Peru – Manu Rainforest - April 2010

Elusive cock-of-the-rock in the reserve.

Going to Peru was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It's a place I've been drawn to for years, something that has become a recurring theme in my life which has just become stronger as time goes by. When things fell into place and allowed us to go, I was thrilled. I really didn't know what to expect so I left without real expectations and just surrendered myself to the experience that presented itself. I'm beyond glad that I did.

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Me posing with a tagua palm! A beautiful sunset in Manu. Incredible root systems.

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From Lima we took a short flight to Cuzco, the scenery changing from metropolis to mountains as we coasted over the Andes. Bone sculpture. Beautiful textiles abound at the street vendors. Qoricancha, the Sun Temple.
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Amazing stonework at Quoricancha. Jaguar of the magical whiskers. (Inca replica golden tablet)

A beautiful inca rendition of the milky way in the southern sky - with the Llama's eyes (part of the southern cross), the fox, serpent, and many others.

City wall detail; Cuzco.
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Floating angel heads! Saqsayhuaman Inca Complex Roman and I at Saqsayhuaman. Our guide for the day.

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Strolling across the fields where Spanish cavalry assaulted the Incas fortressed at the temple, attempting to keep them at bay. From a tour of Tambo Machay, Qenqo and Puca-Pucara Masked 'demon' dancers at a local restaurant. The jaguar dancer and black fox both came over to purr-trill at me and give me a kiss.

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A native pan flute band, chakana. We ended up picking up one of their CDs, their native fusion music was really fun. The next morning we were up really early for the start of our Rainforest adventure - beginning with a harrowing ride through the Andes on a tiny, one lane dirt road carved across the mountains. Up there on the 'world's most dangerous roads' list and I can safely say I've never been on a ride anything like it. At one point our bus got stuck in the mud and we spent a bit over an hour repairing the road enough to get it out and back on our way. On this tiny road, you would often run into semis coming the opposite direction. We would have to back up until we found a place suitable to pass (which could often be quite far!) and then continue on.

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Cactus on a roof in Paucartambo, a famous folkloric town on the way to the park. Panorama of Ninamarca Ninamarca, pre-inca ruins (Lupaca). We made it to the park - an amazing place half the size of Switzerland.
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Our guide Rive (who was absolutely awesome) gave us a tour of a local coca plantation. Banana trucks along one of the last roads into the park area.

Madre de Dios river (mother of god) - we spent many hours traveling by boat, avoiding shallow areas and sunken trees.

When we moved from the Mother of God river onto the Manu river, headed into the reserve zone, our first greeting was by a huge red-tailed boa.


Boa probably about 12 feet long, floating along in the river. Horned screamers, common along the river's edge. Skimmers! Yellow-headed vultures.



Coca tea on the boat - helps to keep you going after a very long day of travel! Woodpeckers, one of the most important birds in the rainforest. They start the holes that countless parrots use to make their nests. I think that the most powerful and incredible experience for me, personally, was these jaguars. We stumbled upon a mating pair at the edge of the river, hanging out under a downed log in the early evening. Apparently only about 5-10% of visitors into the deep reserve zone see wild jaguars, so it was an incredible privilege to see them. It really took my breath away.
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Large caiman in the river! Wild blue and gold macaws! We went to a nearby lake (Salvador / Oxbow) to see the giant otters hey were quite huge, and they were circling the lake making unearthly, mournful cries.
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There were four adult otters in the lake. Fish! Giant otters live in sociable family groups, with a lead female and often her kin (other mated pairs).

The otters weren't afraid of us at all (we were on a small catamaran paddled by hand) - they are used to researchers who have watched/studied them for many years. 

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Bug-eaten tree leaves. Amazing ‘clay’ cliffs along the river. Amazing, unique trees.
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Dr. Suess tree! This picture does not do justice to the sheer size of this tree - and the incredible root system spanning out from it. Water spray from the boat. Mmm… coca tea!
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This was a tree which was being eaten from the inside out (hollow so you could walk through it) which smelled strongly of garlic. Wild macaw trio flying above the treetops. The blue dye is a native plant which helps to repel mosquitos. Roman and I and a giant tree.
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A raw tagua nut – still in liquid state. And my blue dyed avatar hands. Wild poison dart frog!! Beautiful moth. Giant bug!
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Sleeping bird we stumbled upon. Forest scorpion! Beautiful tarantula. The tarantulas were actually quite shy.
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Rose-colored tarantula. Night spider. They build webs only for the night and take them up again in the morning. Amazing vine.
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Capybara! The world’s largest rodents. Leaf detail. Tree scale.
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Tiny snake! Tagua pod! Me brandishing a tagua pod. Rainforest explorer with tagua palm!

We spent a week traveling in Manu; a part of the reserve area of the world's most pristine tract of rainforest where less than a thousand visitors a year pass through. I had the intense privilege of seeing a mating pair of wild jaguars. We walked through the jungle at night and saw scorpions, tarantulas, birds, bugs, monkeys, and all sorts of amazing creatures. We watched giant otters circle their lake and make unearthly, mournful cries. I found wild tagua and was able to drink from the ripening plant.

I was so excited to find wild tagua palms - called 'yarina' locally. I was so excited to get to see them in person, I have been working with the material (tagua nuts) for over twelve years now.