It was 6.00am on the first day of the trip, and the Bonanza tours bus arrived at our little hostel in Cusco. We were packed into the minibus and were soon heading off north towards the mountains which lead to the Manu jungle. I can’t really explain what I was feeling about going into the jungle for the first time, maybe a little apprehensive about what might bite us or poison us! Although some of the sheer drops on the mountain roads soon made you forget about that and concentrate on what the driver was doing! They drive here all of the time I was told but it still didn’t make the drops any smaller!
After a few hours we stopped to have a look at a few pre-inca ruins which were very strange looking buildings and very mysterious. We also met some of the locals who were just as interested in us and we were in them.
A little further down the road we stopped again and were treated to our first taste of Chicha beer. This is a local beer made from wheat – it’s a nice drink but I wouldn’t drink too many!
After a few more hours of driving, we started entering more jungle-like terrain which eventually led to the lodge where we stayed for our first night. We weren’t in the Manu jungle yet, but the air was still full of birds and insects flying around everywhere. That night, we settled down to a nice meal and a beer in the dining area and afterwards William – one of the guides – humanely caught various insects and frogs to show us. He also gave us our first lesson in which ones were safe and which should be avoided, it was a great introduction to the wildlife. After a long day’s travelling, myself and Vicky went to bed for a well earned sleep, but I had a shock in store in the shape of a small spider falling out of the curtains at me. It wasn’t poisonous I was told, but was enough to make me tuck the sheets in nice and tight lol.
We were woken at around 6am by the loudest and brightest thunder storm I had ever experienced. The thunder was that loud the lodge was vibrating and the rain came down like a monsoon. In about 2 hours the roads were a foot deep in water, and we started to wonder whether the trip was going to end here. But we were assured we just had to wait, and sure enough water started to cleared and we were soon on our way into the jungle.
We travelled for another few hours along mountain tracks until we eventually reached a pass and a huge sign welcoming us to the Manu jungle. We stopped here for dinner in a misty and surreal setting, right on the edge of the cloud forest. From here we made our way down into the cloud forest, stopping here and there to grab beans from the trees and various others foods to try. Some were really tasty! We also stopped at a small house where we were shown around a coca plantation and a field of the smallest and sweetest pineapples we had ever eaten.
Another hour along the jungle roads and the rain was still coming down (rain forest!) when we came across a bit of an obstacle! The rain the night before had washed some of the road away! A few lorries and locals were re-building it by piling stones into the hole so out we got and gave a hand. After a bit of a run up we crossed this bit of road!!!! and were on our way again. Just a little hairy that!
We then arrived at a small village next to the river. This is where the bus journey ended and the boat journey began so after transferring the gear into the boat we were started heading downstream to our final destination, the jungle huts.
We stopped in various spots to look at birds and monkeys along the way, and we got a really close and rare look at a Capybara which was just hiding in the undergrowth. The thickness of the jungle was very apparent from the river and seemed endless.
We stopped at a great spot where we stripped down to our swimming cossies and made the most of a nice dip in a lovely hot natural spring. After all of the travelling in the damp and sticky atmosphere it felt great to take a hot bath, and what a setting! Sat in the water with goodness know’s how many different butterflies flying around was something to remember and was one of the many highs of the trip.
Just another 30 minutes down the river and we were at the lodges of Bonanza. It was a nice place with friendly people and a small very cute puppy. We were later told it was to replace the one that the Jaguar ate! OK! Maybe that was to wind us up but who knows! Anyway, I managed to get on the wrong side of a nest of fire ants that evening so the jungle formula went straight on! It was great to settle down that night for dinner under a clear sky and watch the various things flying around. But that was not the end of our night and we were soon back on the boat looking for Caiman. We spotted a few pairs of eyes staring back at us but didn’t see and Caiman moving around. However, we were told we would have more chances to see them in the next few days. We stopped the boat on a sand bank and William (our local guide) took us on a night walk through the jungle. We had to stop every few meters because something had been spotted on a tree or on a leaf. It was amazing! Everything from moths, crickets, scorpion spiders, snakes, frogs and all manner of creepy crawlies. It was really interesting listening to William explain how they survive, what some of the trees are used for and which things to avoid touching. It was a great night and a pity to have to get back to the lodge. There was also a river crossing involving a huge log and a big drop and not a lot else. Of course we were told that the Caimans hung about underneath it which we were hoping was a joke but were all glad to get across without falling in lol.
