Sure enough, at 5.00 there was a tap on the door and we rushed around to get ready to go out into the jungle on foot. Although there are few mosquitoes around the lodge, there were several other things to bite us, so we had been issued with wellington boots in addition to long-sleeved shirts we had bought with us. Suitably dressed and covered in 'deet' insect repellent, we headed down to breakfast, fresh fruit, scrambled eggs and bacon and excellent Ecuadorian coffee.
Outside our room we found an Agouti in the vegetation outside our room
Our trek was going to take us out to a forest canopy walkway suspended high above the forest floor. It was just daylight as the six of us left and we traipsed quietly through the jungle. There was lot exotic foliage along the little track and many palms with aerial roots and giant Kapok trees with massive buttress roots. We discovered that all the trees, regardless of height only have roots going down about 1.2 metres because the soil is so poor. To make up for this, some of the Kapoks have roots that spread 150 metres outwards.
Eventually, we reached the tower we had to climb. From the bottom, the top of the tower was lost in the early morning mist. The tower itself had been carried into place piece by piece with no heavy machinery, or wheeled transport used. The walkway consists of three steel towers, each about 50 metres high and looking like an electricity pylon with walkways suspected on steel hawsers between each tower. The walkways, 240 metres long and 43 metres about the jungle floor takes you into the forest canopy where most of the wildlife lives.
Needless to say, climbing up stairs in the tower to 43 metres was a bit of a slog, but we all made it. From the top, we could just see the jungle floor and looking along the walkway we could just make out the central tower. We set off towards the middle tower with just two cables holding the wooden slatted walkway and two steel cables as handrails - not for the fainthearted!
|Aerial Walkway in the mist|
As the sky got lighter and mist started to clear, the birds started to appear. First were Palm Tanagers sharing the tower with us followed by a Double-toothed Kite, White-throated Tucans, Channel-billed Tucans, White Hawks, Ivory-billed Aracari and spectacularly blue Contingas. The Kite sat in a nearby tree for ages allowing me get very close and get a few pictures! In the distance, I caught sight of a King Vulture sunning itself in a tree, quite a rare sight apparently.
Finally, after a couple of hours up in the jungle canopy we headed back down to the ground and started our walk back to the lodge. En route, we found a pair of large Crested Owls roosting in a tree and several Owl or Night Monkeys huddling in a hole in a tree.
Once back at the lodge after a midmorning snack we decided to freshen up with a swim in lake Pilchicocha - the same one we had seen the Caimans in the night before! The lake is also home to Piranha and Electric Eels. Fortunately, Caimans only hunt at night and the Piranhas and Eels are largely more concerned with smaller prey than humans. The lake was deliciously cool and very refreshing.
Later, after lunch, most of us went for a second jungle hike to explore the vegetation and insects. We trekked out to a swampy lake stopping to look at plants and trees en route. Some of the Kapoks were enormous, over 50 metres high. On one we found several bats roosting. Once we got to the lake, we got into a canoe and paddled throught the swamp. We saw and heard several woodpeckers during this part of the trek.
As the light started to fade, we got back out the canoe so we could walk back to the lodge in the dark. As it got darker, the noise of the cicadas and frogs got louder. By the light of our torches, we saw several enormous cicadas and a few tiny tree frogs. As we passed the largest Kapok tree, Julio found a Wood-Creeper roosting in a corner of the buttress roots. Just before we got back to the lodge we found another large Tarantula hiding in a hole in a tree.
Back at the lodge, the staff had set up a BBQ on the sun-deck that looked out across the lake. After a very tasty meal and a couple of beers we headed back to bed knowing that we had a lie-in the following day until 6.00.