Walking down the street in Cusco deciding where would we go after our visit to the Peruvian Jungle I get a brain wave ( yeah I can hear ye all now.... gosh that must hurt!) that maybe we could fly from Cusco to Puno in Peru or La Paz in Bolivia saving us time if we could get the flights at a very reasonable rate.
As we had booked our flight in to the jungle through Star Peru airlines maybe they too could give us a good deal for the intended next leg. So we walked into the Star Peru office and enquired if there were any flights to either of these cities but alas there was not. So as we walked out I said to Aine lets make sure the flight to the jungle scheduled for the following morning is still leaving on time as during the wet season the flights are sometimes rescheduled and you are urged to check with the airline 24 hours prior to departure. So we turned back to the attendant and asked him to check the flight time. He confirmed that it was leaving as planned and asked if we wanted to check in there and then saving us the bother in the morning at the airport. So we did same and then we enquired if our return flight booked for the 1st February was ok also. He looked at us, and said that our return flight was booked for the 1st March. Aine looked at me, I looked at her, we both looked at each other and we both looked at the attendant, disbelievingly. PANIC set in immediately and we both tried to explain to him simultaneously that there had to be a mistake. That we had booked our return flight for 1st February. He was adamant that the flight was for 1st March. He showed us the screen and there it was in black and white, 1st March.........Sh*t, Sh*t, Sh*t.
We explained to him that 'I' booked our tickets in Arequipa when we were there. One of his colleagues came over and between them they hit many keys on the computer but the result was still the same - 1st March. He then told us that we could change them for a fee of 70 US dollars each. They only cost 90 US dollars each so we were being screwed again. We told him that it was not our fault and that it was the travel agent in Arequipa who had made the mistake. We asked him if he sould ring them and try to sort something out but he said that he couldn´t as he could only make local calls. Though he did give us the number of the agency. We again begged him to ring them as he could explain to them in Spanish what the problem was. To our surprise and relief he rang them, 'even though it was not a local call'. They accepted that they had made the mistake and agreed to right the wrong at a total cost to us of zero!!!!!!! Yippeeee.
Next morning we flew to the Peruvian Jungle, flying in to Puerto Maldonado. Puerto Maldonado is a city in Southeastern Peru in the Amazon forest 55 kilometres (34 mi) west of the Bolivian border on the confluence of the Tambopata and Madre de Dios River, a tributary of the Amazon.
Nearby is Tambopata national park. It hosts some of the most pristine primary rain forests in the world, which include several oxbow lakes and clay licks, where hundreds of birds including macaws feed on clay.
Puerto Maldonado is in the tropical Amazon Basin. The climate is hot and humid at all times. The average annual temperature is 26 °C (79 °F). Temperatures on our arrival were in the high 30s. Annual rainfall exceeds 1,000 millimetres (3.3 ft). The wet season is from October to April. Road travel often becomes impossible during this time.
Downtown Puerto Maldonado
We had booked into an Eco Lodge trying to be somewhat eco conscious. It was only a 40 min flight but the change in the landscape was amazing in such a short space of time. From Cusco which is sub-tropical highland climate to tropical rain forest, absolutely stunning!!!!!
We were met off the plane by our guide, Frank. And to be frank(!), he was excellent throughout our stay. We took a 30 min taxi ride to our lodge and along the route Frank filled us in on the local politics, climate, conservation and all things associated with the area. The lodge was set on the banks of the Tambopata river, idyllic.... We met the owner and his wife who are Peruvian. But unfortunatly that was the last time we saw them until we had to pay the bill on the day of our departure. Frank was the main man and we really wanted for nothing while he was around. Our 3 night 4 day stay was planned out for us in advance so when we arrived at the lodge we had lunch and then a little lie down. by the time we got from the dining/kitchen to the bedroom we were soaked in sweat. The humidity sometimes reaches 100%. Aine´s sweaty pants tell the story. Sweaty Betty.
After our rest we went for a walk in a reforestation area on the 16 hectare site. Frank showed us some very interesting insects, flowers, trees and birds on our walk and after dinner we went for a ´night walk´along the same track we had done earlier. But the difference in the type of insect, wildlife to be seen was such a contrast.
I swear it's this big
Day 2 up at 5am to get a good spot at a nearby clay cliff where various species of parrots come almost every morning to lick the clay. They do this to get minerals and salts that are missing from their diets.
Then some lunch and a kayak trip down stream on the Tambopata river and return to the lodge by mountain bike just in time before it gets dark and for dinner.
David Attenborough eat your heart out.
Easing down the river
Day 3 awake 5am again but its raining so Aine cries boo hoo, boo hoo.. She was so afraid of getting a few drops of rain on her that she was near throwing a hissy fit (joke). but luckily I managed to soothe her sufficiently to come out from the locked bathroom. We went and had breakfast while we were waiting to see if the weather would clear. Someone was still boo hooing after the breakfast but I won´t say who it was. OK it was Aine. Two and a half hours later and the weather seems to break and there is a hint of sunshine but someone still doesn´t believe that the day will stay dry and we MIGHT GET WET!!!!!! more boo hooing just for effect. We take a boat ride down the Tambopata river for 2 hours and gain entry to the Tambopata National Reserve. Of course at this stage the weather is stiffling hot and Someone is complaining about the heat....... Guess who????? the person formerly known as boo hoo.
Our guide Frank
Giant Fig Tree
Journeying through the swamps on way to Sandoval Lake
Long Nosed Bats sleeping
Tambopata National Reserve is a nature reserve in the Peruvian Amazon Basin. It has a superface area of 1,478,942 hectares (3,654,550 acres). It was created in 1990, to protect the forests adjacent to the rivers, heath and Tambopata that have two important ecosystems and are noted for their biodiversity; representing native flora and fauna with 165 species and 41 families of trees, 103 species of mammals, 1300 species of butterflies and 90 species of amphibians. The protected area features eight life zones: subtropical humid forest, tropical humid forest, subtropical high-humidity forest, subtropical high-humidity foothills cloud forest, subtropical rainforest, tropical cloud forest foothills, subtropical lower foothills cloud forest and semi-flooded subtropical cloud forest. Average annual temperature is 26 °C, ranging from 10-38 °C; with average annual rainfall of 1600–2400 mm. Rainfall in the protected area is typical of most areas in the Peruvian Amazon. The climate is humid and (3000 mm and 25 °C on average).
Our destination in the reserve was Sandoval Lake. There is a circuit of canoeing around the lake which is considered one of the most exciting and beautiful circuits of Peru. This was to be our treat for the day. So after alighting from the boat we donned our wellingtons and trekked 4 km along a very muddy path which led to the lake. Along the way we saw numerous multi-coloured butterflies, an abundant of lizards and so many ants that the would stretch all the way back to Ireland, including the deadly bullet ant. Some monkeys, and many types of birds that are native of this reserve.
A 'wellington flutterby'
Hoatzin bird, the missing link
Eagle-eyed Frank rowed us around the lake and pointed out various species including 2m long Cayman, various monkeys and birds which are a link between reptiles and birds, having blue scales around their eyes. Mad looking things. Lunch by the lake in much needed shade and then back across the lake in the steaming heat. Back through the forest and on to the river boat for the 2 hour journey up river and against the current. Had a good snooze in the evening sunlight.
Next morning, our trip to the jungle was ending and prior to leaving on the plane we visited the local market which, like all markets over here, sells absolutely everything. "Original" rip-offs, second hand goods and all the riches that the jungle produces. A feast for the eyes. Goodbye rainforest or should that be hasta luego.