Machu Picchu Pre-Trip
Friday, January 6, 2012
Fly from Houston at 3:10 PM. Arrive in Lima, Peru, at 10:45 PM. Leave customs at 12:15 AM and drive to our hotel, the Sonesta
Hotel El Olivar in San Isidro. Bed by 1:45 AM.
Sonesta Hotel el Olivar, Lima
Our room at the Sonesta Hotel el Olivar
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Up at 8:00 AM, leisurely breakfast in the dining room. 10:00 AM Brad and I birded El Olivar Grove Park (across the street from
Bosque el Oliver Parque
11:50 AM left the park and walked around the municipality San Isidro. 12:30 PM spent time relaxing on the roof deck
of the Sonesta. Lunch in our room. Took a city tour of Lima which included some nearby Incan ruins, a stop at the Plaza San
Martin, the Plaza Mayor, the Iglesia de San Francisco, and the catacombs in the church's convent area.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
|Plaza San Martin
||Iglesia de San Francisco
This was the first scheduled day of the tour. Up at 4:15 AM. Breakfast at 5:00 AM in the lobby area followed by a drive to Jorge
Chávez International Airport which is located in Callao about 6 miles from Lima's City Center. Fly to Cuzco from 8:15 to 9:15 AM.
The weather in Lima was hot and humid with temperatures in the 80's. Cuzco was overcast with intermittent rain and temperatures in
the low 60's. Our main goal during the rest of the morning and early afternoon was to bird the Laguna Huacarpay area. The altitude
adjustment period from Lima's sea level to Cuzco's 11,203 feet was inadequate. Running around chasing birds was difficult at this altitude.
The high Andean lakes and marshes found at Huacarpay are about a thirty minute drive from Cuzco. Our group made the trip in a small bus
(Manu Expeditions). Huacarpay is an excellent spot to view species of the high Andean environs. However, most birds were quite a distance
away, and a scope was necessary. The endemic Bearded Mountaineer was not seen. Manu Expeditions served us a picnic lunch around 1:40 PM.
After lunch, we continued birding until around 2:25 PM when birds sighting levels dropped. We stopped at the pre-Columbian Kanaracay
Huari Archaeological Ruins which are located on the shore of Huacarpay Lake. From here we continued on down the Urubamba Valley driving
along the Urubamba River to our hotel, the Sonesta Posadas del Inca Sacred Valley in Yucay (elevation: 9,000 feet). This country inn is a former
18th century monastery that has been converted into an 87 room hotel with modern-day conveniences. The old colonial architecture has
been preserved along with a traditional chapel.
|Sonesta Posadas del Inca Sacred Valley, Yucay
After a quick settling-in period, our group birded around the hotel grounds 5:00-6:00 PM.
Dinner in the hotel's Inkafe Restaurant offered Novoandean and international cuisine that included cuy and alpaca. Bed by 10:30 PM.
Monday, January 9, 2012
Up 8:00 AM. Brad and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the hotel's restaurant. We birded the hotel grounds from 9:30 AM until 12:15 PM.
We sat on the hotel's veranda and drank some Mate de Coca, a tea that local's say is equivalent to asprin and helps with altitude sickness.
Lunch in our room, followed by a siesta. Dinner at 7:00 PM, bed by 9:30 PM.
Tuesday, January 10 ,2012
Up at 5:00 AM. Breakfast at 5:45 AM. Depart from our hotel, the Sonesta Posadas del Inca Sacred Valley in Yucay, for the Ollantaytambo
Train Station by bus. Board the Hiram Bingham (Vistadome) Train for our journey through the Sacred Valley of the Incas at 7:10 AM for the
1.5 hour trip to Machu Picchu Pueblo (Aguas Calientes) at an elevation of 6,690 feet. We birded by train throughout the trip.
Arrived in Aguas Calientes just after 8:00 AM. Our luggage was loaded on a cart by several porters and pushed up a hill and across a bridge
to our hotel, Inkaterra Hotel Machu Picchu Pueblo.
|Hotel Inka Terra
This colonial-style ecolodge has 15 acres of cloud forest with garden areas connected by
hand-hewn stone pathways. The food at the coSy Café Inkaterra was excellent. Orchid gardens on the grounds contain over 300 different species
(several were in bloom while we were there). Unfortunately, the hotel's effort to improve the gardens with 'show foliage' has decreased the
number of native species foraging on the grounds....species that used to be there aren't. We enjoyed some of the quirkiness of the hotel
such a guest slippers that are made from recycled used tires! Overall, this is a lovely, quiet place with beautiful grounds and good food.
