Escape • Explore • Enjoy

While the bodies still can and we still have our marbles!

Author: Brent (page 1 of 37)

Nina Hut: Bookings Not Required – First Come, First Served

Follow the arrow this way.

Nina Hut sits on an open knoll surrounded by beech forest and mountains.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) information reads that it is an easy 1-3 hour walk to the 10-bunk bed hut; is a good overnight option for families with children who have some tramping experience or new trampers and, bookings not required – first come, first served.

An ideal start to getting out onto the back-yard landscape.  We had even convinced a friend (Maree) whom surprisingly accepted our invite to join us even though the toilet was going to be a long drop and sleeping conditions possibly squashed up alongside a total stranger.

It had a log fire and so purchasing a bag of kindling and wooden logs bridged the thought of a snuggly night up in the bush, away from suburbia.  All we had to do was carry them in and walk the distance for it to become a reality.

Kindling and logs for the hut log fire.

We forgot that Maree doesn’t do crossing swing bridges without hyperventilating nigh on having a heart attack.  So, when we parked up the car, lifted the back packs onto our backs and walked a couple of hundred metres up the road to the start of the track, we arrived at our first of two swing bridges to cross.  The maximum one-person load per crossing didn’t help the situation however, we managed to coach Maree across giving high fives when we too swayed unevenly to reach the bank beyond.

The first swing bridge to cross.

The Lewis River.

There, there was the hut book where you sign in to advise your intention as a mountain safety practice.  Oh f..k!  Ahead of us was a group of 11 Venturer Scouts going to stay the night at the hut and, already a family of five who were going to stay a second night.  It meant the hut was full and squashing our best laid plans to escape into the wilderness for the night.

The conversation that followed resulted us in going back to the car, dumping all the overnight stuff to still head into the hut for a day trek, only carrying a day pack.  But before we did any of that, we had to get Maree back across the river and then, back across the river for a third time!  With incremental confidence each time, she did it.  The firewood purchased too sat in the car as we traipsed off towards Nina.

The lushness of fauna and flora rising from the forest floor to stretch up towards the light was staggeringly stunning.  All shades of greens complemented the earthly smelling browns (rot and decay) and care had to be taken navigating tree roots.  Sometimes we had to negotiate sections of track that were mud baths – it was easy to follow someone’s tracks who had gone before, sniggering at a wrong step where the imprint would eventually crust up from the sun’s rays or fill up from a down pour.

Creek crossings were part and parcel of the track, keeping balance critical so as not to end up on your arse saturated.  Walking poles helped.  There was undulation.  The track cut towards flowing river water and then inland to total silence where only our conversation broke the tranquillity.  We had to go further into the valley before bird song was heard.  It’s slowly rebounding after pests have decimated the native feathered friends to close to extinction.  Traplines to snare stouts or weasels play their part – two vermin had taken the bait to lay lifeless from the snapped shut trap.

We were encapsulated by the dark green water depths from a gorge.  Water must rise and fall considerably as two tree trunks laid horizontal up the cliff faces.  A joke was made that we would have to cross it using the logs for Maree’s sake.  Hahahahahaha as we all laughed.

Green meets brown.

Undulation.

The path for when it bogs.

Life on the forest floor.

Emerald Green of Nina River.

That didn’t last long.  We climbed a small rise to a second swing bridge that we couldn’t see because of the tree canopy.  Below were the logs we joked about.  Getting Maree across was another team effort and again, she got there.   We didn’t joke about stuff like that again!

The next two hours was more track, tree roots, mud negotiation, creek crossings and green and browns.  Arriving at the hut was welcomed and yep, chock full of other beings staying the night.  We sat down outside with views of snow-capped mountain tops to eat lunch.

And then they came, by the hundreds.  The Sandfly.  Or, Sandflies to be more accurate.  They are vicious little bastards that sink their mouth parts into unprotected skin to draw blood; leaving a welt that can be itchy from the excretion they inject before the sucking.  We may not have poisonous snakes or spiders or wild beasts – but we do have the sandfly that is the scourge of the bush to ruin all types of forest paradise.  Even though Bushmans 80% Deet insect repellent was lathered on, the little bastards will still kamikaze in to locate the parts missed to take the bite.  In-between bites, hands were working overtime to slap as many as we could dead.

