Our first full day at the Tahauyo Lodge started early (are you noticing a theme with this trip). We were up around 6am, grabbed a shower and headed to the dining hall to fill up on eggs, potatoes, ham and various fruits. Yummy.
Around 8am, we were off for a morning excursion of looking for the Hoatzin bird. This meant a speedboat ride to a designated location and then a move to the canoes that were being towed behind us, so we could navigate the interior of the forest. Switching from a boat to a canoe on open water is a little nerve-racking. Nobody wants to flip the canoe, but the least little movement one way or the other can drastically shift the canoe's balance. Thankfully, everyone got in without issue.
After about a 40 minute canoe ride where we just took in all the foliage and the beautiful views, we finally came upon a swamp area with a lookout platform. The guides could hear the hoatzin bird, but by the time we spotted it, it took off and we only got a glimpse of them. They are a medium-sized bird and are very unique in their appearance.
Once we got the canoes "parked" next to the lookout platform, we had to make another transition out of the canoes. Again, everyone was able to do it without tipping over. Yay! The platform we used is actually the top deck of a two-story enclosure, but with the water levels being so high, we could only access the top section. Kinda crazy.
We had about 30 minutes or so hang out on the platform and use the binoculars to watch the many varieties of birds that lived in and around the swamp area. We saw screamers, flocks of wild parrots, pairs of macaws (we learned that macaws mate for life and are always seen flying together with their mate; if you see one flying solo it means their mate is dead. so sad), as well as many other assorted beautifully colored birds. Even for non-bird lovers, seeing that many different species of birds in the wild, with their different calls and mannerisms (and keeping their distance from us tourists) is pretty impressive.
En route back to the lodge, we took several detours. On the first, we were taken by a tree that has a resident tree rat hanging out in it. They are nocturnal, so it was sleeping, but I would have for sure thought it was fake had I not seen its eyes move a few times.
We were also taken by another tree that usually has pygmy marmosets that hang out on it. Sadly, the only evidence of their presence was the little holes left on the trunk from eating the sap.
Our boat made it back to camp a couple of hours before lunch, so we took some time to enjoy the hammock room. Everyone got comfortable in a hammock and somehow I was the only one that didn't take a little siesta. Instead, I wrote in my journal, read a book and munched on some snacks.
Lunch was served around 1pm. Each meal at the lodge was served buffet style with several different options for meat, vegetables, fruits and starch. I usually sampled everything that was offered and then went back for seconds if a dish was particularly yummy. We all fell in love with the savory fried bananas (lightly salted and crispy), the baked yucca (kinda like a good baked potato) and the size and taste of the avocados! I'm telling you, I have never seen such large avocados and in such abundance. They were served sliced on a platter with a bit of lemon juice to season them. OMG. So freaking tasty! While we didn't take pictures of every meal, here is a sample of what lunch or dinner usually looked like:
The afternoon excursion that day was a trip to Chino Village, a local river front village of about 200 hundred individuals located about 10 minutes away by boat. The village was named "El Chino" because the original settlers were of Chinese descent. Today, they work to preserve the local rainforest and resources and participate in traditional basketweaving as one form of income. (More information about the villages can be found here.) While we visited the village to see how "river people" live, we were also treated to a sort of craft fair where we could purchase locally handmade goods, such as baskets, wooden animals and jewelry.
Bartering is common in most markets in Peru, but I don't know anyone that tried to barter while we were there. Everything was handmade and reasonably priced. I know I didn't feel right trying to talk a local villager into a lower price when the extra dollar or so that could have been knocked off meant much more to them than it meant to me. I have a feeling the rest of the visitors from the lodge felt the same way. Everyone left with lots beautiful goodies from our excursion.
After shopping, Anselmo gave us a tour of the village.
About halfway through the tour, we stopped at a man's house. Anselmo said that he had recently lost his wife and that the family was struggling financially. However, he said that the man had a couple of "pets" that we could see if maybe we'd each donate a few soles (the equivalent of a dollar or two) to the man and his family. Everyone happily pitched in and the man brought out his pets.... The first, a baby red tailed boa constrictor.
Eventually, pet boas are set loose in the jungle as they start to gnaw through the mesh cage they are often kept in and can escape quite easily.
And if that wasn't cool enough, they also had a baby spider monkey (the same kind we had seen in the jungle the day before) that had been found without it's mother.
Jim immediately turned to me and exclaimed "I want one of those!"
At the end of our trip, we stopped by the village discotech for some refreshments.
From there, we had a great view of the soccer game that was being played in the center of the village. Some of the guys were even playing sans shoes... and were playing quite well at that!
We made it back to the lodge just before dinner was served. Yay for more food!
That night, we were taken on a motorboat ride into the jungle to look for nocturnal creatures. The moon was beautiful and it was so peaceful out on the water... except for the damn mosquitos! More about the little devils in a later post.
We didn't see any wildlife that night, but it was pretty cool to hear what the jungle sounds after dark, while you're sitting in the middle of it. I thought it might be scary, but it was more calming than anything.
Another jam-packed day and another night of good solid sleep!