We have had many guests that have done tours to Manu, and we are often times asked about the tours, because of this we decided to take a Manu tour ourselves. Now this is not our first trip to the Peruvian jungle, Lily grew up in San Ramon which is in the Chanchamayo region, this is a coffee producing region North West of Lima, and I have been to San Ramon on several occasions to visit with her family. I have always enjoyed my trips to San Ramon, visiting the coffee farm that Lily’s father manages, and hiking to the many waterfalls in the area. So you are probably thinking “why bother going on a tour to Manu, if you have already been to the jungle”, well every region of the jungle is different and I am glad we went, not only that I look forward to taking additional trips to other jungle regions in the future.
Please note when reading the below description that different tour operators have different itineraries and procedures, not to mention the planned activities and hikes can vary by guide, wishes of the group and time of year. We booked our trip through Viajes Cusco and your trip may be different if booking through another tour operator. So for any of you that are interested in visiting the jungle while you are in Peru, Manu is a good option and the following is a description of our trip and some photos, enjoy.
Our day started with the standard pick-up in Cusco, our bus went from place to place picking up the 15 total guests that were on the tour. Once everyone was aboard we went to pick-up supplies and get our rubber boots (company provided), after which we started our drive towards the Jungle. The first part of our journey took us out of Cusco and into the Southern Valley where we then turned towards the Sacred Valley, shortly after this we crossed the Vilcanota River and started our climb out of the valley.
Our first stop was short and just for breakfast in the town of Colquepata, a small typical Andean town slightly larger than our own town of Huarocondo. After Breakfast we continued to wind our way through the mountains and made a second stop at Ninamarka, here we had a few moments to wander around the pre-Incan Lupaca funeral towers or chullpas, which according to our guide we around 1,000 years old. It is believed that the reason that they have lasted so long, is that the Lupaca incorporated some form of cactus extract in the mud mortar, this essentially made the mud used for the mortar waterproof once it dried.
Our next stop was the town of Paucartambo, this was a short stop to stretch our legs and we walked through the town and to the main plaza where there are statues of dancers. Like Huarocondo, Paucartambo also has a festival that honors the Virgin del Carmen, this festival is held in July of each year and lasts for 5 days. After leaving Paucartambo we continued up the mountain until we reached the pass where we went from dry high mountain scenery, to green cloud forest almost as soon as we crested the mountain. This was probably the first amazing moment as it is almost like the mountain was a line that no plants could pass; going from the dry brown to the green misty vista was amazing.
We proceeded down into the forest and stopped for a short hike of about 1 hour to enjoy the green scenery and waterfalls, we then had lunch with a beautiful view down into the valley. After lunch we continued down into the valley with occasional stops to hike or view birds, ultimately ending the day at a lodge in Pilcopata, here we relaxed showered and had a wonderful dinner before going to bed.
Breakfast on day two was an amazing assortment of fruit with granola and yogurt, and for drinks there was coffee, tea, hot chocolate and/or juice. On deeper into the jungle we went this day, with more hikes along the road to watch for animals, as well as a stop at an animal sanctuary. The animal sanctuary was a nice stop; none of the animals were in cages so they were all free to leave, if and when they were ready. Here we saw a variety of animals from parrots and monkeys, to a young tapir that acted more like the family dog, following everyone around and laying down to get its belly rubbed whenever the opportunity presented itself. After the animal sanctuary we continued on to Atalaya where we boarded the boat that would take us down river to our lodge.
From Atalaya the guide first took us up river to a large rock so those that were in their swim suits could jump into the river and swim down river for a bit, while I was not prepared with my bathing suit, those that were seemed to enjoy the refreshing swim in the cool waters. We then proceeded down river to our lodge and had lunch, our lodge sat up on the hill overlooking the river and was comfortable yet rustic, but basically what you would expect to find in the middle of the jungle. Before dinner we took a hike up to the top of the mountain above the lodge, here you could see the difference between the Cultural zone and the core or restricted zone; there was far more vegetation in the core zone. We of course finished up the day with an amazing dinner and went to bed.
Our third day started early with a 5am wake up so we could go to the clay lick and watch the parrots, this was probably the only part of the trip that was slightly disappointing as we were not able to get very close. It turns out the groups are prohibited from approaching too close, which I fully understand as they are trying to allow observation of the birds without actually disturbing them. This morning we had breakfast on the beach and then took a walk through the jungle where the guide showed us several plants and trees, many of which were medicinal or had other useful properties. After the walk we returned to the lodge and had some free time before lunch, this is when I went and did a little fishing and a few of the guests that booked the zip-line tour left for that.
After lunch we all relaxed around the lodge for a bit, watching the numerous humming birds, that frequented the many flowering plants around the lodge and listened to the choir of birds in the trees. In the evening before dinner, we all went down river to a small lake to do some rafting (pole around the lake on wood rafts), followed by a night walk to see Caymans, and after the lake we returned to the Lodge for dinner and some needed rest.
Our final day was fairly uneventful as the goal was to return to Cusco. We had breakfast in the morning following which we loaded everything into our boat and headed back up river to Atalaya, hear we boarded the bus that would return us to Cusco, with one stop at the top of the mountain to have lunch. As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, this was not my first trip to the Jungle, and while nothing can compare to that first experience, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip and would highly recommend it to anyone considering a jungle trip. I also have to send out a big thank you to all of those at Viajes Cusco, as well as our guide Lucho and our cook Yony for making this a wonderful trip and I am looking forward to making additional jungle trips in the future, maybe next time a 7 day to get further into the jungle.
While the tour company does a good job with their pre-tour recommendations and information, I thought I would close this blog with one of my own that was not covered. Bring long sox; in anticipation of the warm humid environment I packed mostly short (ankle high) sox. Most of the time when you are doing the hikes in the jungle you will be wearing rubber boots, you will find that having long sox on will be the most comfortable. By the end of our 4 days I had a few spots on my ankles and calves that were rubbed almost raw, so remember to bring long sox, and bring extras as they will get wet and this will allow you to dry them out between uses.