Tuesday 26 June 2018

Days 82 to 86. To Cusco!

June 21st to 25th, 2018

Mostly Sunny days. Cold at night, warm in the day.

June 21st

Up and out on a very frosty morning at the Puiray Outdoor Centre, I go for a long walk along the shoreline. I would have thought that waders such as Lesser Yellowlegs would all be in the USA and canada by now where they breed but no, there are six of them feeding along the shallow margins. There are also a couple of Black-necked Stilts and Andean Lapwings. An Andean Negrito is on a dried out previously underwater area and there are masses of Andean Coots and Moorhens. A few ducks, Puna and Yellow-billed Teal with Masked and Cinnamon Ducks, are present in small numbers and there are around twenty White-tufted Grebes. With just a couple of Silvery Grebes amongst them I enjoy trying to get decent photographs of each. Finally a few Andean Geese and gulls swim around.

After a cup of coffee at the centre, I set off to try and find a TV nearby to listen to the Peru vs France match. Cycling with all my gear as I am really on my way to Cusco now, I fail to find a TV but instead come across two workmen who have a loud radio. I ask the score, the match having already started, and am saddened to know that Peru are already 1 – 0 down. I decide to keep going towards Cusco. In fact I decide to go down a dirt road and choose the wrong one. There are two coming out of the village and I chpoose one that deteriorates into a bumpy, rocky and occasionally very steep disaster of a pathway. Over the other side of a deep valley I can see the dirt road I rejected looking flat and smooth and maybe even cyclable! I continue.
After passing a radio mast enclosure and after descending into a rather beautiful valley, the chosen path crosses a stream via a shallow ford and, after negotiating that and some deep mud, I push up a hill and meet two women and a young boy, all of whom are looking after a small herd of sheep with some cows and a few pigs. The women are knitting as they stand watching their animals. The young boy is sitting on a rug and beside him is a small solar panel attached to a small radio. The radio is tuned into the match and I sit with all three to listen and see whether Peru can equalise.
They don't. They lose 1 – 0 and hence are out of the World Cup. So disappointing that they haven't even scored a goal. Oh well, there is still one group match left so maybe they can restore some pride and beat Australia next week.
I say goodbye at the end of the match and give a little money to say thank you for letting me join them. The path goes up to a small village and the road through it, a much better one, is good enough that I can cycle if I am very careful and so I do so for around four or five kilometres where it joins to the main Chinchero to Cusco Road. It is all downhill from here and I quickly reach the town of Poroy where I stop for some lunch.
From here it is mostly uphill and it takes me a few hours to reach Cusco. Diving down various side roads on the bike to get to the historical centre of this wonderful, high altitude city, there are a lot of dogs. Some of them bark and one in particular is extremely aggressive and bares his teeth at me as I pass.
After walking the heavy bike down a street with a really steep decline, with both hand gripping the brakes, I reach the bottom and recognise from previous visits where I am. I am just north of the main Plaza in Cusco, Plaza Mejor del Cusco. I soon find a hostel I have stayed in before and the young girl at the reception, Beronica, says she remembers me. This I doubt as it was four years ago that I did last stay here but then she says that she remembers my daughter and me dancing with everyone. That's me alright. I stayed here last time in 2014 with Rebecca, my daughter.
Shown to a room with three beds, I leave my things there and go out to find food and an internet place.

June 22nd

Jungle Jimmy and his soon to be wife, Gina have invited me to stay with them for a few days and as I need to ask Jimmy a hell of a lot of questions about packrafting the Madre de Dios river and about camping in a rainforest, I gladly accept their wonderful invitation and get around to their house for ten. Nearly the whole day is spent chatting with Jimmy and writing notes about how to set up camp and how to properly inflate a packraft. Jimmy is an ex-soldier and one of Peru's best jungle survival experts. I know that I am in good hands.

June 23rd

I am up early and despite it being very cold I go birding by circumnavigating the wonderful Inca ruins of Saqsaywaman. Up at Blanco Christo, the large white statue of Christ, I see a superb Black-tailed Trainbearer sipping nectar from small flowers on the bushes nearby. There are dozens of Rufous-collared Sparrows and a few Band-tailed Seedeaters. All of a sudden all Eared Doves, Spot-winged Pigeons and Rock Doves take to the air in panic as a superb Aplomado Falcon flashes through. Puna Ibis and a few Andean lapwings are in a field by the ruins.

I am walking back to Jimmy and Gina's when I try to take a photograph of the fabulous view over the city. My camera won't work. I try again. Still no good. It is broken. At least it has happened now when I can do something about it. It would have been a major disaster if it had happened a week later whilst I was starting to descend the famous birding spot that is the Manu Road.

June 24th

England are playing Panama in the World Cup and the start is an early one here in Peru. I run around Cusco trying to find a place to watch the match. I even tweet the BBC to say that I can't find anywhere and they publish the tweet on their live feed with a question headline above it asking 'What the hell are you doing there?'
With ten minutes to go before kick off I see a large TV screen in the office of a hostel and go inside to ask if I can watch the match. The owner, Richard, says of course and he even has someone bring me a cup of rich coffee as I sit on a black leather settee and relax. A TV is found and the match starts. England win 6 – 1 and it could have been a lot more. 5 goals to the good at half time, England relax in the second period and one can't blame them when the temperature at the ground is above thirty degrees Celsius! I thank Richard at the end of the match and return to Jimmy and Gina's to do some internet work.
Today is a massive festival day in Cusco and Jimmy is on security detail at the Saqsaywaman site where thousands of people will watch as hundreds of colourfully re-enactors will stage the Inca festival, Inti-Raymi . . . The Festival of The Sun. Without a camera I decide to do some important work to prepare for the Manu Rainforest instead of going to the festival.
Jimmy phones and asks me to bring him a couple of things and so I set off up the very steep hill and join the throngs of people going in the same direction. Once I have found Jimmy and give him what he requested I bring, I go back down. I am just about to get to street level when I am grabbed by a man. He shouts into my face, “You haven't seen me for thirty years. I am Ian Smith!” Now Ian Smith was a student of mine thirty years ago when I was a biology teacher at a secondary scool in Wolverhampton in the UK called Coppice High School. I look and can see the young Ian Smith in this man's features. “It is you!” I exclaim. Amazing to meet him in Peru. Such a coincidence and the usual phrase comes to mind as always at such times. It's a small world after all.

June 25th

The day is spent coordinating lodges in The Manu and shopping for a few necessary items. Size eleven wellingtons are found, as are long-sleeved t-shorts and long socks.

Green Year list : 274 birds

 average new birds to list per day : 3.19 birds

altitude : 11,209 feet

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