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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
6-go-birding to Northern Peru with Inkanatura, 23 August 2006 to 14th September 2006,
Lulus Tody Tyrant
Each day the birds are listed in the order they were seen and will only occasionally be mentioned again regardless of how many are seen during any day. The first sighting of any bird is in bold type. Sightings of other beasts appear in italics, bold for the first sighting.
Wednesday 23rd August 2006
The rain kept off until we reached Heathrow and was then dry and sunny but cloudy during the journey.
Having checked our luggage in we found the queue for security clearance (heightened security after the bomb alerts) had diminished and we got through quite quickly. We had to go through security again but it wasn’t a problem because Madrid had not implemented the small hand baggage rules that applied at Heathrow. We went through the bird list, looking at the pictures, during the flight.
We landed at 17.15, local time, 15 minutes early.
Lima airport had changed since our last visit. It was all new, very smart and efficient. We were met by a girl and a driver and later picked up Ophelia, who we had met before, on our way to the Hotel Sonesta Posada El Olivar.
We all had a quick wash and change before meeting downstairs for a Pisco Sours on Inkanatura. Geoff, Mary Peter & Judith had more Pisco Sours but Joan and Richard opted for Mushroom soup in the restaurant. We were all to bed by 9.30pm
Thursday 24th August 2006
Start as we mean to go on, up at 3.00am for breakfast at 3.30 and pick up at 4am. Ophelia took us to the airport for the Chiclayo flight LAN318 at 6.30am; the flight was full and we left on time, arriving at Chiclayo at 7.45am.
We were met by Patricia Vargas (the local Inkanatura manager) and Maritza Bada (the archaeological guide). It was a short run to the Gran Hotel Chiclayo and we were soon in our rooms and seeing our first birds, there were Black Vulture circling over the town and Eared Dove preening on the hotel balcony rails. We had a bit of a sort out and then variously occupied ourselves, G & M slept; J & P sat by the pool and J & R walked to the cathedral. Patricia told us not to take any valuables with us, such as cameras, as there was a lot of robbery and other problems might arise. There were lots of Groove-billed Ani in the Plaza de Armas outside the cathedral.
We met Fernando Angulo, our bird guide, at 11.00 and he went through our planned tour using the maps we were given in our welcome pack in Lima. We left in the bus, with Fernando, about noon, and drove to the Restaurant Fiesta, where we had a superb meal, accompanied by a display of the local dance called the Marinera. Starters were Ceviche made with the juice of small local lemons called Tiradito with sweet potato, squid and prawns cut in tiny pieces served in a scallop shell with a hot chilli sauce (ají), an omelette/tortilla with dried ray (skate) (chinguirito), potatoes with a sweet pepper and cheese sauce, maize meal dumplings with sweet corn, meat and fish. We had several different sorts of bread with all this. The Main Course consisted of Duck with coriander (cilantro) rice and a green sauce flavoured with coriander and Cabrito (young goat) with yuca. Desert then followed – meringue (merengue in Spanish; the Peruvian name means ‘Lima young girls sigh’), quince jelly and pancakes with a creamy caramel sauce.
We left at 2pm for Túcumé, having changed guides from Fernando to Maritza, which is 20km north of Chiclayo, where we visited a site of Lambayeque culture. On the way we saw Blue-and-White Swallow, Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret and Turkey Vulture.
The Lambayeque Culture (750-1350AD) developed after the Moche (200BC-850AD) had disappeared to the mountains following a series of disastrous El Niño events. The Chimú Culture, from farther south, was contemporary with the Lambayeque Culture but the two were not related even though each must have been aware of the other. At Túcumé there are a total of 26 adobe (mud brick) pyramids in a large area, we were to look at three adjacent to the Museum.
We started in the Museum, dedicated to Thor Heyerdahl who spent a lot of time in the area studying the reed boats used in his Kontiki expedition. In the middle of the Museum is a model of the three pyramids that have been or are being excavated at present. We learned about the traditional Lambayeque culture belief that Naymlap came from the sea with his wives and soldiers and built a huge temple called Chot. He established their lifestyle and religion then went back to the sea. They made elaborate pottery – mostly black but some red with depictions of Naymlap with a halo-like crown, lots of earrings and almond eyes.
We also saw examples of other pottery, Moche, finer in quality and depicting many aspects of their lives, Chimú, black with monkey figures on everything, and Inca (1470-1532AD) coarser in quality. Spondylus shells were brought from Ecuador to give a red colour and beads were also made from the shells. Examples of various foods had been found in burials and were easily identified as things still eaten today. There was also a section of relief in adobe (mud brick) that had been carefully restored with the restored section a distinctly different colour.
Shamanism is still practiced and some of the items used by the Shaman are clearly Christian; this sort of Catholic Shamanism seems to be accepted by the church.
Local people had donated pots that they had ‘found’ in the area, Liliana Escajadillo Baro in particular.
The site developed at the foot of a natural big hill called Cerro Purgatorio or Sting Ray Hill because of its shape. It had temples on top and used to have a wall all round to keep out the riffraff allowing only the elite in. Three pyramids have been excavated, Huaca 1, Huaca Las Estacas and a truly huge one 600m long. Maritza led M&G and J&R to a viewpoint where we could see the relationship of the pyramids to the natural hill. We also saw all the various holes in the sides of the pyramids where huaqueros (looters) have looked for artefacts to sell on the black market. Judith was not feeling up to a hot climb so she and Pete stayed near the Museum and bird watched. We joined them for a while and saw Long-tailed Mockingbird, Bananaquit, Burrowing Owl, Vermillion Flycatcher and Pacific Hornero (now a true split from the Pale-legged Hornero). J&P also saw White-tailed Jay.
We then drove 30km southeast of Chiclayo to Sipán to visit the site of the Lord of Sipán tombs. On the way we saw Great Egret, Black-necked Stilt, flocks of Shiny Cowbird and a pair of Crested Caracara.
It was dusk by the time we started exploring the site and it was quite spooky. This site of Moche Pyramids was not considered as special until wonderful gold artefacts appeared on the black market in the 1980s. Some archaeologists went to great lengths to stop the huaqueros continuing their digging and consequent destruction of the context of the objects they find.
The oldest and lowest burial was the 1st Lord of Sipán who was buried alone with lots of decorated pots and solid gold ornaments. He died, aged about 40, in 100AD of natural causes.
The 300AD Lord of Sipán, found in 1987, buried at the top of the pyramid, died, probably in war, aged about 35 (the average life span being 50 at that time) and was buried with two soldiers – sacrificed but one had kept one foot – a servant with a dog between his legs and three young women approximately 18 – 20 years old. One of the women may have been his wife as she had jewellery and a crown. There were many grave goods but mostly of copper or gilded copper. The tomb had a roof of 17 Carob wood crossbeams with a sacrificed guardian soldier (both his feet had been cut off) lying on the top of the roof. Higher up, and slightly to one side there was a crouching soldier, probably buried alive, he still had both of his feet. The Lord of Sipán was adorned with many layers of gold and silver jewels, beaded necklaces, weapons, bells and other wonderful objects.
Three other tombs had been excavated at different levels in the pyramid one containing a warrior with another sacrificed soldier. Another contained a woman with a sacrificed soldier and two llamas and the third was a Priest’s tomb found in 1988.
The Priest’s tomb contained all his finery, his wife and two other women, one buried face down, without coffins but with their feet. There was also a child of about 8 – 10, a dog and a divided llama skeleton in the tomb and a soldier on the roof. The Priest was a vital part of human sacrifice ceremonies; he would give sacrificial victims narcotic drugs to calm them and then slit their throats with a special knife. Their blood would have been collected and the Lord and others may have drunk it. We later found out more about this ceremony when we visited Moche temples at Trujillo but, as it was getting dark by this time, this was a creepy tale.
The Pyramids are built of blocks of adobe bricks, each block was made by one family or group and had individual marks on each brick. It was pleasing to feel a sort of contact over the centuries with ordinary people who were working collectively to pay tribute or taxes to their leader.
Maritza told us they fear another large El Niño this summer (our winter) and are preparing to cover all the tombs or, if deemed necessary, rebury them all.
There were lots of bats flying around when we walked back to the bus.
We drove back in the dark arriving at the hotel at 7.30pm. We met Fernando again at 8.15 for final briefing then had dinner. No one ate much having, eaten far too much at lunchtime, but a beer and Pisco Sours went down well. We were in bed by 10pm but children from Colegio Inmaculada, Lima, visiting Chiclayo made a lot of noise until midnight (not very immaculate behaviour).
Friday 25th August 2006.
Cloudy and breezy all morning but not cold, sunny afternoon.
Awake at 4.15 so wrote diary before breakfast at 5.30. Judith feeling much better after a good nights sleep.
We left at 6.00 for Puerto Eten, where, very close to the sea was a ruined church that was a good perch for Black Vultures. We birded the marsh, lined with Totora Reed, sand dunes and beach there were lots of birds around and we saw Snowy Egret, American Kestrel, Black-necked Stilt, Peruvian Meadowlark, White-necked Pintail, Moorhen, Neotropic Cormorant, Yellowish Pipit soaring up and parachuting down so getting a good look was very difficult, Wilson’s Phalarope, Gray-headed Gull, Great Egret, Burrowing Owl, Whimbrel, Turkey Vulture, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Many-coloured Rush-Tyrant, Cinnamon Teal, Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Wren-like Rushbird, Kelp Gull, Band-tailed Gull, Peruvian Pelican, American Golden Plover, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, Sanderling, Spotted Sandpiper, Cocoi Heron, Gray Gull, Peruvian Tern, Least Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Semi-palmated Plover and Willet. We then drove a short way to an agricultural area and hunted in vain for the Tawny-throated Dotterel but saw lots of other birds including Blue-and White Swallow, Eared Dove, Long-tailed Mockingbird, Pacific Dove, Saffron Finch, Variable Seedeater, Gray-breasted Martin, Cattle Egret, Groove-billed Ani, Scrub Blackbird, Streaked Saltator (the unstreaked flavicollis subspecies), heard a Plumbeous Rail, Pacific Parrotlet, Plain-breasted Ground Dove, Short-tailed Field-Tyrant, Drab Seedeater, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, a juvenile Shiny Cowbird being fed by a Yellowish Pipit which gave us a better chance to see the Pipit, Baird’s Sandpiper, Parrot-billed Seedeater and Peruvian Thick-knee. The irrigation system was most impressive; the sewage discharge was not! We ate our pretty picnics beside a small clean stream after 6 hours birding.
