Thursday, 14 May 2015

In to the Jungle

Having failed in my mission to meet Pacha Mama via the ancient inca methods of ceremonies and hallucinogenic plant forms, I decided it was time to revert to my old ways of getting close to Mother nature. As there is a serious lack of Welsh forestries in Peru, I had to settle for the Amazon.

You won’t find Chocachanta on the map. It’s 22 inhabitants are blissfully hidden in the misty amazonian cloud forest about 6 hours out of Cuzco. While everyone else headed North to Machu Pichu, I headed east, back over the Andes and down in to Kosnipata Valley and Manu National Park. Here in Chocachanta I would meet Jose, a 60 something year old who, as far as I could make out, has spent most of his life travelling the world studying insects. Jose is a Majorcan who settled here about 6 years ago. His friend and partner in crime is 30 something year old Paolo, from Barcelona, who joined him 2 years ago after coming for a short visit and accidentally falling in love with the place. Together they set up Reserva Tierra Linda. This would be my home for the next two days. 


I didn’t quite know what to expect when I arrived, but first I had to find the place. The ride over the Andes was a real treat. The tarmac ended after about an hour and I almost had the road to myself. Twisting through the glorious peruvian mountains I easily forgot the chaos of the Cusco traffic and the hoards of holiday makers that permanently frequented the city. This was more like it. The crowds and diesel fumes wonderfully replaced by fresh country air and livestock.

I found my way to Paucartambo, a small town on the edge of the Andes and here, after some debate with the locals I found myself being directed up another mountain track. I checked the map and it seemed I was going in the right general direction. The track got narrower and the obvious signs of landslides more frequent but all was well and I continued on my way safe in the knowledge that there was a town nearby. If I got lost I could always head back there for shelter for the night. 
About half an hour in, I found a landslide that covered most of the road. There was just enough room to sneak through by bike if I didn’t look down and so that’s just what I did. On the other side though, a lot of the road had been torn away and what was left looked precarious at best. I could possibly have made it through but I didn’t fancy my chances and without knowing what was coming next I decided to ride back down. I was sure there must be another way, otherwise how would supplies get through to the settlements on the other side. 

I was right. After Paucartambo was another town called Challabamba, and here I found the track I was looking for. Again I climbed and twisted through the mountains, crossing streams and muddy patches until I arrived at the entrance of
the rainforest. Sprawled out before me in a relentless blanket of green, filling the valley and the surrounding mountains below was the Amazon. It was magnificent.

I began my decent down the narrow dirt track, with no real idea how far Chocachanta was. Everytime I saw someone I stopped and asked. Each time I got a different answer. The longer I rode the further away people would tell me it was! Did it really exist? There was clearly nothing else down this road but jungle. If I kept going and found nothing, I would have a long ride back up and if I lost the light I would be well and truly stuffed with no headlight and a drop that would not forgive any mistakes. 

I continued for two hours, deeper in to the jungle and further in to awesome riding territory. This road was spectacular. It was just as exciting and beautiful as Death Road in Bolivia and yet no one was talking about it. Why had no one told me about this place before? It seemed, judging by the lack of traffic and particularly holiday makers, that no one knew about it! This place should be full of adventure riders and thrill seekers but not a single one! This made it even more special and I felt I was riding in to some lost world! 

As the road flattened out I saw my first building and a white haired man stood outside. As I slowed , he waved and I realised that it was Jose coming to greet me. I’d found him! 

Jose’s house was amazing. A wooden building filled with trinkets and glass encased insects from all over the world. Beatles, butterflies, stick insects and wonderfully colourful moths of all shapes and sizes. All beautifully preserved and catalogued. His garden was designed to attract them and his whole life clearly revolved around them. Jose IS the insect man of the Amazon! 

After an hour or so, Paolo turned up with two other people from Cusco. I was told to leave my bike here as the track to the lodge was extremely hard going. I considered insisting that it would be fine but decided to take their advice on this occasion and go in the truck. After all I had no idea what was coming up. 

The 4km to the lodge took us the best part of an hour to cover. It really was dense jungle and although there was a track, it was extremely rocky and the jungle would not be held back for anyone. It would have been quicker to walk! It was dark by now and I was surprised when the track ended at a river and Pablo announced that we had arrived! It had been raining for the past few hours and the river ahead of us was flowing fairly quickly. It seemed we were to cross the river by foot with our luggage. 

Paolo lent me some wellies but they were soon full of water as I tried and failed to find the shallowest parts with my torch. Once safely on the other side we were greeted by a small dog, about 6 months old. He belonged to Paolo and apparently lived here in the jungle as his companion. I was impressed that they both slept out here alone! I’m not sure I would be so brave! Not only does this jungle have Puma’s and Jaguars but also poison frogs and snakes not to mention the indigenous tribes and drug runners who also frequent the jungle. It may be a big jungle but I would hate to meet with any of them in the dead of the night on my own with only a small sausage shaped puppy to protect me! 