Crossing the higher swing bridge.

Not far now.

The blood sucking Sand Fly.

Nina Hut.

Snare-traps doing their job to eradicate pest vermin who have decimated our native birds.

The Gorge.

Chatting with the Fan Tail.

Carrying fly spray is a must if staying the night so as you can fumigate the hut before climbing into your sleeping bag for the night.  That too was back down at the car.

Some photo’s taken and then we retraced our steps back down the mountainside; Maree crossing the swing bridges with better ease.  Back at the car, we made the decision to head back towards home, stopping in at Hanmer Springs for a hot pool soak.  Well deserved, given the six or so hours on the feet.

Arrr, what the heck, we found a lovely backpacker’s to crash the night, picked up some Scrumpy Cider for Maree as we consumed the wine disguised in our water bottle and enjoyed a chat with a fellow backpacker who was sharing the joint.

Made special because, the fella was in his early nineties.

Sometimes the best laid plans when disrupted can end up resulting in a better time had.

It’s just how the world turns, sometimes.

Scrumpy Cider – thirst quenching 8% Alcohol to sooth aching body parts.

Seek the treasure you value most dearly.

Onuku, Banks Peninsula, Aotearoa (New Zealand)

It’s been a just over a week since the transition back into our New Zealand life.

Spring is at full speed; New Zealand wine is the best; daylight saving has arrived and, there is something too be said about sleeping in your own bed.

But one shouldn’t get too comfortable.

We have a back yard to escape onto, explore more of, so as we too get to enjoy our own slice of paradise.

Just like all those who cross our borders to visit or come to live.

“Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei.”

Translated, “Seek the treasure you value most dearly: if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain.”

This whakatauki is about aiming high for what is truly valuable, but it’s real message is to be persistent and don’t let obstacles stop you from reaching your goal.

Just include some escaping to explore to enjoy people.

No matter where on the planet.

It’s Better To See Something Once Than To Hear About It A Thousand Times

On our fridge back in New Zealand, we usually have a picture of our next adventure affixed to the door.

Like a visualization thingy.

It inspires our dream it – design it – do it, philosophy of life.  And motivates us to ensure we focus on magnetizing towards making the picture of the adventure, a reality.

An image of Machu Picchu is currently affixed to the fridge door.

Another philosophy of ours is to always have the next adventure on the radar before we step off the plane and therefore, Machu Picchu will come off and another image will go up, when we arrive back home in the next few days.

We also have another image that has graced our fridge for a number of years with the quote: “It’s better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.”  The quote just resonates.

More so today when we saw it came out on the plate like butterfly chicken – a term used when you cut the chicken in half and split it open to resemble a butterfly.

Except, it wasn’t chicken but a local delicacy Cuy.  We knew it as Guinea Pig and you knew it was, the head and feet were still attached!

It was a crispy brown colour from having been deep fried.  A tomato and red onion salad with a hint of dressing and, two deep fried potatoes accompanied the menu meal.  Not sure about the teeth showing and thank goodness that you couldn’t see any eyes, they were battered over.
But once you got over the paws and head, it was quite delicious.  A bit like chicken, perhaps.

The traditional Peruvian dish Cuy … or Guinea Pig

It was our last full day in Arequipa and we knew we had to try the traditional Peruvian dish that we had heard about, a thousand times.

It was something different to end this adventure on.

We have taken heaps of photos as a return ticket to the moments experienced, that will otherwise be gone.  The blog scripted adds value to remind us of the emotional feelings we sensed.  To propel us to keep going … to escape, explore and, enjoy.

This is the last blog post from Peru.

A special thanks to all those who have followed, liked or made comments. It’s been a blast.

Until the next adventure … keep well and live purposefully.

The Rurus

 

Colca Canyon – The Flight of the Condors

Our pick up time was anywhere between 2.45 and 3.00 am.