We then went on to Santa Rosa to see the sea, Sea Lions and Caballeros de Totora – reed boats used since Moche times. The Thor Heyerdahl boat Kon Tiki was of similar design but these are much smaller i.e. one-man size. Whilst photographing the boats we all split up and Fernando told us to be careful as drive-by snatches of bags, cameras etc are quite common in urban areas and Santa Rosa was quite a large village.
On the way back to Chiclayo we passed a rubbish dump with hundreds of Kelp Gulls and a few poor people sorting through the rubbish. This was the only time during the whole trip that we saw any poverty and lack of dignity.
Back at the Gran Hotel we met Maritsa who took us to Lambayeque to see the Lord of Sipán Museum. This was mind blowing containing all the finds from the burials excavated at Sipán. The amount of gold and silver and the beauty of the craftsmanship was truly wonderful it is such a pity most trips to Peru visit Machu Picchu and other Inca sites without thinking that earlier cultures actually have produced such treasures. The Museum was purpose built to look like a Moche Pyramid and with the entrance near the top and the tombs arranged in similar relationships to those in the actual pyramid being excavated at Sipán, cost $5million and was opened in 2002. We spent 2¼ hours there and all bought books and postcards.
We left at 4.45 to travel back to the hotel where Patricia showed us the vehicle we would be using for our tour; new to Inkanatura but not brand new. The dark carpets looked very vulnerable to filthy boots and we told Patricia we would soon make a mess of it. She also introduced us to our drivers. Elmer Reyes was our main driver with his Brother Pedro and Señor José Bernal in a second vehicle. We hadn’t realised we would have a support vehicle that was four-wheeled drive and carried the camping gear. Initially this seemed extravagant but we soon appreciated it. We went down at 6.50 for a beer and did the bird list around dinner, everyone ate a lot more than yesterday. – bed at 10.00.
Saturday 26th August 2006.
A cloudy morning with light drizzle at first then sunny by lunchtime and hot in the afternoon.
Up in plenty of time for loading the vehicle at 5.15 and breakfast at 5.30. It was good to see Patricia had listened to what we had said about our mucky habits and the minibus had a fitted plastic covering for the nice carpet. We were away before 5.45, not taking the luggage with us as the support vehicle was taking it separately, and drove to Batán Grande seeing a Lesser Nighthawk going to its roost, on the way.
We all had to sign in at the Visitor Centre, where there were loads of mosquitoes but they were almost the only ones we saw, and then we walked into the Algarrobo (Mesquite) Forest (a very threatened habitat) and looked for birds. We stayed on the track until we heard a Peruvian Plantcutter calling then we set off into the trees. We saw Pacific Hornero, Long-tailed Mockingbird, Supercilliated Wren, Lineated Woodpecker, Amazilia Hummingbird, Collared Antshrike, Streaked Saltator, Collared Warbling Finch, Peruvian Plantcutter, Cinereous Finch, Necklaced Spinetail, Croaking Ground Dove, Tumbesian Tyrannulet, White-tailed Jay (seen yesterday by J&P), Vermillion Flycatcher, Rufous Flycatcher, Fasciated Wren, Bananaquit, White-edged Oriole and Baird’s Flycatcher. We walked further along the track seeing the damage to the forest caused by illegal cutting for charcoal. Algarroba wood has a very high specific heat and is very hard. We drove a short distance then looked for more birds after seeing the forest ranger and telling him and his colleague that we had seen illegal woodcutting. At this second area we saw Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Pacific Parrotlet and Streak-necked/Striated Woodcreeper.
We got back into the minibus and drove as far as it was possible into a desert like area then did a fairly arduous walk on soft sand to valley where Fernando showed us the Tumbes Swallow nest he found in December 2004, it was the first nest found in Peru. There were Tumbes Swallows feeding in the area and we had excellent views of them. We walked into the scrubby woodland and looked for more birds finding Scarlet Backed Woodpecker, Harris Hawk, Peruvian Pygmy Owl, the red form, and Blue-gray Tanager.
We were picked up by Elmer and we drove back down to the track and continued out to the main road but before leaving the forest we stopped to look at a Sicán (Lambayeque) pyramid that is being excavated, there are about 50 pyramids in this area that is now protected as an archaeological site rather than a nature reserve but the forest is being protected as well, which has to be a good thing.
The last thing we saw before we reached the main road was a dry river with a brand new sluice and irrigational channel completed ready for the summer rains.
We stopped in the village of Illimo where bananas were purchased and House Sparrow and Gray-breasted Martin were seen. We continued on to Motupe to have our box lunch; on the way we saw Red-backed Hawk, Grooved-billed Ani and saw another Peruvian Pygmy Owl, this time a dark form, amazingly we also two Seichurian Foxes close to the road in broad daylight. Our lunch boxes were once again very pretty coloured woven straw and contained a very substantial picnic, we realised that the boxes belonged to Inkanatura not to the hotel. Whilst eating we could hear Tumbes Sparrow but despite Fernando’s efforts we only saw one rather poorly. We drove past Olmos and on towards Ñaupe where we looked for more birds in another area of dry sandy forest. We saw lots of Parrot-billed Seedeaters and had easy views of Tumbes Sparrow. We also saw Tumbes Hummingbird quite easily, and Tumbes Tyrant but not so easily as the bird was in the middle of a thick bush so we sat in the sand but all got good views eventually. We went further uphill and saw King Vulture, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Short-tailed Woodstar and an Elegant Crescentchest in bits and pieces as it skulked in the bottom of the shrubbery. We went back down to Olmos, seeing Crested Caracara on the way, via the Panamerican Highway that actually looked more like the Panamerican farmyard as all the livestock went home to sleep. We arrived at the Hotel Remanso at 5.45 after having a job getting through Olmos because of markets and a festival in the town blocking the way. We soon checked into our rooms and found our luggage stored away for us as it had arrived in the support vehicle. We had showers (cold) and did some washing, which we gave to the proprietor to dry for us, and then went for dinner. As there was a religious convention in the hotel so we had dinner in the proprietor’s private rooms. It was excellent, asparagus soup, Lomo Saltado with chips and rice followed by ice cream. We did the bird list and were in bed by 9.15pm after Fernando explained to us how to get hot water out of the showers!
Joan & Richard and Fernando had rooms at the back of the hotel so were unaware of the religious parade that went by the front of the building and very close to Mary & Geoff and Judith & Pete. The noise was only a few feet from their beds and sleep was impossible. Mary & Geoff also thought they had a spiritual visitation as Geoff was out looking for the source of a sudden icy draught in the middle of the night. The others had their share of noise when people returning from the parade shouted in the corridors and on the stairs from 2.30am.
Sunday 27th August 2006.
Cloudy until mid-day and quite hot.
We were up for breakfast at 4.00am and departed by 4.40, the first thing we saw was a Burrowing Owl on a lamppost on the edge of Olmos. We drove towards Ňaupe, after about half an hour we saw a Seichurian Fox cross the road, now we know why all chickens are shut in at night. We turned right off the main road onto a dirt track to Limón and bounced for an hour, uphill most of the way, passing a Peruvian Thick-knee on route.
Fernando was on the radio and it sounded ‘excellente’ then a second call was not so good. It turned out that our support vehicle had got lost on the unmarked tracks to Limón. They eventually arrived looking very shame faced. Fernando walked into the village to collect our guide, Lino, who was to lead us up Quebrada Frejolillo. We left about 6.15am. It was very dusty and walking was quite difficult up the dry riverbed. After about half an hour walking, we scanned the hillside for a sight of a White-winged Guan. We had no joy even though the birds were calling we did see Red-masked Parakeet, Lineated Woodpecker, Ecuadorian Trogon and Vermillion Flycatcher. We continued on a bit further and tried again. Leno tried to get Fernando on the bird he could see and Joan looked in the approximate direction and saw the bird fly into a gully, out of sight. We could hear them calling on the other side of the valley but still could not see any. Eventually a little further up we all got good views of two White-winged Guan; better still through the telescope. We then concentrated on general birding and saw Plumbeous-backed Thrush, White-edged Oriole, Collared Antshrike, Thick-billed Euphonia and a very obliging Elegant Crescentchest. We walked in a big loop round seeing lots of birds including Pacific Parrotlet, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Hepatic Tanager, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Black-capped Sparrow, White-faced Brush-finch, Pacific Hornero, Tumbes Pewee, Tropical Parula, Black Vulture, Baird’s Flycatcher, Turkey Vulture, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Scrub Blackbird, Golden-bellied Grosbeak, King Vulture, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Pacific Elaenia and Yellow-olive Flycatcher.
On the way back we stopped and tried for a piculet and there was a lot of noise on the side of the river bad. Lino went looking to see if there was a snake about but discovered an owl. We all had good views of the Striped Owl and Richard, Lino, Geoff and Mary saw there were actually a pair; a very good end to our walk.
We got back to the van about 12.30pm having seen a Short-tailed Field Tyrant nearby and several lizards sunbathing alongside the path. We had cold chicken, chips and rice with re-hydration drink for lunch; Inkanatura taking good care of our health.