That night I slept on the open platform in my sleeping bag with a mosquito net for cover. The only sound was the flowing river nearby and the insects. It was a peaceful night. I slept like a log. 

I awoke early as usual and took a wonder around before getting a lift back to my bike and heading down some tracks to see what I could find. What a great day. There are 3 settlements down here and they were all very friendly. I needed oil for my chain and found someone tinkering with his bike outside his house. By now I had learnt the Spanish for “chain” and “oil” and so he pottered in and came back out with a little oil can. I held the bike on its side while he did the honours. He would not take any money. 

The jungle is beautiful and the area is mostly undisturbed by tourists, although I did spot a couple of higher end lodges nestled in some of the most beautiful spots. I guess if you have money you can come and stay here in luxury. You can take a guide, have hot running water and no doubt keep your feet dry. I don’t have the option but I
loved the roughness of my visit. I enjoyed washing in the river and sleeping in the open with no electricity. It was a beautiful experience.

My ride back was just as magnificent as the ride in and I would highly recommend a visit if you find yourself with a motorbike and some spare time in Cusco! Get out of the city and expensive tourist attractions and head for the jungle. You won’t regret it! The ride over may be long but it is up there for me as one of the best roads I have travelled. 

Thanks so much to Paolo and Jose for having me as their guest and I look forward to seeing your new project growing and flourishing over the coming years.


If you would like to join these guys at the lodge and maybe offer some help in their conservation work in one of the most biodiverse parts of the world then you can find them here www.reservatierralinda.com


















20 comments:

  1. Well done, keep going, stay safe. Nice shots, boring questions in the context of yours travels but how are Rhonda tyres holding I have to buy some for mine, so a true review would be great! 😉

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tim. Well mostly I use Metzler Enduro 3s. They have lasted better than any other I have tried. I did put on Heidenau's just before I left Australia and I'm still on the same front. It doesn't even look worn but the back one was very disappointing and I am back on the Metzlers for the back.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the feedback Steph, I am going to try the ME3s. Stay Safe!

      Delete
  2. Hi,
    I have been following you for a wile. I am captivated by your adventure. Could you please paste a Google map link one in a wile. That would help me set my bearings.
    Also, I always wondered how much this is costing you per month as I wonder how long I would survive this way if I ever quit my job :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I just notice your Vlog with you position so forget about my first request. However, I am still interested in your daily survival tricks.
    What do you bring to eat, what do you do to alleviate the risk of running out of gas in the middle of the jungle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I'll do a post soon with info I think you might like xx

      Delete
  4. Pete Jennings-Bates15 May 2015 at 10:49

    Steph - that is one of the best of your blogs. Fantastic photos too. Wonderful and inspiring. It is great to know that after 14 months of your journey you are still finding places and roads that make you feel like that. The power of discovery and adventure is an amazing thing. Thank you for showing us all what a great place planet Earth is. I think you have just awoken my hunger to get out there, somewhere, anywhere! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed it Pete Bog. See you soon honey xxx

      Delete
  5. Good day Steph, seem to have a problem with Google! Not sure if my original post was published so here goes again.
    I too have been following you since I saw you at the show in London before you left. Great! I would also like to hear a bit about budgets, as I intend setting off sometime, but at my age 64, need to watch the costs more than the youngsters. Rob

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rob.
      I'll do a post soon to give you an rough idea and it will only be rough but to be honest you really just need to work out your budget first and go from there. Everyone spends massively different amounts.

      Delete
  6. Another colourful and well written posting Steph', along with some great images to illustrate ... thanks a heap, as it made a dull day at work (reading during my lunch break), a lot brighter ...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Good on you Steph , doing the dream , 3 weeks since we met you on the Salt Flats ! Back home and back in the Hum Drum . Enjoy your time travelling . It's the only thing worth doing . Dr Rob with Big Adventure Co X

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow seems like longer now Rob! So much has happened since then!

      Delete
  8. G'day Steph,
    What a wonderful trip you are doing.
    When you have the time, can you make a list of the repairs and broken parts of your bike please. That would be great to see how this little bike goes on a trip of this magnitude.
    I hope that everything goes very well for you.
    Cheers from Sydney
    Rouli from Chile originally

    ReplyDelete
  9. Steve from West Sussex29 May 2015 at 13:30

    Hi Steph, great write up and photos. It's brilliant you are still loving the trip! Take care Steve

    ReplyDelete
  10. Steph, I am reading your writings for the first time. But i found that you have a quality inside you. My suggestion to you will be that don't stop writing. just keep writing.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Another entertaining and informative posting Steph' ... Along with wonderful images to illustrate, it put some colour and inspiration back into a dull early winter dinner-time break at work. Many thanks ... and keep 'em coming x

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great story telling.I really enjoy each adventure!I am rooting for you all the way!I admire your spirit!Ride on Steph! Drew

    ReplyDelete
  13. Amazing beautiful place ! Nice story and amazing experience you had there, thanks for sharing !

    ReplyDelete