The fireplace with its roaring fire was a plus. After snacks and iced tea, we birded the hotel's grounds from 9:15 AM until 11:00 AM. We
headed back into town where we boarded a bus to take us up the Hiram Bingham road to the Machu Picchu ruins (elevation 7,970 feet) where
we enjoyed a tasty buffet lunch of Andean Cuisine at Café Inkaterra. The restaurant is located within a building that is constructed in
the Amazonian style. It is high in the cloud forest at the foot of Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. Café Inkaterra belongs to INKATERRA, a Peruvian
organization that has been involved with preserving and reappraising Peru's culture and natural heritage for the last thirty years. After
lunch we spent the remainder of the afternoon birding and visiting the ruins at Machu Picchu.
Crowds tend to thin out as the day progresses, so we weren't viewing the sites amid hordes of tourists.
We were on the last bus that left and got back to the hotel at 6:15 PM. Birds at 7:00 PM followed by a leisurely dinner and bed by 10:00 PM.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Up at 6:00 AM. Breakfast at 6:30 AM. Bird some of the acreage around our hotel, the Inkaterra Hotel Machu Picchu Pueblo, located in the
Urubamba Valley from 7:00-10:30 AM. Pack up and spend some free time birding in the courtyard. Leave for lunch around 12:30-2:30 PM at the
Indio Feliz Machu Picchu Restaurant in Aguas Calientes.
Indio Feliz Machu Picchu Restaurant
The franco-Peruvian cuisine was excellent and the relaxing and colorful environment
was enjoyable. Spent 2:30-3:00 PM shopping at a local handicraft market located adjacent to the PeruRail passenger train station. Nice variety
of goods...silver, alpaca, and mate de coca tea bags. Boarded train for 3:20 departure for Ollantaytambo. The train ride back was interesting
even if we felt like part of a captive audience (WE WERE). The train's porters put a show of doing lively traditional dances in the aisle in
costume. After a snack, the better looking male/female porters put on a fashion show selling various upscale (high priced) alpaca clothing.
Well, it helped pass the time. It was more interesting watching the tourists and how they behaved. Arrived in Ollantaytambo after 5:00 PM.
From here, we caught a bus that took us to Cuzco. The winding, mountainous roads were slow going, and traffic was heavy. We arrived at
our hotel, the Hotel Novotel, around 7:45 PM.
|Hotel Novotel, Cuzco
The fumes from the traffic along the way to Cuzo and in Cuzo were heavy and unpleasant. Brad
and I (think everyone else except our VENT guide went to bed) had a late buffet dinner and were in bed by 10:00 PM.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Up at 6:00 AM. Late breakfast at 7:00 AM. Leave for airport at 8:00 AM for a 10:30 AM flight to Lima. Arrived in Lima around noon. Drive to
our hotel, the Sonesta Hotel El Olivar in San Isidro. Arrive at 1:30. Brad and I enjoyed a leisurely...delicious lunch...at the hotel's
restaurant. We spent the remainder of the afternoon birding in El Olivar Grove Park across the street from the hotel. After birding, we took
a local's advice and walked over to the El Jardin de Esculturas designed by Marina Nuńez del Prado (1910-1995) to show off her larger
sculptures out of polished black granite in a natural outdoor environment. It was worth the stop.
|Sculpture Garden, Lima
Dinner at 7:00 PM in the hotel's
restaurant. Bed at 10:00 PM.
Friday, January 13, 2012
Up at 6:30 AM with breakfast at 7:00 AM in the Sonesta Hotel El Olivar's restaurant. Bird El Olivar Grove Park with the group while waiting
for second VENT guide to arrive (he got in by the end of the day from Venezuela and didn't make the Pucusana part of the trip).
Friday, January 13, 2012
Leave for birding trip around 9:00 AM and head southward to wetlands at Pantanos de Villa Marshes (Refugio de Vida Silvestre).