Before we left Lino asked us all to fill in questionnaires about our visit and the site in general. He also wanted us to sign the smart new visitors book. Money for the whole White-winged Guan project has come from the British Bird Watching Fair in 2003 and it was great to see the money going to practical projects. The extra tourism to the area has already made a difference to the village of Limón, they now have water piped in from high up in the mountains.
We travelled back to the main road, stopping to look at a large Iguana in the track, and then saw a turkey travelling, amongst the luggage, on the roof of a car!
We stopped at the captive breeding station for the White-winged Guan (also financed by the British Bird Watching Fair 2003) near Olmos and Fernando, who is in charge of the site, picked up his rubber boots. Whilst we were there we saw several birds and reptiles that have been in captivity and had either been confiscated or handed to the collection. The Macaws were no longer caged at all because they had eaten their cages and were now eating the buildings. They know where the food is so there is little chance that they will fly away. We didn’t see any of the captive bred White-winged Guan because they are kept as wild as possible.
Back at the Hotel we were tried the secret of hot showers – turn on the water and then switch on the electricity with the switch beside the shower (!). When you finished you had to turn off the electricity and then the water. It sounded risky but it worked we cheated a bit by switching for each other to avoid the wet hands and electricity risk.
We had beers about 6.00pm and chatted until dinner at 6.30. The Proprietor of the Hotel, called Arquitecto Marquina by everyone, was really an architect who had studied in London, Madrid, Stolin (Poland) and Copenhagen. He designed some of the hotel and was living there with his 99-year-old mother who still did some cooking. He was, however, looking for a young English wife. Dinner consisted of Chinese soup, Sweet and Sour or Satay Chicken, ice cream and coffee or tea. Geoff had Cinnamon and Clove – lovely. All to bed about 8.30pm grateful that the religious group had left and there was little chance of another major procession in the evening.
Monday 28th August 2006.
It was raining very first thing but was soon sunny, very windy on the high Andes, and very hot on the other side.
Up for breakfast at 5.15am and ready for an early departure. We had all of our luggage in our vehicle, as the support car was full of camping gear, water and food supplies. We drove south from Olmos, seeing another Seichurian Fox before we had travelled far, and then turned left onto the main road for Jaen and headed straight for the Andes. We made a short stop beside the road and walked a short distance looking for birds, we saw Long-tailed Mocking bird, White-winged Brush-finch, Thick-billed Euphonia, Hepatic Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, American Kestrel, Three-banded Warbler and Scrub Blackbird. We made a second stop near a bridge over a small stream where we easily found Chapman’s Antshrike; it was very confiding. In the same area we also saw Turkey Vulture, Short-tailed Woodstar, Pacific Dove, Tropical Kingbird, Sparkling Violetear, Gray-and-Gold Warbler and Tumbes Hummingbird. We went through a small farmyard but didn’t add to our total.
We continued up the main road to Limon de Porculla where we went up a dirt track, past the school, and up higher, walked about a mile up-hill birding all the way and the birding was very good, we saw Tumbes Pewee, Tumbes Swift, Purple-throated Woodstar, Rufous-collared Sparrow, White-tipped Swift, Eared Dove, Chiguanco Thrush, Ash-breasted Sierra Finch, Band-tailed Seedeater, Croaking Ground Dove, Black Vulture, Green-tailed Trainbearer, Slate-throated Whitestart (Redstart), Elegant Crescentchest, Fasciated Wren, Vermillion Flycatcher, Blue-and-White Swallow, Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Line-cheeked Spinetail, Black-crested Warbler and Piura Chat-Tyrant, these last two birds were more than difficult to get a look at as they dodged about in the thick bushes. By 11.30am it was very windy and the birds were getting very difficult to see. We went over Porculla Pass and carried on down hill for a short distance. We had lunch overlooking the amazing view of the Marañon valley. Mary lost her serviettes as they floated away up the pass on the strong wind. While we were there, there was a small earth tremor – everyone looked at each other!
We continued on down through magnificent scenery and after about 20 minutes we stopped at a small restaurant with new public toilets – a line of squatters with buckets of water for hand washing and flushing, they were built over a stream to take away the products. The drivers had some lunch and we had coffee that went down very well.
We drove on down looking at the scenery, stopping just before Chamaya to look for more birds. We saw Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Spot-throated Hummingbird, Purple Throated Euphonia, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, White-tipped Dove, Green Kingfisher, Saffron Finch, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Drab Seedeater, Bananaquit and Groove-billed Ani from the side of the main road; Judith found the sun very hot on her back and will have her umbrella handy for tomorrow.
We arrived at the Hotel El Bosque in Jaen, 17km from Chamaya, at about 5.45pm and checked into very nice bungalows. We showered, sorted the bags and laundered variously before meeting for the bird list and dinner at 6.45 and bed at 9.00pm.
Tuesday 29th August 2006.
It started with a hazy morning but very warm and increasingly sunny and hot with a light wind.
Up for breakfast at 5.00am, unlike the hotel staff, as we had to wait until 5.15 to be served. Sr Bernal, from the support crew, was even helping her do cheese and ham rolls, toast, butter, jam (marmalade) and coffee.
We eventually left at 5.40am and drove north through Tamborapa seeing Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Bananaquit, Striated Heron, and Black Vulture on the way. At the 59km mark, we turned up a dirt track, which turned out to be very busy despite the surface. We made several stops along the road birding at each. We scrambled up a steep gully at the first stop and were overjoyed to see a flock of fifteen Military Macaw fly overhead we heard a Marañon Spinetail but it was a very long way off and saw a Green/Inca Jay. At the next stop we heard the Marañon Spinetail again and saw Marañon Slaty-Antshrike, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, Mitred Parakeet, in a large flock flying overhead, and Red-crested Finch. At each gully we heard the Spinetail again and this time saw a Marañon Speckle-breasted Wren, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Buff-bellied Tanager, Chinchipe Spinetail, Zone-tailed Hawk and Grey-chinned Hermit. Continuing uphill we saw Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Saffron Finch, Tropical Kingbird, Roadside Hawk, Marañon Crescentchest, Turkey Vulture, Brown-crested Flycatcher and Olivaceous Greenlet. By mid-morning the large Blue Morphos were about in hoards confusing our movement detectors. We made several more stops before returning to the main road and travelling a little further north.
At about the 62km post, we turned off the road again towards Chirinos. We birded along this road picking up Groove-billed Ani, Social Flycatcher, Brown Violetear, White-crested Elaenia, Croaking Ground Dove, Streaked Saltator (properly streaked peruvianus sub-species), Purple-throated Euphonia, House Wren, Silver-beaked Tanager, Ecuadorian Ground Dove, Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet, Red-eyed Vireo, Marañon Gnatcatcher and Spot-throated Hummingbird but still only hearing the Marañon Spinetail we think lots of them saw us but stayed hidden away. We drove back to the hotel and had lunch at 2.15pm, it was our boxed lunch on a plate – excellent. We sat around reading etc for an hour and then went in Mototaxis (125cc motocycles fitted with three wheels and a double (side by side) seat at the back to the market, which was very interesting, both for us and the locals. Judith and Pete bought a couple of enamel mugs. Mototaxi chariot race then ensued as we returned to our hotel. The cost of these taxis was 1 Sole per mototaxi each way (5 Soles = £1) cheap at twice the price. We thought they should be called ‘tuktuks’ as in Southeast Asia.
We changed back into bird watching gear and drove south towards Chamaya. Close to the 2km mark we quite easily found the Little Inca Finch but failed to locate the Common Thornbird. We had two attempts in different gullies but no joy despite seeing Pale-legged Hornero, Long-tailed Mockingbird, Golden-bellied Grosbeak, Fasciated Wren and Marañon Crescestchest. Fernando was confused by the total inability to find a Common Thornbird.
We returned to the Hotel where some had a swim before changing for dinner with lots of beer and much laughter, followed by bed at 9.00pm.
Wednesday 30th August 2006.
A bright and sunny start with plenty of puffy clouds was very hot by mid-day. The clouds built up as we climbed into the mountains and it was raining and quite cold by the time we reached La Florida on Lake Pomacochas.
Up for breakfast at 5.00am having put our bags out for collection by the crew. Breakfast was toasted cheese or cheese and ham rolls followed by toast and jam. We left at 5.35 and drove south to Chamaya before turning left and heading east. We crossed the Marañon River just as it was light enough for photographs. The old bridge, beside the current one, had been dynamited by Shining Path terrorist in 1990 and was of unknown strength now. The alternative route, via Balsas, takes an additional 5 days! Later in out trip we experienced this road and could see the problem.
Eventually the birding was not too productive as there were too many workers about. We went on to where the three rivers, the Utcubamba, the Chinchipe and the Marañon meet at Pongo de Rentema.
We retraced our steps to El Milagro and rejoined the eastbound main road. We stopped for our box lunch in the grounds of a restaurant in Bagua Grande – it was delightful.
After lunch we loaded up and, with Señor Bernal at the wheel whilst Elmer had a rest, carried on through Bagua Grande. Señor Bernal was not a bad driver but not as good with our vehicle as Elmer, probably because he was more used to 4-wheel drive. The main road followed the Utcubamba River upstream and in many places the river had undermined the road, which had then collapsed so that part of the journey was slow and very bumpy. Signs said ‘Hundimiento de Pista’ which means sunken road but Joan preferred the translation of ‘dog’s breakfast’, hund = dog? We had a short stop beside a cascade and looked at the river from the only bridge. The road was particularly narrow here and the double-decker buses were very fast and close to us and to the rocks.
