We met up with our original guide who was taking the group we arrived at the inn with to the canopy tower to watch the jungle til sunset or so--at least that's what we were told. While we waited for everyone to arrive I took some time to try and get shots of a Pink-toed Tarantula at a nest near the trail.
There was also a Blue-toed Tarantula nest nearby, but that spider never came out into the open like the one above. Several of the biologists mentioned there was a Paraque roost in the woods right off the trail, and they had flushed the bird several times. I spent about 10 minutes looking but never saw the perfectly cryptic bird.
There wasn't a whole lot else on the hike out, I did hear some clicking that I thought was manakin-like, but I just wasn't sure it was actually a bird. There are so many little noises in the jungle that sometimes its hard to tell what is an insect, and what is some ubiquitous jungle bird. When we emerged to a small clearing we found ourselves looking up at a 140' tall canopy tower. Finally, I could look the jungle birds in their eyes--I would be at their level and have a clear view to the tree tops. This was it.
We started up the tower, waiting for the people in front to make their way up. Up and and up we went--higher and higher. And older pair from Spain was holding everyone up as they ended up at the front of the group--so the trek up the metal stairs took a bit longer than it should have. As we rose the jungle roof began to appear around us--looking up I could see we were almost to the top where we could relax and enjoy the view. Then everyone stopped. I figured they were trying to open a gate or something but after a couple minutes I finally hollered, "hey what's the hold up?" The guide responded, "this is as high as we go".
It was impossible to enjoy much with bars and metal strapping all around you--it was more like being in a cage looking out at the beautiful surroundings, knowing you can't fully enjoy them. So many let downs when it came to the Amazon, and the tower pretty much put things over the top. I had expected to kick back at the top and relax for a couple hours watching birds moving through the canopy. Instead he told us we had 20 minutes to stand confined in the stairwell before heading back down. Looking back it's even hard to get excited about the birds we did have here because it was all over so quick. It started with several pairs of SCARLET MACAWS flying past--the lighting was beautiful, and the view of them passing couldn't have been better.
Several tanagers could be heard in the trees calling as we made our way--one pair sounded an awful lot like the Paradise Tanager--but I challenge anyone to go through and listen to the various chips, chirps and calls of the tanagers in the area and see if you can differentiate most... Tanager sp. it was. We emerged from the jungle to the housing area and headed back to our room. Diner came and went we packed our bags, and were off to sleep. Our alarm actually went off the next morning, and we were up in the dark, and in the dining hall eating breakfast. Afterwards we headed down to the river, loaded the boat and were off in the dark. The highlight of the river trip back was the pink sky over the Rio Tambopata as daylight hit the jungle.
At the airport we had to wait forever in line to check our bags--but it gave us tie to waste some money at the gift shops--after all who doesn't need a stuffed Piranha to remember their trip to the Amazon? After making it through security and taking a seat we just relaxed and waited--and waited--and waited. Boarding time had passed and nothing--finally I asked one of the employees for LAN what was going on--the flight in from Cusco hadn't left yet--it would be at least an hour. Apparently our woes with flying weren't over with. What was originally an hour turned into over 2 before the plane arrived. There was some speculation that the flight had been canceled, leaving a number of people at the airport frantically making phone calls form the pay phones--It was just like being in Cusco again! After eventually boarding, we were on the runway and taking off.
I snapped a few pictures through a dirty window before we climbed into the clouds, leaving the Amazon behind. I knew as I lost sight of the jungle that I had to come back--I hadn't gotten to do the birding I needed to.
We landed in Cusco without any issues--besides being hours behind schedule. Why Sam waited for our bags, I headed to look for our driver and see if he had bothered to wait around, the almost 3 hours since we were supposed to arrive. To my surprise there he was holding a sign with the name "Avery" scribbled on it. Things were again on the up and up. I introduced myself and again as a surprise he spoke English almost perfectly--then let me know that we were going to miss our train to Machu Picchu--so much for the up and up. As it turns out the hotel had gone ahead and moved our train tickets up--unfortunately they did it an hour earlier than I had asked. I went into the airport and spent about 30 minutes wheeling and dealing with the person at the Peru Rail counter and explained everything that had happened int eh past 72 hours. I don't know if it was out of the kindness of her heart, or the fear of me freaking out about the situation--either way she changed our tickets back to our original train at no cost, giving us plenty of time to make our way to Sacred Valley.
Our driver Charles who was one of the nicest people we met in country asked what we wanted to do now that we had the afternoon--we had paid for the time so he would take us wherever we wanted. After the last few days, we wanted to go somewhere comfortable, that reminded us of home, and had something to eat. So we went to McDonald's in downtown Cusco where we enjoyed what was one of the best McDonald's visits we had ever had--it was the first time I dared touch a McDonald's burger in more than a year, telling of how hungry I personally was. And almost instantly the stress of the previous days started to fade--we were out of the Amazon and headed to Machu Picchu.
22 life birds in the last 16 hours / 194 total trip life birds / 245 total trip birds
Photos from the Explorer's Inn on TimAveryBirding.com