Can I just start by saying that our Intrepid group is fantastic! There are four of us on this trip called ‘Sacred Land of the Incas’ which takes us through Peru for 15 days. Hellene and Ben are a farming couple from Western Australia and we instantly bonded when we met on Sunday. They are fun and adventurous just the way I imagined other Intrepid travelers to be. Lucky for us they are also fine with the fact that we are filming our every move and we even got Ben to chat to the camera about some of his purchases at the markets in Cusco today. We will make TV stars out of them yet! Our leader, Sylvana, is a Lima local and has been with Intrepid for about 2 years.She is great fun and already feels like an old friend, plus she is very knowledgable about this country and it’s history. The trip doesn’t really feel like an organized trip, it just really feels like a group of friends traveling together.
Before I go any further let me go and back and update you on our travels so far. We left Lima on Monday on an early flight to Puerto Maldonado which lies on the edge of the Tambopata river. The river eventually feeds into the Amazon and winds its way through wild jungle as far as the eye can see. After a trip up the river on a canoe and a short hike we arrived at the lodge which lies in the middle of the Amazon jungle.It is constructed of wood and palm leaves and none of the buildings have walls to the outside. The rooms are equipped with hammocks and mosquito nets and cold showers to stave off the oppressive heat and humidity. The forest is bursting with life and crickets, birds and monkeys make themselves known. The sound of the Howler Monkey in particular is still ringing in my ears which sounds like a jet plane landing in the distance – it’s almost like something from a horror movie.
The first afternoon we climbed to the top of a rickety 37 meter tower for a view over the jungle as the sun set, which was a bit of a challenge with camera equipment and all. For there we spotted Macaus and monkeys and our local guides talked to us about the wildlife in the area.The second morning was a 4am start to make it to an ox-bow lake by sunrise. We had hopes of spotting some endangered river otters which have been hunted to the brink of extinction. When we arrived at the lake a crude catamaran awaited us and we floated out silently on the glassy lake. Stu and I were not the only ones with cameras poised in search of exotic animals as this area attracts naturalists and photographers alike due to its rich wildlife. The lake did not disappoint. We were treated to a family of five Giant River Otters that grow to 2 meters in length. Tucans and Macaus flew across the sky and we even managed to catch a few Piranhas on some basic fishing lines from below the muddy waters. Catching wildlife on film is an extremely difficult task – particularly when the huge zoom lens is out of your price range and those animals just won’t sit still long enough! Despite a few issues I think we managed to get some good shots. What an incredible place the Amazon is and being in such a place with such experts on wildlife was a real treat.
This morning we left the lodge and within a few hours we found ourselves high up in the mountains in Cusco. It was quite a relief to leave the heat and humidity and come into some crisp mountain air.Cusco is a fantastic town with cobbled streets and whitewashed walls with blue doors. It is fairly quiet here due to the fact that Machu Picchu is closed, so we have a pretty ideal situation for filming and photographing… plus the local merchants have lowered to prices to lure the few tourists that still remain. I was really taken by the short stroll through the narrow streets of Cusco and into the markets and look forward to exploring more. For now though, our eyes are firmly on the Lares trek which will take us into the wilds for three days and two nights. It should be quite an adventure. We have been briefed and are ready to roll… I just hope the altitude sickness doesn’t make too much of a comeback!