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Capybaras and cattle, killer whales and cloud forest : Pantanal, Galapagos and Peru in 2010


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I spent a cloudy morning, coffee in hand going over this report I just discovered. Brought back many memories of our South American 2008 adventure.

Second to Africa in my heart is South America as your report is well documenting. The colors, birds, mammals, people and history are all combined so beautifully here in your writing and pics.


Very enjoyable! The birds and people are indeed very colorful!


I had David as a guide as well, and as you, was handed off to another. We dropped him and picked up a local in Ollanta and he was superb.


Thanks for the report and beautiful shots!

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@@Zim Girl maybe the same orca family stayed around during 2010, that would have been a great bonus for visitors. I like your photo!     Iguazu Falls     We left a cold, wet Buenos Aires and tha

During 2010 @@GnuGnu and I made a first trip to South America, the forerunner of the 2013 safari detailed in Macaws, monkeys and moai. There has been some interest in the Pantanal and Barranco Alto la

We were met at Campo Grande airport by Vava and left immediately for the 6 hour trip to Barranco Alto with a half hour lunch stop at a Brazilian truck stop type of place. We drove along the highway fo

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@@graceland thank you for your kind comments. I have been fortunate to enjoy 2 extended trips to South America of which my favourite locations are the Pantanal and Manu Biosphere. On with the last instalment....


Early next morning we were picked up by Cesar our guide for the next 3 days and began the long drive to the Manu area. At 6.30 Cusco is slowly waking up, the traffic is light the first market traders are out and about and the street dogs sleep on. Drove from Cusco to Pisac and then stopped at the highest point on the road at just over 4000 m for a brief view of a fleeing viscachia which is a rabbit-rodent type of animal.






We had time for a walk around Paucartambo while the driver ate breakfast. There was a civil wedding parading through town which we watched from the town square. Paucartambo is a very colonial town and has retained much of the original Spanish architecture surrounding the town square.






Driving to the head of the Manu Valley we stopped for lunch at the Ericsson monument just inside Manu National Park and gazed down into the cloudforest.






Later we descended through the cloudforest and tried birding from the road, however, there was so much traffic we didn´t see many species before arriving at Cock of the Rock Lodge (CORL). The best sighting was a cinnamon flycatcher.


The Manu Road is not for the faint-hearted and in the lower parts is little better than a one lane track. The devastating landslides of February 2010 wrought huge damage to the area and whilst repairs have been effected many tight corners and earlier wash outs require very cautious driving.








In some places the road is only 6 paces wide which leads to interesting interactions when vehicles such as wood and fuel trucks and other transfer vehicles meet, especially as the larger vehicle mostly has right of way. The smaller vehicle is expected to back up to a ´suitable´ parking space to allow the truck right of way. There were a number of edge of the seat moments as there is a solid rock or mud wall on one side of the road and a sheer drop on the other! During our 2013 trip we saw that the governement had undertaken major roadworks to widen and stabilise the Manu Road - whilst it is wonderful for the people living down the road to have easier access to Cusco and its services, I felt that the journey wasn't as adventurous as it had been in 2010.


There was a 5 am wake up call on the first morning to go and see the cock of the rock, Peru´s national bird which is brightly coloured in a red, black and gray plumage. We sleepily watched break over the Manu Valley.






There were 8 males performing noisily to 4 females at the lek and we stayed for about 25 minutes until suddenly they flew off and all was silent again. We returned to the lodge for breakfast before leaving for a day out in the Manu area, travelling through 3 villages to the hill above Atalya.




We drove down to 600 m above sea level and what a difference a 1000m makes - closer to the river it was etremely hot and humid. Cesar took us to try and find a hoatzin around some fish dams owned by a local farmer, however, we were out of luck. Next stop was a scenic lookout overlooking the Madre de Dias River after which we spent some time walking along the road but the midday heat had driven the birds and animals undercover.




Later Cesar found an emerald tree boa curled around a branch which was about a metre from the ground. The snake was sleeping peacefully which was great for photos.




The day finished with a second visit to the lek after which we found a golden-headed quetzal at dusk. This quetzal is a very flashy bird with a brilliant gold-green crown and a bright red chest. It was a colourful day beginning with the bright red cock of the rock, the noon sighting of the Emerald Tree Boa and ending with cocks of the rock and the quetzal.

Next morning I wasn´t sorry to hear rain at 5am which meant a couple of hours extra sleep. During breakfast a tayra came to the garden. The tayra looked a bit like a weasel and a bit like a long-legged gawky kitten. Cesar said they eat poisonous snakes, frequently becoming unconscious, foaming at the mouth and trembling as the snake is digested. They appear to suffer no ill-effects as they wake up and begin walking normally again. At 8.30 we left the lodge to return to Cusco arriving at around 4.30. Along the way four golden headed quetzals were spotted above the river and we spent about 30 minutes following them for photos. Cesar spotted a parrot snake (also known as a whiptail) which was a brilliant grass green.