We were also changing hostels on our return therefore, it was a 2am get up, showered, dressed and pack in readiness.  We were the first pick up by the mini-coach and was fortunate to get the seats right behind the driver.  By the time we exited Arequipa bound for Chivay, the van was full with different nationalities – Polish; Russian; Welsh; and Italian.

Everyone dozed, except the driver.  Other tour company’s shared the road at this hour too, all heading for the same destination.  It’s was a 3.5 hour drive and as the dawn broke to gain traction, the terrain was that as if we were on the moon – undulating and baron.  Not ugly but a funky attractive.

It was the first time that we had seen an active volcano in the distance bellowing cloud to form a haze on the horizon.  Stopping at a viewing point, it was still below zero because we had ascended to just under 5,000 metres.  Arequipa lies at 2,330 metres.

We have never seen an active volcano before.

Could be the moon landscape.

A sharper view of the Volcano smoking.

As we browed over another extinct volcano rim, we got our first glimpse of Colca Valley, the deepest gorge on the planet – twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.  At the very bottom slicing a path, the Colca River and, one of the sources of the Amazon.  The valley and its summits attracts adventurists whether it be hiking, mountain climbing, river rafting, or mountain biking.  We too left our scream after the reason we had made the journey to it.

To experience a viewing of the Condors.

Colca Valley, the deepest on the planet.

We still had some ways to lose height; pay the entrance permit fee and stop off at Yanque, one of the Colonial-era villages dating back to the 16 century, for the all included breakfast.  Communities here are pre-Inca descendants and still preserve ancient customs and distinctive traditional dress.  Solar heating systems on roof tops certainly a modern day improvement.

As we steadily climbed some more to where we again disembarked the coach, we were joining the hordes of others at the Cruz del Condor.  The man-made terraces far below made the landscape have a ripple effect.  It wasn’t too long, and then there they were, gracefully flying the thermals of Colca Valley.

The valley of the ripples.

They are the second largest bird in the world, to the New Zealand Albatross to give you an indication of their wing span.  They hugged the cliff soaring without as much of a flap, criss-crossing backwards and forwards.  For the numbers of people sharing the experience, there was bugger all volume coming from the crowd.  Only when a couple flew close over head did everyone in unison mutter the ‘owwwwwww’ sound.

The show went on for a good fifty or so minutes before the earth had warmed enough to have them climb higher up into the sky, making the photo opportunity more technical with our point and shoot.  Didn’t phase us, we were just happy to have watched them do their thing.  We got our bang for our 2am rise and shine.

The flight of the Condors.

Re-tracing back down the mountain, the next stop was some hot pools to have a soak before lunch and then our return ride home.  The question was posed by the tour guide, “Anyone up to try zip lining across the valley?”  Total zip line distance, 1,050 metres.

As the shackle was hooked onto the line, the go-pro was activated.  There was no count down, just a push and then the “whaaaaaahooooooeeeeeee.”  It was an adrenalin rush.  Claire followed after some encouraging motivation by the tour guide when she went to get back into the coach deciding not too.  The expression on her face when she pulled up after crossing the openness was priceless.  She had enjoyed it more than she thought she would.

The 2nd part of the Zip Line and Thermal hot pools below.

During 1995, on Peru’s second highest peak Mount Ampato (6,310m), a sacrificed Inca maiden, known to the world as Juanita, was discovered frozen – mummified.  It was one of the most important archaeological finds of the last few decades in the Americas.  You can google her story.

But don’t just google the Condors.  Come and experience them in the flesh.

A sacrifice out of anyone’s life agenda worth taking.

Whilst the bodies still can and, we still have our marbles.

The long road driven.

Arequipa – The White City

A southern city, Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru.

It was founded in 1540 and has retained an historical heart constructed almost entirely of sillar (a porou, white volcanic stone), which gives the city it’s distinctive nickname “the white city.”  Backdrop to the city, in full view, are three volcanic peaks with heights around 6,000 meters.  It must be cold up there as they are partially snowcapped yet, Arequipa enjoys perfect weather most of the year round, having on average 300 days of sunshine, huge blue skies and low humidity.  Global warming and ozone deterioration have had some impact because they used to be snowcapped all year-round; nowadays, only for three or four months of the year.

