Manu – Day 5 – Casa Machiguenga to Bonanza Lodge

It felt like we had only just arrived deep in the jungle – but it was already time to start making the journey back to Cusco… Day 5 was like Day 3 in reverse – we would be heading down the ManΓΊ river, rejoining the Madre de Dios river, and ending up at Bonanza lodge – the lodge that we stayed in on the way. Today was our last chance to see any big animals, as on the last day we would be out of the jungle area and in the cloud forest again – there also isn’t much time for stopping on the last day…

It was another early start, and by 5.15am we were on the river.

The river is very misty before the sun rises.

At around 7am, just as breakfast was being prepared – we saw some capybaras walking along the riverside. As we were watching them, the guide suddenly became incredibly excited – LOOK! LOOK! LOOK!

What could it be? He was pointing to the far bank of the river and shouting ‘jaguar’, jaguar’… It took me what felt like HOURS to try and locate the jaguar – I was worried that it would slink off into the forest before I spotted it. CC had seen it and was saying ‘look, look, over there….’, causing me to panic even further – what if CC saw the jaguar and I didn’t ??! How terrible would that be!!!

FINALLY, I spotted it – YES! I had just enough time to have a good look at it before it disappeared into the forest. It was a shame that it was so far away – you could only really see the detail with binoculars – but we had those – so all good! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

So, here it is – the jaguar by the river….

Yes, that blur in the centre of the picture is a wild jaguar!

Of course, you can’t really appreciate the jaguar in that picture – it was taken without any zoom – when CC took a picture with full zoom, it came out EXTREMELY blurry, due to the low light, and no doubt CC’s excitement causing the camera to shake… πŸ™‚

However, due to the miracles of modern technology, I can present to you here a ‘zoomed’ picture of the jaguar – so you can see how it looked when we zoomed in on it…

Now can you see the jaguar?! πŸ™‚

After the jaguar excitement, we pulled over to have breakfast – just in case the jaguar came back out of the forest. Sadly, the jaguar never came back πŸ™

Here we ate breakfast while we waited to see if the jaguar would come back.
Continuing down the river.

Next stop was the ranger station at the entrance to the park – the same one that we stopped at on the way. We had time for a quick walk and a visit to an observation tower nearby. This area was a little different from other parts of the park we had visited – as it was a wetlands area.

We’re back at the entrance to the ranger station.
Heading for the observation tower.
View from the observation tower.
The trail to the observation tower.

After we had spotted a few birds from the tower, it was time to sign out and leave the reserved zone area of the park.

Leaving the reserve zone.

It wasn’t long before we left the ManΓΊ river, and were back on the Madre de Dios river. We would be spending our last night of the trip at Bonanza lodge (the same place as we spent the 2nd night)

On the Madre de Dios river.
As we head further up the river, the mountains start to appear.
We’ve arrived at the lodge – which is a 15 minute walk from the river.
We don’t have to carry our big bags the 15 minutes from the boat – they have a little tuk-tuk for the bags and food.
Walking to the lodge.
View from the riverside near Bonanza Lodge.
Our hut at bonanza lodge.

Although we had a cabin at Bonanza Lodge – tonight we were not going to sleep in it! Yes, that’s because we were going to spend the night in a special hide by a clay lick – hoping to spot a tapir!

We had 30 minutes to take a shower and pack for the night…. the cook made us a takeaway pasta dinner, and then we were off! The hide was around an hour’s walk from the lodge – so on the way we got a bit of a nature walk, and we arrived just before it got dark.

We had to cross a stream to get to the hide.
The hide where we would spend the night waiting for a tapir to show up.
This is the area where we were hoping for a tapir to appear….

Arriving at the hide, the process was that everyone got a sleeping mat and a mosquito net, and we were all lined up along the front of the hide. If you were on your stomach on your sleeping mat, you could see out of the gap in the hide and have a view of the clay lick area.

Unfortunately, tapirs are mostly nocturnal, and very shy – which is why we had to spend the night on a wooden platform. It was a bit like camping, except without a tent and with 16 people lying side-by-side (there was another group as well as us in the hide). There was a roof, but there was no toilet – so if you needed to go, you had to get up very quietly and make your way down the ladder at the back of the hide – and then into the jungle. ‘Don’t go very far into the jungle….’ were the words of the guide…. I guess he didn’t want any tourists lost in the jungle in the dark….

Just after we arrived, we ate our takeway dinner, and then settled in for the night at around 7pm – yes it’s a very early night if you want to see a tapir- and so that you don’t have to actually stay up all night, there is a system which works like this:

– everybody takes a shift for watching the clay lick.
– if it’s not your shift you can go to sleep.
– during your shift you shine your torch in the clay lick area every 10 minutes or so to see if there is a tapir (or any other animal).
– if you see an animal, you turn off your torch and tap the person on your left and on your right. They will then tap the next person, so that everybody is awake. At that point the guide will shine the big torch on the animal and everybody will get to see it.
– when your shift is finished, you tap the person on your left – as they have the next shift.

Sounds SIMPLE! πŸ™‚

CC and I were right at the end of the row, so we had the first shift – 7pm to 8pm. YES! EASY! πŸ™‚ Our shift passed without event, and we woke up the people next to us for their shift – then it was bedtime for us!

Next thing I knew someone was tapping me on the shoulder – it took me a few seconds to work out where I was, and then I was all excited, ready to see a tapir! πŸ™‚

BUT, imagine my disappointment when it turned out that we had been woken up to LEAVE the hide πŸ™ The night had passed and no tapir had been seen…. BOO, THAT SUCKED πŸ™ When I say that the ‘night had passed’ – well, not exactly really – because we had to leave at 3.45am?! It’s such a long journey back on the last day, that it is necessary to leave at around 5:30am to get back to Cusco for 7pm….

So, off we went – back through the jungle all bleary-eyed in the dark. We had 30 minutes at the lodge for showers, and then we headed for the boat for our last day. Our time in the hide had been to no avail – not a single animal made an appearance…. can’t win them all I guess….

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