Sunday, June 1, 2014

Amazonia Wildlife

The Amazon Rainforest has 14,000 species of animals and 1,500 species of birds. While it's possible to see many of these on a trip to the jungle, it is very difficult to take pictures of them due to the dense trees and great camouflage which some of the jungle creatures have. Here is a selection of some of the animals we saw, cropped and a little blurry, but exciting for us nonetheless!

Highland Motmot (Motmotus motmota)

Andean Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus)

Golden-tailed sapphire (Chrysuronia oenone)

Red-throated caracara (Ibycter americanus)

Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin)
Owl butterfly

Social flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis)
Horned screamer (Anhima cornuta)
Limpkin (Aramus guarana)

Lyre-tailed nightjar (Uropsalis lyra)

Here is a complete list of the birds and animals we saw:

Dusky-green oropendola (Psarocolius atrovirens)
Blue banded toucanet (Aulacorhynchus huallagae)
Lyre-tailed nightjar (Uropsalis lyra)
Masked Trogan (Trogon personatus)
Highland Motmot (Motmotus momota)
Andean Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus)
Magpie tanager (Cissopis leverianus)
Swallow tanager (Tersina viridis)
Roadside hawk (Buteo magnirostris)
Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura)
Smooth-billed ani (Crotophaga ani)
Great potoo (Nyctibius grandis)
Dusky-headed parakeet (Aratinga weddellii)
Blue-headed parrot (Pionus menstruus)
Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin)
Yellow-tufted woodpecker (Melanerpes cruentatus)
Red-capped cardinal (Paroaria gularis)
Horned screamer (Anhima cornuta)
Limpkin (Aramus guarauna)
Snowy egret (Egretta thula)
Fasciated tiger heron (Tigrisoma fasciatum)
Speckled chachalaca (Ortalis guttata)
Blue-throated piping-guan - wild turkey (Pipile cumanensis)
Tunamou (similar to a grouse)
Yellow-rumped cacique (Cacicus cela)
Pale-eyed blackbird (endemic to lake area) (Agelasticus xanthophthalmus)
Ringed kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata)
Blush-fronted jacamar (Galbula cyanescens)
Golden-tailed sapphire (hummingbird) (Chrysuronia oenone)
Social flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis)
Red-throated caracara (Ibycter americanus)
Black-capped donacobius (Donacobius atricapilla)
Golden-crowned parrot (Amazona ochrocephala)
Black phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)

Dusky Titi monkey
Leaf-cutter ants
Fire ants
Giant ants
Stick insect

Amazon Jungle

We went on a tour to the Amazon Jungle, partly for the adventure and partly for me to see where Daniel had been running the previous week. The drive to the jungle took us through some Andean towns (the highest at 4,200m!) and past the pre-Inca burial site of the Lupaca people. We descended into the Cloud Forest in Parque Nacional Manu and I finally got a small taste of the heat and humidity which Daniel experienced.

Nina Marca - the place of fire: a 7th century burial site

The aptly-named Cloud Forest

The clouds feed all the small waterfalls and streams in this part of the jungle

When we entered the forest, we started looking out for jungle wildlife. Our guide - appropriately named Darwin - spotted some beautiful exotic birds and hauled out his telescope and bird book for us to identify the birds. We had a great sighting of Peru's national bird, the Andean Cock-of-the-rock. After a long day winding down into the forest, we had to cross a river on a zipline to get to our lodge for the first night.

Zipline across the Pillcomayo River

Lodge 1 - Ticary

On our second day we stopped at an animal rehabilitation centre which rescues jungle animals which have been held in captivity by the local people. We saw some very cute monkeys, a coati, wild pigs, parrots, a turtle and a caiman. Later we caught a boat up the Madre de Dios river, which is a tributary of the great Amazon River. We had a chance to swim in the river (no piranhas!) and float downstream to a small beach where we had lunch.

A very colourful macaw in the rehabilitation centre

Daniel tickling Rosita

Floating down a river in the jungle!

Our lodge for the second night - Paititi - was quite far downstream and we had to wade across part of the river in our gumboots because the level of the river was too low for the boat to get closer. From there we went on an adventure into the jungle to a small oxbow lake which we crossed on a crude balsa wood raft. The bird life around the lake was incredible and we added several new species to our list. We were also lucky enough to see some Dusky Titi Monkeys, one of the more timid species in the jungle.

Our balsa raft

On our last day in the rain forest, we went to the clay lick, a 50m high clay bank which attracts many of the parrots, macaws and parakeets in the jungle for their daily mineral fix. It was a quiet morning when we went, but we saw a few species between the trees. We had a lovely final breakfast on the banks of the river before heading back to civilisation.

On the banks of the Madre de Dios River

Machu Picchu

We visited the historic site of Machu Picchu, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It is situated on a ridge in the mountainous Urubamba Valley amidst dense vegetation and sheer slopes. The views over the ruins and valleys are absolutely marvellous and the feat of engineering required to build the estate is mind-boggling.

The steep slopes of the Sacred Valley

Machu Picchu comes from the the Quechua words machu which means 'old' and pikchu which means 'pyramid', 'mountain' or 'peak'. It is a 15th century Inca site which was built for the Inca emperor Pachacutec, who united the Inca Empire under the common language of Quechua.

Arriving in Machu Picchu on a beautiful, clear day

Spectacular view over the ruins of Machu Picchu

We wandered around the amazing terraced structures and saw the guard house, main gate, houses, pathways, drainage systems, temples, ceremonial rocks and various other important sites.

Selfie :)

Dwellings around the main square with Huayna Picchu in the background

Terraced farms leading up to the Guard House

Residential and temple sectors

Tourist-friendly llamas wandering around Machu Picchu!

Aguas Calientes

We caught a train on PeruRail to the small town of Aguas Calientes, which is the base for travelling to Machu Picchu. Aguas Calientes is the colloquial Spanish name for the town and it means "hot waters", a reference to the nearby thermal springs. It is mostly a tourist town now, with many restaurants and souvenir shops lining the river front and train tracks.

The train ride was a beautiful journey through the mountains, forests and Sacred Valley of the Urubamba Province. At one stage, the train descends very quickly on a clever system of switchback tracks.

Our blue train winding its way through the river valley

Inca ruins and farming terraces in the Sacred Valley

The town square in Aguas Calientes

The Willkanuta River runs through the small mountain town

The train tracks bisect the little town

Colourful buildings and trains

Colourful textiles and souvenirs in the craft market

Cusco, Peru

After Daniel's Jungle Ultra, I joined him in Peru for a week. We based ourselves in Cusco and travelled to different sites around the Urubamba Valley of the Andes. Cusco was the site of the historic capital of the Inca Empire in the 11th-16th centuries and is a curious mix of Inca stonework, Catholic churches, cobbled streets and market places.

A view over Plaza de Armas

Main cathedral in Cusco

Iglesia de La Campañia de Jesus, built in 1576

The main square was known as Huacaypata (the place of tears) in the Inca days

So excited to see some llamas!

Happy to be reunited in Cusco after Daniel's race

Overall Winner - Jungle Ultra 2014

Daniel ran 230km in the Jungle Ultra in the Amazon Jungle in Peru and he won in a time of 27:01:20! It is an incredibly tough race and very different terrain for Daniel. He had to battle mud, vines, bamboo, critters and 70 river crossings to get to the finish line. But he finished in style - dirty, smelly and very, very happy!

Crossing a river on Stage 2

Crossing a river on Stage 5

Crossing the finish line in first place!

Celebrating with a trophy and 'crown' made by the Quechua people of Pillcopata village