Our final morning in Peru was a relaxed one. We woke, finished packing, grabbed breakfast, and then our driver Charles took us back towards Cusco.
We made our way back on a different route as we wanted to stop and check out the Cochahuasi Animal Sanctuary where we could see a number of local animal species--mostly rare and endangered. The animals here are rescue animals, and the highlight of the sanctuary are the Andean Condors which they rehab and release. The government of Peru supports the effort of this non profit, but they do not provide funding so the sanctuary relies solely on donations, and sales from the store on property. I was told that large tour providers do not stop here because the sanctuary can't pay a fee for them to stop--which speaks to the sad state of affairs for endangered wildlife in countries like Peru. The locals don't realize how important that part of the tourism industry is, and it is definitely a miss for tourists who otherwise don't know its there. Sam found out about it while looking for things to do in Sacred Valley--and we were very glad she did after we made our visit.
Charles knew the location, and walked around with us, helping translate some of what the volunteer at the sanctuary was trying to say--her English was okay, but not on par with most of the people in the tourism industry. They had a number of wild cats, including 2 Mountain Lions--the lions were rescued from Lima where a night club owner had them kept for fighting one another--rather despicable--but an all to sad reality. As we were walking I spotted a MOUNTAIN CARACARA up in the cliffs nearby--finally close enough for a picture. But what followed was even more incredible--as it turns out there were two adults and a juvenile Caracara that hung out around the sanctuary, and as I came into an opening one of the adults put on a show, flying in and circling 3 or 4 times, coming within 10-15 feet of us on each pass. It was incredible.
It was a great photo experience to end the trip on. After the caracara experience we were led into a large enclosure where 3 condors sat perched. Two adults and one younger bird.
The ANDEAN CONDOR is a stunning bird, with an almost 11' wingspan. The birds allowed people to walk right up to them, making me wonder if this is how they were in the wild--I know California Condors allowed for close approach back here in Utah, so it wouldn't surprise me if the same went for these creatures.
After spending a few minutes with the Condors and posing for a picture, they showed us the process of making and dying yarn from the alpacas, then led us into their store. The prcies were rather high--but it is understandable given their financial situation. We couldn't find anything we liked so instead dropped 100 soles (about $40 American) in the donation box. If you ever go to Cusco, or Machu Picchu, look into stopping by here--as a birder being able to see the Andean Condors so close was an unforgettable experience.
Back on the road Charles took us back into Cusco and the airport. We thanked him and parted ways--given our previous travel issues we were nervous as this was the first of 3 legs back to Salt Lake. Luckily everything in Cusco went smoothly, with us on an exit row and leaving on time. As we flew west back over the Andes towards Lima I watched the mountains slipping through the clouds for the last time.
From Lima we had 6 hours of layover time, then a 9 hour flight back to Los Angeles. After a short layover there we were on a plane headed back to Salt Lake--exit rows for every flight--AWESOME! And 24 hours after our first flight left Cusco we were in our living room unpacking--our adventure was officially over.
It really was an adventure, and overall it was an amazing experience. There were the obvious highs (Machu Picchu, the parrots, and the caimans), and the defeating lows (the protests, canceled flight, food poisoning, and the Explorers Inn situation). But the lows don't even come close to ruining everything else. I would have loved to see about 100 more species--I had believed 350-400 species should have been fairly easy given where we went. The entire day missed in the Amazon--with no trip to an Oxbow Lake, and more time in a canopy tower, I undoubtedly missed a number of species. I have no doubt that 25-50 more species would have been seen with that extra day. But that's life, and the trip wasn't about the birds--it was about the experience. Given who I am I will always make birds an important part of the trip, but focus more on the overall time had. I was planning on recapping and letting some gripes out, but will save that for another day--because right now the good memories are the only ones worth talking about!
So if you stuck with me for the entirety of my 2 week long adventure--spanned out over 2 months as I post my recaps (we left Peru 2 months ago today)--I thank you, and I hope you found them somewhat entertaining, educational, and possibly useful for your own future endeavors to Peru. As with the majority of the posts on the blog--these will undoubtedly fade into oblivion--I am still meaning to create an easy to view archive that lists out all of the 330+ posts from the past 2 years. So to at least put them all in one place I will link to the other 15 posts of my recap below:
Birding Peru part 1 - Lima & Miraflores
Birding Peru part 2 - Pantanos de Villa
Birding Peru part 3 - Pucusana Fishing Village
Birding Peru part 4 - Protests in Puno
Birding Peru part 5 - Lake Titicaca
Birding Peru part 6 - Sillustani & Lago Umayo
Birding Peru part 7 - Puno to Cusco Bus
Birding Peru part 8 - Huacarpay Lake
Birding Peru part 9 - Amazonia & Rio Tambopata
Birding Peru part 10 - Explorer's Inn & Caimans
Birding Peru part 11 - Explorer's Inn Colpa
Birding Peru part 12 - Explorer's Inn Trails
Birding Peru part 13 - Explorer's Inn and Out
Birding Peru part 14 - Machu Picchu
Birding Peru part 15 - Abra Malaga & Sacred Valley
And aside from those, here are links to my planning posts with more information, and some lists I made before hand:
Prepping for Peru
My Top 25 List - Peru Prepping Part 1
My Top 15 List - Peru Prepping Part 2
My Top 5 List - Peru Prepping Part 3
Endemics - Peru Prepping Part 4
Wait, those are different species? (none of which I saw or heard...)
Making Playlists with Xeno Canto
For Peru I decided to write about the trip much more than I did for Costa Rica. I did this for several reasons--for me the most important was being able to look back in 20 years and remember everything that I saw and did while there. But I also wanted to provide up to date trip reports from a number of areas that I simply could not find up to date information for. The Explorer's Inn is a prime example, and I think a major reason why was apparent through my posts about the area. In any event, that's it--I managed to get all of these up within 2 months of returning home--far better than almost a year later for my final Costa Rica recap. And as for foreign birding--well let's just say the next trip will take us to another continent, and even further south on the globe...