with photos by
I’m still in awe over the experience of time spent in the
rainforests/jungles of Peru and the unexpected side trip to Bolivia. Both awe
inspiring and incredible trip.
Wild parrots Up Close was the name of our adventure, so
aptly named, as parrots were the animals of the jungle that we got the closest
to; however, we were able to see so much more on this trip.
JoAnn and I began our trip in Seattle, through Houston and
on to Lima, Peru making for an 18 hour day. After a very short night at the
Jose Antonio Hotel on the 31st of October into the 1st
November we were up at 2:45 a.m. to begin our first of many wonderful days in Peru.
We boarded a bus and began a ride to Pisco (Pisco Sours anyone?) and a few
miles further to Paracas and the Paracas National Reserve. We boarded a boat at
the dock at the Paracas Hotel Liberatora and rode out into the Pacific Ocean to
the rock islands known as Islas Ballestas which are incredible. We saw
Pelicans, Inca terns, Oyster catchers, cormorants, gulls, penguins as well as
several sea lions. I was like a little kid, believing we saw a million birds.
After leaving the water, we toured around the Paracas Reserve and saw Cathedral
Rock, and stopped at a bay full of flamingos. After 17 hours we were back at
our hotel to meet the rest of our group.
Nov. 2 we were up early to catch a flight from Lima through
Cusco and onto Puerto Maldonado which was a beautiful airport hidden in the
jungle. We were met by Rainforest Expeditions and taken to the Tambopata River
for our first boat trip to our first lodge, Refugio Amazonas. The river was
extremely muddy, but along the journey we saw several birds and the first of
many Capybaras feeding on the banks. On to the lodge which was such an
incredible and welcoming sight. All rooms opened to the jungle on one side, and
each bed had mosquito netting which gave us a great deal of security and
allowed us to have a worry free night. We had cold showers in our room’s
private bath, and we loved the experience.
Nov. 3 was our first trip to a parrot lick, which seemed a
long hike into the jungle and the lick itself was quite a distance from where we
could set up our cameras. It was hot and humid, and few photo opportunities.
Nov. 4 up early again to board our boat, which was really
luxurious with forward facing chairs instead of side benches. We began a 6 hour
journey up the river to the confluence of the Madre de Dios River and saw where
the orange, muddy water was coming from, it was caused by miners spraying the
river banks so gold would be easier to mine, and the muddy run-off ran into the
We continued up the relatively clear water to the Tambopata Research
Center, home of the Tambopata Macaw project. Very interesting to learn of the
work done with and for Scarlet macaws. We arrived fairly late but on Nov. 5 we
went to the parrot licks and saw hundreds of parrots, - Scarlet, Green wing,
Blue and Gold, Severe, Red bellied and Blue headed Macaws as well as Mealy and
Yellow crowned Amazons, White bellied Caiques, Orange cheeked Parrots, Blue
headed Pionus and Cobalt winged Parakeets all chattering like crazy and flying
every which way overhead. We went back to the lodge for breakfast, then hiked
into the jungle to see the man-made macaw nest boxes, and watched the research
volunteers climb and photograph activity in the boxes as well as the natural
nests of Scarlet Macaws. What a great experience to observe their habitat so
Nov. 6 back to the lick, but due to mist we did not see that
many birds, except for black nun bird, violaceous jay, green kingfishers and an
Amazon red squirrel. Some Scarlet Macaws came to the open dining room at the
lodge and put on quite a show. They snuck into the kitchen area for bananas,
tried to open the banana storage cupboard, stole pancakes right off the serving
tables set out for us, and generally had a great time eating from our hands and
flying through the dining area. What fun! What great memories!
Nov. 7 was an early get-up for a 4:15 river trip to the clay
lick, but we saw so much on the way – a 5 foot black caiman on the rocky shore,
wild turkey, snowy egret, more violaceous jays and horned screamer as well as
all the usual Parrots.
This afternoon we hiked to a mammal lick, but saw no
activity. To everyone’s delight our astute guide, Fernando, spotted a Harpy
Eagle way up high in a tree, and everyone was able to see this rare and
gorgeous juvenile Harpy and many of us got pictures! What a thrill !
Nov. 8 was a day to relax in Puerto Maldonado
Nov. 9 was a much better day and we all made the 5.5 hour
trip up the Heath River to the Heath River Wildlife Refuge, the third of our
wonderful lodges. The river was very shallow, but we did see 2 white throated
Toucans in the trees (my pictures actually turned out!) and a baby white caiman
in the water. The Heath River Lodge is actually in Bolivia and we had to pass
through a Bolivian checkpoint where all passports were checked. What a surprise
to stay in Bolivia on this trip of so many firsts and surprises!!!
Nov. 10 was a recuperation day for me but after a wonderful
bowl of chicken soup made especially for me by the lodge chef, I was able to
join the next nature hike. We saw a peanut head cicada, glimpsed stampeding
peccaries, saw a candle plant, giant bullet ants, a long trail of leaf cutter
ants, 2 dove eggs in a nest, giant leafed plants and a small checkered swamp
snake. It was a wonderfully informative hike. This evening we went on a boat
ride and saw white and black caiman as well as a spectacled caiman with really
buggy eyes. We also saw bats and night jars (night hawks at my home). It was an
exciting night time adventure.
