The flight from Cuzco to Puerto Maldonado was incredible - from the window I watched as the snowy mountain ranges turned to the vast green landscape of the Amazon. The Tambopata River snaked though the land, adding the contrast of a light brown.
When we landed, we transferred our luggages to smaler duffle bags to bring intot he jungle. We had to limit what we brought because the only way to the Tambopata Research Center is boat, so we limited the weight. To get to the boat port was an hour drive through the sparse village. The port wasn't actually that far, but because of the countless potholes in the road, we had to endure a considerably bumpy and slow ride. Driving by, it was intruging to see what a different lifestyle people lived.
When we got onto the boat we were given lunch. It was a fried rice that was a cross betwween Peruvian and Chinese food; it was served wrapped in banana leaf. On the way, we saw a white caiman and some turtoises.
It only took an hour to reach the port at which we would get off. From there, it was a 20 minute hike to reach Posada Amazonas. We met our guide, Inés, who took us to the canopy tower. It was a bare metal tower that stood 137 feet tall, and was supported by only four wires that were attached to distant trees. Walking up, the entire tower swung in the air.
When we reached the top it was absolutely amazing. You could see over the trees for 60 miles out of the jungle while listening to many different bird sounds and monkey sounds. You could also see the Tampobata river. Inés pointed out some different birds, which we saw through the telescope she set up.
We went back tot he lodge and realxed, until we found a station to crack Brazilian nuts. We found a pile of nuts in their shells and cracked them all, eating them along the way.
Our last thing of the day was to eat dinner, which was a buffet style in a large dining room in the lodge. The food was really good, but also ran out.
We woke up at 4 AM to hike 20 minutes to the river port, where we took a boat. During the boat ride the sun began to rise, turning the sky into a brilliant orange. We were taken to a lake port, where we loaded onto a small catamaran.
The goal of this activity was wildlife spotting along the river. Initially we saw many different birds in the trees and on the shores. However, our guide then got super excited and told us to be quiet - she found the river otters. There is only one family of 5 that lives in the entire 3 km lake, and all of them were swimming right beside us. It was an amazing site.
We then went to shore, and were handed twigs with a string attached to them. Confused, I was told that we would be fishing for piranhas, and then given a piece of meat to attach to my hook. For having my line in the water for 30 minutes, I wasn't able to catch a single one. However, I could feel the piranhas biting off the bait, and each time I pulled it out of the water it continuously got smaller.
After the activity, we immediately loaded onto another boat for us to embark on the 6 hour journey to take us to Tambopata Research center. Again we were given lunch in banana leaves, which was chicken, plantains, and sweet potatoes. Along the ride, we continued to spot different wildlife. Later along the ride, there were small rapids and many large obstacles. Because it was also dry season, the water was really shallow, so we could sometimes feel the boat gliding across the rocks on the bottom of the river.
An hour before reaching, we visited the a clay lick. There, we saw a lot of parrots and macaws. It was incredible to see them out in the wild, eating clay. It was also really lucky because it was around 1 pm, and the birds usually leave around midday.
Once we reached Tambopata Research Center, we immediately went on the monkey walk, where we hiked around the jungle seeking out different monkeys. We quickly found a howler monkey. After that, we ventured off the trail and into the jungle to look for more monkeys. It felt as if we were really in the wild where no human had been before, which is probably true. We spotted some more spider monkeys and toucans.
We then had the same style dinner which we had at Posada Amazonas. In the same common quarters, a researcher at TRC presented some of their work on macaws, and what they've learned about them. It was a great presentation, and gave a lot of context about the birds that we were finding in the wild.
It was another early morning, where we woke up at 4:30 AM to go see the Chuncho Clay Lick over sunrise. We came before any birds were there, and had some cake and coca tea for breakfast. Slowly, the parakeets, parrots, and macaws began to come and start their meal.
Sometimes, something would startle all the birds, such as another large bird, and they would all fly off really quickly. This was incredible to watch, as it seemed as if they were in their own flock.
Our next activity was the bamboo walk, where we walked through a section of the jungle which was overrun by bamboo. We soon reached a beautiful view point over the Tambopata river, which was somewhat dried up. Along the dried islands in the middle of the river, we saw a lot of different kinds of birds through the telescope. Here also I found a lot of different kinds of ants, such as the cone ant and leaf cutter ants.
Leading up to the path to the view, you could see a huge trail of leaves that were abandoned by the leaf cutter ants. It was really a magical experience because it was as if someone left it there like a road or a pathway.
In the afternoon, we went on the Palm Swamp hike. We had to wear long rubber boots instead of our normal hiking boots, because it was going to be very wet and muddy. It was good that we wore them, because in some places you could step and your foot would sink all the way down into the mud upto your knee. While we were going around, we spotted more monkeys and macaws. We also came across even more leaf cutter ants. We followed them and we found their entrance into their colony, which looked as if they were huge mounds of hardened soil.
By the time we were going back to the lodge it was dark, so we had to use our headlamps. This attracted many different bugs, which continued to hit against my face. However, we were able to see a giant tarantual in the middle of the trail.
After our dinner of chicken and rice, we went on the night hike. This wasn't so much spotting wildlife, but more spiders and other cool insects. It was fun to see what kind of different creatures emerged in the night.
Today was our travel day back - we we woke at 4:50 so we could leave TRC by 5:15 in the morning. The river was warmer than the air, and so steam was coming from the water. This made it seem as if there was a thin layer of fog right above the water, which made for a beautiful sight against the sun rising.
We got back and we repacked our main luggages. Because our flight was later in the afternoon, we decided to spend the afternoon eating at Burgos's Restuarant, which we were told was the only tourist friendly restaurant in the entire city.
As we were flying back to Lima, the sun was setting, and I could see the brilliant colors outside through the window. Mountains were peeking out of clouds. The soft red and pink reflected off the clouds. They same became uniform, as if it was a cloud ocean. When descending, I saw the lights of Lima peak out through the clouds. Even though it was night by then, the sky was filed with clouds that reflected the soft orange glow given by the millions of street lights below, so it wasn't totally dark.
We spent our last hours in Peru by visiting Museo Larco, which had an amazing collection of different artifacts. Because we went so late, we actually were the only ones in the museum, and so we got a private tour. It was amazing to learn about the different cultures and beliefs of the different people. For dinner we went to the Café del Museo Larco, where we learned more about the preperations for the delicious Chicha mirada.