Elmer took over for the rest of the journey to Pedro Ruiz and onto La Florida. The road was quite smooth, apart from speed bumps in every village but quite steep and twisting. At Pedro Ruiz, we passed the road to Chachapoyas on the right and our road turned north starting the climb to La Florida. We soon ran into rain and for a lot of the way we were stuck behind a big lorry. It was difficult to pass anyway but he wanted to make best time too so did not help matters. We stopped just before we got to La Florida and Fernando talked to the guide who was to show us the Marvellous Spatuletail. He said that it was too wet and the forecast for tomorrow better so we went onto the hotel. We got to the entrance road to find that the rains had made it impassable for a 2-wheel drive vehicle. We walked (slid) down and got our boots caked with mud, which was extremely difficult to remove. We were soon allocated our room, each with a wonderful view over Lake Pomachochas. Our bags arrived quite quickly having been transferred to the 4x4. We intended to go for a walk down to the lake but, by the time we had sorted out our Wellingtons and umbrellas, it had started to rain again. Our walk did not go far. We went back to shower, change and wrap up warm for the evening. Dinner was pork chop (G, M and Fernando) chicken (J & P) or perch (R & J). This perch was actually Paiche the largest freshwater fish in the world and endangered in the wild but we ate farmed fish. We did the bird list and went to bed at 8.30pm to try to warm up, which we eventually did.
Thursday 31st August 2006 – Peter’s last day at work or not because he is on holiday!
A dry day with some short sunny periods, cool but not cold and a tiny bit of rain.
We were up at 4.15am and ready for breakfast at 5.00 followed by departure at 5.30. Before leaving we handed in bags of laundry. The walk, back up to the main road really made us puff, as this was the first effort at higher altitude and the sticky mud didn’t help.
It was only a few minutes drive down to the house of our guide, Wilmer. The usual guide Santos was away in Ecuador on a Bird Recording course financed with money from the 2003 Bird Fair at Rutland Water. Most of us put on our rubber boots but Geoff, Mary and Fernando decided to risk it and, actually it wasn’t too bad. We climbed very slowly up the hill and staked out a flowering tree. A German chap appeared, also a bird watcher, and one of the local guides went with him for a while. We heard lots of calls but saw very little so it was decided to try another place. Here the first bird we saw was a Blue Capped Tanager. We then had good views of a Purple-throated Sunangel and Geoff glimpsed a Marvelous Spatuletail very briefly. After a longish wait, a juvenile zipped through and, following that, we saw a Green Violetear, American Kestrel, Sparkling Violetear Mitred Parakeet, White-sided Flower-piercer and a Sierran Elaenia. Nothing much else appeared so we went back to the original pink flowering bush and, after another long wait with Fernando playing tapes of the Marvelous Spatuletail and Pygmy Owl, we all had good views. Joan stayed with Fernando and saw 2 males and 1 female at the same time. The others had glimpses or good views of single birds only. We walked slowly back down the hill seeing Turkey Vulture and Black-chested Buzzard Eagle and looking for Russet crowned Warbler that was heard singing and was only seen properly by Judith but we all saw Spectacled Whitestart in the woodland. Richard found a hutch of Guinea Pigs and took their photograph, in anticipation of dinner tomorrow.
Those who had put their Wellington on now changed their shoes and we walked down the main road to the start of the Chido trail. The walk along the road took us past a few farmhouses and we saw cattle, both for milk and as beasts of burden pulling logs up the hill, and lots of fancy chickens, the lady was justifiably proud of her smart poultry and posed for photographs beside her nifty water gathering system to get fresh water from a mountain stream. There were quite a few birds around and new ones for the day seen were Cattle Egret, House Wren, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Yellow-bellied Seedeater, Tropical Kingbird, Cloud Forest Brush-finch, White-bellied Hummingbird, Blue-and-White Swallow and Torrent Tyrannulet in the Chido River.
Elmer overtook us in the van and we hitched a ride as far as we could up the trail, a narrow bridge prevented us from going very far. We stopped here for our picnic lunch. There was a general roll swapping session, as some were chicken, some cheese and some jam with fresh butter, more like clotted cream, all washed down with Coca Cola.
We walked slowly up the Chido trail, Fernando was disappointed when he saw how much of the forest had been cut down since he last walk up the trail. We saw Roadside Hawk, Speckled Hummingbird, Rufous-capped Antshrike and an American Kestrel at its nest. We walked up to a viewpoint and then returned. On the way back some White-capped Tanagers appeared and we had excellent views as they sat in tree for ages and we could use the telescope easily.
We drove back to the Hotel Puerto Pumas and were driven right to the door, the road having dried out during the day.
We showered and wrapped up warm and did a bit of a luggage sort out. Joan and Richard saw Hooden Siskin, Peruvian Meadowlark, Tropical Kingbird, Green Violetear, Spectacled Whitestart and House Wren on the flower garden just outside their room.
We had a beer and celebrated Peter’s retirement at exactly 6.00pm (midnight BST). Dinner was good, the same menu as last night but we all had different choices. All, except Geoff, ordered Guinea Pig (Cuy) for tomorrow’s dinner. We did the bird list and were in bed by 8.30pm Joan filled plastic water bottles from the very hot tap to warm up her feet.
Friday 1st September 2006.
Cloudy most of the day but hot and sunny at mid-day followed by rain at high altitude.
Up for breakfast at 4.30am. Breakfast was scrambled eggs followed by bread and jam. We left at 5.00 and drove up to Abra Patricia pass and started birding just before the summit. We saw a Blue-capped Tanager, Rufous-collared Sparrow (of course), Saffron-crowned Tanager, Great Thrush and had fleeting views of a Barred Fruiteater. We went off the road onto a damp trail to try for a Rusty-tinged Antpitta but he could see us and sang from a safe distance.
We went back to the road and continued walking and picked up Blue-and-Black Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Azara’s Spinetail, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Long-tailed Antbird, Chestnut-breasted Wren heard, Scaly-naped Parrot, Collared Inca, Long-tailed Sylph, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta heard, Flame-faced Tanager, Sierran Elaenia, Striped Cuckoo heard, Andean Solitaire heard, and Blue-and-White Swallow.
Fernando decided that we should ride a little further but could not raise Elmer on the radio so he had to walk back until he could get a signal. We carried on to another viewpoint where we saw a Cliff Flycatcher then, almost immediately, we saw the Royal Sunangel, closely followed by another. The rest of the morning was frustrating as we tried and failed to see the Bar-winged Woodwren despite hearing it calling very close to us, we did see Mitred Parakeet, Rufous-tailed Tyrant and Grey-breasted Woodwren. A bird that Fernando could not recognise lurked and sung in the undergrowth. It was dark grey or black with a white cap and longish tail. He said that he would let us know if/when he finds out what it was. It was identified later as a White-backed Fire-eye.
We sat beside the road, to eat our boxed lunch, at the Restaurant Paraiso; a disused building where Fernando camped while doing some of his research. He thought had we arranged to camp that it would have been here and we congratulated ourselves on staying at the Hotel Puerto Pumas. We spent another 45 minutes at a lookout where the Royal Sunangel is sometimes seen but we didn’t see another one, we saw Russet-backed Oropendola, Green/Inca Jay, White-collared swift, White-sided Flower-piercer, Rufous-crowned Warbler heard, Red-backed Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Turkey Vulture, Northern Rufous-vented Tapaculo heard, Purple-throated Sunangel, and Lulu’s Tody Tyrant heard but there was then a total absence of birds so we drove down towards Moyobamba, away from the approaching rain.
As we rounded a bend, Fernando suddenly spotted a Golden-headed Quetzal sitting in a tree. We stopped and luckily Judith had great difficulty finding the Quetzal and during the delay we saw an Andean Cock-of-the-Rock zoom past. Later we had excellent views of two males plus a female as well as numerous Band-tailed Pigeons. It got to the stage when directions for other birds were being given starting with ‘see the Cock-of-the-Rock, then go ’ using this method we saw Sub-tropical Cacique and Russet-backed Oropendola. We walked a short distance down the road and the quantity of birds in this small area was amazing, overhead we saw White-tipped Swift and a Red-billed Parrot and two Plumbeous Pigeons flew past and settled for us to examine. We found a fruiting tree that was heaving with Tanagers several of each species and it was every birder for himself, we saw Silver-beaked Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, Purple-throated Euphonia, Peruvian Tyrannulet, Yellow-throated Tanager, Orange-bellied Tanager, Golden Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Metallic-green Tanager and Black-faced Dacnis.
We left, somewhat reluctantly, at 4.30pm, rather boringly we saw Snowy Egret on the way, and arrived back at the hotel at 6.10, having stopped a get diesel (petroleo) at a roadside store. Fuel was sold in 19 litre (5US gallon) bucketfuls and this was poured into the car via a large funnel with a cloth filter to keep out the insects.
We collected our clean laundry, quickly washed and changed for dinner.
We had cuy (guinea pig) with roast potatoes followed by fruit salad, all except Geoff that is, who had pork. We found that there was not a lot of meat on half a guinea pig but it tasted quite nice. We probably will not have it again however. We did the bird list and, having repacked the luggage, went to bed at 9.15pm.
Saturday 2nd September 2006.
Lovely starry start and a clear, very cold dawn followed by a bright sunny day until midday. Lots of big clouds built up and it rained by 2pm, however we escaped and it was hot and sunny in Moyobamba.