Nov. 11 was an early morning get-up to go to the floating
blind (hide) to view Macaws. What a great invention and it accommodated so many
of us. We saw over a hundred Green winged Macaws, Blue headed parrots, Mealy
Amazons, as well as Severe Macaws. What an incredible sight. This afternoon on
our nature walk we saw black tailed trogan, army ants, 4 Blue and Yellow Macaws
in the trees, coco bean pods (white, turning to brown when they are dried and
roasted), Brazil nut pods and so many delightful sights.
Nov. 12 was our last day to do the macaw lick but some of us
went on a canoe trip to our second oxbow lake. It was so serene and we saw a
huge bush with several Hoatzin, making weird noises. It was extremely warm and
we saw very little wildlife except for a few tanagers and small birds. In the
afternoon we went on another nature hike to the mammal lick to look for previously
sighted Jaguars, but no luck. Our guide Javier coaxed a chicken spider out of
its dirt-bank nest and it splayed its fangs for us. Very intriguing!! We saw
very few critters but always enjoyed our time in the jungle.
Nov. 13 we left Heath River Lodge at 4:30a.m. having a
delightful pancake breakfast on the boat, but we had to stop at the Bolivian
check point first. All was well there. We arrived at the Sandoval Lake Lodge
river access about 10:50 and after a passport check we began a gruelling hike
to the canoe that would take us to the actual lodge across the lake. It was so
hot and we were not sufficiently hydrated but we made it and were delighted to
sit in canoes and be ferried across the lake. Lunch was roasted pork and so
good after a light breakfast. Our rooms were extremely nice with our own bath
and overhead fans. In the afternoon we took a catamaran ride around the lake.
It was so peaceful and lovely and we saw flocks of great white egrets in tree
tops, beautiful Red bellied Macaws, a howler monkey and her baby, a caiman, a
tiger heron as still as a stone and another one eating a baby anaconda. So many
sights to add to our growing list.
Nov. 14 we left the lovely Sandoval Lake Lodge for our
journey back to Puerto Maldonado to pick up our stored luggage and head to the
airport to go to Cusco. Six of our group went on to Lima to fly home and the
rest of us checked into our lovely Picoaga Hotel. We were so hungry and went to
a local restaurant but Keith began to feel the effects of altitude as I did
also. After our meal was over and entertainment began my head ached so badly I
couldn’t think straight. I was in agony but managed to get back to the hotel to
Nov. 15 we began the last leg of our fantastic trip. We were
bussed to the train station to board our train from Cusco to Machu Picchu. We
had great company, plushy service, good food and spectacular scenery. We saw
farms, rocky mountains and destruction caused by the horrific storm and flood
of early 2010. At Aguas Calientes at the base of Machu Picchu we boarded a bus
up the trails where our tour guide Holger made sure we were well informed about
the mountains history, had all the best views and vantage points for photo
opportunities and where we could see it all in a relatively short time. He was
very knowledgeable, made our experience superb and the weather couldn’t have
been better. A buffet lunch topped off the mountain experience. Then onto the
busses back to town where we walked a long way to our hotel. We were pleasantly
surprised at our luxurious accommodations at the Inkaterra Pueblo Hotel. We had
a wonderful meal at the hotel restaurant then retreated to our rooms where we
found hot water bottles in our beds and chocolate candy on our pillows. We felt
so pampered after our cold showers and jungle experience.
After a very restful night Nov. 16 was spent on a guided
tour of the hotel grounds and saw lots of Machu Picchu birds including a white
headed dipper in the river below our hotel, local blue/gray tanagers, a guan,
Mitred Conures and Speckle faced Parrots as well as Cock-of-the-Rocks and so
We saw an exhibit of 3 Andean Spectacled Bears and saw a lot
of tea plants and tea gardens. All so interesting. We spent the rest of the day
at the local market place, which was our first day to play tourist and buy
Peruvian goodies. We had a lot of fun there. We had to board the train for our
ride back to Cusco and it turned out to be so much fun. We were entertained by
a court jester dancing in the train aisle and a spectacular and hilarious fashion
show. This was a trip highlight for sure.
Nov. 17 was our last day together and we spent it getting
ready mentally and physically for our trip from Cusco to Lima and our final
flight that night from Lima to Houston to Seattle. Our small group consisted of
Steve, Catherine and Keith, Colin and Mavis, JoAnn and myself. After a walk
around town and our final meal together, JoAnn and I had a touching send off by
those going home or onto Brazil. We were anxious to get home but were sad to
see this memorable once-in-a-lifetime trip come to an end. We will never forget
it, as we have written journals and hundreds of photographs to remind us of new
friends and a fun-filled adventure.
Compatible group, an abundance of wildlife including
Parrots, wonderful jungle lodges, excellent and abundant food and the best
guides who made us smarter and happier.
Wilson, Idaho, USA)