Notwithstanding, have you ever arrived somewhere and had a gut instinct that a place is somewhere you could spend a heap of time at, versus always being on the road?

Well, Arequipa did it for us.  As we ventured down to the Plaza de Armas (city centre), the architecture and design of the fronts of all types of buildings were incredibly charming and gorgeous.  Pressing the button on the camera was feverish.  When we entered the centre itself, OMG, it was a canvas of aesthetic gracefulness.

The Cathedral, Plaza de Armas.

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas – towards the Cathedral.

The Cathedral looking towards the volcano mountains backdrop.

Plaza de Armas

People everywhere, just meandering around or sitting relaxed.  Giant palms and trees in purple flowers.  The fountain was spurting water; kids played around it’s edges.  The odd tout was blending in but a whistle from the tourist police ushered them along so as not to hassle.

That’s been a great difference here in Peru, touts don’t aggressively get in your face like they do on other parts of the globe.  There are beggars, generally the older generation and again, they don’t cause you any harm.  You don’t see as many dogs roaming neither, perhaps further out might be a different scene.

Sad …

The atmosphere was lovely; it felt right.  Apart from a day trip to see the Condors, we secured accommodation so as to spend the remainder of our time in Peru, living and breathing Arequipa.

Some down time just relaxing where a daily walk using a different route each time, is as equally rewarding as sitting in a lounge chair beside a pool or beach.  Claire has been able to still do her bookkeeping role servicing her customers whilst traveling.  Technology has improved somewhat since she did the same across Canada and the hours spent on such hasn’t interrupted our adventure at all.  In-fact, when you love what you do and do what you love, play-work-play can go hand in hand.  Besides, as long as wifi is compatible (and it has been here), look at her office.  She has pioneered mobile bookkeeping by doing it.

Claire doing mobile bookkeeping.

It has also been an opportunity to catch up on the blog posts and pics.  A lot of content cut and pasted for which I sometimes think has been too much information overload.  Only a couple more posts to do and then I too can swing into illustrating from the images captured.

Arequipa, put it on your bucket list to visit, should you venture in this direction.

For us, there is one more item on our list to tick off during our last days here.  Or should I write menu.

That being to eat rodent. Or commonly called Cuy, or as we know it, guinea pig!

Photo and blog post pending …

Assassination Attempt; 17 Hours Overland Bus Ride; Freeloading Ticks!

We had wondered why Cesar had a limp and put it down to his age and body weariness

However, Cesar shared with us how to be campaigning in an election comes with risks.  Back in 2016 when he was standing for a seat during another election, he was targeted by a couple of fella’s who shot him, splintering his femur bone in his left leg.  Cesar showed us the x-rays where the bullet was and where the new rod is.

Holy crap.  I remember making the joke when we were driving down a dirt road going to the rally that this is just like a scene where bullets start riddling the car!  Then Cesar pointed to a hole in their lounge window that we hadn’t seen before.  It was from a bullet during the same assassination attempt!

The bullet hole shadow in Cesar and Salvit’s lounge window.

We slouched down in their car as they took us to and dropped us off at the bus depot.

All jokes aside, lovely people and an airbnb experience worth staying at.  Just wait till after the elections in October!

We knew we were in for a long haul to our next destination.  Estimated time of arrival, 17 hours.

The bus departure chaos was similar to the one we experienced in Cusco.  As the bus pulled out of Puerto Maldonado, it was very different from the bus company used from Cusco, there was no food nor blanket.  Damn, I’d warn shorts for this one and we only had a packet of Lays chips and packet of Ritz biscuits.

Lake Sandoval was only 200 metres above sea level.  The curvy road traveled, elevated to over 2,000 metres.  After the lip-sync movie ended, we managed to doze for half a dozen hours.  A slight headache from the altitude; there were various stops along the route – some got off; some got on.  Some knew how to flush the on-board toilet; some didn’t.  We had to disembark at one staged check point to walk twenty meters.   Otherwise, it had been a long time since we had endured a monotonous distance like the one we endured.

Even though we were on the pan-American highway, our advice for this type of overland travel, try to break the trip into two shorter parts.  Or, fly.

