Our third day in Peru's Manu National Park began very early, leaving before daybreak at 5:20 am. in the boat to beat the parrots that come each morning to this clay lick.
It was an item on the itinerary that we'd eagerly looked forward to...we'd seen photos of people sitting in boats just yards away from clay licks, watching from the comfort of their canoe the colorful birds coming and going, and we'd envisioned it would be the same for us.
But as you can see, this clay lick is HUNDREDS of yards from shore, halfway up the mountainside.
And as Juan motored the boat ashore right here, it became very clear that this was not going to be a leisurely viewing. We were going to have to work for it. CLIMB for it.
Trek up that steep clay cliff (for beginners!) and then hike to see the birds.
Sitting at the base of that hill (think wet, slick clay...), that climb looked very intimidating and purt-near impossible for this old gringo lady and her man. Kim told me later that he fully expected me to look at him and refuse to do it.
Believe me, the thought crossed my mind. But, intrepid adventurer (ha ha!) that I am, I got out of the boat and, with Nicolas forging the trail, we started up.
I would never have made it had it not been for these feet and the strong, steady hands that went along with them.
This man, Juan, quickly became my best friend as he pulled me up the cliff, his machete hacking footholds into the clay for me. Kim was behind me, fighting his own way up the hill. My total gratitude to strong, steady, reliable, patient Juan...
After we climbed the steep slick clay bank, it was into the jungle for awhile until we came to this road.
My first question was...Why didn't we drive here? Uh, duh...we have no vehicle, only a boat. Our van is miles downriver in Atalaya.....
Miraculously (yes, it was a miracle I didn't slide back down that cliff!) we made it to this observation hide just as the birds began to arrive...that's Hector, Juan, Kim, and Nicolas.
The lick was still a good distance away, and our view was obstructed by several trees.
But thanks to a good zoom lens and Nico's scope + iPhone, we did get some decent photos of the several different kinds of parrots and macaws.
Just listening to the noise those hundreds of birds made was fascinating. And then something would spook one and they'd all fly to the safety of nearby trees, a rainbow of flapping wings overhead. No photo could begin to capture it...
Of course, what who goes up must come down, so once more Guan helped me navigate through the jungle and back down the cliff. He used his machete to cut both Kim and me walking sticks that were very helpful, and we made it back down to the boat without major incident.
After breakfast, (yes, we were already exhausted before the day had barely begun) we set out for one of three more jungle treks for the day.
We saw so many of God's creatures...the very tiniest frogs and insects...
...to curious monkeys.
And of course, lots and lots and LOTS of beautiful birds!
A few of my favorite shots from a day in the Manu jungle....
Thank goodness for my pink wellies...not only great for climbing steep clay banks and fording muddy streams, but also protection from any snakes that might sneak up on us!
But they are HOT...and we were drenched with sweat that entire day. Not only is it hot and humid in the jungle, there is absolutely no air moving down there.
And one can't just go grabbing a tree in the jungle as you might grab hold of a bullet ant. This fella is about an inch long and holds the notorious distinction of the world's most painful bite, 30 times as painful as a bee sting and packing potent poison that brings on high fevers and knocks strong men to their beds for a couple of days. Nasty critter....
Of all the jungle creatures, this one is my favorite!
In between treks, he was trying to get cool....
In case you're wondering, we ate very well the whole time we were in Manu. Cook, whose name I found out was Cirilo, (Nicolas read my last blog posts and just yesterday texted me Cook's name...) did amazing food preparation in very rustic conditions. Delicious!!!
After dark, using headlamps and flashlights, we went on a night walk in the jungle. The leaf-cutter ants were busy at work.
Millions of them...they clear their own trails through the jungle.
Lots of different frogs...
Thankfully just one of these!
In the interest of full disclosure, I did scream twice in the jungle...once when I was attacked by a dragonfly and once when I was attacked by a cicada. They seemed to love my headlamp...
By day's end, we had spent over 8 hours in the rainforest. We were totally wiped out...a hot shower and we fell into bed for our last night at Pantiacolla Lodge. Tomorrow we would start the journey back toward civilization.
This girl was plumb pooped out from a full day of...