Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bienvenidos a Peru

Turns out buses are well in abundance here. Parks however can be tougher to come by.

I blasted out of Tumbes for an 18-hour haul to Lima...not nearly as bad as it might sound.

I checked into this cool hostal that had pet tortoises and parrots running around its roof deck restaurant. This Red-and-Green Macaw was trying to protect David's nether regions from an incoming pigeon poo I guess But I didn't even stay the night as it turned out. Given advice from eminent Peru-based ornithologist Gunnar Engblom, I hopped on another bus--this one a 10-hour jaunt to Huanuco. From this area supposedly one can access some of the best areas of remaining cloud forest in the country. The city, Huanaco, is not even mentioned in my Moon guidebook for Peru. This is probably because the area used to be a haven for Sendero Luminoso until recently, so it has been more than off the Gringo trail. Given my track record, this forgotten corner of the world should be making headlines any day now. I just have to find where they're building their drug smuggling zeppelins.

Huanaco is quite a bustling place and the swarms of three-wheeled taxis buzzing around through the narrow street gives it a bizarre southeast Asian feel (not that I have been). The surrounding desert hills remind me more of the Himilayas (and I haven't been there either) than the Andes I know. Anyway, it's a loud rather confusing place.

And the nearby cloud forest that brought me here? It turns out to be an hours drive away. Finding a ride there isn't too difficult unless you're on a birdwatching schedule. I arrived there over an hour later than I had hoped this morning (though this was more to do with my alarm not waking me up...maybe I didn't get as much sleep as I thought on the previous two nights' bus journeys). There were a few birds around, but the forest, at least that along the road and anonymous trails is in pretty awful shape.

While Ecuador's abundant national parks are not always managed so well, they are miles superior to the lack there of offered by Peru. And this is some 11 hours from Lima in what is supposed to be one of the best sites the country has to offer for this sort of habitat. I can't say I wasn't a bit disappointed. It is always fascinating, though sobering, to see the interface between pristine wilderness and encroaching distruction. Apparently much has changed since a team of ornithologists from LSU surveyed the area back in the 70s and disovered a handful of previously undescribed species bringing (relative ornithological fame to the area).

I did manage to see this Masked Fruiteater, one of the area's endemic specialties, right by a freshly slashed-and-burned patch of former cloud forest.

And tomorrow I'm visiting a different even more remote and (hopefully) more intact section of higher elevation cloud forest with none other than the original guide that lead the group from LSU back in '74. So it will be quite the early morning...4 am wakeup to try to get to Bosque Unchog for 6:30. Let's hope it doesn't rain!

1 comment:

BobDad said...

That slash and burn patch is indeed sobering. It is probably only different in the speed in which it can be done compared to the more gradual destruction of the Eastern forests of the US over the last three centuries. In the 1800's supposedly a squirrel could still travel from the Atlantic ocean to the Mississippi without touching the ground. Too many people - everywhere. I hope your 4:30 AM start trip is fun and more uplifting - and not rainy.