And that is what decided to do from our final destination this adventure, making the decision after we arrived into Arequipa.  Fly the next bits.

But all soap box speak aside, the landscape during daylight hours had vastly changed from lushness to desert like baroness.  Wild Alpaca’s and Llama’s freely roamed the openness.  Bumps of extinct volcanic mountains rose up to form an unbelievable snow-capped backdrop behind the city.  And that was spread out as far as the eye could see.

Overlooking a lake on the road between Puerto Maldonado and Arequipa.

Landscape between Puerto Maldonado and Arequipa.

Volcano country.

It was a short taxi ride to our hostel and what does one do after checking in?  Take shower to freshen up and feel younger again!

It was then that the free-loader was discovered, having latched on in the jungle.  Yep, a tick.  Having a had a party of a time.

It was important to only panic a small bit so as not to have the head space play too many mind games.  Lyme’s disease did feature in the thoughts after I had pulled the thing off and wondered if I’d left the head of the thing buried under the skin.

We visited reception to get some instructions about seeking medical advice and the great thing about some hostels, is that they can have a doctor come to the location.  One did.  At first, thinking it was a mosquito bite, but when we showed the little bugger who now lived in a small zip-lock bag; good old google helped with it’s identification.

Brent’s Tick!

Fortunately, she prescribed a ‘doxycycline’ prescription (the same medicine used for malaria) that we already carried.  One was swallowed as she assured us that the risk of Lyme’s was 99.5% a possible no.  What does one do but just take the med’s, disinfectant the area and then, be optimistic that all will be well and that it couldn’t possible get worse!

For which it kind of did.

After a nights sleep and the early morning reaching over for a cuddle, we discovered another freeloader on Claire.  Having fed off the side of a boob, this one was four times larger than my one.  Pfft, of course she had to have a bigger one!

Again, it was pulled, disinfectant applied and the same course of tablets for the next five days.  It too now shares the same plastic zip-lock bag cell.

Claire’s Tick had to be bigger!

We remember Alex sharing how he hasn’t had a tick before, but has had episodes with moth larvae.  During the rainy season, if you try to dry your clothes exposed outdoors, there is a moth that lays an egg on the material.  When you wear your clothes, the hatched larvae can piece your skin and then live and feed off you just under it.  They grow, are painful and the only way to extricate them is to suffocate them with tape so that when they pop their head out, they can be removed.

Huh, if we had an option, we would have happily just had the 17 hour bus ride one.

And no type of freeloaders!  Certainly hoping no moth larvae, that’s for sure!

Sandoval Lake, Puerto Maldonado – The Jungle Part 7, The Concrete Jungle

Farewell Lake Sandoval.

Leaving Sandoval Lake was hard.

For all it’s flair of remoteness, one felt connected to mother nature where the animals and insects have the rule of the land.  For a better part.  We came, we got to experience it and now, it was time for us to leave.

The thatching of the roof.

A rival ant colony attacking another – the winged ants automatically flee the nest versus be taken prisoner.

The Lodge Cat.

There was silence as we paddled back to and up the canal.  By now, we were on auto-pilot spotting other species we share the planet with.  Landing the canoe, on went our day packs for the return walk to Madre de Rios and our long boat pick up.

A Caiman escorting us out of the lake.

White Necked Heron.

Anhinga Bird … called a Snake Head Heron.

Turtles bathing …

Alex did stop twice, once at the Tarantula hole for another tickle tease – still no change in the decision wanting to hold one, yeah, nah!

The second stop was at a trunk of a tree that was clean from any lichen, stranglers or just lazy hanger on’s.  No termites neither.

Alex picked up a stick and before he tapped the trunk, he identified it as ‘the Justice Tree’ in the bush.  In the good old days (even still remote villages today), naughty individuals were stripped naked and tied to the thing as their punishment.

Then he struck the tree with three or four heavy whacks.

They appeared in their 1,000’s up and down the trunk.  Fire Ants that live in it’s hollow trunk, co-existing.  There venom sting is up there with bee’s and wasps so therefore, can you imagine the pain inflicted to someone tied to the tree.  And when they are disturbed, there natural defense is to attack.

