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Colin and Sue’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 17 Oct 2006

Location: Sandoval Lake and Cusco, Peru

MapWe're back from the rainforest now - and it lived up to its name! We did achieve our main aim - we saw the giant river otters. It was quite an adventure getting to Sandoval Lake Lodge, starting with the speediest taxi we've had to the airport. We flew to Puerto Maldonado, got a bus to the river then a motorised canoe down first the Rio Tambopata then the Rio Madre de Dios, next a 3km walk on a muddy path through the rainforest followed by a small canoe across the lake to the lodge. As we walked up to the lodge we were amazed (but somehow it was inevitable) to see Tony and Elaine and their group looking out from the bar - we knew they were staying in the rainforest but had no idea where. We were accused of becoming stalkers but haven't followed them back to the UK.

The lodge was good although quite basic - thatched rooms with bathrooms but intermittent hot water and electricity and the generator went off at 10pm, which didn't matter since we got up ridiculously early every day for the best wildlife viewing. The day was based around an early morning canoe ride along the lakeshore, maybe followed by a short walk with another canoe ride in the afternoon. We were lucky to see the otters close up on our first afternoon and again the following morning. We also saw Hoatzin birds (aka stinky chickens), red squirrels (not like the ones in Freshfield), squirrel and howler monkeys, agoutis, a tyra (like a big weasel lying in a tree), bats resting on a tree and lots of birds (but fewer macaws and parrots than we had hoped for). We also did an evening canoe ride when we saw black caiman - one swam right by the boat. We had a night walk through the forest and saw two tarantulas, lots of other large spiders, a scorpion and numerous frogs.

Unfortunately on our last full day it rained torrentially from 8am to 4pm - we were out on the opposite side of the lake looking for macaws but had to head back for the lodge all getting soaked. By the end of the day everything had got damp including the sheets on the beds and our clean clothes. Although we went out later we only saw frogs - these were our guide's favourite animals - we didn't particularly share his enthusiasm for lots of very similar small brown frogs - although we did like the one with horns (see photos). On the way back to Puerto Maldonado the next day the difference in the river was amazing - it was full of debris, including huge trees and according to our guide it had risen by about 15ft.

Nice to be back in Cuzco - such a dry place! We had a really busy afternoon booking our bus to Puno, getting all our washing done, drying our boots, some last minute sightseeing and, most exciting, braving a local hairdresser. Delsy's was recommended by Jacqueline at the South American Explorers Clubhouse and Sue had her hair cut by Delsy's mum who really liked the opportunity to cut curly hair - we both turned down the offer of tint. Colin could now join the Marines after asking for a "little more off" and has an inch of naked white skin at the back of his neck just waiting to get sunburnt. The haircuts cost 14 Soles in total - about 2.50 pounds (not quite Rob´s prices back home).

We decided to go to the Muse Cafe in San Blas for our final meal (vegetarian lasagna after days of meat in the jungle) and ended up gatecrashing the owner's birthday party - very good live music and we stayed out until well after 11pm!

We are really sorry to leave Cuzco - it's such an attractive, seductive city where you could easily stay for months - but Bolivia calls.