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Tambopata

They say getting there is half the fun.  I guess they are half right.  The airline segment was a nightmare.  Our prebooked flight was cancelled and we were put on another flight that gets to Puerto Maldonado a couple hours later.  Since I was planning to jump off the plane, rush to town and buy the train tickets to Machu Picchu a delay was bad news.  We did make it by the skin of our teeth because people with reservations get a shorter waiting time rather than having to wait in the long line.

We rushed back to the airport and made the Puerto Maldonado flight much to our relief as it would be a disaster to miss our Tambopata package. 

We were met on arrival by our guide William from Rainforest Expeditions who collected 3 more people, an American couple and Taiwanese single man.   



He took us all down to the port where we boarded the riverboat to our stop for the night-Refugio Amazonas. 

We passed around species cards to get acquainted with bird species of the region.  We soon got our first glimpse of B&G Macaws flying over head in the distance-what a thrill to see them in the wild!!

 

We arrived at dusk and assigned to our beautiful rooms with an open face to the rainforest, then had enough time for a quick shower before dinner.  Everyone gets up early so we all crashed out pretty early.

 

Our first adventure was going up a 30 meter high canopy tower to see the birds flying amongst the trees.  It didn{t take long for them to appear, several Macaws, Blue-headed Pionus and a couple Toucans!  Not to mention the many softbills flying about-the jungle noises were wonderful

 

We went to breakfast, then told to report at 10:30 to go to Tambopata Research Center (TRC).  This boat was more confortable with chairs instead of benches down the side.  Once again, we were served lunch wrapped in a leaf which was surprisingly good. 

It was a long trip and the river was low so at one point the men (including Ina) had to get out and push!  What was kind of funny is that one of the female guides was afraid to push because she was afraid of anacondas!

We also saw a family of capybaras.

We did eventually make it and reached TRC in time for dinner. 


Then one of the researchers gave a presentation on the clay lick and Macaws.  When we were invited to ask questions, I was the only one who asked anything.  I asked about feeding habits, flocking habits (species don´t mingle) and was upset to learn that they no longer rescue younger chicks who aren´t getting fed, they let nature take it´s course.  I would find someway to rescue them no matter what the Peruvian gov´t says!  It was an early night because tomorrow´s wake up call would be 5am much to the chagrin of a couple tourists!     

 

We were wakened by William and trudged down to the boat in the dark to head off to the clay lick and get into position before the birds arrived.  I tried to set up a tripod but the bushes in front of the viewing area got in the way.  Soon the birds began to show up.

 


Macaws flew languidly over our heads, Pionus, Parrotlets and Mealy Amazons were flying all over the place in the trees.  I was on sensory overload and didn´t know where to look first!   Soon they started to land on the clay lick and each species pretty much kept to themselves. 

 I think a couple of the B&G Macaws need glasses as they kept landing on top of the
Greenwings!

 



There were even a few White-bellied Caiques there.  I was in parrot heaven while it lasted.  Around 7:30 they left the clay lick but were still hanging out in the trees and I could have stayed there all day, but the guides made us go back for breakfast.

Breakfast was fun too!  About 10 years ago, some researchers rescued some Scarlet Macaws since they were younger birds not getting fed by the parents.  These Macaws were released into the wild but they still hang around the lodge for free food and are called Chicos.
 



It soon became apparent that I was the only real bird lover there as some of the tourists were getting upset that the Chicos were trying to steal food while I was happy to share.  It´s not like I haven´t had birds insist upon sharing my food before! 

It was hilarious as the kitchen staff tried to gently chase them off with towels and they kept coming back. 

The minute the staff left, they were all over the buffet!  Then they attacked the tables, sticking their beaks in coffee cups and one swooped in and stole my pancake while I was taking pictures. 

 



 This has to be the best breakfast show I have ever seen!  I bribed one to get on my shoulder and eat bread, then another one chased him off and lighted on my other shoulder! 



After breakfast, we had a nice nature hike through the rainforest.  Ina sat this one out but he got to see peccaries-wild pigs that came into the lodge.  We saw quite a few monkeys, sloths and a few Macaws relaxing in trees.  


 We saw some nest boxes put up by the TRC staff to help the macaws find breeding places. 

After lunch was another hike on a different trail that was quite muddy.  Ina came along and we were trying to find the peccaries but they got away.  We saw more monkeys and a tarantula nest.

Dinner was the usual tasty buffet and an early wakeup call.  Several tourists begged off the return to the clay lick so I was excited to have fewer people there making noise.  Tourists can be so noisy!!

Being an early riser by nature, I was awake before the projected wake up call and was devastated to see rain pouring down.  Yes, I know it´s a RAIN forest but this is supposed to be the dry season!  I waited for the guides to come around and wake us up to see if we wanted to still go out there.  The rain had eased up and there was no way I was going to pass up my last chance to see the parrots, I had waited and saved too long for this trip and I wasn´t about to let a little rain get in my way!  Finally I caught a kitchen worker outside the bathroom and made her wake William who drowsily trudged out.  He said they usually cancel the clay lick if it rains because the Macaws don´t go there.  It was easing up and I was willing to take the chance and at least see the birds in the trees.  I said that I would be very upset if he refused to take me out there so he gave in and took Ina and I alone.  Shortly after we arrived and set up, we saw a few Macaws flying around and  William recognized the Chicos.  He called out to them  and one came and perched in a tree right overhead.
 

I wish we had brought some treats but no one had anything.  The Chico stayed with us about half an hour clearly checking us out, you could see in his expressive face how curious he was.  None of the birds landed on the clay lick buet we did see lots of Mealy Amazons and Blue-headed Pionus.  It was absolutely worth going out there, especially with no other tourists around so we got to spend time watching the birds in peace,

 

We went back to the lodge for breakfast, none of the Chicos came this time.  No one wanted to go on the midmorning hike so the guides set an early departure back to Refugio Amazonas.  I lay around in a hammock with nothing to do and all of a sudden two Chicos showed up!  I rushed over to offer them some treats and easily got one on my shoulder.  One of the researchers who was leaving with us got one on her head and was very uneasy about it.  I can´t believe in 6 weeks she didn´t get more friendly with the Chicos!

We took the boat back down the river and had another leaf lunch arriving at Refugio around 2pm.  Our last activity was fun!  We went to an Ox-bow lake and paddled around in a canoe seeing some small bats and water birds.  Then we went fishing for piranhas, William caught one and showed us the unlucky piranha up close.  He wasn´t so unlucky as he was let go after we all took his picture! 

Then William caught a baby caiman (alligator) and passed him around for pics.  Ina actually held him! 

After dinner, we had a lazy time watching documentary DVDs until they turned the generator off.

We had an early breakfast then took the bench boat back down the river, were met at the port and bussed first to Rainforest Expeditions office and then to the airport.  We made it in plenty of time, bought some handicrafts from the locals and for once the flight was on time!
 

 

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