Peru 2008 – Amazon

The Amazon – Puerto Moldanado – Sandoval Lake..

The group left Lima for a 1.5hr flight to Puerto Moldanado in the southern Peruvian Amazon area via Cusco. This flight showed us the extreme variety in the Peruvian landscape. The foggy arid western foothills gave way to the greener plains backdropped by the 6000m Andean Peaks. Then all of a sudden as we crossed the mountains, it was green and flat all the way to the eastern horizon. We were at the western edge of the Amazon basin.

A humid 32C hit us as we walked out the airplane and into a frontier feeling town. Puerto Moldando is the main city in this part of Peru and was supported by the Brazil Nut industry, mining and the rubber industry. A quick transfer to the Rio Madre De Dios River launch and we were on our way to Sandoval Lodge on Sandoval Lake.

Sandoval Lake is actually a cut off ox-bow lake separated from the main river, many millennia ago. It has an intact eco system of birds, small mammals, giant river otter, and the black caiman at the top of the food chain.

We went by motorized canoe 45 minutes to the entrance of the Sandoval Lake Reserve. From there it was a 3km hike to the lake. We saw many interesting spiders and small insects along the trail, and then suddenly above in the canopy, we saw one of the big sights. A dark mass in the trees moving ever so slowly above us was a three-toed sloth. This is one of the must-see animals in the forest, and is usually difficult to see from the forest floor.

We went by motorized canoe 45 minutes to the entrance of the Sandoval Lake Reserve. From there it was a 3km hike to the lake. We saw many interesting spiders and small insects along the trail, and then suddenly above in the canopy, we saw one of the big sights. A dark mass in the trees moving ever so slowly above us was a three-toed sloth. This is one of the must-see animals in the forest, and is usually difficult to see from the forest floor.

The jungle comes alive at night, a cacophony of insects makes you realize that not everything is asleep at night. I was hoping for a repeat of the Borneo experience 12 years ago where we saw a tarsier during our forest walk. This time, all we saw were large tarantulas and moths.

The next morning we left before sunrise to paddle around the lake to see the giant otters and howler monkeys which generally feed at this time of day. We were not disappointed, as one of the two otter families was out feeding on the trout in the lake. The giant river otters are at the top of the food chain, and in a group can kill a black caiman. These are not the cute sea otters off the coast of Vancouver, but are much larger with much bigger teeth.

Mid morning was a jungle botanical tour, where we were exposed to a variety of plant species, ranging from the giant Brazil nut trees to the myriad medicinal plants in the under brush below.

The Brazil nut industry employees 35,000 people in Peru, and is the main agricultural export from this portion of the Amazon. The Brazil nut relies on a aguti rodent to disperse its seeds, and as such is reliant on the symbiosis in the rain forest. It has been impossible to successfully farm the Brazil nut, as there was no way to properly disperse the seeds and keep the plantations going. As such, the forest is intact, with just narrow trails cut to allow people to get access to harvesting the pods that fall from the trees. Each tree contains 300 pods, and each pod has about 15 nuts per pod. Each license entitles the harvester to 50 to 60 trees. The harvest occurs Jan to March, with the men collecting the pods, and the women extracting the nuts from the pods. On average, the combined effort yields 40c per kg of nuts. The pod shells are used to make souvenirs, while the nuts are sold whole or used to make oil, soap and candles. None of the plant is wasted. The trees are protected in Peru, and their only predator is the macaw which eats the nuts before the pods have fallen to the ground.

In addition to the Brazil nut we say Cat claw used to treat ulcers, candlestick ginger, good for upset stomachs, tumeric, ginger, dragons blood – used to treat wounds, pineapples, and the wasai palm, used as a contraceptive!

An interesting clay tower built by the cicada nymphs were seen sprouting like stalagmites from the ground along the forest floor. The nymphs live 7 years in the tower, and then have one week to find a mate once they emerge – explains all the noise they make!

The late afternoon boat tour was to see the other large predator in the lake, the black caiman. The caiman is part of the alligator/crocodile family and is found in the Amazon. The caimans are most closely related to the alligator and can live to 60 years of age. They generally breed once per year every year. They have up to 60 hatchlings in a nest, with the gender determined by the temperature of the eggs – warmer near the top for males, and cooler near the bottom for females. Only 5% survive to 2 years of age. Caimans sense water movement, in order to track their prey. This obviously takes a few years to develop as we almost ran over a juvenile caiman with our boat.

The final morning was an early departure back to Puerto Moldonado. The lake was almost completely enveloped in fog, and looked very different from the previous two days. The walk from the canoe to the motorized canoe was highlighted by the last of the main must see animals in the jungle. High up in the canopy we could make out the silhouette of three toucans flying around in the canopy. This was a highlight of the walk, and completed the jungle experience for us.

 

 

 

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About petergsimmons

Global citizenship is conferred on those who have lived in a variety of countries, and who don’t identify with any one culture. I am such a person. Having lived in Jamaica, Canada and Japan, I have been exposed to First World/Third World, East and West, North and South. This has lead to a rich living experience, open-mindedness and curiosity about the world around me. This variety of living conditions in human landscapes is coupled with equally diverse travels in natural landscapes from the jungles of South East Asia and South America to the Arctic tundra; tropical beaches to the Himalayas, resulting in an incredible journey through life itself.
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