The wetlands were a forty minute drive from our hotel in Miraflores and were a safe enjoyable place to bird with over 150 reported species of breeding and
migratory birds. The Many-colored Rush Tyrant, a juvenile Great Grebe, Gray-hooded Gull, and Chestnut-throated Seedeater were notable
species. Around 11:35 AM we left the area and drove to a beach near the Club Garza Real for some additional birding. Belcher's (Band-tailed)
Gull, Sandwich, Elegant, and Royal Terns along with Peruvian Pelicans and Boobies were some of the species that we enjoyed watching on/near
the shoreline. We had a picnic lunch in the bus before heading on to Pucusana at 1:45 PM. Arrived in Pucusana at 2:30 PM. The Humboldt
Current (Peruvian Current) helps make the waters adjacent to the Peruvian coast one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world.
The coastal upwelling in this area is characterized by deep and cold waters where phytoplankton thrive. The food chain starts with the
phytoplankton with birds and mammals at the top end. The Peruvian area of the Pacific Ocean supports large colonies of seabirds.
Pucusana provids a wonderful selection of sea birds that breed on its cliffs and offshore islands. After birding atop some cliffs
overlooking Pucusana and the bay, we took a semi-pelagic tour around the bay and nearby islands.
Pucusana - semi-pelagic tour
Guanay and Red-legged Cormorants, Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes, Humboldt Penguin, Blackish Oystercatcher, and Inca Tern were notable species.
Left this area around 5:00 PM and headed back to Lima after a full day of visiting and birding some excellent marshy areas,
the cold nutrient rich waters of the Pacific Ocean around Pucusana,
and a good cross-section of the Atacama Desert of western Peru. Back at hotel by 6:40 where we enjoyed tea/coffee and
snacks in the lobby (a nightly ritual there) and dinner at 7:15 PM. Bed at 10:00 PM.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Up at 6:00 AM followed by a 6:30 AM breakfast in the lobby. Leave for Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima at 7:45 AM. Temperatures
in Lima were in the low 80's with partly cloudy skies and high humidity. Fly from Lima to Iquitos, Peru (10:20-12:30 AM), aboard LAN.
Nice views of cloud shrouded Andes. Comfortable flight with a good snack. Arrived in Iquitos to quite a weather change: pouring rain,
wind, and temperatures in the low 70's. Took a bus to a boat launch on the Itaya River. Here we boarded a motorboat (with a thatched
roof) that took us to the Fire and Ice (Al Frio y Al Fuego) Restaurant, an upscale floating restaurant located in the middle of the
|Al Frio y Al Fuego Restaurant
The restaurant is covered by a thatched roof, the dining area is open to the elements, and our meal was grilled/cooked on the
same level where we were seated. The restaurant afforded good views of the area and several interesting species of birds such as the
Large-billed Tern. Too bad it was raining....I would have enjoyed a dip in their outdoor swimming pool! After lunch we headed to the
port in Iquitos where we boarded our ship, the Aquamarina, at 3:45 PM.
We spent the next week touring the Amazon and its tributaries, aboard the Aquamarina.
Amazon River Cruise Expedition Map
The ship has a shallow draft that pretty much allowed us to go where ever we wanted to to bird. We birded from the open
upper deck until we got a room assignment. After unpacking and getting settled we returned to the upper deck. Departure was delayed
(for some reason), and we didn't get off until dusk. However, watching people on some closely berthed tour ships helped pass the
time until dinner at 7:00 PM. Bed at 9:30 PM.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Our ship traveled along the Amazon in a southwesterly direction during the night with a mid night anchorage somewhere below the
junction of the Rio Marańón River. Up at 5:00 AM with breakfast at 5:30 AM. Our VENT guides divided us into two groups; each
boarded a different skiff. Steve Hilty (VENT) took one group and David Ascanio (VENT) the other.
We were with David and enjoyed a full morning of wonderful birding.
A local guide was also present on each skiff (Segundo the more memorable of the two).