Lunch was eaten near the river at Paucartambo and then we began the long climb back to 4000 m before descending to Cusco. Along the way we saw a mountain caracara, a harrier hawk and an American kestrel. Arrived at the Cusco Libertador and immediately headed for the shower to wash off several layers of Manu dust. The hotel's enclosed Inca courtyard is a very attractive dining area and the theme of the old Inca palace on which the hotel is partly constructed is sensitively incorporated throughout the decor. Dinner tonight was a final meal at Inka..fe Cafe after which we walked back through a small night market to the hotel.

We left Cusco to fly to Lima, Santiago (Chile) and finally Buenos Aires, a bit of an aviation marathon. This morning Gabriel Blacher (our guide from our first day in BA 7 weeks ago) collected me for a half day tour and cruise of the Tigre delta.
The delta is a pleasant residential area where people rely on boats for commuting and the delivery of food and water.










My last day is spent in Buenos Aires and the sun is shining, the city looks much more attractive under a blue sky rather than on the gray day we experienced 7 weeks earlier.


The Spanish Monument.



On the long flight home, the plane flew down the east coast of Argentina and passed over some ice floes south of Cape Horn. Yet another first for me on this trip that delivered so much - Pantanal wildlife, Galapagos, the Amazon, Macchu Pichu and Manu. During the flight home I was already planning a return to South America ...





The Logistics



This trip was 10 months in the making. I booked some sectors directly and others with reputable operators in order to consolidate some arrangements.


Rowan Matthewson at RACT Travel World, Collins Street Branch in Hobart heroically booked the 22 flights this trip involved and handled some inconvenient schedule changes while we were on the road. The Buenos Aires accommodation and guide were booked through Adventures Unlimited a local Hobart-based business run by Geoff and Susie Batten. Gabriel Blacher was an expert Buenos Aires guide and may be contacted at gblacher@gmail.com


I booked accommodation at Iguazu, Barranco Alto, Rio and Sao Paulo through John Willemsen of Brazil Nature Tours.The Northern Pantanal sector was booked directly with Pantanal Trackers . Quito accommodation and tours, Lima airport, San Cristobal and Iquitos accommodation and the Ecoventura Galapagos cruise were booked through Nature Expeditions International.


The Tandayapa Bird Lodge was booked directly with Tropical Birding, http://www.tandayapa.com/. The Amazon package was a web special booked directly with Explorama Explorama Ceiba Tops http://www.explorama.com/rates2011.php and the Cusco and Manu sectors were booked with David Choque at Cusco Top Travel http://www.cuscotoptravelperu.com/


Thanks to Julinho Monteiro of Pantanal Trackers for making some on the spot itinerary changes that maximized our Northern Pantanal experience and for delivering a great Pantanal safari in spite of 6 days of brutally cold weather. Thanks also to Erica Zarchin and Jonathon at Nature Expeditions International who managed the Galapagos cruise and some of the land arrangements in Ecuador and Peru. Bouquets to Jonathon who arranged an upgrade to single cabins on the MY Eric at no extra charge for which we are truly grateful.


There were very few glitches in this complex itinerary. I would advise anyone booking with Inkanatura to insist on the delivery of all booked services such as private vehicles and multiple visits to the cock of the rock lek. In 2010 Cock of the Rock Lodge was very basic with sub-standard food. Thankfully, the menu had improved out of sight by 2013.

This trip was a spectacular introduction to the culture, wildlife and history of Latin America. We saw so many things for the first time and contrasted the rural peace of the Pantanal with the hustle and bustle of Rio, Quito and Cusco. Modern Buenos Aires was far removed from the isolated peace of Machu Picchu. After this trip, we knew that a return trip would involve more time in the Pantanal with a charter flight between the south and the north to provide an ‘unbroken’ Pantanal experience. The second trip would avoid cities wherever possible and be a mix of new destinations and re-visiting some others. We would be seeking jaguars, armadillo and spectacled bears in addition to birds, hot weather, scenery and ancient monuments – the latter on an island hopping itinerary across the Pacific on the return home – read all about the 2013 adventure here.

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@ Treepol


What an epic adventure for you. 22 flights? Are you kidding me? I salute you. What a wonderful report. You have me thirsting for more. I love the parrot photos at # 48. Would love to have gotten something like those! Thank you for sharing your experiences in this magnificent continent.

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@@Alexander33 I am afraid that I am not kidding about the 22 flights, it was an epic adventure that started and finished in Tasmania.


Thanks foryour comments, I thought the parrots at Explorama Napo were breathtaking in their brilliant plumage. I would have liked more time there.

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@@Treepol, this read as a book; thank you for posting your 2012 22 days! It was a great escape to read, bringing back many memories...without as many great snaps as found here.


I bookmarked to read yet again! South America is such an amazing destination, and I could spend a month as well.

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  • 3 months later...
Tom Kellie


~ @@Treepol


That's a lovely, lovely shot!

To have all four hummingbirds at the feeder in a single image — terrific!

It does my heart good to see such a beautiful sight from the other side of the globe.

Many thanks for posting that photo.

Tom K.

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@@Tom Kellie you are very welcome.


It brings back a great memory of a magical morning for me.

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