Today we had a long journey to make – around 7 hours of river travel and some stops along the way. This meant leaving BEFORE breakfast?! Yes, we were on the boat and heading along the river at 5am before the sun actually rose…
We were now far enough down the river, that settlements were almost non-existent – and the left side of the river was connected to the National Park. Suddenly the guide jumped up and shouted ‘bush-people!’
Yes, over on the far side of the river we could make out some figures. A few of them actually waved at the boat! It was the ‘uncontacted tribe’ – the Mashco-Piro – clearly some of them are no longer ‘uncontacted’! Boats must travel along the right bank of the river through this area – for safety reasons – so they were quite far away on the other side of the river. We figured that from this distance they could barely see our camera, so we weren’t at risk of them thinking it was a weapon, and being shot by a bow and arrow… luckily we have a very good zoom…
At around 7.30am we had breakfast on the boat as we continued up the Madre de Dios river. The next stop would be at the ranger station at the entrance to the Reserved zone of the park – where we would be deep in the jungle. Just before this, we would be leaving the Madre de Dios river, and heading along the Manú river which cuts through the park.
At the ranger station, we registered and had a quick talk about the park from the ranger, before heading off down the river again.
Now that we were deep in the park, there was a chance to spot big mammals such as jaguars and tapirs – which could be on either side of the river. The journey to our next stop took around four and a half hours.
Of course, four and a half hours is rather a long time without a toilet break – especially once you have had drinks and lunch on the boat… therefore a ‘bush toilet’ stop was called. This means pulling over on to a sandbank at the edge of the river.
There are two main hazards during a bush toilet stop – one is sand flies, of which there are hundreds trying to bite you – and the other is burning your feet on the hot sand. In both cases, speed is required! In the end, we both escaped with only minor bites and feet burns…. 🙂
Our final destination on day 3 was Casa Machiguenga – which is a lodge that is run and owned by people from the nearby indigenous Machiguenga community. It was set up in the1990s with the help of an NGO, and the local villagers take turns to stay and work at the lodge. There are Machiguenga communites around two hours boat trip further up the river.
Before we went to the lodge, we had a stop at an Oxbow lake – Cocha Otorongo. Here we went for a walk to look for monkeys and birds, and visited the observation tower.
By the time we arrived at Casa Machiguenga it was dark, and there was just enough time for showers before dinner and bedtime. Another early night, ready for another early start… we had seen both sunrise and sunset whilst on the boat on the river – there’s no rest in the jungle!