Jungle Life: Part One

*This is the first in a four part series, detailing my time volunteering in Manu National Park in Peru in January this year. A new chapter will be posted every Monday*

Part one: Getting There

By Morgan Pettersson.

We are finally here in the jungle after our ‘interesting’ ten-hour bus ride.

Welcome to the Jungle

Myself and three other volunteers and about 20 locals all squeezed onto a bus slightly bigger than a van and were shortly out of Cusco and onto some rocky, narrow, windy roads.

We were curving up through the mountains with a sheer descent on one side and remains of a recent avalanche on the other.

The road had room for one vehicle so there was some heart stopping moments when we were turning blind corners with the driver simply beeping his horn in warning.

There was a large jolt about two hours into the trip, which ended up being a flat tyre.

We had to get off the bus and wait on the side of the road for about an hour and a half for the driver and co. to fix it.

The plus was that we were out of the cramped, stale and uncomfortable bus.

The road we were on had a view over the mountains and it was simply beautiful.

On the outskirts of Cusco

It was what Cusco must have originally looked like prior to the mad tourist rush.

Small sparsely spread mud brick houses with fields and un tamed natural grass and scrub land.

This was the true Peruvian Andean Mountains come to life.

We drove onwards for about half and hour, once the bus was fixed and stopped in a small town for ‘breakfast’.

What this really was a masquerade for was the fact that not only had we burst a tyre, but we had also badly damaged the undercarriage of the bus.

This culminated in the entire busload of passengers sitting on the side of the road for another hour and a half whilst the driver and friends tried to weld something back onto the bus.

Felicity, my friend and fellow volunteer, made friends with a local girl and played a game of catch with some rocks whilst we were waiting.

Everyone else either sat and read or wandered around the small town, which was situated on two riverbanks and of not much interest.

Eventually we took off again slightly behind schedule but still in good spirits. After about six hours of travel we began to awake to a completely transformed scene in front of us.

The truck stuck on the river crossing

There now lay in front of us lush, green vegetation, interspersed with cascading waterfalls plunging down the steep cliff on one side, and the embankment on the other.

Here and there were wild orchids known specifically to the region, glowing vividly white against the countless varieties and tones of green.

Suddenly the bus skidded to a halt. The road up ahead was blocked by a variety of trucks and buses.

On further inspection a large truck up ahead had become stuck on a river crossing and its front wheels were buried deep into the dark grey sand.

Ten other vehicles in both directions had stopped and were now perched around the rivers edge watching the men’s attempts at rescuing the stranded truck.

After half an hour of failed attempts it was finally winched to safety on the other side of the river, not before almost tipping over twice.

We watched several other trucks passing in the opposite direction pass successfully over the riverbed, until it was our turn.

Thankfully the driver instructed us to cross the river on foot as no one in the party fancied staying on board as the bus precariously tipped this way and that across the slippery rocks.

We the had to chase the bus down the gravel road as it turned out that 500 metres down hill was another stranded truck.

This time it was deep in mud from the rains.

The river crossing

Locals worked to pile rocks in front of it to give it leverage, but our driver clearly fed up with being behind schedule, decided to over take the truck through the gap in the road barely big enough for a car.

Let me remind you that these roads were only big enough for a car, and that on one side of the road is a cliff, the driver overtook the truck on the side with the cliff.

Finally we reboarded and half an hour later arrived at camp!

We had a short 15-minute walk down a jungle track, interspersed with rock steps to the riverbank.

From our side we could make out a rough wooden structure with a red tin roof and no walls.

Yet to reach it we had to take a zip line pulley system across raging rapids.

It was fun and we slid half way by ourselves before being pulled in from the camp on the other side.

(We later found out this was the wrong way to do it.)

Camp was a five-minute walk up stone moss covered steps and across a small rough cut wooden bridge, with a gentle stream running below.

Welcome to the Atalaya Jungle Reserve.

It certainly is jungle camping as I imagined it!

Chico and Paula sitting outside the main hut

There are three main bedding areas, two enclosed with mosquito nets, which are for paying volunteers and guests and staff, and another open air one for the volunteers.

The rooms have walls coming to about shoulder height, made from local bamboo. There are two mattresses to a room with basic bedding and individual mosquito nets.

Lizzie and myself are rooming together and Sarah and Felicity are rooming across from us.

Our first taste of the jungle was when a monkey,  orange unknown species, jumped up into the bungalow and preceded to strut about and hang upside down from the walls.

Apparently as we later found out there are two ‘resident’ monkeys called Chico and Paula, who were rescued from the black market, as well as a green and blue parrot named Pauly.

The rest of the volunteers are currently in town, as it is Sunday and normally in good weather everyone will go into town on Sunday.

There is a rumour that there will not be a lot of work to do as there are so many volunteers now, but hopefully we will be able to help for the week that we are out here.

*next week: first days in the jungle, a Tarzan style vine swing gone embarrassingly wrong, monkey times and more!*

A big thank you to ecopressed for featuring this article on their radar!


3 Responses to “Jungle Life: Part One”
  1. Rich Travels says:

    Glad to now that there are volunteers that will help KEEP the jungle a jungle 🙂
    Thanks for sharing

  2. Rich Travels says:

    Also, if you want to check out my recent experiences trekking through the SE Asian jungle,
    Jungle Trek through Laos

    cheers. 🙂

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