It’s wings were like velvet.

The Fire Ant Tree.

From Mother Nature …

The Long Boat arriving to pick us up.

It was one of the last ‘wikipedia’ facts of the jungle Alex imparted.

Back at the office in Puerto Maldonado, we said our farewells as our jungle safari came to an end.  Or so we had thought.  We will get to the free loaders mentioned in an earlier post (blog post – Sandoval Lake, Puerto Maldonado – The Jungle Part 5, Happy Birthday Claire – Jungle Walk) soon.

We can thoroughly recommend anyone wanting an experience in the jungle to use Tambopata Giant Otter Expeditions.  And most definitely, ask for Alex – he was just fantastic.  When not escorting folk as a guide, he doubles as a mechanic.

We took a tuk tuk back to our airbnb hosts.  Our plans were to get clean and then just chill however, Cesar invited us to attend a meeting rally his party were having for the upcoming elections.

Why not we thought?  Except the only clean pants I had were me swimming togs.  Big audacious green and white flowery ones.

By 5pm, we were being driven in his car, Salvit and another passenger too, with banners hanging from the car windows, in a procession that included other cars, tuk tuks and three wheelers, to a suburb on the outskirts of Puerto Maldonado.  Loud speaker music and tooting of horns, down a dirt road we pulled up, to hundreds of local villages who had come to hear electioneering speakers sell the ‘why’ they should vote for them.  And in amongst it, two white faces, one in his swimming togs.

We had no idea what the hell was being spoken.  Just when everyone started yelling and cheering waving the banners, did we too join in an cheer ourselves!

Off to the election rally meeting we go …

Somewhere in the suburbs of Puerto Maldonado

It was hilarious.  After it ended and we got back to close to where we were staying, we baled and they carried on.  Well into the night.

A far cry from the remoteness paradigm we had exited from, only ten or so hours before.

The old concrete jungle eh?

Where a different kind of animal lives.

Sandoval Lake, Puerto Maldonado – The Jungle Part 6, Happy Birthday Claire – Leaf Cutter Ants

It was just beautiful.

We were back in the canoe, sitting on the lake.  In a trace towards the horizon.  Oblivious to everything else that was going on.  Except the sun set.

The natural candle slid off the sky line silhouetting the distance Palm trees.  It was as if they were all candles simultaneously extinguished.  More than the one Claire did at breakfast.  In-fact, a heap more than the number of years she celebrated, having reached.

And then it was gone.

Sunset over Lake Sandoval.

Back on dry land, we left the confines of the lodge and walked off into the surrounding jungle.  A night walk.  Alex advised to stay close, with his machete in one hand.  More images conjured up of getting hacked up.  Again, happy to write, it wasn’t meant to be!

Head torches darted at the ground, to the sides into the fauna, or upwards to overhanging plants or tree trunks.  We had no idea what we were going to see, something was better than nothing and by now, we were experienced jungle trekkers.

Alex halted, asking us to turn off the torches.  In-front of us, little streaks of flame flirted just above our heads.  It was there, then it went complete darkness, to then be there again.  They were fire flies lighting up their butts to attract a mate.  Super cool.

Onward we trod.  The first spider was like a New Zealand garden spider.  It’s eyes lit up like the Caiman except there were eight of them.  Once Claire had seen it, she became the best insect spotter the remainder of the night trek.  Even Alex offered her a job as a guide by the end of it.  Claire politely declined – with good reason.

She spotted a centipede that has the bite of 1,000 bee stings; more spiders, grass hoppers and crickets.  Alex discovered a black scorpion.  Getting a photo was achieved with persistence using a stick because the venom it packed if pricked into human flesh could mean severe illness and sometimes turning your toes up.  We saw the biggest ant we have ever seen, the Bullet Ant.  They wander the vegetation solo and another insect to avoid so as not to come into contact with.

Leaf climber sharing a ride up.

Grasshopper.

Stick insect.

The Bullet Ant – approx 3 cms long.

A spider that looks similar to a New Zealand Garden species.

The elusive Black Scorpion – beware!

