The wake up call was supposed to be at 5:30am but it rained so the wake up call was delayed until 6am. Thankfully it had stopped raining when we went for breakfast.
We went to the canopy walk which was made up of three towers each 30m tall with a bridge linking them. It was really tall. My heart sank when I realized that we had to climb all the way to the top. Gus told us to take our time. All the elderly folks asked me to go in front as they thought I would be faster than them. Little did they know. It was a good thing that I had practiced walking up stairs before the trip but it was still pretty tiring.
“Come on, you can do it,” the son called from the front. Easy for him to say. This guy hiked up mountains for his pastime.
Finally I reached the top and held up my arms in victory. I was panting but I did it.
There was another group at the canopy walk but because our group was bigger, we could stay in Tower 2 which was roomier. The bridge was pretty sturdy and did not shake much but I still felt a little scared walking on it. We were so high up that we were above most of the trees in the rainforest. So we had a pretty good view of the surrounding area. Even though it was no longer raining, it was still very cloudy. I could see the mist/steam rising from the rainforest.
The first bird we saw was also the one that came the closest to us. It was the Many-banded Aracari and was considered a medium-sized toucan. It landed on the cable above the bridge and stayed long enough for me to get a photo.
Gus and Siconda set up the equipment for bird watching. Siconda brought a very powerful telescope which had 45x zoom. It was so big and heavy that it had to be set on a tripod. Gus and Siconda would scan the area with binoculars and once they spotted something interesting, Gus would set up the telescope for us to take a look. I tried to look for the birds with my own eyes but I did not had any success.
The birds did not stay long in one place and sometimes by the time it was the third or fourth person’s turn to peek through the telescope, the bird had flown away. Using the telescope we were able to see many birds that our cameras could not pick up. For the first time on this trip, my 18x zoom camera felt inadequate.
Another many-banded aracari. This one was much further away and I was unable to make out the bird without the telescope. I had to push my camera’s zoom to its limits.
This was the Ivory-billed Aracari. It had a red patch on its chest unlike the many-banded aracari which had only yellow patches. The color around the ivory-billed aracari’s eyes was also red while the many-banded aracari’s was blue.
The toucans stayed for a longer time than other birds and we managed to see four of them together on the same tree. They were all ivory-billed aracari.
Then we saw the White-throated Toucan which had a white throat and yellow backside. Gus told us the toucans were a great favorite. Everybody liked them because they looked cute with their huge beaks but actually they were evil. “Evil!” Gus declared. Gus said that everybody thought the beaks were used for cracking open nuts but actually the beaks were made of a light spongy material. The beak was long so that the toucan could reach into the nests and eat the birds or their eggs. So the toucan was not a herbivore but an omnivore.
Gus told us a story of what happened to another guide on the canopy walk. In the guide’s group, there was a woman who had kept a parakeet as a pet. So she wanted very much to see a parakeet in the wild. Finally the guide found a parakeet which was entering a hole in a tree. So he quickly set up the telescope and called the woman over to take a look.
After looking through the telescope for a few seconds, the woman asked in a puzzled way, “Er, what am I supposed to be looking at?”
The guide raised his binoculars and realized with horror that a toucan had landed on the branch outside the hole and was pecking furiously into the hole. Peck peck peck peck! All the guide could see were clouds of feathers flying out of the hole. “The toucan is looking for fruits to eat,” the guide replied as he did not have the heart to tell the woman that her beloved parakeet was being murdered by a toucan.
That’s life I guess. I know the story was a bit morbid but the way Gus told it was really funny and we all laughed. “Hmm, I think I liked the toucan better after hearing the story,” the son mused.
I think this bird which looked like a thief with its black band across the eyes was called Gilded Barbet.
We saw two Yellow-headed Vultures soaring overhead. They were so high up that all we could see were their silhouettes. I wished they would land so that I could see them clearly.
I also spotted a blue dragonfly up on the tower. I wondered why did it fly up so high? There did not seem to be any reason other than “Because I can!”
Of course we saw much more birds like the Plum-throated Cotinga and the Paradise Tanagar, some monkeys and even a sloth. All these were too far to be photographed. I couldn’t even see them with my naked eye. Gus told us that it was a good thing we did not say “I want to see [insert name of animal]” as usually the rule was, if you said that, you would see every animal except that animal you wanted to see.
We stayed at the canopy walk until it was almost 10am. The activity level was dying down. Gus said that the activity level was highest in the mornings and evenings when it was cooler. In the afternoons when it was hot, the bugs would be active.
On the way back to the lodge, Gus showed us some red colony spiders. They were very small red spiders, no bigger than the fingernail on my little finger. Spiders tended to be solidarity creatures so what was interesting about these colony spiders was that they all lived and hunted together in the same web. They would work together in cooperation to tackle large preys or maintain their large web. Their web could stretch for as long as 2-3 meters.
We also saw this green lizard on our way back. It stayed motionless on the branch and stared at us blankly. Maybe it thought that if it stayed still, we would not notice it.
We reached the lodge at 11am. There were some snacks laid out on in the dining hall. There were bread, cheese, ham and tomatoes. I made a sandwich and went up to the bar above the dining hall. I ordered a Coca-Cola which came in this old fashion bottle. I think I deserved some reward for climbing up the stairs to the canopy walk. Besides I was alone and needed something comforting. I found a comfortable spot in the bar and did some reading. I finished my fourth book just before lunch.
After lunch, I started on the fifth book and read until it was 4pm. We gathered at the boathouse and found two yellow spotted amazon river turtles basking near the boathouse. One dived into the water the moment it heard us. When it realized that we were not going after it, it climbed back up the bank again.
We took the canoe up in Pilchicocha Lake and then up Orquidea Creek. Hardly anything was stirring and it felt really serene on the quiet lake.
Orquidea Creek was one of the small rivers that branched out from Pilchicocha Lake. It was surrounded by tall trees on all sides which blocked out the sunlight. The creek was narrow and could only accommodate one canoe at a time. It was very quiet and the only sound was the splashing of water from the paddling.
At the end of the creek, we got off the canoe and walked to a tower built around a tall kapok tree. More stairs to climb but it’s okay because this time the tower was not as tall as the canopy walk. Compared to the canopy walk, the steps were a little uneven.
The observation deck was situated among the branches. It felt cosy up on the top of the tree and I liked it more than the canopy walk despite all the flies buzzing around my head. We did not see many birds as in the morning. Gus said it was still too hot for much activity.
We stayed at the kapok tree tower until it was sunset. Then it was time to go as we had to make it back to the lodge before it gets totally dark. On the way back along Orquidea Creek, we saw some fishing bats. It was quite dim and all I could see were their grey ghostly shapes as they flew past the canoe.
It was dusk when we returned to Pilchicocha Lake. During dinner, Gus asked if any of us were interested in a night hike. Only the son was still raring to go. I was tired from all the climbing and besides, I had already bathed and the thought of getting all muddy and sweaty again did not appeal to me.
I went back to my cabin after dinner and noticed that the bottom of my feet were peeling badly. The whole sole was peeling and when I rubbed it, pieces of dead skin will fall away. There wasn’t any pain or bleeding and the skin peeled away easily. I wondered if it was because the rainforest was so damp. I felt like a snake shedding its old skin.
I lazed on the bed and read until it was time to sleep. It was a cold night again so I did not bother to turn on the ceiling fan.