Early morning birding, starting at 6:00 AM, was done along a small tributary (Tapara Creek) of the Amazon below the main
Ucayali-Marańón junction. Around 10:00 AM we headed back to Aquamarina for a rest stop. 10:20 AM left for more birding. However,
this time the entire group boarded our skiff because the other skiff had motor problems. Continued birding until just before
noon when we headed in for lunch which was followed by a siesta. With both skiffs operational, we headed out for more birding
from 3:30-6:00 PM. Most of the afternoon outing was spent in early successional vegetation (Tessaria, Salix, Gynerium
Got our first look at a river island specialist, the Buff-breasted Spinetail, along Yarapa Creek.
The flat bottomed skiffs afforded us excellent mobility in the water
with a minimum of noise intrusion (engines were quiet). These skiffs also allowed members of the group to move around on board to
align themselves for photographing or viewing birds in an uncrowed environment (we were not assigned a seat or in a 'one person
fixed seat'. Return from birding around 5:30 PM followed by bird list at 6:30 PM . Dinner at 7:00 PM. Bed at 9:30 PM.
Monday, January 16, 2012
Up at 4:45 AM with breakfast at 5:30 AM. Depart for an early morning birding trip at 6:00 AM along a small south bank
tributary, Yarapa Creek, of the Rio Ucayali. Returned to the ship around 8:45 AM for a short break leaving again
at 9:10 AM. It turned out to be a morning full of parrots/parakeets: White-winged Parakeets, Tui Parakeets, Orange-cheeked Parrots,
Short-tailed Parrots, along with Blue-headed, Festive, and Mealy Parrots. This served as an excellent introduction to the diversity
of parakeets and parrots of western Amazonia. Returned to ship at 11:30. Villagers boarded the ship to sell local wares.
Lunch at 12:00 PM followed by a siesta until 3:30 PM (in our air conditioned room). Temperatures were in the low 90's with very
humid conditions during the late afternoon expedition. During the mid-day the Aquamarina relocated up river, and we spent
the afternoon on Carocurahuayter Creek, a small north bank tributary of the Ucayali. Finished birding and returned to the ship by
6:00 PM with birds at 6:30 PM followed by dinner at 7:00. Bed at 9:30 PM. Aquamarina continued up the Ucayali River, and we anchored
close to Supay Creek (not far below the city of Requena). Steve and Segundo were our guides for the day. Our local guide,
Segundo, was well-known along the river...especially among the ladies! He was well-educated and knew the area and its flora
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Up at 4:45 AM with breakfast at 5:30 AM. Started birding at 6:00 AM. Spent the morning birding the upper Amazon's Supay Creek
area. Seven Woodpecker species including Yellow-tufted, Little, Spot-breasted, Ringed, Lineated, Crimson-crested, and a Plain-breasted
Piculet were seen. A pair of cute Yellow-crowned Brush-tailed Tree-Rats was enjoyed by all. David was our guide for the
day. He was very patient and was more than willing to get everyone on 'the bird'. Returned to the Aquamarina for a morning break
around 8:45 AM. Left for additional birding at 9:25 AM. Continued birding until 11:15 AM when we returned to the Aquamarina for
lunch. Birded from the upper deck of the ship during heavy rain after lunch. Took a short siesta. Just after 4:00 PM, we headed
out for some late afternoon birding along Fosec Creek which is located about 30 minutes upriver from the city of Requena. Took
a lengthy boat ride along a river island to look for Red-bellied Macaws. Found a colony coming in to roost in a dying Moriche
Palm grove. On our return trip at dusk to the Aquamarina, we found Hoatzins that were coming (floundering) in to roost. This is a
sluggish, ungainly, clumsy bird that only flies short distances...it made quite a scene when it landed. Back at the ship by
6:10 PM followed by doing the bird list and then dinner at 7:00 PM. Bed at 10:00 PM.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Up at 4:45 AM with breakfast at 5:30 AM. The ship was now several hours above the town of Requena Start birding via our skiffs
by 6:00 AM along S(Z)apote Creek. This pristine site offered us 17 species of raptors in addition to sloths and Squirrel Monkeys.
Our VENT guide for the day was Steve. Returned to the Aquamarina for a morning break around 8:35 AM. Birded for awhile from the
upper deck. Saw Chestnut-bellied and Lesson's Seedeaters plus and unknown female seedeater. Left for more birding at 9:18 AM along
Sapote Creek. Birded along the edge of Peru's Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. On our way back to the ship for lunch we were
met by a group of Amerindian women and children who waded out from the shore to show us the native hand crafted goods that they
had for sale.