Up for breakfast at 4.30am, which was the same as yesterday. Loaded everything up by 5.00am and drove up and over Abra Patricia. We tried first for an Ochre-fronted Antpitta but not a tweet but we did call up a Slaty Backed Nightingale-Thrush, we also saw Speckled Hummingbird and Collared Inca. We walked lower down and tried for a Bar-winged Woodwren; Richard and Pete saw it but none of the rest of us. However we all saw a Grey-breasted Woodwren. We drove on a tried lower down and, eventually, we all saw the Bar-winged Woodwren, other birds seen were Blue-and-White swallow, Emerald-bellied Puffleg, Spectacled Whitestart, Barred Becard a very obliging bird, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Blue-capped Tanager, Tropical Kingbird, Great Thrush, Rufous Spinetail and Cloud Forest Brush-finch. We next tried for the Lulu’s Tody Tyrant and eventually had brilliant success when Lulu came really close and had a good preen right under our noses. We drove on to the fruiting tree of yesterday’s Tanagers but there was nothing about so we walked downhill and saw and heard more birds, Turkey Vulture, Roadside Hawk, Andean or Cloud Forest Pygmy Owl heard, Sub-tropical Cacique, Russet-backed Oropendola, Yellow-rumped Cacique and Green/Inca Jay. We sat for a while in the shade at a small restaurant/garage and then walked a bit longer before driving down to the River Agues Verde for lunch. While we were sitting in the small car park eating out lunch, Constantino Aucca Chutas (Tino) the Director of ECOAN that is using British Bird Watching Fair money to implement conservation in Northern Peru, drove in and we had a long chat with him and his colleagues, Victor, the architect of the Eco-lodge being built near the top of Abra Patricia and Willy Palomino the northern area co-ordinator they were being driven by Segundo. Tino told us they have sent several local people to Ecuador to learn bird-recording techniques so more knowledge can be accumulated and the local people will be completely involved in conservation. Fernando has also been involved in ECOAN with bird recording in the Marañon Valley.
After lunch we drove back a little way and birded again. We didn’t move far, the birds just poured in to the trees. There were Tanagers galore and we all finished up with ‘Tanager Neck’ seeing Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Yellow-bellied Tanager, Masked Crimson Tanager, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Bananaquit, Magpie Tanager, Plain-breasted Hawk, Tropical Parula, Black Vulture, Streak-necked Flycatcher, White-browed Antbird heard, Swallow-tailed Kite, Red-crested Cotinga heard, Squirrel Cuckoo, Brown-chested Martin, Long-tailed Tyrant, Paradise Tanager, Swallow Tanager, Juvenile Cock-of-the-rock, Large-billed Seed-Finch, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Green-and-Gold Tanager and Crimson-mantled Woodpecker. Again we had to use the location of the juvenile Cock-of-the-Rock for reference when trying to direct each other to different birds. As usual we were on the road so had to be careful of passing traffic, there wasn’t too much of this so we were inclined to be too far in the road when something came along. On one occasion when we moved quickly out of the way Geoff’s telescope and tripod went crashing over, amazingly there was very little damage, a small dent and the eyepiece cover to use with spectacles was broken. We all continued to use the telescope with no problems for the rest of the trip.
It started to rain and threatened more so we called up Elmer and we were soon on our way for the two-hour drive to Moyobamba. At one point we crossed a tributary of the River Mayo and Richard saw a kingfisher perched on a rock, we stopped and went back to see it, it was a female Green Kingfisher. By this time it had moved closer and was perched on a wire over the water. Whilst we were there someone threw a stone and there were some unpleasant things shouted at us, it was the only place where we were made to feel unwelcome so we didn’t stay long. We passed quite industrial areas on the way to Moyobamba and saw Smooth-billed Ani, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Black Caracara and Blue Ground Dove.
We were very glad our support vehicle went ahead of us because, whilst the Hotel Puerto Mirador was very good in a splendid position overlooking the River Mayo with a large swimming pool, it was not easy to find. There was no sign of the Thornbird nest outside Room 2, as described in ‘Where to watch birds in Peru’! There were lots of Great Kiskadee calling all around the hotel. Joan, Judith, Geoff and Mary, were soon in the pool that was quite chilly but nice once we were in. We had a leisurely shower and changed for dinner.
Just as it began to get dark there was suddenly a tremendous racket as all the cicadas in the area started up at the same time, it was so loud it almost hurt our ears, even Geoff found it loud and he had left his hearing aid at home.
Sunday 3rd September 2006.
Bright and sunny start at Moyobamba but cloud built up during the morning. We had some rain in the late afternoon followed by a cool cloudy evening.
Up for breakfast at 6.00am. We were intentionally noisy taking our bags out and talked loudly in retaliation for the people being very noisy until 4am. Judith put the ‘Room Cleaning Please’ notice on their door!
Breakfast was very slow and small. The girl doing it arrived late and did not have to key to the store so there were no replacements for anything that ran out. In the bigger establishments it is almost impossible to get a breakfast before the designated time.
We said goodbye to the Great Kiskadees before driving to the main market and wandered round looking at all the fruit, vegetables, meat and fish and many people were still setting up their stalls. It was fascinating both for us and for them.
We drove to Calzada and bird watched a scrubby area below Morroa de Calzada, an isolated hill in the flat land, we called this area ‘Fernando’s hideaway’. We saw lots of birds, Black-billed Thrush, Tropical Kingbird, Vermillion Tanager, Solitary Cacique, Fork-tailed Swift, Chestnut-eared Araçari, Chestnut-breasted Seedeater, Blue Ground Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Cobalt-winged Parrotlet, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Palm Tanager, Rufous-collared Sparrow; Blue-gray Tanager, Black Vulture, Small-billed Elaenia, Turkey Vulture, Grayish Saltator, Burnished-buff Tanager, Barred Antshrike, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Bananaquit, Ruddy Ground Dove, Capped Heron and Dark-billed Cuckoo. After about an hour, we loaded up and drove back up to the Andes seeing Cattle Egret, Roadside Hawk, Snowy Egret, Wattled Jacana, White-lined Tanager and Cattle Egret during the journey.
We did a bit of birding at Aguas Verdes again but it was very hot and there were not many birds about. Fernando saw a Speckled Chachalaca fly over the cutting of the road but it was pure luck and none of the rest of saw it so it has to go down as ‘Leaders bird’. We did see Russet-backed Oropendola, Purple-throated Euphonia, Bay-headed Tanager, Mary and Fernando saw a Napo Sabrewing and we were very pleased to see an Ecuadorian Tyrannulet but decided it was time for a rest.
We had lunch sitting in the shade of a tree beside the road. We had to be careful not to get ants in our lunch boxes as there were a lot about. We were amazed to see an insect like an aphid with white fluffy excretions on its back just like the flatid bug nymphs we saw in Madagascar last year. We thought it was an aphid because ants were looking after it as they do green fly at home in England.
After lunch, we birded for about 20 minutes but were uncomfortably hot in the sun so we drove to the restaurant/garage where we had stopped the day before yesterday. We all had coffee or Pepsi, including the drivers. Whilst we were relaxing at the coffee stop we heard Plumbeous Pigeon, saw Brown-bellied Swallow and had a flying display from some Swallow-tailed Kites.
We drove on a short distance and started birding again and saw two more Cock-of-the-Rock and lots of orchids growing on the rock face close to the road. It started to rain and we waited for the shower to pass but it got harder and harder so Elmer came to the rescue and we drove back to the Tanager Tree of Friday. There was not a Tanager in sight but overhead we saw White-tipped Swift, Brown-chested Martin, White throated Hawk and masses of Band tailed Pigeons. We walked a short distance and found a Peruvian Tyrannulet and Blue-necked Tanager. Mary spotted a red Tanager, which turned out to be the elusive Huallaga Tanager. We drove a short distance uphill to where we had seen the Quetzal and heard it again but did not see it. However there was another Cock-of-the-Rock and a Crimson bellied Woodpecker plus 40 plus more Band tailed Pigeons. Of course we also heard the Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Fernando told us we could spend all day trying to see this species without success as they are so skulking. We left just after 4pm and got back to Pomacochas for 6.00pm. Whilst we had been to Moyobamba some elaborate gates and railings had been installed to close off the outer porch of the hotel where we all left our muddy boots. Our laundry, handed in the day we left, was clean but unfolded and we had to do a swap as Peter’s was delivered to us and ours to him.
We were not alone in the hotel this night as another birder had arrived with his guide; he had spent the day visiting a waterfall towards Chachapoyas and had got drenched by both rain and waterfall. We had an excellent dinner of fish or chicken. We did the bird list and were in bed at 9.10pm.
Monday 4th September.
Misty start, hot and sunny most of the day with a little rain in the afternoon and early evening.
We were up at 4.00am for breakfast at 4.45, loaded the van and left at 5.30 to drive to Pedro Ruiz on the last piece of surfaced road for some time. We had two stops on the way for Andean Guan, one was beside a small house and the family were terrified at these monsters looming out of the mist but were all right when we left. At Pedro Ruiz, we transferred to two 4x4 minibuses; one was for us, the other for our luggage. Elmer was to take the Mercedes van to Chachapoyas to get the suspension adjusted, as it was too soft and with insufficient ground clearance for the rougher roads. Pedro travelled in the luggage bus, as guard, and Señor Bernal took the Toyota 4x4 to Chachapoyas with Elmer.
We set off along the side of the Utcubamba River and it wasn’t too bad a dirt road and the scenery was spectacular with towering mountains on both sides. We saw quite a lot of birds on the way, Bay-headed Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Band-tailed Pigeon, Mitred Parakeet, Blue-and-White Swallow, Roadside Hawk, Squirrel Cuckoo and White-tipped Dove. We stopped for a while to watch a Marañon Thrush from the bus. We made a bird stop for a Black Phoebe and another stop to stretch our legs. This was beside a small stream and while we were there we saw Spotted Sandpiper, Turkey Vulture, Spot-throated Hummingbird and we heard the Chestnut-crowned Antpitta.
A little later we made another stop beside some derelict buildings where we found lots of fossil shell in the rocks that had fallen off the hillside. We saw a Buff-bellied Tanager, Black-necked Woodpecker House Wren, Golden-billed Saltator and another Marañon Thrush. The ladies, who had gone off again together, saw a Great Sapphirewing from behind the buildings.
