Thursday, July 10, 2008

2008 Peru Trip Day 7 (Manu National Park)

Thursday, July 10, 2008
Up at 5:00 AM, but didn’t wake Brynne until 5:25 for 5:30 breakfast! Had to get going because we had reservations for the catamaran from 7:00 to 9:00 AM at Cocha Salvador.
When we got to our boat, the river water level was higher, coming up to the bottom step in the riverbank.
Higher water level
Termite nest with termite tunnels up the trunk
Odd place for a termite nest
Cocha salvador sign
We were taken up the river to another landing, and hiked in through the jungle to a pier with a catamaran of sorts; a platform across two canoes.
Rob, Jan, and Brynne on the catamaran
Our boat driver and navigator came along to row this contraption for us. Saw Long-nosed Bats flying and hanging under the pier.
Double duty for the boat crew
Then passed noisy Hoatzins, one male mating with two females. Rob said that through his telephoto lens he saw the female reject the sperm packet. They can do that? Not only can they reject the sperm of a male they do not favor, they can hold on to a packet until a better one arrives, then get rid of it! I guess many species of birds can do this.
Mating Hoatzins

Also saw a Gray-necked Wood-Rail,
Cocoi Heron
Fasciated Tiger-Heron with an eel,
Peruvian/Black Spider Monkeys, 
and a lone Giant Otter swimming along the edge of the lake.
There were many Black Caimans and we saw one chase another from his territory.
Black Caiman
Black Caiman
We rowed as far as permitted (a giant kapok tree marked the spot), but drifted a bit closer to an otter family at the far end of the lake.
Cocha Salvador
Through binoculars we saw a large otter eating a fish, and we heard the pups constantly barking. Rob said last year this family of otters had 3 pups, and now they had 4 youngsters!
Jan & Kirby
Brynne and Tamiko
We hurried back to the dock with the catamaran and were 5 or so minutes late, for the waiting Israelis. But they were in a good mood and we told them we saw seven otters.
Hurrying back
On the slow-moving catamaran, the black flies were more of a problem. They left itchy little red spots. Back in the river boat, we began our journey down the Manu River out of Manu National Park. We were given another snack bag with an apple, and a prickly pear fruit, cereal bar, cookies, and a mango juice box.
Prickly pear innards
Whole prickly pear fruit
Mango juice box
Another Black Caiman
Orinoco Goose family
“On the beach!” we heard, and as we looked at the riverbank we saw the tail end of a Jaguar disappear into the jungle. We had disturbed him trying to find a quiet place to lie down and observe the world go by.
We then saw a Capybara complacently sitting at the river’s edge, with Giant Cowbirds sitting on his head. He remained sitting as we brought the boat closer. Also saw two caimans waiting for perhaps a capybara dinner.
Rufino, the pilot alone at the back of the boat
At the Manu National Park checkpoint, we signed out, and bought postcards and t-shirts.
Rob's photo on a t-shirt
The t-shirt had a photo of a jaguar on it by Jan’s friend (that would be Rob!).
Reached the point where the muddy Manu River meets the clear Alto Madre de Dios, and they become the Rio de la Madre de Dios. Blends into a muddy color!
Muddy Manu River meets the clear Alto Madre de Dios
Passed the village of Boca Manu, and stopped at a clearing across the river.
Boca Manu village
Rufino and Willi wrestled a spare outboard motor out of the boat and up the bank.
Removing the spare motor
They covered it with pieces of scrap cardboard and a couple branches. Seems that another group coming in at the airport (this was the airport?!) would be using the spare engine when they go to Manu National Park. One of the rules to go in the park is that you must have a spare engine.
Then it was a mere 1½ hours to the Manu Wildlife Center.
Passed several log jams, where you could see how loops of the river would be blocked off to form the ox-bow lakes.
Saw more of the local commerce, with smaller motorized boats and boats accompanying logs down the river.
Local boat
Log relay
We arrived at about 3:00 PM and had lunch very soon afterwards. The Manu Wildlife Center is an amazing place located just outside of the Manu Biosphere. It has 22 bungalows with private baths with hot water showers and a large dining hall/bar building with gift shop and its own mascot.
Frida in the rafters
We soon met the mascot, Frida, the rescued Emperor Tamarin who has been returned to the wild, but she prefers coming to the dining hall and sneaking sugar from the sugar bowls and bites from the plates of visitors.
Frida between Jan & Kirby
Frida sniffs the dessert
Frida helps herself
Frida and Brynne
We went to our screened bungalow named Charapita (little turtle),
Our bungalow
Beds with mosquito nets
Desk and "wardrobe"
Privacy curtain
Our own bathroom
and found there was no electricity, but we could plug items in at the dining hall to be charged at certain hours of the day.
Charging station
Jan and Kirby were in Orquida (orchid) bungalow.
Although we had just eaten, we returned to the dining hall to get boxed meals to take with us to the Tapir Lick, and left at 4:30 PM to start the long hike of 3 km/nearly 2 miles. Rob and Percy could hear peccaries in the jungle, but they must have been downwind from us! The trail was really wet with puddles that we tried to walk around. Finally we arrived in the dark at a covered boardwalk that raised us up onto an elevated platform, lined with mattress pads covered by mosquito netting. It sounded like most of the mattresses were occupied, so Brynne and I were squeezed into a single spot, and had to spoon while waiting for tapirs. We shared one tiny pillow. We weren’t hungry enough to eat dinner, so we tried to snooze, and were promised we would be wakened if and when a Brazilian Tapir appeared. We later learned that Jan & Kirby had a double mattress, and that the one on the other side of them was empty. As it was, we tried not to move because we were hot and sweaty from the hike, and we wanted to be very quiet.
We didn’t have to be awakened, because we could hear the tapir coming! Snorts and grunts along with crashing footsteps in the undergrowth, the largest land mammal in South America trundled into the area below us, and started slurping at the clay lick. (They actually scrape at the clay with their teeth, but much of it is underwater. The clay is an alkaloid complement for their diets to balance the toxin in plant leaves.) A tapir hadn’t appeared in the last three nights because of rain, and it was feared that maybe the moon was too bright tonight. But here he was! The staff shined an infrared light on the beast, and we had a perfect vantage point as we peeked from beneath the mosquito netting. The tapir then left, walking out right beneath us.
Had a flashlight hike on the way back and Brynne spotted a tiny flesh-colored snake at the same time Percy found a tailless whip scorpion. Then Brynne found a tiny frog with white legs
Brynne's find
and Percy found a Dung Beetle,
a Rainbow Katydid,
poison dart frog with a yellow stripe, another dark frog or toad, and showed us Bullet Ants. Then he thought he saw a tapir. Brynne and I ended up ahead with Rob, and got to see a Tawny-bellied Screech Owl. We heard another owl which Rob echoed, but no sighting. Back at the dining hall, Brynne and I drank lots of water and tried to eat some of our boxed meal, but were not really hungry. Percy and Kirby arrived later, as Kirby had sprained his left ankle. Returned to the bungalow to shower and go to bed.
Kerosene lamps lit the path, with the lamps made from all types of glass jars and bottles.
Kerosene lamp
Next: Day 8 Macaw Salt Lick.

No comments: