Amazon – Manu National Park, Peru

We arrived in beautiful Cusco, the “bellybutton of the world” after a wonderful time in the Sacred Valley and an exhilarating and exhausting day at Machu Picchu.  The next day we thought we’d see what our options were for visiting the Amazon and before we knew it we’d signed up for a 5-day tour leaving the following day. 

The next morning we found ourselves in a van with two young Danish couples, a cook and the guide Ryse.  For the first hour we were excited to be on the road, and then it really hit the mountains and we were in for eight hours of cliff hugging, stomach wrenching, eye clenching curves.  I don’t know how we assumed there’d be a nice super highway from Cusco down 3,000m to the Amazon, but we certainly hadn’t planned on a day on Peru’s “second” most deadly road, passing dump trucks on a one lane dirt road with rockslides and over 50 river crossings (Oregon trail style).

All of this means that by the time we reached our destination the next evening (following a beautiful, rapid-filled boat ride down the Alto Madre De Dios River) I was no longer terrified of sleeping on a platform in the middle of the jungle and was eagerly seeking out jaguars, tapirs and capybaras and bravely marching through the rainforest and stomping through the rivers.

Gabe turned native.  I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone let alone me.  He threw on mud boots with aplomb and investigated everything, even causing one of the Viking princesses to admonish him (during a time when our guide had left us to “find” the trail for 20 minutes and we’d grown nervous) by saying, “Now is not the time to break something.” as he climbed through the trees.  When our guide chopped open a termite nest, he swiped his hand on the surface and nibbled the little bugs off his fingers claiming they “weren’t as peanuty as in Brazil, but still nutty”, when he saw our boat captain catch his dinner Gabe invited him to a beer and grabbed a hook and line and fished in the moonlight learning about the captain’s childhood and the ways of the sharp toothed Amazon dogfish.  During night walks, he entertained himself by catching crickets and feeding them shish-kebab style to giant, hairy tarantulas and finally on our last night he was the hero of our tour group by opening a bottle of wine with a shoe and a log after various unsuccessful attempts by our native guide.  He’d seen it online…

And so! Our visit to the Peruvian Amazon was an adventure we won’t soon forget.  The birds, animals, insects, flowers and trees were all impressive and unlike anything we’d ever seen and luckily on our return trip we were so tuckered out we didn’t mind the cliff-hugging route back.

–Sarah

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