Wednesday, July 9, 2008

2008 Peru Trip Day 6 (Manu National Park)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Rob was not looking good again, puffy left eye, nose, face, hands. He reported he had difficulty swallowing, but that was better now (thank goodness!).
Manu Tented Camp sign
Brynne and I headed early to the “dock”,
Electric cord along the path
following an electric cord down the path.
Steps to dock with solar panel
and found it was attached to a solar panel. We had plenty of time to observe that the water levels were still low, how the stairs were carved out of the clay mud, saw the Peruvian flag on the boat, when suddenly there was a huge splash just behind the boat. “Caiman!” shouted the driver. How did we miss seeing a caiman sitting there on the bank near us?!
Our boat awaits
Noticed how the poling stick became the tie-down anchor and that we had a balance beam to deal with again! The others joined us, except Kirby who opted to sleep in, and we headed up the Manu River to Cocha Otorongo.
Cocha is an ox-bow lake created when a twist in the river becomes isolated from the river itself. There are thirteen cochas in Manu. Otorongo means jaguar, but we were going to see otters, we hoped, but it began to rain. Not many animals or birds like to come out in the rain.
We debarked at a muddy beach with dry patches, because it was, after all, the dry season,
Cracked dry mud
along with two other boats.
Tourist boats
Fallen tree on the beach
Each group had a scheduled time at the canopy tower.
We first hiked to one "pier" that was built out over the cocha for about 20 feet. Saw several birds, through binoculars, across the still lake, and a caiman head cruising along.
View of the cocha from the pier
View in the other direction
During our walk we passed a huge kapok/ceibo tree with buttresses, and a strangler fig in the process of taking over a tree. We learned that the number of liana (vines) species is half the number of species of trees. We hiked past the tower to another pier at the other end of the lake. Long-nosed Bats flew from the underbrush on the bank to under the pier, and back, like fluttering beige birds. Fortunately there was a thatched roof here to stand under as it poured rain.
We made our way to the tower for our 9:00-11:00 AM time slot.
Tower stairs
The tower platform was under a thatched roof, so we relaxed and looked for birds, caimans, plants, turtles, piranhas. We didn’t see any piranhas, but if we had, we were told not to worry. As long as we weren’t bleeding, we could swim with them. They really are fruit eaters! And, so maybe they bite, but they don’t eat a person down to the skeleton in seconds like in the movies. So said Percy.
View from the tower
There's a caiman below
There are birds in those trees!
We saw some birds rather close to us beneath the tower, a Kingfisher, Red-capped Cardinal, Blue-throated Piping Guans, Hoatzins, etc.
Brynne and Jan
On the hike back to the boat, Rob saw a Brocket Deer, but it apparently startled when it saw me further back on the trail. He found Brown Capuchins, and then darling little squeaking Common Squirrel Monkeys, small and smaller.
Squirrel monkey
They were bounding through the trees above our heads, and some stopped to peek at us through the branches.
Back at the boat it began to pour rain again, but our keen-eyed guides pointed out two separate Common Pauraques sitting on branches on the river bank.
Our tent
The shower and toilet tent
Walkways through camp
Steps to our tent with round disks to keep out creepy crawlies
Back at the tented camp, we (especially Kirby) had been enjoying the place all to ourselves. But as we headed to the dining hall for lunch, a boisterous group came up from the boat landing. Laughing in some language with English mixed in about being wet and being hungry. We had our lunch of Aji de Gallina, a traditional dish of shredded chicken in a slightly piquant pepper sauce over potatoes and rice. It was the best ever! Because it was still raining, we had a siesta after lunch. But those noisy foreigners, with music playing with a synthesizer background, and shouting from tent to tent. Who is cockier than even Americans? They must be Israelis. Turns out that’s exactly what they were, young people who had just completed military service and felt that they could be excused for having noisy fun because they were young.

The sun came out about 3:30 PM and we opted for a trip to the lodge of an indigenous group of people, the Matsiguenka, who live in the villages of Tayacome and Yomibato in Manu National Park. Each year a different family is responsible for running the lodge and the whole community shares the profits. It was a short boat ride up the river, and a short walk including a covered boardwalk. But then we stepped into a large open area that was a mud pit.
Thick clay-like mud
The mud stuck to our shoes and made them twice as large and three times as heavy.
There were several children, and women who were crocheting handbags.
Woman crocheting
Indigenous child
The buildings here had the typical rounded ends of this tribe, with thickly thatched roofs.
Rounded-roof building
Inside the thatched roof

The younger of the two men (Carlito) took us into the craft building to explain the crafts.
Crafts building
Inside the craft building
There were handbags made of the stiffer cecropia fibers, some dyed a dark purple as were the hands of the young man.
Handbag with purple dyed fibers
We were to also note the feet of the man, which had very splayed toes, all the better to climb trees and grip the muddy banks with!
Toes for climbing
There were also handbags made from cotton in traditional woven designs. Some of the cotton was colored - it grows that way! In brown, gray, light pink or peach. Apparently back in history, the British had a monopoly on Peruvian cotton and they wanted only pure white. So the other colors were outlawed, and many colors are now extinct. The Paracas peoples had a light blue cotton that is now lost. There were necklaces made with huayruro seeds (from an Ormosia spp. tree), which are red with a black spot and are called “lucky” seeds. The seeds are poisonous if eaten. Other necklaces were made using peccary teeth or plastic beads.
Feather headbands, as worn by the locals, were displayed, including some with feathers from familiar birds.
Feather headband
There were bows and arrows, with feathers in the arrows from Macaws, Harpy Eagles, and Sunbitterns. These feathers are illegal to bring into the US. Rob said that the local people can live off the land, and it is assumed these birds were killed to be eaten.
Kirby's arrows
Carlito demonstrated a bamboo bow with a catgut string that he bowed with a thin wet stick to make violin-sounding music.
Musical instrument
Also a fire starter with one piece of wood with a notch in one end and a sharpened stick. We purchased a cotton bag with a pattern representing fish. Other patterns showed butterflies or the skin pattern of an anaconda.
The three young girls were very curious, and wanted to look at the display viewers on our cameras.
Showing us the bow and arrow
Carlito took us outside to demonstrate the bow and arrows. He placed a papaya halfway across the large open area, and shot the arrow right through!
Carlito demonstrates with the bow and arrow
Bulls eye!
The older man came very close. Then Kirby and Percy tried.
Kirby gives it a try
Percy takes aim
Back at the boat we went on a ride further up the river, seeing more monkeys.
As the sun set, we headed back to camp.
Saw Fisherman/Greater Bulldog Bats flying across the surface of the water. They trail their claws in the water until they snag something.
Back in camp, we had an Israeli girl mistakenly come to our cabin in just a towel. The Israelis continued with the music, cross-tent conversations, and also tended to shine flashlights into the eyes of other people. Jan tried to talk to one of them, but to no avail.
We had a new towel and two small bottles of shampoo in our tent. Others did not get the shampoo. The hand towel was not replaced and our wet clothes were still wet!
No bird list today. We learned at dinner that Percy’s family is from the town of Oropesa which is famous for its bread. His parents were bakers, but now only his grandmother occasionally bakes to sell. We would be passing through the town of Oropesa on our way to Puno, and it was thought that both Rob and Percy would be with us. Dinner was another traditional dish, lomo saltado, stir-fried beef strips with red peppers, onions, and peas served with rice and French fries.
Egg supply
The cook here at the tented camp was doing wonders with the food we brought!
Brynne using her head lamp to work on her journal
Even in a tent in the jungle, we still have tablecloths!
Next: Day 7 Manu National Park.

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