The next day we woke to rain again but this time a little lighter and after a couple of hours it went off. This gave us time to talk to the guides about the jungle over breakfast and get out first look and the Toucan that had a nest in a tree trunk in the middle of the lodges. They’re amazing looking birds!
After packing our bags with all our essentials we headed into the jungle again. We crossed various little waterways and were soon deep into the jungle. And as if by magic we looked up and there were monkeys swinging through the trees. It was great to see them in their natural habitat. And not just one type but Howler monkey’s and White fronted capuchin monkey’s. They even came over to have a look at us! There was so much to look at that it was hard to make any distance.
After a couple of hours we stopped at a huge fallen tree which had been cut open ready for our visit. Here we were told we would find our tea for that night! As he said this he reached down and pulled out a huge white grub and proceeded to eat it. I was offered the first one and picking the smallest one I went for it….gulp, it went down okay I suppose, but not one of the nicest things I have ever eaten. There was no chance in hell of getting Vicky to eat it as she retched at just the thought of it!. Still there were plenty left for us to gather for dinner that night.
But that was only half of it and we then made our way to a small stream and were armed with small hand lines to have a go at catching a few fish to go with them.
After a great afternoon of swinging across rivers on vines and finding out about the medicinal uses of some of the trees and plants we arrived back at the lodges tired and hungry. But were we hungry enough for the cooked grubs? Well luckily they had other food as well but when they were cooked the grubs did taste a little better.
The next morning we had breakfast once again and headed into the jungle in a different direction. The first thing I noticed was the huge moths that would fly out in front of you. Some were the size of bats! And we eventually found a few tarantulas hiding in their little holes. They are an awesome looking spider. We also came across another small snake which didn’t want to hang around long. We stopped near a tree where William suddenly ran into the undergrowth and these ant eaters came running down the trees from every angle. They were amazing creatures but I think we would have walked straight passed them if it wasn’t for his keen eyes. Then we came across a huge hollow tree where both guides climbed up about 60 feet up inside and then slide down a vine from one of the branches. We were asked if we wanted a go but there were no takers although we did have a little climb about and swing on a few vines.
Later that day we packed up camp and got back on the boat and travelled back along the river. We stopped on a sand bank next to the river and it was here that we pitched the tents and built the campfire. We had a really nice meal that night and sat around the fire in that location was just something else! But before it got dark we went looking for Caiman once again, and this time right behind the camp. We crept through the undergrowth with torches looking for eyes shining back and eventually found some. William stripped down to a pair of speedo’s and dived in the river. He wasn’t kidding about grabbing one for us to have a look! Some of these can be 6 foot in length! After a bit of splashing and confusion he appeared with empty hands but the experience was unbelievable. And since that day he has emailed us pictures of successful nights.
The next morning I woke to Vicky complaining of an upset stomach, so after a quick chat with the guides she was soon passed a mug containing hot water and a bit of bark! Apparently a local medicine, but I have to say it didn’t look and smell great. We also had to get up early to see the Parrots clay-lick. So a quick boat journey from camp we stopped next to these huge clay cliffs where sure enough hundreds of Parrots arrived to get there daily intake of minerals for the day. It was a sight that can’t quite be explained but you could just sit there for hours watching.
We packed up camp and headed back along the river back to the village. We were soon travelling back along the rickety roads on the way home and I have to say I really didn’t want to leave. There was such more to see!
Overall the trip was mind-blowing and worth every penny. I plan to go back there one day and maybe spend a couple of weeks there!
According to George McGavin (The bug guy from Lost Land of the Volcano). He forwarded the stick insect on to a guy at the Natural History Museum who has agreed that OsKar Conle (who said he was 90% sure it was a new species) is the world expert in that area, and he agrees with his view. Unfortunately without a specimen we cant name it!
For more information on exploring the Manu jungle visit the guys we went with at: