Sunday, July 6, 2008

2008 Peru Trip Day 3 (To Manu via Paucartambo)

Sunday, July 6, 2008
Only to wake up at 4:30 AM! Brynne tried to flush the toilet, but nothing happened. It seems that the city of Cusco periodically shuts off water during the night to avoid loss of water through leaky pipes and dripping faucets.
Percy and driver Ernaldo picked us up at 5:00 AM, putting our luggage on top of the tourist van under a tarp. We headed in the dark up past Sacsayhuaman and the lighted-up El Cristo Blanco, into the mountains, then through the town of Pisac.
As the sun came up, we began the switchbacks up the deforested mountains covered with Inca terracing and stone walls separating fields.
We stopped at the Primero de Mayo (First of May) Pass for a picnic breakfast and our first birding stop.
Our tourist van
Ernaldo is ready to repack the van
Andean Flickers, Bar-winged Cinclodes, Streak-throated Canasteros, Elaenias.
We hiked downward between switchbacks while the driver moved the van to meet us.
Many interesting plants from thick moss, to tiny daisies, cactus with white spines, and lupines (with bean pods?).
Plant life
Back in the van we kept going downhill. Percy spotted vizcachas in an area of bushes, and we saw a couple scamper up the hillside. Northern Viscachas are big, rabbit-eared cousins of the chinchilla, and have big bushy tails.
We continued through the mountains.
Percy and Rob seemed able to identify hawks and pigeons as they flew past us!
In one village, we had to stop while a bulldozer was being re-fueled from a metal barrel on a truck which blocked the road.
We passengers got out to walk ahead through the village, birding, until the driver could catch up with us. Saw Andean and Puna Ibis, and Spot-winged Pigeons.
We saw several types of potatoes laid out to “freeze-dry,”
Harvested potatoes
later to be stored in a small stone building.
Farm buildings
They were also growing fava beans.
The villagers were especially dark-skinned at this high altitude.
A disturbed (mad?) cow mooed constantly while we were there.
Mountain community
As we drove through villages, herds of cows or sheep often blocked the road. Saw small horses, and burros. Pigs and cows were staked at the sides of the roads to graze. Soon we were driving along dusty cliff-hanging roads with sheer drops to the valley below. Momentary, but great views!
We stopped in the town of Paucartambo to see the 18th-century colonial stone bridge that King Carlos III of Spain ordered to be built to replace a rope bridge, allowing heavier loads to cross, thus enabling the collection of more taxes.
On the colonial stone bridge
The candy man
Cactus spines to keep you off the grass?
Kirby, Brynne, Rob, Jan, and Percy
Percy took us to the main plaza which had sixteen copper-plated sculptures to represent the dance groups that participate in the Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen.
Colla Capac, the traders
K'ajcha, scaring the bull
MajeƱos, dealers in alcohol
He explained each group’s significance. The regional dance groups, each with their own musical accompaniment and costumes, perform during a procession, re-enacting historical events and folktales. For instance there are the Auca Chilenos representing the Chilean soldiers who occupied Peru in the 19th century, or the Capac Negros/slaves. Other characters include malaria victims, ugly gringos, Ukukus (half man, half bear), condor-men, and warlike jungle Indians
The festival was to be the following week on July 15-17, and the town was in preparation, putting up flags and streamers.
Streamers of flags
The festival is a pagan-Christian celebration that takes place during the Quechuan month of “Earthly Purification.” The dancers re-enact the appearance of the Virgin of Carmen, whose face appeared embossed on the clay pot of a woman at market. The pot was used as the head for a carved body made of wood and given to the church. The pot came from Qolla, so those people come every July 16th to venerate the Virgin. There is a story of how rivals from the Chontakirus tribe stole the statue and threw it into the Madre de Dios river, but it was recovered and returned to Paucartambo.
Colorful blanket carry-all
As we left the square, three young men sitting on a bench turned in unison to watch Brynne walk by. She is not used to such blatant admiration.
Looking down into the river, we spotted a Torrent Tyrannulet (and the 18th-century bridge).
Colonial stone bridge
Percy purchased some local bread for us to sample; small, round and flat.
At the highest point of today’s trip, we stopped at Ajcanacu Pass (3530 m/11,581 feet) at one of the checkpoints for Manu National Park.
Manu National Park
We used restrooms, and were getting used to bringing our own toilet paper and not throwing it into the toilet, but into a trashcan. We climbed to the top of a hill for a view east at cloud-covered mountains, and the expanse known as the Manu Biosphere (UNESCO 1977).
Panorama view of Manu National Park
Saw a Turkey Vulture flying overhead.
In front of us was puna grassland, a montane grassland with grasses, lichens, and mosses among shrubs.
Puna grassland
There was a monument, but to whom?
Sven Ericsson Monument
To Dr. Sven Ericsson, mathematician and biologist from Sweden, who did research on flora in the area and who made it possible to construct a road linking Haumbutio with the Madre de Dios region.
We would be descending into a corridor between Manu National Park and a reserved zone, into the cloud forest.
The Manu National Park has been protected by law since 1973. UNESCO also declared the area a World Heritage Site in 1987. The park is about the size of Connecticut with 1,949,137 ha (hectares) /4,814,368 acres, and the cultural reserved zone has 92,000 ha/227,240 acres for native groups and colonists. Ecotourism is limited to designated areas and requires a permit and authorized guide. Manu is a subtropical moist forest, having less rain than a tropical rainforest, and is dominated by the floodplains of a meandering river. But we weren’t quite there yet, as we made a couple more birding stops.
Still in the puna grassland area, we saw a pair of Mountain Caracaras.
Mountain Caracaras
Even the driver was spotting birds! Had to lean out of the van window to see a Blue-crowned Motmot. There were Trogons, Tanagers, Woodcreepers, Flycatchers, Tyrants. I could see hummingbirds darting in the treetops, but how were the others able to identify their species ?!
Saw waterfalls across the valleys.
Tall skinny waterfall
Stopped for lunch after passing through a tunnel, as someone noted that vehicles would slow down for the tunnel and our picnic spot would be less dusty. Perhaps one vehicle passed us as we munched on lunch.
Dusty road
We then walked along the road for birding and saw interesting plants, as the van followed.
Later we came across another roadblock; three trucks being inspected in the middle of nowhere. The farmers of Peru can legally grow coca plants, but are limited to one hectare. They can also sell a limited amount of coca leaves by weight for medicinal purposes and local use such as Mate de Coca (tea) and leaf chewing. However, some farmers try to smuggle more than their allowed share, or to sell to cocaine producers. The American market for cocaine has been cited as a reason farmers will try illegal avenues… But here the government was inspecting for illegal coca leaf transport, yet they were overlooking the illegal lumber, seen in the trucks, which had been cut by chainsaw. One may cut down a tree with a chainsaw, but not cut the tree into boards with a chain saw. A mill cuts boards in a less wasteful manner than using a chainsaw, which results in having to use a mill anyway for consistent board thickness. Rob and Percy were able to tell if lumber is cut by chainsaw or not. We had to back up so the trucks could jockey around to give us space to pass.
Narrow road with trucks
It was getting cloudy with some rain as we approached the Cock of the Rock Lodge, 177 km/110 miles from Cusco, and at an elevation of 1600 m/5000 feet. We were led down the slippery stone path to the dining hall by the manager, Eva, where she gave us an orientation, and then showed us to our bungalows. The “bellhop” managed to bring us our one suitcase even though it wasn’t marked with our name. I wrote our name prominently on the tag right then.
The Cock of the Rock Lodge was opened in 1997 and protects and supports a private 5,508-ha/12,500-acre cloud forest.
Our spacious bungalow had no electricity, instead candles with cigarette lighters, and a private bathroom with gas hot water.
Brynne with our light source
The beds had thick new mattresses and mosquito netting.
There was a back door to a small balcony from which I had a fleeting glimpse of an agouti.
After a nice shower in the near-dark and a rest, we went to dinner at the dining hall. The hall was open when we arrived, but now was screened in, and had candles placed along the walls and on the tables. I heard that Rob had found a Rufescent Screech Owl, but when I went to see, everyone was gone.
At dinner we were presented with a welcome drink of Pisco Sour. Pisco is the powerful white grape brandy made from Pisco grapes. The Pisco Sour is a cocktail made from pisco, lemon juice, egg whites, and sugar. No one was excited about alcohol, because we either didn’t drink it, or had the traveler’s affliction, or had developed a rash. Not in need of coca tea, I now had manzanilla or chamomile tea. After dinner, we went over the bird list, and then headed to bed. Kerosene lamps were placed along the path to the bungalows.
Next: Day 4 Pilkopata.

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