Amazonian Expedition to Manu Rainforest

     The Amazon Rainforest region North of Cusco is a biological wonder and profound enigma. Manu National Park is a pristine jungle region about six hours north of Cusco. We will descend from the mountains into the Kosñipata Valley region. We will enter the mist-filled jungles of the Madre de Dios region. Many biologists agree that the jungles of Manu hold one of the world's highest levels of biodiversity because of their interesting location where the Amazon rainforest meets the foothills of the Andes Mountains. We shall live among some of the native peoples of the jungle while learning about plants, people, medicine, culture and the way of life in the jungle. We will travel downriver to the lowlands where it's possible to see many animals: tapir, jaguar, monkey, giant river otter, caiman, snakes, parrots, macaws, sloth, capybara and, if you look with the right kind of eye, you may even see some of the more mysterious animals of legend and myth! We will stop at hot springs and a waterfall for a swim in both hot and cool pristine waters.

 

During our time there we may eat various jungle foods, like grub worms, large nocturnal aquatic rodents and every fruit you can imagine along with many you may have never seen before and, of course, lots of yucca (also known as manioc and cassava). We shall go on many treks through the jungle, hopefully seeing many different species of flora and fauna including the rare jaguar!  

 

We may visit various native communities in order to trek, look for animals, interact with the people, go swimming and just generally enjoy ourselves in paradise! During your time in the jungle there will be many cultural experiences, such as: chewing coca leaves, using achiote body paint to make our faces red, drink masato (traditional yucca beer) with the men or shoot arrows from a bow right alongside a skilled jungle hunter, swimming in pristine rivers or learning about jungle medicines from the local healer/shaman. Everything is included: all food, lodging, etc. will be provided for you. Tents, porters, boat drivers, guides, etc. are, of course, also included. Join us for this amazing expedition, a once in a lifetime experience in an exotic, fragile, remote land. We work directly with native guides, paying them fair prices and helping preserve their culture! 

          ~ General Itinerary ~

 

"Cloud Forest & Native Community"

>Day One (1) – We wake up early and take a van from Cusco to Pilcopata, descending almost 3500m into the jungle. We will travel across the Andes toward the Amazon. Along our journey will we stop a ruins in which ancient mummies were once buried approaching 4000 meters above sea level! We then pass over a mist filled ridge into Manu National Park. As we descend into the cloud forest the mountain habitat quickly turns to jungle. Here we have a chance to see the flamboyant bright orange “Gallito de las Rocas”, Peru’s national bird, the Cock of the Rock. That night we will arrive in the small quiet jungle town of Pilcopata. We will sleep in a comfortable and quiet lodge just outside of town where we can rest peacefully to the sounds of the Amazon rainforest and nearby river. We will visit a Native Machiguenga where we can meet the people and learn about their culture and the jungle where they live. For dinner we will eat the rare river fish called “Pacu” (other options available). If we arrive early we may have time to visit animal sanctuary, petroglyphs or botanical gardens.
*Meet at 5am. Drive from Cusco to Paucartambo.
*Drive from Paucartambo to Pilcopata through the Cloud Forest. Have a light breakfast in Paucartambo.
*Descend through the mysterious cloud forest as we enter the Amazonian region.
*Arrive at the hostel “Paradiso” in Pilcopata, eat lunch.
*Native Community of Huacaria, Machiguenga Culture- bow/arrow, native handicrafts, “masato” (yucca beer) + “seri” (tobacco snuff), jungle survival skills, Machiguenga ethnobotany, mythology, etc.
*Eat Dinner at a local restaurant in Pilcopata.
*Sleep in Pilcopata and/or Huacaria Native Community (Ayahuasca ceremony with traditional shaman is optional optional)

“On the River to the Hot-Springs & Fireside Amazonian Native Mythology”
->Day Two (2) We wake up early in the morning between 6-7am. Eat a breakfast of “Arroz a la Cubana” (Egg & fried plantain over rice), fresh fruit with tea/coffee. Visit the intriguing little local market in Pilcopata so that we may stock up on supplies such as rica, yucca and pineapple for our journey down-river. We will cook a soup and “chaufa” (Asian style fried rice, vegetarian optional) for dinner at the remote hot-springs downriver. Then we travel with our guide and gear from Pilcopata to Atalaya in private taxi/van. Arrive in the port town of Atalaya, have lunch and load our gear into a long boat. Then we travel to the small river-side village Atalaya where we will begin our journey down the cool, fast flowing river known as the "Mother of God" or "Madre de Dios" in Spanish. Here we start our descent from the cooler highland jungle into the vast lowland jungles. We will be surrounded by wildlife and vegetation like nowhere else on planet Earth, the Amazon rainforest.  Boat down river for more than 2 hours to a rustic lodge on the reserve side of the Rio Alto Madre de Dios. This lodge includes natural geothermal hot-springs fed from deep underground, the water is so hot it must be mixed with cool water from the small clear streams that run near the pool. First we will take a walk through the jungle to look for animals and visit a beautiful waterfall, typically surrounded with butterflies and then relax in the hot-springs until dinner. We will cook dinner and those able to help prepare the food are asked to do so. After dinner we will visit with the local Harakmbut people around a bonfire. Here we will hear stories of their ancient past and see their intricate cultural regalia that they use during ceremonies. As the fire burns low we will retire until dawn.

