Saturday 11 July 2009

Cuzco and Manu

This is my third visit to Cuzco (earlier trips in 1985 & 1993) and Judy was with me on the latter trip so we gave most of the Incan monuments a miss. They have become very expensive and crowded (especially Macchu Picchu). I made an early morning visit to Sacsayhuaman, the hilltop fortress/shrine above Cuzco before the crowds arrived.

Cuzco in the early morning from Sacsayhuaman


The church of Santo Domingo built onto the superbly curved walls of Coricancha, the Incan temple of gold, a shrine to the sun. My favourite structure in Cuzco with the finest stonework of all the existing buildings. The builders used three types of rock - black polished andesite, light green diorite, and dull grey/green limestone.

Exterior wall of Coricancha/Santo Domingo

A single stone with 14 angles, part of a trapezoidal doorway - an amazing piece of stone-cutting and engineering.

The smallest fitting stone in Cuzco (1cm square)

Coricancha - one of the ceremonial buildings

Calle Laredo, with its fine andesite walls. Oh hum...what´s all the fuss about? A bored donkey and sleepy dog are sick of the hordes of tourists crowding the city.

The famous 12-angled stone, fitting neatly into a alley wall.

Adrian and Stefan, Swiss cyclists, leaving Hospedaje Estrellita, a refuge for tired and dirty cyclists in Cuzco. These two guys were the best-dressed and equipped cyclists we´d come across in our travels. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza look a desperate duo among these illustrious lycra-clad riders.

For cyclists, Estrellita is on Calle Tullamayo 445 (30 soles dbl room with breakfast). Very friendly and helpful staff and an ideal place to meet other cyclists and share information on the roads ahead.

Scenery between Cuzco and Pisac

Ancient terracing on the hills above Pisac

We felt like a break from the sierra and the bikes so we took a local bus over the Andes and into the jungle near Manu National Park. Hitched from Pilcopate to the Madre de Dios river on a truck amd met up witha tour group. We spent 4 days in the lush green world, a welcome respite from the dry cold and dusty mountains.

There´s prolific birdlife in the Rio Alto Madre de Dios.
This is a blue-fronted jacamar, a relative of the kingfisher family.

...and this is a yellow-headed Judii shitscaredis, a relative of the chicken family. At Erica Lodge we went cable gliding through the jungle canopy. Not normally our thing but it was a chance to get high in the jungle. Judy almost piked out on the first flight into the green but was gently persuaded (not pushed) to take the plunge.

Jude in full flight (or fool fright)

The group from Erika Lodge (a friendly and fun crowd) on small rafts drifting about on Macahuasi Lake, a short walk from the Madre de Dios river.

Lots of birds by the small lake - including the Oro pendula with its intriguing hanging nests, the raucous and clumsy hoatzins, kingfishers, herons and flycatchers. Unfortunately we just missed a female capybara plunge into the water to safety with her baby. It´s the largest rodent in the world and very difficult to see. All we heard was the big splash. Because of the rain we also missed seeing 3 species of parrots and macaws on a clay lick downstream on the Madre de Dios. We had also hoped to see the flamboyant and oddly-named Gallito de Roca or Cock of the Rock higher up in the cloud forest but we were too early in the day for the elusive bird.
So too early for the cock, too noisy for the capybara, and too wet for the parrots. I guess the latter always like to keep dry... and remain polly-unsaturated.

Jungle vegetation along the Alto Madre de Dios

Back to Cuzco via the cloud forest on the eastern slopes of the Andes at 1500m.

Botanical specimens from the cloud forest. Splashes of brilliant colours in a vast green world.

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