We did not stop again until we reached Tingo at the confluence of the Magdelena and Utcubamba Rivers at about 10.15am. Here we swapped guides, Fernando for Maritza, who had been collected from El Chillo in the luggage van by Pedro.
So we set off for Kuelap at 10.20 and the first part of the road, whilst still unsurfaced, had been regraded and was quite smooth. We soon reached Nuevo Tingo; the new town having been built higher up the hillside after cataclysmic floods had all but destroyed the old town when the Magdelena and Utcumbamba rivers had overflowed causing floods and a landslide. We soon stopped again to look down on Macro, a series of circular stone buildings for dwelling and storage in Chachapoyas (Cloud people) period. We had passed these on the way into Tingo on the ‘main’ road but, of course, did not know what they were.
We continued up and up, the road deteriorating as we passed the road construction machinery. We stopped again so that Maritza could show us Kuelap. We had difficulty seeing it as it blended into the mountaintop on the opposite side of the valley, it is 3km away as the crow flies but by road it is 15km. We continued for 2 hours on the very narrow, twisting and bumpy road, clinging to the side of the mountain. It was very wet in places following the heavy rain that had fallen yesterday, it was a good thing we had a 4x4 vehicle as we slid a few times and our minibus would probably have struggled. Just before Kuelap we stopped to use the toilet at a lady’s house, a proper flush one. There were fighting cocks tethered in the garden and thin slices of meat drying on the line with the washing.
We arrived at Kuelap at 12.20pm and had our picnic in the car park. The workers were busy filling bags with river sand to take up to the site for restoration work. These were carried up by packhorses; two bags each of 5 shovels of sand per horse. A truck of sand arrived and delivered its load whilst we ate our lunch and then went down again for more. Before the sand was put into the sacks it was sieved through a large screen.
The walk up to the site was not as bad as we thought it would be. There was some up but quite a lot of along as well. Even so we took our time, as we were at about 10,000 feet high. On the way we saw Great Thrush, Puna Hawk and Masked Flower-piercer.
Kuelap was built about the 12th C at the peak of the Chachapoyas civilisation, which lasted from 1st Century AD to 1470 when the Incas conquered the city from the south; the direction that we approached from. The people of Kuelap had to collect water from outside the city walls so were vulnerable to a siege. Archaeologists, all of them Peruvian, were busy all around restoring the fallen walls. They have been working there for 5 years and have many more years of work yet. They live in Maria, the nearest village to the site, and when we passed through it, it looked very prosperous with smart new houses, a clinic and school.
We walked round to the office to book in. Beside the office men were mixing mortar under a plastic roof. There is no power here so there was no machinery; they were mixing the materials by stomping about in it wearing their rubber boots. All of the people doing heavy manual work were chewing Coca leaves to help them cope with the altitude.
We first looked at the small museum and saw photographs of other Chachapoyas sites. Included in these photographs were some of man-sized and shaped sarcophaguses, called Purumachos, reminiscent of the figures on Easter Island and others found in Chile.
Maritza told us that the walls were designed to make the top of the mountain relatively flat for agriculture and the city itself is divided into Lower and Higher sections. It was located so that you can look into both the Utcubamba (This means cotton valley) and Marañon valleys. We entered through the second west-facing gateway with original steps up the natural rock. It was very steep and got narrower the further you went in until it was only wide enough for one person at a time near the top. Stopping to get our breath at the top, we saw an American Kestrel and a Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant.
We went up to the upper city, originally the preserve of the upper class, where we were shown the only rectangular building in the city, it was built by the Incas and still contains many human bones, possibly from human sacrifice, it had been robbed out so there were no artefacts there. There was also an Inca sundial that they used to predict the changing seasons, again robbed out.
We went back down to the lower level and looked at many round houses and the almost perfect supporting walls of the upper city. In many places the trees that had invaded the site were actually embedded in the walls and they are still there, so far. We passed many house foundations that were just as they found them but at the south end of the lower city archaeologists were digging and restoring like mad. We had to scramble, very carefully, through the excavations to see the reconstructed house and other restoration including a very odd building, thought to be ceremonial or ritual, shaped like an inkwell with outward sloping sides and a 3m deep hole in the middle at the top. Fernando was busy looking for birds and chatting to the archaeologists. He focused the telescope on a distant village, one of the first the Spanish built in the area, and then allowed the locals to look at it.
The way down seemed to have rather a lot of up in it but two Mountain Caracara gave us renewed vigour. We left the car park at 4.45pm and it took 1 hour 45 minutes to get back to Tingo so it was fully dark when we reached Estancia El Chillo. We soon got to our rooms and Joan and Richard had hot showers, as did Fernando, before dinner. Mary and Judith had very limited hot water and Pete and Geoff declined a cold shower. Dinner was a superb soup, beef and potato/garlic puree and rice followed by canned peaches for desert We also had lots of beer as it was our last night at relatively low altitude for five days. The bird list did not take long as we hadn’t really birded and we went to bed at 9.15pm. We heard Peruvian Pygmy Owls calling for ages when we had gone to bed.
Tuesday 5th September 2006.
Cloudy, damp morning followed by a sunny afternoon, cool at altitude.
We were up for a pre-breakfast bird walk along the road at 6.30am. Before we even left the hotel garden Elmer pointed out a group of three West Peruvian Screech Owls sleeping in a tree. During the rest of our walk we saw Blue-and-White Swallow, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Spot-throated Hummingbird, House Wren, Tropical Kingbird, Buff-belied Tanager, Great Thrush, Chiguanco Thrush, White-banded Tyrannulet, Streaked Saltator, Marañon Thrush, Yellow-bellied Seedeater, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Tropical Pewee, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Marañon Gnatcatcher, Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet, Green Violetear, Little Woodstar, Black-throated Woodpecker heard and Speckle-chested Piculet. When we got back at 9.00 for breakfast the Screech Owls were still in the tree in the hotel garden.
We loaded up and drove, quite slowly, towards Leymebamba, as the road was mostly joined up potholes. We made several stops for various birds, we saw Black Phoebe, Ringed Kingfisher zooming down the river, and Turkey Vulture. We also stopped to look at Chachapoyas burial sites high up on the opposite cliff face, there were remains of walls of the chullpas, one with a little painting on. The Purumachos man-shaped coffins were quite degraded; Maritza explained that they had a skull standing on top of the coffins originally. The same section of cliff is also a nesting site for Mitred Parakeets and several were prospecting for suitable nesting holes. At the same stop we saw Torrent Duck, Spotted Sandpiper, Torrent Tyrannulet, Kestrel and Black Vulture.
We arrived at Leymebamba at about 12.30 and appeared to drive round the town in circles to find the road to the museum. The sign said 10 minutes by car or 40 minutes walk both Peru time!
We were shown straight to our rooms attached to the museum. They were lovely, large rooms but we had to walk 20 yards across the courtyard to the bathroom. J & P used the ‘Ladies’; R & J used the ‘Gents’. G & M were on the other side of the entrance corridor and had a lounge area with, later, a lovely log fire. We sat in the museum picnic area and had our lunch prepared at El Chillo. It was Causa, which consisted of layers, starting with mashed potato followed by hard-boiled egg, avocado and tuna topped with another layer of mashed potato. This was followed by fruit and chocolate. Whilst we were eating a Sparkling Violetear was feeding on the flowers in the garden.
After lunch Maritza showed us round the Museum. The Museum was only opened in 2002 to house material found at Laguna de Los Condores after huaqueros broke into burials looking for valuables. There are masses more burials still in the cliffs beside Laguna de Los Condores but they are being left there at present. The amount of material recovered is staggering; including lots of items made of wood, gourds, cloth and sisal. The pots were splendidly decorated and there were lots of small items too, including sewing needles made from cactus spines. The textiles were really excellent as were the quipu (knotted string tally strips) which were very complicated and not really understood to this day; archaeologists now think they are much more than just accounting but without a ‘Rosetta Cat’s cradle’ they will never be able to understand them. Quipu pre-date the Inca culture, some have been found that are 2000 years old at a site near Lima.
We looked through the window at the large number (200) of the mummies that had been brought from the Lake of the Condor. Maritza then had a word with the person in charge of the mummies and we were allowed into the room. It is very carefully temperature and humidity controlled and it was a great privilege to be invited in. We had close looks at the mummy bundles and J & R had a look at the computer programme that was being used to record details of each of the mummies, it looked a whole lot better than what we use at our Museum but the choice is not ours. We finished our tour looking at the modern items that still employ the same weaving and pottery methods. We went into the shop and bought a book, some post cards and a guardian figure made from a local hardwood called Espino.
We said farewell to Maritza, who had to go into Leymebamba to catch a bus to Chachapoyas (4 hours) and then to Chiclayo (10 hours) and finally onto Trujillo, where she was due to be at work the following morning. We wondered why she went such a long way when the road to Cajamarca is a shorter distance; we found out over the next few days.
When Maritza had gone we loaded into the van and drove up hill to a birding site at Sunipampa. The road was very muddy so we had to stop and walk. We saw men busy building a bridge and putting up retaining walls and fences in the river. They are building a road to a nearby town and Fernando suspects that when it is completed many of the trees will be felled. Whilst keeping our eyes peeled for the unlikely possibility of a Condor flying over we saw, dark phase Puna Hawk, Green-tailed Trainbearer, Rusty Flower-piercer, Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan, White-faced Parrot (seniloides sub sp. of Speckle-faced), White-capped Dipper, Mountain Caracara, Brown-bellied Swallow, Violet-throated Starfrontlet, Mountain Wren, Maroon-chested Chat-Tyrant, Smoke-coloured Pewee, Purple-throated Sunangel, and we heard the Chestnut-crowned Antpitta. We returned to the van when we realised that they were using dynamite further up the valley, not good for birding.