*Breakfast in Pilcopata
*Market Walk + Rare Fruit/Exotic Foods
*Visit animals at “Dos Loros”
*Drive to Atalaya 
*Boat to Hot-Springs
*Jungle hike to waterfall
*Dinner + Enjoy the hot-springs
*Mythology and culture by the fireside with native storytellers w/ Coca + Rapei Ceremony 

“Parrot Lick, Machu Huasi & Ethnobotany”
>Day Three (3) – We wake up early around 5am and board the boat heading for the “Culpo de Loros” (Parrot Clay Lick). While taken photos and enjoying the sunrise we will have a breakfast with coffee and/or hot chocolate made with raw sugar and organic cacao, both from the region. After seeing the parrots we will take the boat upriver to Atalaya, stopping to visit the “Machu Huasi” (Old House in Quechua) lagoon to look for animals like monkeys, capybara and many types of exotic colorful birds. At the lagoon we are almost certain to see the “Hoatzin” which is often referred to as the “Dinosaur Chicken of the Amazon”.  On the return journey we can stop at the Botanical Gardens near Pilcopata. While we are not allowed to remove any plants from this area we may learn how to identify, collect plants/seeds and about their medicinal uses. Next we will take a car to Pilcopata, have a late lunch and return to the lodge, the same one where we slept in the first night. 
*Wake up at 5am, board the boat.
*Leave in the boat for the parrot clay lick at 5:30am
*Watch Parrots until 7am while enjoy breakfast and hot chocolate on the beach.
*Return up river, stopping at “Machu Huasi” lagoon, look for animals near the lagoon 
*Return to Atalaya via boat
*Load the van and return to Pilcopata stopping at the Botanical Gardens on the way.
*Amazonian Ethnobotany & Seed Collection Demo (Botanical Gardens and/or Jungle Botanical Collection Walk) 
*Dinner in Pilcopata
*Return to Pilcopata to the “Paradiso Lodge” to sleep

“Hingkiori Petroglyphs & Forest Walk”
>Day Four(4) – Wake up around 8am. Have a nice breakfast of fried eggs, rice and fried plantain, fish or fruit with tea/coffee. We will then take a private taxi to the petroglyphs of Hingkiori about 30 minutes outside Pilcopata. The mysterious petroglyphs (rock carvings) of Hingkiori are little known and most tours to the region do not visit the enigmatic site. In this area we will also watch for animals with the chance to see monkeys, aquatic mammals, hoatzin birds and much! Possibly visiting the animal sanctuary, botanical gardens and/or swim in the river if time allows. The group will gather for a final meal and then disband after our return to Cusco. After lunch around mid-day we will make the return journey to Cusco and conclude the tour.
*Breakfast in Pilcopata
*Visit the Petroglyphs of Hingkiori + Forest Walk looking for animals & plants
*Lunch in Pilcopata
*Return to Cusco by 6-8pm

