South America | Peru | Southern Peru | Cuzco (Cusco) – From one extreme to another
Bit of a change of scenery, I’ve just arrived in Cusco for a short holiday. I know I don’t really need a holiday because I don’t feel like I’m working when I’m in the jungle but I thought I couldn’t come to Peru and not do the Inca Trail and the only other time I could do it would be in the wet season – not recommended.
Down at the lodge there’s been a lot more politics going on which has led to the sad departure of the other 2 resident naturalists Chris and Shenaz. Their relationship with the lodge manager, Giesela, had had it downs and ups since they arrived with them wanting to leave the lodge several times but usually they would get back into the forest and regain the enthusiasm that they had for working in such an amazing place. However, a couple of weeks ago, Shenaz had an argument with Giesela over some baskets that Shenaz had worked hard on arranging a contract with the local community who made it. There was a disagreement about the design of the baskets and over the payment and things got to the point where Giesela actually insulted Shenaz. Understandably this upset Shenaz and she walked out – realising it there was no point in discussing this further. I confronted Giesela about what she said to Shenaz and her excuse was that her English was not good and that she translated something literally from Spanish. OK I said, if that is the case then she has obviously made a mistake and should apologise to Shenaz explaining why she said what she did. No, why should I apologise came the response. I tried to continue the discussion but Giesela ignored me and picked up a letter that was on her desk and started reading it, the way a stubborn child would. The next day Chris and Shenaz decided to leave the lodge and look for another project elsewhere. It was sad to see them go and now I am the only Brit left at the lodge. Still, I get on well with the guides and other staff at the lodge so I’ve not been left alone.
I took a Canadian tourist, Paul, out one afternoon since they were short of guides a few days ago. I love having the opportunity to show people around the forest. I’ve learnt so much (and not just about ants) in the 4 months that I have been here and it’s good to pass on this knowledge. I was showing Paul some ants (what else?) on one of the trails and was kneeling down to point something out when I noticed a small stripey red and black thing about 4 inches long next to the ants. This I instantly recognised as the tip of a Coral Snake, the most poisonous one we have, and as I was bending over it thankfully it disappeared into the undergrowth. I thought it best to calmly tell Paul what was lurking in the undergrowth stressing that it is very timid and is probably many metres away by now. He didn’t seemed to worried so we then walked quickly past the spot where the snake had been and continued on our way.
The wildlife highlight of the last couple of weeks was a couple of bats which flew past me whilst I was in the forest taking some photographs for my project and disappeared under neath a big nearby leaf. They were a kind of ‘Tent Bat’. These species bite a line along a leaf which subsequent folds in the middle producing a small tent which they can then roost under sheltered from the elements. It was incredibly fortunate to be next to this chosen leaf as they came in to roost.
So here I am in Cusco, the town where most travellers base themselves to see the Inca sites including Machu Picchu. This necessarly means that the city is bristling with tourists and there are many locals trying to sell you postcards or shine your shoes.
The city is at an altitude of more than 3000 m above sea level which means the air is much thinner than the jungle and you do notice that you get out of breath if you walk quickly anywhere. It’s also cold here which is also a new experience. Thankfully my hotel has hot water which means I have had my first hot shower in 4 months!
I start the Inca Trail the day after tomorrow so I have got a bit of time to be shown the sites by my friend Dustin (ex-guide at the lodge). Will let you know how the trek goes on my return.
The photos on this page are:
Beautiful butterfly seen on a walk to Cocococha lake one afternoon.
The Tent Bat that I witnessed flying in to roost.
A very large ‘Bufo’ toad which blocked the trail one morning. The size of this monster was about 18-20 cm (7-8″) from nose to tail.
Bride’s Bell Fungus. This very delicate looking fungus apparently only appears for one day so I was very lucky to find it.