipes with the branch at the monkey when he would get too close.  By the time we split off onto the main trail, all three of us were hold branches.  About the point the dominant male monkey decided to give up following us, and all the monkeys lost interest in us.  So we walked back to the boat in peace.

We later learned that this behavior had probably been caused by another tourist group and guide who had feed the monkeys fruit on the previous day.  The monkeys get angry then when people show up and don’t feed them.  This may all seem silly because one angry monkey doesn’t seem like all that big of a threat.  But we didn’t know what all the other monkeys were going to do.  None of us wanted to fight off 18 angry monkeys.

After our lovely nature experience on Monkey Island, then we traveled back up river to the entrance to Lake Sandoval.  This is a protected area.  We registered with the preserve office and began our hike down the well-marked wide trail.  After half an hour it began to rain huge drops.  This felt really good in the still heat of the dense jungle.  We continued onward as the trail began to fill with water.  Soon a slight wind began to blow.  Barli immediately stopped and said we should return to the river because wind is very dangerous in the jungle.  So we turned and began our retreat hike.

We had only walked 1/3 mile or so when we all three decided that the slight wind was stopping.  So we again reversed and continued our trek onward in the rain, with the mud getting more slippery and more sticky.

To our surprise, that tiny bit of breeze had caused many things to fall in the jungle.  The root systems are quite shallow.  We soon encountered a large tree that had fallen across the wide trail.   The guides are not allowed to bring knives or machetes into this protected preserve.  (After the monkey incident, Judy thinks that every guide should carry both a machete and a gun.)  We broke branches, etc., and made our way off the trail and around the tree and back to the trail.  We had to do this 3 times, not counting all the smaller trees and branches that were able to climb over.

Eventually the rain stopped and we finally reached Lake Sandoval.  Barli unpacked our picnic lunch and we ate it in a building by the lake.  There was a huge tree growing in the middle of the building.  Nearby sat an old pick-up truck from 40-50 years ago when there was a road to the lake.  Only way in now is to hike.

After eating a good picnic, we got into a large canoe (holds up to a8 passengers), and Barli paddled us around the lake.  Lake Sandoval is a large, peaceful lake with diverse fowl and mammals, caiman and fish.  We saw a family of large otters playing and fishing all around us.  The otters are the top of the food chain in the lake, so they have no fear of humans or other animals in this protected preserve.  These are the largest river otters in the world.

The thing that surprised us the most about the jungle and the lake are all the palm trees, and so many varieties of palms.  Barli paddled up a tiny creek where we eventually intersected with the hiking trail on which we had entered.

It was a muddy walk back to the entrance.  We were soaked and wet shoes were heavy with caked-on mud.  Nice boat ride back to the lodge.  Showered and then sat in the bar visiting with the Aussie couple.  Another delicious dinner and we were in bed before 10 p.m., just like being at home on the boat.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comment will be posted after we confirm that you are not a cyber stalker.