Visiting the Manu Wildlife Center Part 2
23.06.2010 - 24.06.2010
We again left early in the morning to take a small raft on the Cocha Blanco oxbow lake. The lake was calm and peaceful with the background noise of small chirping birds. However, the serenity would occasionally be broken by the abrasive howls of horned screamer birds. We saw several hoatzins along the banks. These were the coolest-looking birds with their punk-rock spiked crests.
One of the oarsmen started making some loud guttural noises. Across the lake, we heard a loud, low groan. Apparently, he was mimicking the mating call of a black caiman. The sound we heard was from a horny male looking for a booty call. I spotted him swimming towards us in the distance. He was not a fully grown adult, maybe only 6-7 feet long. Once it got closer, it saw us and disappointedly glided away.
We then spotted a solitary giant otter (likely a male) near a fallen tree. It dove underwater and reappeared with a fish in its mouth. He went to town on that fish devouring it in less than a minute. The otter then swam in front of our raft keeping a nice safe distance as he checked us out. We saw several more species of birds and small monkeys. The sun finally arrived in force overhead making us beat a quick retreat back to the dock.
Later that afternoon, our group sans Sherri headed for the canopy platform. She had had enough of the Amazon heat and elected to stay behind in the lodge and read some trashy romance novel. The platform was tall and surprisingly sturdy. At the top, I could see endless rain forest for miles around. The canopy platform was strategically built alongside one of the large fruit-bearing trees. All sorts of parrots, macaws, and assorted birds came to the tree to feed before the sun went down. These birds would literally land on branches no more than 10 feet above us. Only when they looked down and realized we were there would they then fly off. For about 20 minutes, we were serenaded by the continuous foghorn sounds of some red howler monkeys nearby. The only major detraction from the platform was the swarms of sweat bees that constantly buzzed around my face.
We finally had rain on our last day in the rainforest. I was worried that our small plane would not come and pick us up in the inclement weather. Nevertheless we packed up our gear and arrived at the Boca Manu “airport” at 9 AM. I thought we would have only a short wait, so I wore a T-shirt and neglected to use insect repellant. Big mistake. The plane did not actually arrive until 2PM. My arms were covered in bites by the time we took off. Since the plane is not pressurized, I started to feel very nauseous half-way through. I guess other people were having the same problem because they told us to put on our oxygen masks. Everybody donned one except for the two most important people, the pilot and co-pilot.
Once we arrived in Cusco, we were a bit disappointed as we had missed all of the Inti Raymi festivities. We did see several local groups dressed up in traditional costumes playing music and dancing in the town squares. I was shocked to find that after only four days in the jungle, I had lost all my prior altitude acclimation. I started getting dizzy and short of breath while walking up small hills. My head started pounding harder and harder. It got so bad that I had to resume the Diamox pills.
We ate dinner at a very popular Cusco restaurant, Cicciolina. The place was packed, but we were able to procure a small table with a great view of the chefs cooking in the open kitchen. We ordered several tapas dishes. We enjoyed the squid braised in red wine and the sampler of various causas. The quinoa crusted shrimp was delightfully crunchy. Neither of us was crazy about their duck prosciutto nor the hummus. Sherri spied a guy making fresh pasta in the window when we walked in, so she had to try their squid-ink tagliatelle with shrimp. It was served with a Thai inspired coconut milk sauce that enhanced its deliciousness. Although the place was bustling, our waitress still gave us top-notch service, even changing all of our dishes and silverware after each course. For the price, this was the best restaurant we went to in Peru. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of having a glass of red wine with my meal. This just exacerbated my altitude sickness. I was able to stagger back to the comforts of our oxygen-rich room at the Monasterio.