We got back to the Museum and showered and changed ready for dinner. The bathroom was the best that we had had so far, a pity that it was across the courtyard. We had to go across the road for dinner to a private house that was also where Fernando was sleeping. Dinner was great, we had soup, chicken in sauce with rice followed by a sort of chicha jelly then tea or coffee. We did the bird list in front of G & M’s fire and got to be at 9.30pm.
Wednesday 6th September.
A glorious sunny day with a fresh breeze.
We were up and out for a bird walk at 6.00am. We staked out a Datura tree in the Museum garden but, as there was no sign of the Sword-billed Hummingbird, we explored the rest of the garden and heard Chestnut-crowned Antpitta and White-tipped Dove and saw Green-tailed Trainbearer and Hooded Siskin.
We had a super breakfast, across the road again, of strawberry and pineapple smoothie followed by fried egg, toast and jam. At the end of our trip we decided that, despite some of us having to walk outside to the bathroom, this was the best place we stayed. The luxury hotels were excellent but they lacked the personal touch we received at Leymebamba Museum. We left about 7.00 after leaving a donation of 150 Soles to the Museum. This was very gratefully accepted with some surprise.
We drove steadily up hill and made stops for birding as we got near to the pass. We walked back, down hill, and Richard and Geoff thought they saw two Russet Mantled Softtail but we all heard them clearly. During the morning we also saw Cinereous Conebill, Blue-and-white Swallow, Band-tailed Seedeater, Shining Sunbeam, Andean Flicker, Rainbow Starfrontlet, Great Thrush, Red-backed Hawk, Mountain Caracara, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Spectacled Whitestart, Masked Flower-piercer, Mountain Velvetbreast, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Turkey Vulture, Drab Hemispingus, Blue-capped Tanager, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Plain-coloured Seedeater, Cloud-Forest Brush-finch, American Kestrel, Black-throated Flower-piercer and Andean Lapwing. We continued up to the top of Barro Negro Pass (Black Mud Pass) where we stopped to photograph the views, plants and Aplomado Falcons. The drive down was spectacular with amazing views of the Andean peaks.
We came to a gully where there was actually no road so we all got out of the minibus and Elmer drove it across a very rickety, wooden bridge, made up of planks, bits of ironwork and tree trunks, across a stream that disappeared vertically down below the road. A little further on we had our picnic lunch of Papa Rellena, sort of potato pasties, beside the road. Lunch was interrupted by visits from a Shining Sunbeam and a Moustached Flower-piercer.
We were progressing downhill very nicely, looking at the scenery, when, near Chanchillo Pass at 7238ft (2210m), a landslide came across the road just in front of us. It blocked three-quarters of the road and there were some rather large stones still falling when we stopped. After some investigation, it was decided that we should walk past the obstruction and, rather than try to move any of the stones with the possibility of more coming down, Elmer and Sr Bernal would then drive the vehicles through as quickly as they could. Having safely negotiated this problem, we continued downhill thinking what might have happened if the slide had been a few seconds later. We made a few more stops lower down for Rufous-backed Thornbird, Buff-bridled Inca Finch, Tropical Pewee, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, Black Vulture and Black-chested Buzzard Eagle and arrived at the campsite at 5.15pm. There was a little delay while Fernando found out where the tents were located in the Mango orchard This was not really very close to Balsas but, by all accounts, that is a very good thing. We found the tents okay but they were not high enough to stand in and very hot inside. There were several Peruvian Pigeons about at the campsite. General sorting out of the luggage in the limited space was followed by ‘Toilet Instructions’. Dinner, served at 6.30pm in another tent, was pleasant with soup, Spaghetti Bolognaise and fruit with tea or coffee and was finished by 7.00. We only stayed up for a short time, as it appeared everyone wanted to clear up so we were all in bed by 8.20pm.
Thursday 7th September 2006.
Beautiful sunny morning with a little cloud around later, hot at low elevation (1000m) but pleasant at higher elevations (3200m).
It was a bright moonlight night for camping at Balsas in an orchard of Mango, Cacao and Coca. Fernando explained to us later that there are odd Coca plants for personal use for tea or chewing because the Americans will fly over and spray Coca with herbicide killing that and everything else that gets in the way. We were appalled to think that America would interfere with legally grown Coca in a country that uses Coca as lowlanders use tea and coffee.
Joan and Richard were up first and washed by torchlight as the moon had set. We saw several Fireflies around the camp. Judith and Pete were next up followed by Geoff and Mary. We saw Peruvian Pigeon again before we took our hand luggage to the van on the way for a birding walk.
We soon saw Dull coloured Grassquit, Blue-gray Tanager, Marañon Thrush, Black Phoebe and Streaked Saltator. Our next bird was a Yellow faced Parrotlet and Fernando showed us Ciruela, a type of plum eaten by the little parrotlets. The importance of camping in this area became clear, had we stayed far away we would not have found these rare parrotlets so easily. He also showed us Achiote, Bixa orellana, the seeds of which produce a red dye (annatto) used by the Indians to colour their food and faces, especially their lips, and for this reason the tree is also know as the ‘lipstick tree’. Geoff saw a Blue and Yellow Tanager was the only one who did but we all saw, Hepatic Tanager, Long-tailed Mockingbird, Vermillion Flycatcher, Andean Emerald, Bananaquit, Marañon Gnatcatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Golden bellied Grosbeak, Croaking Ground Dove and Purple-throated Euphonia. Elmer was called and he drove us back to the camp for breakfast, which was Granola and drinking yoghurt, toast and Fanny (strawberry marmalade) and cheese with lots of coffee to wake us up.
We left about 8.20am taking time to meet the family who owned the orchard. They had reared a young Peruvian Pigeon that had fallen out of its nest. We were shown the inside of a Cacao pod that is segmented like a dried orange. It seemed quite a long way to the village of Chacanto, where Elmer and Fernando had to register with the local police. Balsas was a few kilometres further on and not on our road so we did not see the ‘squalid’ hotel that was the alternative to camping.
We crossed the Marañon River and started to climb the hillside with constantly changing views of the river. We kept saying ‘bye-bye’ as it disappeared behind a hill only for it to reappear minutes later. Fernando said that we would still be able to see it from the top of the pass.
We stopped to see more Buff-Bridled Inca Finches and now we all were able to see the Bridle, we also saw Smooth-billed Ani, White-tipped Dove, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture and Bare-faced Ground Dove.
We climbed a few more hundred feet to see our first Grey-winged Inca Finch and, later, Fernando called one up and we all had brilliant views. We also saw Rufous-collared Sparrow, Black-lored/Masked Yellowthroat and White-winged Black Tyrant. The road was amazingly busy with trucks and buses and it was quite dusty at times. Luckily when we stopped for lunch we only had two vehicles pass and then peace and quite. We had fried chicken with mixed vegetables, cheese sandwich, chocolate and masses of assorted biscuits, excellent from the camp kitchen.
We went on and stopped at the top of the pass for the views and found a family cemetery there. During the journey up to the top we had seen people winnowing their barley, hand reaping and a lady milking her cow by hand too.
We made one stop of the way down to look at humid montane forest and saw several birds, Peruvian Meadowlark, Ash-breasted Sierra-finch, Black-throated Flower-piercer, Chiguanco Thrush, White-browed Chat-Tyrant, Black-crested Tit-Tyrant, Mountain Caracara, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Tri-colored Brush-finch and Rufous-webbed Tyrant. The general feeling was for getting to the hotel early so we drove straight down to the Hostel Celendin on the main square of what seemed to be a pleasant town but with many poor people.
Our rooms were basic but adequate with hot showers and a proper loo, which is what everyone was looking forward to after the experience of the campsite. We showered and sorted out our things first and then had a look round the square and at the church. Joan and Richard had Coca tea and Café con leche whilst sitting in the courtyard of the hotel with Pete doing his bird list and enjoying a beer. Judith and Pete were not too happy with their room as it was on the ground floor and had no windows whatsoever. The other rooms were upstairs, and dodgy stairs they were too, Joan and Richard’s room opened onto the side street and Geoff and Mary’s room overlooked the main square, but had a very large step up into it. We did two day’s bird list at 6.00pm and had dinner, later than planned, at 7.00pm. We had avocado or potatoes in sauce, lomo saltado or steak and chips followed by cream caramel. We crashed to bed at 9.30pm.
Friday 8th September 2006.
Cloudy start but some clear blue sky with puffy clouds. Hot in the sun but cool when the sun went in.
Up for breakfast at 5.30am but this turned into 5.45 and then not without a lot of prodding from Fernando. We had bread rolls, cheese and very runny jam that was thought to be carrot and cinnamon. We loaded the van and left at 6.15am and drove up hill towards the Puna zone.
We made several birding stops, the first yielded good sightings of birds that we had seen earlier, Cattle Egret, Blue-and White Swallow, Smooth-billed Ani, Chiguanco Thrush, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Great Thrush, Black-throated Flower-piercer, Cinereous Conebill, Rufous-webbed Tyrant, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Blue-and-Yellow Tanager, Band-tailed Pigeon, American Kestrel and Andean Flicker but we also saw Rufous-naped Ground Tyrant and a Cinereous Harrier that circled round and round but refused to perch. We also heard Azara’s spinetail and Baron’s Spinetail as well as the Chestnut-crowned Antpitta.
