Located on the edge of Parque Nacional del Manu, in the park's "cultural zone", Pilcopata is a sleepy little village at the fringe of the Peruvian part of the mighty Amazon jungle. I spent two days in Pilcopata, on a jungle tour with some of my friends from Hampy.
For all of us, the trip to Pilcopata and to Manú was not quite what we expected. The jungle was great; seeing the communities there was great; and the food and accommodation was great. But the trip itinerary was not followed; the tour agency did not communicate very well when we asked what was going on; and (this really killed the trip for many of us) our main guide was 100% useless. I don't regret going on the trip. But it certainly could have been better.
If you want to face death on the side of a forested cliff in the middle of the night (and possible live to tell the tale), then catch the night bus from Pilcopata to Cusco. It was the same incredibly bad road that we took to get to Pilcopata on Monday; but it was wet, it was uphill, and it was pitch-black. Massive unsealed pot-holes, in the dark. Hairpin cliff-side bends, in the dark. Passing oncoming vehicles on a road thinner than Kylie's waist, in the dark. Next time, I think I'll walk back.
Once we were done with the morning's jungle tour and lunch, this afternoon we returned from our trek, to the farm near Pilcopata, via river raft. The rapids were supposedly "class II"; but compared to my three-day Apurímac rafting trip last week, they were a class-zero romantic pleasure-ride. Barely a splash the whole way along — little more than a light current to keep us going, really. But a good bit of fun, nonetheless.
It might look safe and easy and fun in the movies; but in the jungle, things break. On this morning's jungle hike and tour, we found a hanging vine, perfect for swinging on. We all had a go. I was fine, Ashley was fine, Stephan was fine, and Chris was fine. Then Wil went, and the vine snapped off. And down came Wil, from a height of about 1½m, and crashed onto his backside. Could have been any of us, but it just so happened that it was Wil. Anyway, be careful next time you're swinging in the jungle, OK?
Yesterday — our first day in Pilcopata — was fun, but it wasn't a jungle tour. Playing with animals, yes; horse riding, yes; but jungle tour, no. Today, we had the real deal. Hike through the jungle, bizarre plants, deadly insects, dazzling waterfalls — you name it, we saw it. Pretty fascinating, just what kind of exotic stuff you can find out here. And also pretty scary, to think that this is what you find on the edge of the jungle, where it's still relatively tame. I wonder what the middle of the Amazon must be like?
Although our friend the monito was cute and cuddly, and although he seemed to warm to me more than to anyone else, it seems that me and monkeys just weren't meant to be. After dinner tonight, back in Pilcopata, I suddenly broke out in massive spots of swollen skin rashes, which became totally, unbearably itchy. I also started feeling dizzy and light-headed. Luckily, someone gave me a few anti-histomines; and the next morning, after a solid sleep, I was feeling fine once again. But it must have been an allergic reaction to the monkey. Looks like despite the fun and games, I'll have to try and keep my distance from monkeys in the future.
Went on a long horse ride through the jungle of Pilcopata today, after we were done playing with the animals, and checking out abandoned planes on the farm. Definitely the longest and the most fun horse ride that I've done on this trip, and possibly in my whole life. In the morning, we started at the farm, and rode out to a local village a bit deeper in the rain forest; and then we rode back in the afternoon, through (what eventually grew into) pouring rain.
After we said hello to all the animals on the farm in Pilcopata this morning, we went on a little walk through the fields at the back of the property. In one of the (many) pineapple fields that we passed through, we were shown the "old airport". This consisted of a single abandoned, overgrown Cessna plane, which apparently hasn't moved from its resting place for about 15 years, and which is totally covered in vines and bushes. Would have been good fun landing one of those around here, once upon a time.
This morning, we began our jungle tour with a visit to a farm-slash-tourist-retreat just outside Pilcopata. The farm is home not only to a very nice family of humans, but also to a large and varied family of animals. As well as our friend the monito, they also have a few other monkeys, some dogs, some macaws, some ant-eaters, some tortoises, and some tadpoles. And we got to meet and greet 'em all. A very colourful start to our time in Manú.
We had lots of fun with the monito that we met this morning in Pilcopata. And he had lots of fun with us, too. Little bugger couldn't help but show off his acrobatic skills, by swinging through the branches of his favourite tree. Luckily, we got him on video. Check it out.