Amerindian Women & Children
After lunch and a siesta, we headed out at 4:00 PM to bird downstream from the Ucayali River along El Dorado Creek.
We were back aboard the ship by 6:30 PM after racing back during a torrential downpour. A metal boat was not the place to be in the
open water with thunder and lightening and heavy rain. Think everyone got soaked even though we took advantage of using the ponchos
provided on board the skiff. Hung our wet clothes outside to dry. We were able to put them in the laundry the next morning, the last
morning it was available. Dinner was served by 7:30 PM after the group completed the daily bird list. Bed at 9:30 PM.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Up at 4:40 AM with breakfast at 5:30 AM. Left for birding along Yanallpa Creek at 6:00 AM. It turned out to be a very birdy morning
with a long, close look at a Ladder-tailed Nightjar. We saw Scarlet Macaws flying overhead, Black-and-white Antbirds, Yellow-crested
Tanagers, the amazing Amazonian Umbrellabird, Varzea Schiffornis and a Point-tailed Palmcreeper. Other highlights included Saddleback
Tamarin Monkeys in the river edge forest canopy and a very compliant Green Caiman Lizard. By 10:30 AM we were headed back to the
Aquamarina where we continued to bird from the upperdeck until lunch. Then we took a much needed siesta. One of three options for the
afternoon were open to us: birding, going on a fishing trip (piranhas), or visiting a native community. Brad and I chose to spend
the later part of the afternoon (3:30 PM until dusk) with our VENT guide, Steve, birding at the junction of the Marańon and Ucayali
Rivers near some river island areas. Enjoyed watching the local boats, pici pici(s), with their lawnmower engines that are used
to transport local people up and down the river. Returned to the Aquamarina at 5:30 PM for dinner at 6:30 followed by owling until
8:20 PM. This turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. We saw two Great Potoos, a Striped Owl, a Pauraque, and a Ladder-tailed
Nightjar. Giant Waterlilies, a Snail-eating snake, bats, fire flies,and a young Green Iguana completed the outing. Bed at 10 PM.
One thing worth mentioning is that during our morning outing Brad photographed a Scale-breasted Woodpecker. However, what he shot
turned out to be a Lafresnaye's Picculet. WHOOPS!
Friday, January 20, 2012
Up at 4:45 AM with breakfast at 5:30 AM. Left for birding at 6:00 AM near the village of El Tucan (about 15 minutes above the town
of Nauta) on a private reserve. This was the only time we birded on terra firma. Conditions were not ideal. After heavy rains two
days earlier, the steep slopes were very slippery, and the entire area was covered...blanketed by millions of hungry mosquitoes.
To top it all off, birds were few and far between. Even though it was hot and humid, Brad and I covered up as much as we could and
didn't get bit. Owl butterflies, a Cicada Nest or two, a Dart Poison Frog, and a Leaf Toad kept us occupied. Segundo, our local
guide, really knew the area and had lots of interesting tidbits to impart and help pass the time. Headed back to the Aquamarina for
lunch at noon. We took a siesta until 3:00 PM. Since it started to rain around lunch time and was still going strong at 4:00 PM,
it was decided to head up to the harbor area in Iquitos where we spent the night until disembarking the next morning. Our final
shipboard evening consisted of entertainment provided by Johnnie and the Howling Monkeys, a band comprised of crew members, dancing and
crew member introductions, final bird list, dinner, good byes and photos. Bed at 10:00 PM.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Up at 6:30 AM. Pack. Breakfast at 8:00 AM. Disembark ship at 10:00 AM and board a bus that took us on a quick tour of the city of
Iquitos before heading to the airport for a flight back to Lima. Driving through Iquitos on market day was interesting. Lots of
people, lots of activity, and lots of new things to watch. Fly from Iquitos at 12:20 PM arriving in Lima at 1:30 PM. After clearing
customs, etc. drove to the Sonesta Posada del Inca Hotel el Olivar in San Isidro where we had dinner at 6:00 PM and a room until
our departure at 12:05 AM for Houston on Sunday, January 22, 2012.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Arrived home at 8:00 AM.