The Centipede with 1,000 bee stings sting.

The home of a Cicada having left it’s residence.

We stopped at the trunk of the Brazillian/Peruvian Nut Tree.  Our torch lights didn’t even make a flicker of reflection from it’s canopy, it rose so far up to the heavens.

Perhaps the one insect that stood out above them all was the Leaf Cutting Ant.  The trail they stomp can be hundreds of meters from their nest.  We observed a continuous line of photosynthesis green trickling down the trunk of a tree.  Harvesting from dusk till dawn.  Come back during the daytime and all you see is the trodden ground where their feet have imprinted.  They were super cool.

The Leaf Cutting Ant in column.

Back at the lodge, we popped a beer to raise and acknowledge a birthday day like no other.  Where being in the presence was certainly a gift.

Sure we didn’t see all the things you scare yourself shitless with when you google images of things you might encounter.  We were contented with what we had.  And more so, done.

It must have been enough, we didn’t even make the 9pm lights out when the electricity was shut off.

Sandoval Lake, Puerto Maldonado – The Jungle Part 5, Happy Birthday Claire – Jungle Walk

As we made our way back to the lodge, we encountered the Giant Otters again hunting and feeding.  They simply fear nothing below the water.  Even a solo Caiman is no match for a gang and apparently make good eating. Leather bag, belt and shoes from it’s hide too.

Giant Otter feasting.

Not on Lake Sandoval though, this is a reserve and everything is protected from human sacrifice.  Apart from the fish that was lying in our canoe first thing this morning. It was stiff having obviously jumped aboard during the night.  Alex took it up to the kitchen and the smell of it frying in butter and garlic was a nicer smell versus repellent and sunblock.  Possibly BO from sweat.

Half sunbathed, half not!

A cooked breakfast was served with the additional side dish.  It tasted divine.  Alex shared the table with us before he disappeared when we were nearing the finish, to reappear with the cook.  He was holding a plate with a flax piece in the shape of the sun as decoration.  On the plate was the top half of a bread bun and an ignited candle.  They started the “happy birthday to you” song that was sung with heartfelt kindness.
He positioned the flax decoration onto Claire’s head like a crown and then, she blew out the candle.

The three of us cheered and clapped.  There was no other sole present at the lodge.

The stiff fish found in the canoe.

The stiff fish cooked.

Alex and cook bringing out Claire’s birthday cake.

Happy Birthday Claire xxx

How simple and yet so special was that?

The art of placing value on an act of kindness far outweighed any materialistic gift that would normally be given.  Besides, I hadn’t bought her anything let a lone there being any room in my daypack to have carried the thing.

I’m confident, Claire will remember this birthday for as long as her body allows and, she still has her marbles.  Experiences, priceless ones, travel with you internally.  No matter where you step on the planet in future; nor how old you reach in age.  And is the core of behind why we love to travel still how we do, as crazy as that may read.

A birthday to always remember.

Picking up free-loaders is all part an parcel of it too.  As you will soon find out …

After we cut up the bun, spread some butter and plum sauce and ate a piece, we chilled a little swinging in the hammock.  Day trippers soon arrived.  Peace and quiet was lost in conversational noise.  All good.

Alex then signalled us and it was back down to the canoe and another b-line for the opposite side of the lake.  This time, there was no jetty but the embankment.  Paper, scissors, rock as to who of us steps off the canoe into the jungle to secure the rope.  I lost.

For the next two to three hours, Alex escorted us on a jungle walk.  We were on the side where the Howler Monkeys resided and their cacophony got louder as our compass took us in their direction.

Over to the opposite side of the lake we go.

Ales leading the way.

No worries, Alex had a machete.  It’s natural for images to flash before your eyes of how your life could end with one strike of the blade and the final resting place be fodder to life in the jungle.  Happy to write it wasn’t.  Alex sometimes had to cut a clearance for us to walk through.   Wearing hats gave us some solace that anything above if it fell would bounce off!  Meant we keep our eyes on the ground in-front and hands close to the sides.

How the family of Tarantulas didn’t hear us coming surprised us.  Five baby ones just parked up outside a hole.  Let’s not tickle the entrance, moving right a long.

