Jungle Life: Part Four

*This is the final instalment in a four part series, detailing my time volunteering in Manu National Park in Peru in January this year.*

Part Four: Saying Farewell to the Jungle:

By Morgan Pettersson.

I didn’t end up going on the Jaguar hunting trek in the end, opting instead to stay back at camp and relax.

Those who did go didn’t find anything as the rain had washed away the tracks, and even with Alvaro’s advice on how to run away from a Jaguar, I still had no desire to meet one.

The road to the village

Today, Sunday, is the day of rest on the reserve.

We decided to take the opportunity to walk into the nearest town.

There is a small cluster of houses about a 15-minute walk down the road from the camp, but there is only people selling dried biscuits and packaged food from the front rooms of their houses.

This took us two hours in the heat of the day, and on the dirt road away from the humidity amongst the jungle the heat was almost unbearable.

Gloria the cook usual cooks on Sundays, but wasn’t meant to be today so we went to the town in search of food for lunch and possibly dinner as well.

We later found out when we returned that because Magda the owner was staying that she would be cooking, so it was a pointless and hot exercise.

After two hours of walking we came across the town, which makes remote Australian townships look large.

It was simply a cross roads of dirt tracks with a few large shanty buildings scattered around.

The immense poverty out in the jungle is plain to see.

When we did eventually return to the camp, via taxi, we decided to go for a refreshing swim in the rock pool near the camp.

The river that cuts the camp off from ‘civilisation’ is normally a torrential mass of water rushing over rapids, and not something that you want to go near.

Yet a little way up the river there is an island of big rocks that you can reach by jumping across the river.

The rock island cuts the river in half, with the part closest to camp becoming a slow ebbing rock pool of water, which is perfectly safe to swim in.

Myself Felicity and Sarah went and swam for a long time, looking out over the amazon.

It is the closest you will ever feel to nature, completely in the wilderness.

View from the rock pool

It was absolute perfection.

During the times when we were not trekking or working on conservation work we had a lot of down time at the reserve.

One thing we did was to make and paint more signs for the medicinal plant garden.

Another was to help translate the medicinal plant guide from Spanish to English, which I attempted for about half an hour and then gave up.

Once the sunset we relied on torchlight or candles, and mostly read, played games or had Spanish lessons.

There is something novel still about sitting in the middle of the jungle reading, as you can hear the distant call of birds rustling in the trees, the raging river passing, and to look down and have at least one monkey curled up on your lap.

Meals were also a great social occasion, as during the day the group of volunteers would split off to fulfil their various tasks.

Gloria the cook was great, and rice and corn were common on the menu.

The food was wholesome and hearty and you never felt hungry after wards.

Last Day:

It is our final day in the jungle at Manu National Park.

We leave tonight on the six o’clock bus back to Cusco, a journey that no one is looking forward to based on the last one.

Once back myself and Felicity will have no even 24 hours to prepare for the next challenge, the Inca Trail.

My legs are still ravaged by mosquito bites, ensuring that I resemble some with some form of rare, hideous disease.

Currently I am sitting on a rock in the middle of the river, with the rapids raging past me 50 metres away.

Yesterday there were torrential rains and the rock pool was murky and overflowing, and we barely made it over to the rock island.

River dancing

Today though calm has been resorted to the jungle, and the water is once again crystal clear.

I went for a last walk with Sarah along one of the smaller trails to see if we could find any animals.

We did come across some birds, and as the river level had dropped after the rains yesterday, we were able to walk most of the way back along the riverbank.

I am really going to miss the jungle, and even though I had only been out for a week it was the kind of week you don’t forget.

It will be a welcome change to have a proper shower (the showers are simply water pumped from the river) and to not be covered in mosquito bites, and to have clean, dry clothes again.

I will miss the freedom you feel out there, and the simple way of life.

I will miss watching the biologists and the vet working with the animals and plants to try to conserve the forest.

I will miss Chiko ambushing you at every chance and following you on your treks, only to become tired half way and hitch rides on peoples shoulders.

I will also miss watching Felicity running away from Chiko, and having him attack her.

I did not feel that we made a real impact whilst volunteering in the jungle, but at least we were working to conserve the jungle and not just paying a tour company to take us out to a four star ‘eco’ lodge and saying that we had been in the jungle.

Every aspect of the camp at Atalaya was run sustainably, from the water coming from the river, to no electricity, to the locally grown food and the work of the volunteers to limit their environmental impact on the surrounding area.

The jungles in Peru need to be protected, and I am afraid that tourism is going to start becoming more important than protecting the fragile ecosystem of the jungle.

*the ride back was uncomfortable as expected. We were also stopped and had armed military search our bus for any cocoa leaves being smuggled out of the jungle, which was quite an experience. The next travel series will detail hiking the Inca trail and further volunteering in Peru.*

One Response to “Jungle Life: Part Four”
  1. Rich Travels says:

    very cool adventure Morgan. One week in the jungle is all. I know what you mean about “impossible to keep clothes dry and clean” … absolutely impossible.

    I don’t know if your bus ride was anything like this– maybe it was worse 🙂
    I get motion sickness somewhat easily–
    Bus Ride Through the Laotian Mountains
    enjoy. you can feel free to email me at richbirecki at yahoo. Thanks for your jungle stories. Cheers!

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