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High in the Forest
Machu Picchu Pilgrimage+Manu+Lake Titicaca

Embarking on the Madre de DiosEmbarking on the Madre de Dios (Molly Quackenbush)
Breakfast was eggs, sunny side up, toast, delicious fruit juices, and very local, ripened ON THE VINE, bananas! (Unlike the ones back home !)

Back on the boat, and then a short hike to the kapok tree observation platform, 140 ft up. Huge tree! What a magnificent span over the rain forest, with no sign of mankind! Camera cannot capture the vastness of the view. Thanks to Enrique and his scope, again we saw lots of birds, including many different tanagers, and the highlight, a toucan! The tree was so big, that even the branches at that height were still wider than Dave!

We could have stayed there longer, but then we were on to the catamaran looking for the otters. The river's course had changed and the lake was not as big as it had been. Enrique says the number of otters has greatly diminished. We didn't see any. Again we did see lots of different birds including the hoatzin, and a type of flying turkey that ruffles its feathers very loudly. We also heard the howler monkeys. On the walk back, Enrique stuck a stick into a hole on the ground, and pulled out a huge tarantula!

All along Enrique continues to show us interesting trees: those related to the chocolate family; palm trees with large needles in the trunk; the strangle fig that lives off other trees; the belly palm tree. Arriving back at the lodge, the muddy little bank is all aflutter with many varieties of butterflies!

Lunch was a very good quiche and the popular beef saltado with rice. Dessert was a cream tart with boysenberry sauce, excellent!

We took a 2 hr siesta, then hiked on the Grid path in the lodge area. We finally saw monkeys: tamarind moving like a squirrel, fairly close, then way up high, the spider monkeys! We could only see their silhouettes, but we could watch them acrobat across the tree branches. It was the climax to what had already been a great day! The rest of the walk was just enjoyable, Enrique pointing out the poison dart frog.

We had wonderful weather the entire time at Manu. It was humid, but no worse than the East Coast in the summertime. Temperatures weren't nearly as hot was we expected, and overall we were quite comfortable.

We relaxed on the lodge porch that afternoon. (A day could easily be spent just lounging around the lodge, hammocks, etc. It as quite appealing. They turned on the generator for a few hours each day so folks could recharge batteries, download photos, etc. There was tea time in the afternoon.) They assured me that they used purified water for ice. That was the only time the entire trip that I had a drink with ice!

With nightfall, before dinner we took a short boat ride to look for caimans. This time the night boat ride was enchanting! Caimans are sought by shining a flashlight along the riverbank, and the light finds their eyes. We saw three. There were fishing bats over the water, and as it got dark where there's no light pollution, the starry heavens were magnificent.

Dinner was a tasty Quinoa soup; the lasagna just okay; the dessert of warm rice pudding was really good. We enjoyed more discussion with Enrique about environmental challenges in Peru. They're making some progress, like they recycle plastic bottles now but it's the ongoing conflict between habitat impact/ destruction and people wanting income. Even a small amount of selective logging impacts the animals.

Time to pack for an early start tomorrow, as we listen to the countless bird songs in the night.

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