Friday 5 October 2018

I've got More than my Share of Happiness!

Buenas Dias!

Well, this morning I will have great pleasure . . . .

but first I have to do the blog!

For those who may be new to my blog, I know that today is October the fifth but due to a number of factors, mostly a lack of internet within The Manu national Park, I could not keep up the daily blog describing my adventures.

To those who read yesterday's blog, I humbly apologise for starting in the same vein!

"You're so vane, you probably think this blog is about you!"

Sorry, I am in a wonderful mood today. Birds are flying high in the sky outside my bedroom here in Lima, Peru; Black Vultures {!}, Belcher's Gulls and Parakeets. Scrub Blackbirds are being as noisy as ever with their electric calls and West Peruvian Doves are saying “please be quiet” with their dove tones that would be familiar to doves around the world.

A sleepness night with Mary Poppins and Ken Dodd on Youtube, with a George Monbiot article on Plastic and Consumerism studied and the links read and collated for further perusal. I am buzzing!

Happiness, happiness is a clean beach, without the mess! I think we all should take a rest, from buying crap stuff. That would be the best!

Obviously, as I said yesterday, yet maybe you weren't here, you now know I survived the six month Biking Birder Peruvian adventure over The Andes by frog . . . I mean by bicycle and river by packraft!

What follows over the next 74 days, well to Christmas anyway, will be a daily update as though we are back together in July of this year. Day by day I will post my diary as though it is still happening. Together we will share the thrills, the splendour of nature and the terrors. Oh yes, there were days of terror but those few moments were outshone by days of such magnificence that dark clouds were obliterated by nature's beauty.

So please read and imagine . . . . 

Oh, and please, PLEASE if you could make a donation to Birdlife International as you read I would be more over the Moon than I already am! Neil, I am coming to see you.

Two wonderful, marvellous, beautiful, fabulous people, well three actually if one counts Lizzy and Jack, superb Mother and Son combination as two instead of one and a half, did so yesterday, taking my total raised for Birdlife International to near a thousand pounds!

A million thank yous to Val, Lizzy and five hundred thousand to Jack!

Thank you and love to you all,

Be Green.

Gary xxx 

Hi ho, Hi ho, It's a birding I will go . . . 

Off to the fabulous Los Pantanos de Villa nature reserve for the day to be filmed by PromPeru! Brilliant! 

I adore Los Pantanos de Villa!

