What to Expect from Visiting Pongo de Manique, Peru

What to Expect from Visiting Pongo de Manique, Peru

Read an experience of traveling in the Pongo de Manique region of Southern Peru which might be helpful if you are thinking and visiting. It is difficult to put in to words the experience I had travelling through the Peruvian jungle by canoe. The lights, sounds and smells of the jungle were overwhelming and it was far too much to take in. 

There were even pink dolphins! I was fortunate enough to see two of them, racing eachother through the rapids, jumping out of the water every now and again, their perfectly formed backs allowing them to rise and fall in perfect arcs. We left them, flitting between the two worlds and returned to our own feeble attempts at te noise taking everything in. It was tha struck me he hardest. If we had all been stunned in to silence, why and how was there so much noise? A loud, continuous rustle from leaves all shapes, sizes and shades provided the back drop for the sound of the fast flowing river, the many different, high pitched songs of numerous species of bird, the clicking of insects and the creaking f the steering mechanism attached to the boat.

The leaves, I have never seen such diversity in any particular group. Some were so large, it would be easy to wrap yourself up in them and be completely hidden from view, others  were so tiny, they could have been mistaken for flower buds. On the rivers edge, the leaves were a fresh, bright green but look farther in to the depths of the jungle, where the sun couldn't quite reach and they looked almost black. This was the only place I had come across where it would be possible to step between the two states of day and night as one pleased.

The boat came to a stop alongside a clearing and we climbed out and clambered u thered, muddy bank. The trees surrounding the clearing proudly showed off leaves that resembled feather dusters, he trunks standing tall rather than slumped with the weight, seemingly metaphorical as well as literal. The clearing itself was made up of a brick red mud. A recent rain shower caused us to make loud popping sounds as we walked. Yet more noise to add to the ever growing natural orchestra. 

Walking underneath an umbrella of trees, we came face to face with a hill so steep it could have passed as a cliff side. We were on a narrow track and we had one choice: forwards or backwards. This was an exedition, we were there to explore so forwards it was. This proved to be easier said than done. The rain had turned the track in to a slide. It became a case of one step forward and two steps back. The locals who were travelling with us stood at the top laughing at the bundle of bruised and muddy bodies at the bottom. Taking t heir lead, we ran up the hill, catching hold of tree trunks to steady us as we fell. At the top, exhausted and covered in mud but light with the sense of achievement, we continued in single file, like an army of ants exploring unknown territory. 

The jungle provided some very strange smells. For the most part, it seemed to be a cross between freshly cut grass and a florist shop but sometimes, the smell of stagnant water wafted by and somehow, the sense of beauty that this place emanated was lost. Nothing however, could have prepared us for the strngth of the smell of citrus as we walked in to an orange plantation. The smell was so overpoweringly strong, so fresh that it actually burned. Eyes streaming, we attempted to focus on what we were being shown. Our guide was pointing to a fruit that resembled an  orange as we know it in nothing but colour. The shapes of these fruits were absurd. In Englan, we are so used to seeing oranges taking the shape of perfect sphers that we forget this is ost unnatural. These oranges, completely organic, were all different shapes; long, bumpy, elliptical, even curved. There wre certainl round ones amongst them but never too round, just natural. They were perfect.

Although it was a plantation and had therefore been specifically planted by humans, it as so refreshing to see something allowed to grow naturally, unaltered by man. It gave a strange sense of excitement nd all I wanted to do was run through these orange trees, arms out and singing as loud as I pleased. I did however, refrain and instead wandered calmly around, watching th way in which the dappled sunlight danced across the vintage green and brown patterned floor every time a tree swayed. There was no wind. A tree could only move if an animal or bird moved it. They were puppets, unable to do anything but watch the world go by in this uniue envionment. It made me happy that for once, it was the animals and not the humans that were taking advantage, controlling. A snake wound itself around one of the slender branches, a black, flexible stick falling down. I ran, irrationally panicking that every stick and branch was in fact a snake. Despite the beauty of this place, I momentarily forgot the joy I had felt at experiencing this wonder and the time to leave couldn't come quickly enough, even if it did mean adding a fresh coat of mud to the one that had already dried to my skin, sliding down that hill.

Back in the boat again I relaxed. Looking back, that seems strange because the boat was a very narrow canoe that sat low in the water and looked like it had seen better days. It even smelled rotten. Despite the humidity that radiated from the jungle, the water remained cold because it was shaded by an abundance of trees. A strip of sulight ran down the middle of the river, looking like a runway in the wider areas but the sun struggled to fight through the army of trees to shed light on the rest of the body of water.

As the air cooled, we made a move to set up camp. Pulling the boat right up out of the water so it wouldn't get swept away, we formed a line up the steep, grassy hill to create a human conveyor belt. Once all the luggage had been sent up, we stood at the top looking at what was to be our home for the next three days. There were more trees that had leaves like feather dusters, much to my delight because they allowed in so much more sunlight. In the place of mud, there was actual grass, albeit yellow but grass all the same. A loud squawking noise made us all jump in unison and three birds, standing taller than all of us, strutted out in to the clearing. It was quite a sight to behold. They were so colourful with red, bown, gold, bronze and orange feathers. Their beaks were bright orange and enormous. Inquisitively, they came over to inspect us, their bright yellow eyes looking us up and down, judging. We all stood stock still, trying ridiculously to convey the message to these creatures that we came in peace. Thankfully, they sauntered off back in to the wilderness. We never did find out what those birds were.

Once the tents were up in a circle, we sat around the fire watching the orange and yellow flames dancing in the cool air. We could hear the river, a good twenty foot below and the rustling of the trees whispering to one another. We could smell the citrus tang of the lemon trees nearby and hear the croaking of the frogs but everything was at a much slower pace. As the night closed in around us, we sat, huddled around the fire, two to a crate, telling stories in a world that time forgot.

 

By Laura Marzaroli

 

 

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