I was fortunate enough to see part of the Amazon on the Peruvian side about a month ago. It was one of the places on my (long) to-see-places list. There are a number of options to enjoy the Peruvian Amazon. My friend and I chose Manu National Park, a UNESCO World Natural
Heritage Site that is home to a great diversity of wildlife over a wide range of cloud forest and rainforest habitats. The road trip from Cusco to our first night’s lodging took approximately 8 hours. Once we entered the park, much of the ride became bumpy and winding. A careless mistake on the driver’s part
would mean a plunge into death down below the Andes highlands. The journey was long because we visited an indigenous museum in the small town of Paucartambo where we learned about the indigenous tribes living in the Peruvian Amazon (of all the tribes, I remember the ‘naked’ people the most!), and
national bird of Peru, Cock of the Rock. The cloud forest was very pretty, of course, and chilly (a jacket was a must for me). The lodge was pretty rustic. I was thankful for the mosquito net provided by the lodge operator as the mosquitoes there seemed bigger than my pinky finger (no kidding! We were advised to have insect repellent with minimum 25%
deet). The second and third days were pretty much spent in the dense rainforest of Manu National Park: trekking, learning about plants, bird watching, wildlife spotting, learning about jungle surviving skills… the rain came down unexpectedly and heavy on the second day. The second
night was spent in a camouflage house built close to a mammal salt lick. We got there just after sunset. One of the first things we did upon arrival was to make our beds with mosquito netting, and ate our packed dinner. Our guide asked us to not use the flashlight and to keep quiet. The night was very silent and dark.
Sounds of the insects seemed too loud. Then there were the distant sounds of animals wandering, nosing around. Our guide shined his flashlight on the mammal salt lick every now and then to see if there was any animal. None of us were talking. We could not see each other but we knew we were all there
together. My friend and I lay down with our heads stuck outside the net and patiently waited for animals to show up at the salt lick. Fireflies were our
entertainment, dancing around in the calm, lovely darkness. A few hours later, a Brazilian tapir appeared in the salt lick. Our guide shined his flashlight on the big guy. It was amazing that the animal seemed blind to the light. He stayed in the spotlight for quite some time, not knowing that we were watching his every move. Much later in the night, we saw a caiman crocodile. We could not figure his length. What I did know was that his eye seemed amazingly blue in the darkness…I was awaken to our guide’s wake-up call as early as 6.30am. Since it rained much of yesterday,
the water level of the forest streams had gone up. Some areas became impassable. We had to find alternative routes. At one point, we had to cross a quite-deep river on a fallen tree trunk. Balancing was the key point here. A misstep would mean a drop into the brown-colored river below.Later that day, we went to the observation platform. We saw more birds including the beautiful macaws, woodpecker, and the others whose names I can’t recall (this place is truly a solitary bird-watching paradise). We sat on
top of the platform till the sun set, washing the sky a brilliant orange behind black silhouetted trees. Very pretty, indeed! We stayed on to admire the
moon and stars using our guide’s telescope. Believe it or not, we also saw Venus and Jupiter (my friend is a space physicist). That night, our last, we had a good meal together and chatted till I-don’t-know-how-long. My expectation for the entire trip was to see a lot of wildlife especially anaconda and jaguar (remember the movie Anaconda? That was in my head). I did not see them. Despite my unmet expectation, the trip was very rewarding and memorable. We were lucky enough to see tapir, caiman, capybaras, monkeys, many different types of birds, insects (including colourful butterflies, spiders, tarantula, ants, termites), different types of plant species…there were also the little moments that made the whole jungle experience significantly richer- the good meals shared together, the ‘Tarzan’ experience, crossing a river by
walking on a fallen timber, walking in watery areas, dipping into the natural hot spring in the midst of the Peruvian jungle (and having a ‘muddy perfume’ all over you after), the boat ride (the river was amazingly beautiful), the night spent at the camouflage house, trekking in the rain, the sunset and unplanned astronomical tour on top of the observation platform, hilarious fellow travelers and a very knowledgeable and funny guide, the night walk (at one point, we just stopped in our tracks in the middle of nowhere, turned off our flashlight
and let the darkness engulf us for I-don’t-know-how-long), the afternoon nap in the hammock, the scary noises we heard from the unoccupied next room when it was near midnight (it is a long story that deserves its own page)…the whole trip may not be like those big Amazonian trips portrayed by some travel documentaries or movies…but then it is very true that one’s travel experience is subjective and individual, and that little moments can actually make a trip GREAT…the big things do count
for one’s enjoyment, but in my opinion, when it comes to memories, many times when we reflect, it is the little moments that make us smile big, and sometimes just throw our head back and laugh. That’s my Amazonian bliss!