2nd July, 2018

Very sunny, breezy PM

The day of the last big push, I am ready and the bike and rucksack are heavy with the food I will need for the days that I will be birding along the famous Manu Road, the day's when I am not staying at lodges. I have five days away from lodges that I need food for before I reach the next village, Chontachaka. So loaded up I set off along a dirt road that goes down the river valley.
At the five kilometre post the road divides. The road I need forks right and slopes upwards, the push begins. Tall Eucalyptus trees are with me for the first few kilometres and then, as the road gains height, the vegetation changes to bushes and flowering shrubs. There is a local pushing a bike just ahead of me and as his is unladen he goes faster and soon disappears.
A flock! Panic time as I try to see all the birds and they don't want me to see them. They flit from bushes and dive into the next one with rapid motion and I can see leaves and twigs moving from where they are hiding. Occasional glimpses, Rufous-collared Sparrows!
I continue and the road, with it's rocky, bumpy, dusty surface makes the push hard and laborious. The views though compensate and the occasional stop for a rest allows me to realise how incredibly beautiful this part of the world is. The hills are old grass green as the dry season has taken away the verdant colour of the Austral summer and replaced it with this yellowish carpet. Crops are dry too yet there are occasional rows of green, potatoes and red, quinoa. 
Looking ahead, as the road turns around a corner, I can see that there are a series of large valleys that have eaten into the hillside and each have a long section of road on the south before a turn, usually over a concrete ford with a small stream. Then there is the long push on the north side and the road continues gaining height to the next corner. With each valley I hope that the next corner will turn out to be the last and that I will see where the highest point of the road is. This last summit will be the last summit of my Andean adventure. I will have crossed The Andes and it will be downhill all the way to Amazonia from that point. Michael Palin and Terry Jones would tell me that I should have brought a large cuddly rainforest frog with me on the bike, like the one that came with me on all of my United Kingdom Biking Birder adventures named Sid. The Monty Python pair wrote a book called Ripping Yarns and made a TV series of the same, or vice versa. One of the tales was of an intrepid skit on Victorian adventurers called, Across The Andes by Frog. Well, I have crossed The Andes by bike. Actually I haven't seen a frog . . . yet!
I am amazed by how quiet the road has been vehicle-wise. I had imagined that there would be lorries and minibuses full of locals and tourists but no. I actually count and record what passes me. Eleven minibuses, two lorries, a single motorbike and a car. In five hours just fifteen vehicles, I should have recorded how many gave a friendly honk on the horn or a wave and how many had wound down the window to shut Hola, Buena dias or buenos tardes. The only car is on a serious mission. It has a large white coffin in the back, protruding from beneath the open hatchback door that is tied by rope to the bumper. I have no idea whether the coffin is occupied!
The river by now, after a number of these long valley stretches, is far below and the village of Challabamba can be seen with it's large number of small square houses. I reach a point where the river veers off along a valley to the left and the valley I am following is drier and has less trees. The road turns around one last corner and after one last push I am there, kilometre twenty, the top. I stop for a celebratory drink of pseudo coca cola and look around me. The habitat is one of dry puna grass and very few trees. Just to emphasis the point, a Mountain Caracara flies overhead with it's pattern of black and white plumage. The road now is horizontal to the hill and I can at last pedal. The views though are magnificent and for the first time ever I can actually see for miles all around me. Every other time I have been along this wonderful, famous Manu Road it has been shrouded by cloud, hidden from my eyes. Yet I know than in just a few miles I will enter the Manu National Park, the park's buffer zone and from there it will be a long descent into the cloud forest and with it lots of new birds.

The Manu, I am at the border with it's derelict buildings and large signs, with its pathways and large banner over the road announcing the start of the most biodiverse national park in the world! I am going to enjoy the next three months.
I look around each of the buildings. All of them are empty, some are old and some are new. One is a partially constructed large barn. The old ones are small, long rectangular wooden buildings with open doors. Looking inside each one it is clear that they haven't been occupied for a number of years yet there are still the signs of when people did live here. A stone fireplace is in the corner of one large room with metal cooking pots covered in dust and soot still there. Another dusty room still has a table and a broken chair. The new building is superb and has a few large photographs and information posters on the wall. Yet it is devoid of furniture and locked.
I follow a grassy pathway through some low bushes and find an obelisk. Upon it is a bust of a European man and a plaque dedicated to Dr Sven Errikson. Now the England football manager of an ill fated World Cup campaign had that name, maybe no the doctor bit, but this Sven is famed for having . . . . . .
The view from this vantage point really is awe inspiring, intersecting hills that are all covered with the dark green of cloud forest and a long valley leading to a cloud covered lowland in the far distance. A huge area that I know I will start to descend into tomorrow. I decide to camp here and erect the tent. Once that is done I go off and explore the area. Great Thrush and Cinnamon Flycatchers are along a dirt road that leads to a small roundabout with a tall flagpole. The Peruvian flag flutters and flaps noisily in the breeze.
I can see two small ponds in a depression near to some occupied wooden huts. I push through some scratchy bushes to see what birds might be on them and fabulously find an adult Least Grebe. In the fading light I watch as it dives and emerges just as any Little Grebe would do in Britain. The bird's neck seems longer though and the contrast of the blackish crown and the greyer face is pronounced. Now this really is a special bird to find at this altitude and the frustration of not having a working camera is compounded here. This is one bird that I would love to have photographic evidence for.

Green Year list : 276 birds

average new birds to list per day : 2.97 birds

altitude : 11,388 feet

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