>Day Five (5+) – Extra days are possible…

~~~ Full List of Activities ~~~

*Amazonian Ethnobotany (useful jungle plants)- Edible, medicinal and other useful plants of the jungle- crash course class. There are endless useful (ethnobotanical) plants in the jungle and we will explore everything from foods, medicines, dye plants, fibers and more. We will learn how the natives employ various plants and for what purpose. We can paint ourselves with red “achiote” or blue “huito” dyes or wear seeds made into necklaces for decoration.

*Animal Seeking Trek- We will trek deep into the jungle in various areas looking for wild animals and other curiosities.

*Botanical Gardens- On the road between Pilcopata and Atalaya there is a small botanical garden ran by locals.

*Hot Springs - We take the river (via boat) and jungle trek- and going slightly up river we will find a small, comfortable lodge and some wonderfully relaxing jungle hot-springs heated by volcanic activity hidden deep under the forest floor. After a short walk there is a waterfall with a pool that feels great after a hot, sweaty day in the jungle. After getting settled into the jungle lodge on the river’s edge near the hot springs we will take a trek in the afternoon into the jungle looking for rare plants and animals. As we trek deeper into the jungle in search of animals such as jaguar, tapir, giant river otter, etc. we also tread into the unknown. Every year new species of plants and even large animals are discovered in the jungles of the Amazon and it is possible we will encounter new flora or fauna not known to science as we walk through the misty forest.

*Isolated Natives Lecture – Many isolated people still live in Manu, we will discuss their situation. Even more elusive are the isolated tribes which live close to the area of Manu we will be exploring, It is unlikely yet still possible we could see some of these people on the riverbanks as we travel along but we must use the utmost caution and can never approach them for their own safety as well as ours!

*Jungle Cuisine – “Pacu” fish, what I consider the most delicious creature on God’s green Earth is an Amazonian delicacy. The “Pacu” fish eats fruits and nuts with its strangely human-like teeth, infusing its flesh with tasty oils. We will sample fried or steamed “Pacu” fish at least once (if not every night) during our journey. A large fleshy white grub known as “Suri” is considered a delicacy by the Machiguenga. It is especially good when fried in oil and yes, it really does taste like chicken, with a similar consistency as well.

*Jungle Survival Skills- Learn how to start a fire, which plants to eat and other useful information for jungle survival.

*Machu-Huasi Lagoon- Visit the nature reserve and lagoon at Machu-Huasi in Salvacion. This is a beautiful biodiverse area that includes a lagoon we will cross in small rafts were we will possibly see birds, capybara, hoatzin, caiman and other rare Amazonian animals. Half day. Paddle across a lagoon and look for birds and other wildlife. We will cross a lagoon on a raft to see caiman, capybara and ancient dinosaur looking birds known as hoatzin! On the way down the river we will stop along the banks for a short hike to a beautiful lagoon where we will see many strange and wonderful birds, possibly herds of capybara and if we’re lucky Animals which are even rarer.

*Native Communities- We start our day early in the morning in the Machiguenga and Wachipiri village of Huacaria. Visit the native community of Huacaria, interacting with natives and learning about medicinal or useful plants of the Amazon with the Machiguenga people.  The native people such as the Machiguenga who we will meet have lived in the forest for as long as 10,000+ years. They live in much the same way as they did in the past and retain a huge amount of knowledge about the forest, medicinal plants, hunting & fish, etc. but sadly this knowledge is rapidly disappearing. We may have workshops, informal classes, meetings, etc. with the native tribal people to learn skills such as creating a roof from leaves, edible plants of the jungle or other wilderness skills that will teach you how to survive in the jungle being taught to you by the people who have lived there for 1000s of years. Have your  face and arms painted with plants like Achiote and in the early afternoon try some of the local yucca beer known as "Masato" which can be very strong at times so don't drink too much! It may be possible for use to help in the process of making masato. During the day we will educate ourselves about the native's ways of life and culture among the Machiguenga in the Amazon, during the night we will learn about their mythology, religion, etc..) An overnight stay in a hut with or without an Ayahuasca ceremony with an indigenous curandero (shaman) is also possible. We will have the opportunity to drink Ayahuasca with the village shaman: Alberto, who is a talented and highly respected man in the community. If we stay overnight the evening before we leave Huacaria we will cook a big meal and share it with everyone! During our stay it is possible to watch and learn how to shoot bow & arrows made from jungle materials just like the people of the jungle use to hunt with, which they do use even to this day. If we are lucky they may allow a few men or women who they see fit to go hunting with us, this is a special honor.

*Parrot clay lick (colpa de loros)- A clay lick where parrots eat the clay to detoxify themselves from poisonous seeds they eat. We will wake up early in the morning and travel downriver by boat to a beach with a view of the clay lick. As the sun rises 100s, sometimes 1000s of every kind of macaw and parrot flock to the lick. We will enjoy breakfast and hot chocolate on the beach as we watch this spectacle. 

*Petroglyphs of Hingkiori- We will trek a few hours from Pilcopata to the mysterious petroglyphs (rock carvings) of Hinkiori. These rock carvings are on the lands of the Wachipiri Amazonian natives. They are said to be extremely old, possibly dating back to as early as 4000 years ago. We must hack our way through the jungle to visit these rarely seen petroglyphs.

*Petroglyphs of Pusharo and Machiguenga community of Palotoa– The huge and amazing petroglyphs of Pusharo, involving a large 6-7 day expedition. Check out the Pusharo page under Amazonian Expeditions for more info.

*Shamanic Experience with a Traditional Medicine Man- We can meet a traditional “curandero” and walk through the forest and learn about the medicinal plants of the Amazon. There will also be the opportunity to meet with a native jungle shaman for a legitimate Ayahuasca ceremonies as it's been done for 1000s of years. Alberto in Huacaria. Silverio and Mateo of Shipetiari. Time to explore the tranquil native Amazonian village of Shipiteri, a Machiguenga community which can only be accessed by boat and remains remote. We will meet Silverio to learn from the local shaman (medicine man) who can teach use about medicinal plants of jungle. At night we will have the honor of drinking Ayahuasca with Siliverio, a true deep jungle native Machiguenga shaman, the last of a dying breed.

*Wildlife Sanctuary- A place we can see animals up close and even touch them. We will visit an animal sanctuary that takes in orphaned or injured animals to see all their wonderful creatures such as sloths, macaws, monkeys, capybara, tapir, coati, peccary,  etc. up close and personal! You can even pet a capybara named “Stewart” who will grunt with joy!