Cusco, Peru, August 12, 2003 — Day 66 was my birthday! Go me, go me, go me! We celebrated first at a bar with a couple of Brit friends we had made along the way, then had dinner at the Inka Grill, one of the nicest restaurants in Cusco. I finally had the guts to dine on cuy (aka guinea pig), but I wasn’t brave enough to try it the traditional way (aka with the head still on). Sherri was justifiably very proud of herself because she managed in Spanish to arrange ahead of time for the restaurant to bring a cake decorated with my age, indicated by a 2 and a superscript 5 (yes, I turned 32, 2 to the 5th power). The photos from the day kind of suck, but it was a great birthday.
Boca Manu, Peru, August 10, 2003 — The rains stopped eventually, but the tour staff had little to no information about when (or if) our plane would come. We hung out at the grass airstrip, where the “air controller” used a CB radio powered by a car battery. When Sherri opened up our Mac to write, every staff member was stunned. They lived amongst gringos much of the time, but it was still shocking to see that the photos I had taken were already on the computer. (Of course, 10 years ago digital technology was still very new, and we were the only backpackers we saw for the entire year who were traveling with a laptop). When the planes finally arrived, they had priorities other than tourists. So it took some arguing, screaming and cajoling, but we managed to get on the last plane out of Manu that day, arriving safely back in Cusco in time for our next adventures.
Boca Manu, Peru, August 9, 2003 — We arrived back in Boca Manu, the town that sits at the entrance to the park. Boca Manu has a small airstrip, where we were supposed to get a flight back to Cusco so we could begin our trip to Machu Picchu. But no flights arrived at 11, and no flights at 1. And then the torrential rains started, and we were told there would be no flights. Instead, we spent the day in what was basically an empty village of rickety log buildings, one of which turned into our hotel when we all set up our tents inside. Did I mention torrential rain? That’s why there is just one picture (and not even close to a good one).
The Manu Biosphere, Peru, August 7, 2003 — We spent Day 61 was much like the previous day, lolling around the river, where we saw lots of monkeys (from afar) as well as tons of birdlife. We got a great view of a very peppy cayman as well. After an afternoon hike in the jungle, the sky turned to silver and a troupe of monkeys passed over our camp, hanging out for a while overhead.
The Manu Biosphere, Peru, August 6, 2003 — We spent the two-month-mark of our trip around once again on the river. I guess it was tough to keep the food purified, because I was still battling sickness when Sherri got sick as well. But it wasn’t too bad, so we were able to enjoy the ride down (up?) the river, seeing monkeys and cayman along the way. We also hung out for quite a while in a blind watching a salt lick favored by macaws, though mostly we saw small green parrots. The night ended with a catamaran ride on a lake to see the sunset over Manu.
The Manu Biosphere, Peru, August 5, 2003 — I spent the beginning of Day 59 a little green around the gills (something I ate or drank made me sick overnight). But we were still up at 5:30 in the morning, ready to …. well it was never really clear what we were going to do each day. We just followed along and did what we were told. In this case, our little group of 4 Israelis, 4 Italians, our guide, and a captain, assistant and cook, all piled onto a barge and started down the Manu river. It was a long day on the river, and definitely not a zoo (we saw jungle animals along the way, but they were mostly far away on shore, not close up and posing for pictures). But it was enjoyable and relaxing and mostly interesting. The day ended with a campfire dinner, and a bath in the river. Not too bad.
The Manu Biosphere, Peru, August 4, 2003 — We were up early to view the Peruvian national bird, which we were told was the cock of the rock, but at 5 a.m., it was hard to see anything, much less a bird. Then we were off for what we thought was a hike, but turned out to be a leisurely raft tour of the jungle (mixed in with the occasional class 3 rapid). When we get to our lodge camp, we met our guide Oliver, an Italian who has lived in the jungle for 15 years and is basically Tarzan. The camera stayed in the dry bag much of the day, but I did manage a few photos along the way.
On the Road to Manu, Peru, August 3, 2003 — We spent the entire day day (and into the night) in our “specialized overland vehicle” (a/k/a city bus) on the way to the Manu Biosphere Reserve, a Peruvian National Park, World Heritage Site and very cool jungle. We white-knuckled it the whole way, hoping we wouldn’t plummet 8000 feet to our death along the mountain roads, and fortunately we arrived safely. Along the way, we stop at “bread town” (smells great), “brick town” (doesn’t smell so great), and the tombs (chullpas) at Dinamarca. They are tall, stone burial buildings, and they make for nice photographs.
Cusco, Peru, August 2, 2003 — We spent day 56 mostly running errands and preparing for our next 2 expeditions, first to the Peruvian jungle (the Manu Biosphere Reserve) and then on to Machu Picchu. Along the way, we ran into some fun photo opportunities, including a women’s basketball game in an outdoor court with seating that resembled the terraced mountainside farms the Incas developed, as well as a mannequin with a gold grill.