Having signed up for a programme called Andes and Amazon, it was only a matter of time before we would drop thousands of feet (over 10,000 in fact) from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado, our gateway to the Peruvian rainforest.
This journey by the way, was in the most luxurious bus that most of us have ever seen. With entertainment systems as per ‘in flight’, seats like reclining sofas and meal service, we travelled in style.
The contrasts are immediately obvious. Difference in temperature being perhaps the most. (It is now a week later. We are back in Puerto Maldonado with internet service and our group is still split as to preferences regarding heat and cold). We checked into our hotel which thankfully had ventilators and were then taken for a tour of the city by our hosts, Chris, Chris and Jorge. This also included a quick shop for last minute supplies in the Central market where some very stylish jungle wear was purchased and a very much appreciated visit to a socially responsible ice cream parlour.
On Saturday morning, we headed for the jungle proper. A half hour bus ride delivered us to the Las Piedras river where we boarded a boat and headed off downstream, deeper into the jungle to Boca Pariamanu and our basecamp for the next week. We were warmly received and given a tour of the community which consists of only a few houses, a school, two small stores and most importantly a football (soccer for some) field and volleyball court. We also divided our group into three smaller groups for our daily activities.
Days in the jungle tend to follow the sun as each morning we awoke to a sunrise serenade from birds, insects and the occasional howler monkeys. Two of the three groups headed off before breakfast for mammal spotting with Chris Kirkby (1) or bird netting with Chris Ketoga (2). The third group was treated to a more relaxed morning with breakfast followed by cacao production with Jorge (sin numero).
Chris 1 is from England but has spent the last 20 years exploring, studying and protecting the Peruvian rainforest. There doesn’t seem to be a thing about the jungle that he doesn’t know. Chris 2 is a Canadian and has been here for the last year passionately identifying birds, bats, snakes, spiders and other jungle creatures. Jorge is from Cusco and a tour guide specialising in jungle tourism. They work for an NGO called Fauna Forever and are very much dedicated to the preservation of our precious rainforests.
These activities tended to finish by late morning and then a very necessary 4 hour break including lunch helped us to avoid the hottest time of the day.
When the afternoon breeze started to alleviate the heat and if the skies didn’t replenish the rainforest with a massive downpour, we joined the community for football and volleyball.
Other activities enjoyed by the students included fishing, basket weaving, documentary film nights, learning about medicinal plants and a refreshing swim in a creek after a long walk to Don Walter’s house.
Tomorrow, we leave the jungle behind to once again enjoy the majestic Andes in Cusco and then on to La Paz for the next part of our journey.