SOUTHERN PERU. FOURTH PART: CUSCO - BOCA MANU – PUERTO MALDONADO

This jungle section is hardly visited by tourists, mainly because the means of transportation to get there are scarce. Here awaits one of the most biodiverse gems of the planet: the Manu National Park (where, in addition, some researchers believe that the true lost city of the Incas must be found...).  Unfortunately, (practically) the only way to enter this park is by hiring a tour in Cusco, being the price to pay too much for the backpacking budget...

 

You can try to get some local to take you in his boat from Boca Manu, but even then it will not be easy, since you will be required a permit obtained in Cusco (at least in theory). However, even without entering the Park, the incursion into this corner of the planet will be unforgettable, full of adventures, contact with the culture of the jungle and sighting of many animals. Even experiencing humidity is a unique experience! You can do it on your own, using combis (small buses), mototaxis, hitchhiking, and, in the final part, begging for a boat ride (see Note 1 below). Be careful and do not get too far out of the way, lest some wild animal devour you (or some indigenous tribe consider you a threat). This is the route I did:

 

  • Paucartambo

  • Pillcopata

  • Salvación

  • Shintuya and Edén

  • Boca Manu

  • Puerto Maldonado

 

Note 1. Once you get to Edén the only way to travel is by river. To get to Boca Manu, the only option is for a merchant to take you. Make a deal can work (help or money in exchange for transportation).

Note 2. An alternative option to enter the National Park is to volunteer for several months. If you have plenty of time and are passionate about nature, do not hesitate to try it!

Paucartambo

This pretty village in a valley next to a river is at the end of the mountains and the beginning of the jungle. Good stop to enjoy its colonial architecture, its river and landscapes. About 40 km north is the Tres Cruces Viewpoint, the only place in Peru from which you can see the rising sun. Just after that, the definitive descent to the Amazon Basin begins (first eyebrow of the jungle, then pure jungle), changing the brown for the green and all the species that these ecosystems shelter. Congratulations, you have set foot in the jungle adventure!

Pillcopata

Near the border between the departments of Cusco and Madre de Dios is this small and interesting jungle community. You can visit on foot a small native community of traditional houses called Santa Rosa de Huacaria, where its people live basically from hunting, agriculture and crafts. According to my experience they are not very open to foreigners, though. A few kilometers from Pillcopata, on the way to Atalaya, is "Dos Loritos", a Wild Animal Rescue Center. It is very worth going because the conditions in which the animals are found are excellent, in the middle of the jungle. When I went, I saw several macaws, a peccary family, a couple of capuchin monkeys, a sloth, a coati, and a baby crocodile. In addition, the worker took me on a small expedition through the jungle and showed me an anteater.

Salvación

The first town you will find in the Madre de Dios department is Salvación. Besides enjoying the local culture, you can visit the wonderful Cocha Machuwasi (cocha means lake), a short walk from the town. Great for avifauna sighting. There is a path through which you can walk in search of additional fauna. Also, if there is a local out there maybe can give you a boat ride on the lake.

 

Note. The creation of the Manu National Park is celebrated here with great enthusiasm at the end of May. Very cool activities are carried out: talks, poetry, parades, children's dances, etc.

Shintuya and Edén

They are the last two communities that can be reached by land before getting on a boat bound for Boca Manu. Chatting with the inhabitants, tasting the local gastronomy and bathing and strolling along the river are the wonderful activities you can do.

Boca Manu

A very Amazonian village, elevated on the banks of the Madre de Dios River. This remote place is located at the entrance gate to the Manu National Park. Its charming inhabitants are the main attraction for the traveler, with whom she/he will probably share and have interesting conversations. If you know someone who is going to go up the river to the Park (or in another direction, every boat ride is worth it!) ask him to take you there. There are also a couple of beautiful cochas (lakes) just a few kilometers away from the town, where you can enjoy an unparalleled peace.

Puerto Maldonado

The capital of the Madre de Dios department does not stand out for its beauty... It is ugly, hot, full of cars and smoke. However, not all are disadvantages. To begin with, it must be said that not every day you are visiting a big city in the middle of the Amazon. It is beautifully located, at the confluence of the Madre de Dios and Tambopata rivers, close to the Tambopata National Reserve, which can be visited with a tour. It is connected by road to Cusco (about 8h) and Juliaca/Puno (about 10h).

 

I went to Puno. It was time to visit Lake Titicaca, although I chose to do it on the Bolivian side. To continue reading click here.

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