South America | Peru | Southern Peru | Cuzco (Cusco) – Back to the jungle
After a few days in Cusco, I was offered the chance to go back to the heat, humidity and little biting jaws of the rainforest – which I couldn’t refuse. A friend of mine is currently constructing a lodge in the Manu Biosphere Reserve (a different part of the amazon to where I was) and gave me the chance to stay there for a few days.
Before I departed I had time to see a few sights around Cusco such as the churches of the city and the Inca ruins in the area. I spent a day with my good friend (and guide) Dustin, his girlfriend and Felicity, an Australian who I met one day in the forest! We walked up to the ruins of Sacsayhauman, marvelled at the unbelievable precision stonework of the ruins and then slid down some of the shiny rock surfaces like countless thousands had done before!
From there we hired some horses to take us to some of the more distant ruins before Felicity and I caught a minibus to Pisac, another important Inca site. En route there were obviously problems with the transmission of the vehicle because one guy lifted a trapdoor in the floor of the bus and started adjusting things with a screwdriver whilst we were going along!
Once we got to Pisac we found a nice restaurant on the square and sat down to eat. The background music in the place was pan pipe versions of John Lennon! I thought this would be something you would never here in this country with such a musical tradition but I guess they think the gringos like it! It was market day so the square ws full of stalls selling things for locals and tourists alike. We paid a visit to the infamous Guinea Pig Castle (as listed in our guidebook) which was a bit of a disappointment. In the corner of a courtyard of a bakery stood a neglected three storey structure with a few guinea pigs running around in each level. Since the guinea pig is a delicacy in the Andes, I’m guessing there was a little door at the back which led straight to the oven!
We took a taxi up the hill behind the town to the expansive ruins of Pisac, the highlight for me there was not the impressive series of Inca temples and monuments but a small girl who was filling her bottle up from the Inca spring and then soaking the rest of her siblings with it!
The next day I had to give the digital camera to the University since it wasn’t mine and was needed to continue the project that I started in the rainforest. It was sad to let it go and it means that I won’t be able to post any more pictures until I get my films developed and scanned.
So the time came to return to the rainforest. The part I was going to wasn’t as easy to get to as Tambopata where I was before, the journey turned out to be an adventure in itself. The first stage was by bus from Cusco to a small town called Pilcopata. The bus climbed out of Cusco for a couple of hours passing many small villages where people were working in the fields in the manner they have been for centuries. After reaching the highest point the road zig-zagged downhill past fairly barren brown landscapes until we reached the top of the cloud-forest. The road then twisted its way through a landscape of waterfalls and trees laden with bromeliads and lichen. It is a truly magical place. At every twist of the road there was a spectacular waterfall as well as many colourful orchids lining the edges of the road. We reached Pilcopata just as it was getting dark and my next task was to find a truck to take to a place called Salvacion! The word on the street (or dirt track) was that the river was too high to cross and that trucks would be leaving in the morning or the day after that depending on the weather. I resigned myself to a plate of sausage and chips and an early night in a hostal.
I woke up at 5am to try and get on the first truck if it was leaving only to find that the gate to my hostal was locked. After 10 mins of banging on the door to try and wake somebody up and having just about formulated my escape plan, the owner of the place came down and let me out so that I could run after the truck that had just pulled up in the centre of town. I climbed into the back with about 20 other people and off we bounced down the dirt track. After about 30 mins the truck got stuck in the mud where a stream had decided to divert itself across the road. Eventually with the help of everyone we managed to push it out and carried on our way until our next obstacle, the Carbon river. Several people waded out across the river to find the shallowest route and when everyone was in agreement we took a run up and splashed our way through the waist deep water. Shortly after the river crossing we came across a line of trucks, there was obviously a problem ahead. We all got out and discovered that a bridge had half collapsed from the heavy rain they had had. A group of men were busy collecting large stones from the steam and starting to rebuild the bridge. Once we all got involved it only took about an hour to construct something strong enough to take the wait of a truck. The first vehicle to cross was a heavy truck designed to carry fuel, the bridge held so we knew that our truck would make it. We finally arrived at our destination, Salvacion. The guy next to me in the truck had been unsuccessful in selling his house to me on the way. At Salvacion I was met by the lodge boat driver who took me down the river to the lodge.
The setting of the lodge is stunning, down by the banks of the Madre de Dios river, surrounded by hills cloaked in tropical forest. I spent the next 2 days being shown around the trails by the 2 resident naturalists there Chris and She naz (the 2 that left Explorer’s Inn because of the manager). Since the lodge is still being built , our accommodation was very temporary – a makeshift bamboon and palm structure. Due to the weather they hadn’t had any supplies in for a while so food portions were pretty small and the builders were pretty hungry. On the second afternoon Chris, Shenaz and I were sitting by the river waiting for a lift to a nearby island. We were passing the time by making shapes out of the clouds like dogs and kettles when I spotted what looked like a dog swimming across the river. I then decided that it was just a log but then decided to have a look through the binoculars just in case. It was a small deer struggling against the strong current of the river and I exclaimed “It’s a deer” . Unfortunately our boat driver heard the exclamation, grabbed his colleague, jumped in the boat and sped off after the animal. Through binoculars I saw him approach the swimming deer and strike into the water with his machete – I couldn’t see if he had made contact or not but they continued to give chase. Then I saw the other guy jump out, run along the beach, jump into the water again and swim out of sight behind the island. After about 30 mins of us wondering whether they had been successful or not, the boat returned with deer carcass minus one leg. Apparently what had happened was the guy from the boat had swum after the deer with his machete in his teeth and, with the help of a guy on the river bank with a lasso, managed to catch the animal. The missing leg was payment for the help of the guy on the bank. The deer was then skinned and gutted on the beach before taking it to the lodges’s cook. We had a good meal of venison that night and everybody was in a good mood – especially the guy who caught it. We also had venison for breakfast and lunch the next day!
1) Little girl filling her water bottle at the Inca ruins of Pisac.
2) Dye seller in Pisac market.
3) The Inca delicacy of guineau pig (cuy). Turned out to have very rubbery skin, small bones and not a lot of meat.