The family of Tarantulas.

We happened to be standing at the base of a massive tree when a Iguana just walked on by a couple of meters from our spot, not giving us the time of day.  We did it, moving closer to the machete.

We observed more monkeys and birds however, we were just blown away by the trees and fauna as we trekked.  Trees that were hundreds and hundreds of years old.  Vines that co-habitat the trees too large to wrap your arms around.  Walking trees that actually grow new legs so as to move towards sunlight.  Strangling trees that like a Boa Constrictor or Anaconda, find a host to grow up it and then contract to kill the life out of it, using the rotting trunk to feed it the nutrients to grow more.

Stunning coloured butterflies darted and dodged.  Alex peeled back some bark from a decaying tree trunk to reveal leaf shaped cock roaches.  They scarpered as fast as they could under the decay on the ground.  Which was always constant, leaves showering down.

The walking tree.

The trees were just massive.

A leaf cock roach.

Look closely, can you spot it?

The tree vines were as equally as huge.

Eat Love Pray … not to be the one eaten!

The time did go quick and we ended up back at the canoe having done a full loop.  Alex has been doing what he does for fifteen or more years and knew the route taken like the back of his hand.  More living things tend to hide from the heat of the day which we didn’t mind.  Doing what we had just done at night, well, Alex assured us that it would be more alive with insect life ten-fold.

We were happy with the present status.

Back to the lodge we paddled.

Lunch and an afternoon siesta awaited us.

Un-beknown to us all, there was more on the canoe than we realised.

Sandoval Lake, Puerto Maldonado – The Jungle Part 4, Happy Birthday Claire – McCaws

The watch alarm interrupted complete darkness, enough to stir us awake.

We survived the night in our thatched hut without incident!  Only forgetting that it was still night and we had to get up and get dressed under torch light.  Remember, shine the torch only wear necessary and not up.  Last evening’s clothes re-worn; new application of insect repellent rubbed on.

Just after 4.30am, we were wandering back down the path toward the canoe.  Careful not to shine the torch off the track neither and, remembering to swing wide away from the holes we had taken a mental note of the day before.  Conversation was loud to warn we were approaching so as not to make eye contact with, anything.

Morning Mr Toad.

Out onto the lake we paddled and back towards the canal; back to where we uplifted the canoe from, and the hut with the coca cola, water and local inka cola.  It was all shut up and quiet.  Only us.

Streaks of orange and red were appearing on the horizon as dawn was breaking.

Sunrise mist rising on Lake Sandoval – the water was warm.

We re-traced our steps along the walking board for a kilometre and a half before Alex stepped off, and straight into the jungle foliage he went.  Without hesitation, we followed, keeping right up Alex’s jacksy so as not to loose sight of him.  There was a trodden track that we certainly didn’t deviate from it.

We could already hear them before Alex put his finger to his mouth to usher silence.  We creep forward at a snakes pace – I mean snail, to a small open area that had enough camouflage to hide us from their line of sight.  Looking up, we saw what we had come to see.  There were dozens of them.

McCaw Parrots feeding off a snapped in half palm tree.  Below them clinging to the same tree, were a number of Mealey Parrot’s.  Everyday, they congregate at the same spot at the same time to peck at the minerals from the rotting tree.  The noise was berserk.  As were new arrivals trying to off-stage the old ones off the stump.

We stood there for about an hour.  As the sun climbed up into the sky, the colour of shade dispersed.  And as the sun reached the feather of the parrots, did the full colour of their beauty blaze.  A rainbow of greens, blues, reds and yellows.  Still the noise was berserk.

McCaw Parrots feeding on a broken Palm tree.

Mealey Parrots below the McCaws feeding.

There is no rhyme of reason for when they decide to fly off.  Other people arrived as the parrots took to the sky.  Too late.  They should have had Alex as their guide; he was certainly onto it.

We too departed, backtracking the track towards our canoe.

What we had just experienced was so captivating.  Made extra special because it was Claire’s birthday.  What a start to the a special day.  The best present one could ever receive, being present at a McCaw feeding frenzy.

This was going to be a day of more, being present.

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