Wednesday 22 June 2016

Manu the Frog and Acorn the Parrot - Chaskawasi-Manu and the WWT (Wildfowl & Wetland Trust)

People look at my bike and smile at the collection of 'friends' I have on it. There is a reason for each and over the next few weeks I am going to introduce you to each character and explain why they travel with me. They provide so mu inspiration and although sadly any conversation with them is one way, I wouldn't be without them.

The Lads on the Bike – (2) Manu the Frog and Acorn the Parrot too

Manu's name was originally Sid. Indeed this followed the name of every one of my pets over the years. I named them all Sid in deference to Sid James of the Carry On movies fame.
Nowadays I only have one pet and he is far too heavy to travel with me on the bike. Sid is a large metamorphic piece of rock from the Pyrenees. In fact he is from the French Pyrenees. Back in 1991 I was walking there with a wonderful girlfriend from my past, Diane. Together we had walked from Gavarnie village, south of the famous Catholic sanctuary of Lourdes, to the highest waterfall in Europe in La Cirque de Gavarnie. After taking a number of photographs of each other next to the noisy cascade, we could hear the imploring cries of someone not too keen on water nearby.
Aidez moi, beaucoup trop de leau.
We searched and we found the large rock who told us that he had been at the base of the waterfall for centuries and that he was fed up. He wanted a different life. Picking him up and drying him off, we carried him the five miles or so back to the car and from there back to Britain. He didn't have to go into quarantine.
Sid is now in my sister's garden with his family. In 2009 I went back to Gavarnie to search for his wife and children. I found them in the same spot as where I found Sid and brought them back.

OK enough silliness. Back to Manu and Acorn.

Manu the frog is from the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust; in fact I bought him from the WWT shop at Slimbridge. As I said originally Sid, he was on the front of the bike for the whole of 2010, the year of the first Biking Birder tour of all of the RSPB and WWT reserves. Then he represented the magnificent Wildfowl & Wetland Trust. He still does but ever since my trip out the the Manu National Park in Peru, he has taken on a dual role. The name change to Manu is to show this.
As I have said before whilst on the Peru trip I had the immense good luck to meet two incredible sisters, Herminia and Maria.

Herminia was at Chontachaka, a Reserva Ecologika centre.

This is my review on Tripadvisor:-

At 30 US dollars a night, the Reserva Ecologika Chontachaka offers a cheaper way of getting to know the Manu than other hostels and lodges. This includes all food (vegan) and transport to and from far away Cuzco. Just getting here is an adventure!
To be greeted by Herminia and on arrival introduced to the volunteers, and then being asked "do you want to see Cock of the Rocks?" was fabulous. Meeting Paulo also, a tame howler monkey was amazing.

Right, let's quickly be honest. This is not a hotel! It is a basic, open to the elements accommodation place where one can bird or choose to join in with the ecological program. I did both.
The bedrooms are open all around and mosquitoes nets are provided. They weren't too bad and the only ones that got me were when I forgot to put repellent on.
Showers are cold but that doesn't bother me none. If it bothers you - look away now.
Food as I've said is vegan and there is plenty of it. Inspirational to me. 
The five volunteers there when I was where were fabulous company, as was the previously mentioned Herminia and her sister Maria (Spanish ladies who choose to live here). Meeting local people increased the intense pleasure I derived from my stay. Augusto and his father Mario gave guided tours for free to parts of the reserve and área. In fact being part of the entertainment at the former's son's birthday party was a privilege.

Be warned, there are bugs. I love them! Butterflies in the kitchen, birds in the gardens. Others you may not be keen on include ants, leafcutters mostly.
One final thought, Access is via a basket zipwire across the large river. Brilliant fun!

So, as you may be able to tell, I loved each day of my stay. Each day starting with a 4.30am walk to a Cock of the Rock lek which gave very close views of up to 5 males and 3 females. I loved the work that I chose to join in with and I loved the company. The open to the air bedrooms are right up my Street, the food was fine by me and the general ethos of the place as an ecological reserve goes with my philosophy on life.
If you're expecting full mod cons - go elsewhere. If you want to experience something deeper and more meaningful, this is the place.

If ever you are considering a visit to the Manu and not just a bird-tick fest of mega proportions, then a visit to Chontachaka would be brilliant. Are you brave enough to go down The Manu Road?

On a later visit to the area I was invited to meet the incredible children of Chontachaka – Manu. This is the domain of one of the most wonderful women I have ever met, Maria. 

Together with three other Spanish girls; Omyra, Sabella and Laura, they give the children of the Manu a family-like home for them. These children actually live deep in the Manu rainforest but they want an education. They come out to live at Chaskawasi-Manu and access the local school in the village of Salvacion, Peru.

For more details please look at the website:-

It is these children that I am asking you to support when I ask for donations or 1p a bird sponsorship whilst I cycle. Many thanks to all of you who have done so.

It is also to this project that I will be returning to next year once the Biking Birder experience in Europe is finished.

Acorn the parrot was stuck in a drain manhole in Essex and I rescued him, cleaned him up and now he is great friends with both Manu the frog and the new girl aboard the bike, Bobette the Caterpillar. It has been great to see how the three get on with each other!

So last week it was Albert the albatross, a reminder of the brilliant Birdlife International and RSPB Albatross campaign.

This week, Manu the frog and Acorn the parrot. Here to remind me of the WWT, Chontachaka and Chaskawasi-Manu.

Next week it will be the turn of Ophelia the orca and don't forget that there are still Scaggy the rabbit, Colin the Stone Curlew, Ricky the Robin, Oscar the otter and Tigger still to mention.

If you would like to help me along, as well as the Lads and Lasses on the bike, then please either make a donation to any of the chosen charities. Links are above for the RSPB, Asthma UK, WWT and Chaskawai-Manu. Maybe you would like to sponsor me 1p (or whatever) a bird. If 1p that would mean hopefully £3.00 at the end of the year. Every penny of the sponsorship money will go to the charities. Please either email me ( ) or message me here or on facebook.

Finally during my rest all of my family have added their names to the sponsorship list. Thanks to them for this and their love. 

Thanks everyone for looking, reading, supporting and hopefully enjoying the blog.

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