Getting to Manu National Park, one of the remotest parts of the Peruvian Amazon, is a journey in itself. One full of sights and smells and sounds that stay with you forever.
One would think that just like any other forested area, getting to this remote part of the Amazon rainforest would be a flight and a drive away. One could not be more wrong!
Our journey started at Cusco. Cusco is the jumping point for the entire Sacred Valley, where one gets to see the remains of the magnificent Incan empire. The old town of Cusco is a sight to behold – a quaint place with narrow cobblestoned streets and a vibrant tourist culture.
There are restaurants, bars, and cafes aplenty. Treat yourself to some full-bodied Peruvian coffee, or a traditional Chicha Morada, the deep purple coloured local beverage that’s made differently by everyone who makes it.
Cusco is also where one starts off from, if one is inclined to travel to the remotest parts of the Peruvian Amazon.
The journey is one of the most enriching ones you can embark upon. Nestled high in the Andes, the route down to the Amazon is a cloud forest. As we drove down the mighty mountains, literally through the clouds, the forest all around us was teeming with life. There just weren’t enough stops during the journey, even though our guide was a really enthusiastic birder who would stop the van every time he heard a Toucan call.
We drove through the cloud forest, progressively losing altitude and spotting different wildlife at different levels of height. Slowly, the cold was replaced by humidity and the vegetation became denser. Hundreds of species of birds later, we reached a bird-watching platform famous for the Peruvian national bird, the Cock of the Rock. This alien-like bird of the small beak, misshapen head and bright orange plumage, was surely the highlight of the drive!
We stayed the night in a lodge – by now we’d driven about 12 hours and it was time to rest. There was another 2-odd hour drive in the morning that took us to the jetty where we boarded the boat that was to be our safari vehicle for the next few days. Even though we were now technically on the Amazon River, we still hadn’t reached the place where our remote adventure would officially begin. That was another day of sailing on the river away. Before darkness would fall, we reached our lodge on the river banks. Basic but clean wooden huts, raised on solid stilts, with the thick forest all around us. Staying at the lodge that night after almost a full day of being on the boat was about marvelling at the ecosystem of the world’s largest rainforest all around us. We sailed next morning for about a half hour, and finally came to the entrance gate of Manu National Park. Some journey!
So, this is not a forest you reach in a hurry – a day of driving and a day of sailing gets you to the starting point of the park. If that’s not remote, I don’t know what is!