It was 4.30am, and we were off! The minibus came on time and we were on our way to the jungle. Part of the reason for leaving so early was to avoid roadworks in Cusco that close lanes from 6am, and partly because if you include stops for breakfast, lunch, and some bird-spotting time, then it takes around 12 hours to get to the Rainforest Lodge – our first overnight stop.
Our tour group size turned out to be 8 people including us – there were three other couples who were German, Belgian and Dutch. The tour staff team would consist of five people – the guide, the driver, the cook, the boatman, and the assistant boatman – yes, quite an expedition!
Going to Manu from Cusco involves heading up to a pass that is just over 4000m, and then from there it’s downhill ALL THE WAY….(OK, well MOST of the way….) The first stop of the trip was after crossing the pass, and was for breakfast at around 7.30am in a town called Paucartambo, sitting at 2900m. After breakfast we had a short tour of the town, which is famous for a big three day festival in July, and is known as the ‘folkloric capital’ of Peru. In the main square there are various statues, and each statue represents a particular folk dance from a particular region of Peru.
After breakfast we continued to the park, and arrived at the entrance at around 10.30am. Manu is known for being extremely diverse, because of the huge variation in altitude contained within the park. The highest part of the park is just under 4000m above sea level, and the lowest part is at just under 200m above sea level. We were starting at the high end of the park, and would be heading down towards the low end.
The area that lies between altitudes of 3500m and 1000m on the Eastern side of the Andes is cloud forest – also known as the ‘yungas‘ – this type of climate and vegetation is the bridge between the Andes mountains and the tropical jungle lowlands. It is characterised by rugged, lush, green mountainsides and a particular abundance of birds that are only found in the yungas.
The Rainforest Lodge – our destination for day 1 – lies at around 600m above sea level, and so we would be making our way slowly through the cloud forest, stopping for a few walks and to look for cloud forest birds – in particular, the National bird of Peru – the very striking Andean Cock-of-the-Rock – yes, great name for a bird! 🙂
It wasn’t long before we were down in the cloud forest, and on the lookout for birds. Birds are REALLY hard to spot in the cloud forest, and almost IMPOSSIBLE to get photos of (so we say… 🙂 ) In our previous times in cloud forests we haven’t done very well at finding the birds… but this time we had a guide to help us find them 🙂
As we made our way slowly down, we had a few good bird sightings – not as many as we would have liked – but not too bad… pictures of all the beautiful birds will be coming in a later post! 🙂 The cook also made us a nice lunch which we ate by the side of the road in the cloud forest – very nice! 🙂
So, the question that I am sure you are all asking is…. DID YOU SEE A COCK OF THE ROCK???
Well… YES! 🙂 BUT, unfortunately it was VERY far away, we only saw it briefly, and we couldn’t get a decent photo…. nonetheless – we did see one!
After the cock-of-the-rock, it wasn’t long before we arrived at our stop for the night. The lodge was basic but nice, and after showers (cold!) and dinner we were taken on a short night-walk to look for spiders, frogs, and other nocturnal animals. We saw plenty! In fact, some of the spiders and frogs were so beautiful that we are going to create a separate post all about them as well! 🙂