Wednesday 9 May 2018

Day 23 - April 23rd Huinco to unnamed place. Tough day's push and cycle!

April 23rd, 2018

Hot, hazy and sunny day that clouds over mid-afternoon.

Up at 5:30 a.m. again and after making sure my room is tidy and the bed made, I set off in the semi-dark. Today will be the toughest yet with steep roads but there will be new birds to see and incredible scenery to explore. I pass the dam by the hydro-electric plant and am delighted that progress up the initial steep zig zag road is easier and quicker than I thought it would be. An early start has also meant that it is is cooler as the Sun is yet to reach down here in the valley, although I can see it's progress as the hills to the west start to be bathed in sunlight.

As the road climbs higher and higher the views get more spectacular. One particular incredibly deep gorge would be a major tourist site if in the UK. Here this magnificent gorge, carved by the river Eulalia, is followed by another and another with beautiful valleys between them.

Variable Hawks, American Kestrels and seedeaters I see as I cycle and push, cycle and push. The Sun arrives at my level and immediately the heat is on. A Miner is on the road ahead of me, scuttling along, I get great views before it flies over the rocky edge and down the cliff descending to the riverbed far below. 

A Thick-billed Miner, a brilliant bird to get I feel and so feel elated. I carry on pushing and cycling, pushing and cycling. Greenish Yellow Finches alight upon a cliff's rocky protrusions, another bird for the list.

The rock layers are so distorted along sections of the road, incredibly bent and twisted, what forces can do such?

Views all the way along the road are magnificent and the Sun makes shadows and changes of tone. Beautifully the road clings to cliff edges. I had thought that The Manu Road would be the only one like this that I would encounter. How wrong I am.

I arrive after a couple of hours at a closed and boarded up cafe which is beside an incredibly deep cleft in the rock. There is a short bridge and standing here in a gale force wind emanating from far below, I stand as around twenty Andean Swifts dash about at terrific speeds.
Miles pass, the road gets rougher, dustier and steeper. The valley gets narrower and the feeling of claustrophobia makes me imagine falling rocks. New birds appear and are photographed and watched. 

Streak-throated Bush Tyrants chase each other by the river, perching on twigs and branches. Andean Condors, eleven of them, appear flying high over the ridge tops. A Black-bellied Swallow flies around catching flies over the river. A Black Metaltail is a new hummingbird.
Eventually the afternoon reaches the moment when the shadows from the descending Sun reach further than just the valley floor and it starts to get cold. Rain starts to fall and I put up the tent but the rain quickly stops. I decide to camp here and go birding for the last hour or so of light. I find a superb, surely one of the best drakes anywhere, male Torrent Duck, who is being followed everywhere by two attendant female birds. I photograph and film them. Fabulous to watch the females subservient displays towards the splendid male.

Green Year list : 125 birds average new birds to list per day : 5.43 birds

Distance cycled : 10.87 miles

elevation up : 6,922 feet, down 4,324 feet

altitude : 8,696 feet

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