At our second stop we had a reply from a Rufous Antpitta, cajamarca subspecies, but we failed to attract it into view. However, we did see Black-billed Shrike Tyrant, Tyrian Metaltail, Mountain Caracara, Great Sapphirewing, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Mountain Wren, Green-tailed Trainbearer and Streak throated Bush-Tyrant. Two more tries for the Rufous Antpitta gained one very close reply from a very small patch of scrub but the bird could not be enticed out. As we drove on we saw more and more milk production and every village had its milk chilling plant. We saw lots of churns waiting for collection and later donkeys carrying milk churns to and from farms. We also saw several unaccompanied donkeys making their own way home, carrying up to four churns. The road itself was amazingly busy at times. We drove steadily up to the Puna Zone and made several stops to look at birds through the windows of the van. At one bird stop we saw a lady using a back strap loom outside in the field behind her house, the warp threads being attached to the house.
In the Puna Zone we passed another lot of ‘Gringos’ who had stopped on the side of the road looking at the birds and flowers. As we approached the highest point we saw Andean Lapwing and Andean Flicker very close to the road we also saw Puna Hawk, White-browed Chat-tyrant, a juvenile Mountain Caracara feeding on the ground like a chicken, Bar-winged Cinclodes, Band-tailed Seedeater, Slender-billed Miner and Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant.
We stopped at El Indio pass, 12335.93 feet above mean sea level and at 78º 15.31’West; 7º 2.32’South, to photographed flowers. We had our picnic lunch just over the top of the pass. Joan’s Coca Cola decided to explode and made a great mess and Peter had similar coke control problems as the sun affected the gasses at the high altitude.
Having finished lunch we started steadily downhill towards Cajamarca seeing Hooded Siskin, Peruvian Sierra-Finch and Mourning Sierra-Finch on the way, but, despite searching, no Turkey Vulture so losing our last ‘every day’ bird. We looked down into the Plaza de Toros at La Escañada before driving through the town. It looked as if the town had been flooded recently, as there was a lot of flood defence work being carried out in the river and the drains were all being replaced. Just outside the town we encountered road-widening activities and had to wait half an hour while the road was cleared of fallen rocks, which had been brought down by dynamite earlier on. The driver of the dozer was extremely skilled and very large (approximately 3 tonne) blocks were either lifted clear or pushed over the edge. Our line of vehicles was allowed though first and we counted 15 assorted cars, trucks, buses and vans waiting to go the other way. We had two other short stops for road building work, grading and culvert construction, but the road had been much improved already and we arrived at Hotel Laguna Seca at Baños del Inca, 8624 ft (2633m) above sea level, about 4.45pm. We had to fill in registration forms, which took a little time but we were soon in our bathrooms! The hotel rooms consisted of a very large bathroom with just a small sleeping area attached.
The hot water for the bathroom came from the hot springs but it would take ages to fill the huge walk-in bath, which was a pity, but it seemed a waste of water to do so anyway.
We sorted out massive piles of laundry and went for a beer in the cafeteria. It was raining by this time as a thunderstorm had passed by. The restaurant didn’t open until 7.00 and we were still eating at 9pm. Geoff and Mary had wine with their dinner and Geoff came over quite poorly and went to bed so the bird list was postponed until tomorrow lunchtime. We got to bed about 9.45pm.
Saturday 9th September 2006.
A fresh, sunny start, cloudy by midday but the sun returned and warmed it up again.
Joan and Richard were woken up by the radio alarm clock at 00.00 so the device was excommunicated from the electricity.
Up for breakfast at 5.30am. Geoff did not appear at breakfast but Mary said he was feeling much better but would not be coming on the morning trip. Mary made him a sandwich for his breakfast.
We left a few minutes after 6.00 and drove southeast towards San Marcos. We had a false start as the road that Fernando thought we were going to take was very rough and, when a local was asked, it appeared that it was impassable. We turned round and then went further into Cajamarca and then on a fairly new road south and east. There was a lot of activity in the fields with the women milking the cows as we passed. We stopped short of San Marcos and walked a trail that had probably been the original (Inca) main road. Last night’s rain made it damp but stuck all the loose stones into the mud. There were a number of locals walking the other way (up hill) some with their donkeys carrying large packs.
Birding was good, we saw a different subspecies of the Chiguanco Thrush that was lighter in colour on the belly than the mantle, wings and tail rather than being quite uniform. We also saw Vermillion Flycatcher, Croaking Ground Dove, White-tipped Dove, Buff-bridled Inca-Finch, Blackish Tapaculo heard, Short-tailed Field-Tyrant, Dull-colored Grassquit, Blue-and-Yellow Tanager, Eared Dove, White-winged Black-Tyrant, House Wren, Spot-throated Hummingbird, Hepatic Tanager, Purple-collared Woodstar, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, Striped Cuckoo heard and Tropical Pewee. After hearing a Great Spinetail and not seeing it, Fernando tried in a second place and got no reply. He then spotted one in a tree at the foot of a steep slope and we all hurried down as best we could but it flew out of sight. After several attempts with the recording, we managed excellent views of 4 birds, 2/3rds of the known local population. A short distance further on a bird was heard calling and Fernando taped it. After much searching in the acacia scrub we located a Chestnut-backed Thornbird sitting in the middle of a bush signing away merrily. Fernando was very surprised as previously the Great Spinetail and the Chestnut-backed Thornbird had not been recorded together in the same area. On the rest of the walk we saw American Kestrel, Band-tailed Seedeater, Turkey Vulture, Band-tailed Sierra-Finch and Rufous-collared Sparrow. We met Elmer and the van at the foot of the trail, we had walked about 2.5km, and we drove up the road to where we had started then back towards Cajamarca. We stopped on the roadside to see if there was anything on a small lake and decided to have a closer look. We drove down a track to Laguna Sulluscocha, where we added Andean Coot, Pied-billed Grebe and Black-crowned Night Heron to the list.
We got back to the Hotel Laguna Seca at 12.15 and had our boxed lunch sitting in their picnic area. We had to rescue our lunch boxes as the security men had hidden them away while we sorted out our things. Whilst eating our lunch we saw a Speckled Hummingbird, the Cajamarca subspecies. After lunch Fernando went into the city taking cards and letters to the post for us all, Joan, Judith and Richard explored the hot springs and both Joan and Judith sampled the swimming pool at 38.6ºC it was lovely. Having stayed in too long Joan was overheated and Judith developed a headache that soon went off.
We all gathered at 3.00pm and drove north to Rio Chonta. We tried to take a short cut but a bridge over a small stream was being repaired and the road was closed. For the second time in the day Fernando took local advice and we turned round to find an alternative route and little higher up the valley side. The road was very rough and also very busy. On the way we saw Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret, Golden-bellied Grosbeak, White-browed Chat-tyrant, Spotted Sandpiper and Bare-eyed Ground Dove. We saw a bridge on a side road that had broken on one side and a tipper truck, loaded with gravel, had fallen into the river. We eventually arrived at the spot that Fernando had chosen at about 4.15pm and stayed about an hour, seeing the sought after Gray-bellied Comet as well as Black-throated Flower-piercer, a male Black Metaltail, Bar-winged Cinclodes, Tyrian Metaltail, Mountain Wren and Black-crested Tit-Tyrant. There were a few other birds about but it was windy in the canyon and we were getting cold and did not fancy the journey back in the dark. On our way back Elmer stopped because he spotted a Golden-billed Saltator, we were all most impressed.
At the broken bridge we were amazed with the local ingenuity. They had made a ramp down into the river, where the lorry had fallen in and they had, from somewhere, obtained a CAT digger that was now in a position to tip the lorry back onto its wheels. Once upright they would be able to get it out of the river either under its own power or towed by the digger.
We had another abortive short-cut attempt close to the airport where another bridge repair closed our proposed route. Again we had to turn round and go into Cajamarca to get back to Baños del Inca, arriving at 6.45pm (in the dark!).
We changed and went into dinner at 7.30pm. We order dinner and then did yesterday’s bird list and made a start at today’s before starters arrived. Joan and Richard wanted to have their starter as a main course with vegetables and chips but the starter came first and then they had the vegetables and chips when everyone else had their main course. We all had a desert to finish except Geoff and Mary who had a starter and a main course. We finished the bird list and then went to bed, late today, at 10.30pm with a promise of a lie-in tomorrow.
Sunday 10th September 2006.
Bright sunny morning but cloudy and quite cool by mid-afternoon but there was no rain.
We woke up naturally and we went exploring the hotel garden and admired the steaming springs in the cool morning air. Around the hotel we saw Rufous-collared Sparrow, Chiguanco Thrush, Vermillion Flycatcher, Croaking Ground Dove, Eared Dove and American Kestrel. Joan and Richard saw a group of unidentified birds near the horse paddock. (See end of the day)
We had breakfast at 8.00am and met our local guide (Fanny) at 9.30am. We drove to Otuzco to visit the Ventanillas de Otuzco at 9334 ft (2850m) above sea level. A special stop was made on the way so we could see Andean Gull, Puna Ibis and Cattle Egret in a wet meadow. On the way Fanny explained that the building method of shuttering the walls, filling it with tamped mud with lines of stones in between, was called Tapial and was a very strong and flexible form of adobe. The lines of stones allow the walls to dry out slowly and evenly.
Ventanillas de Otuzco dates from 1150BC and the name Otuzco means ‘moth eaten’ in Culle, the Cajamarca culture language. Cajamarca culture thrived from 200BC to 600AD.
The Ventanillas de Otuzco comprise 337 niches cut into the rock face, some just a single niche, others with multiple side niches, possibly for a family. Only head and limb bones were interred in the niches, of adults at least. Whole child skeletons have been found. Some form of pre-burial must have taken place followed by a ritual burial in the niches. The niches were originally sealed with the same stone that they were cut into. At Combayo, another ventanillas site nearby, the niches were sealed with adobe. Recent archaeological excavations at the top of the Ventanillas have revealed a tomb cut into the top of the rock with a complete skeleton of a man buried laid out flat as at Sipán. As a result of this they are having another thought about burial rites and methods.
From the top, we had a bird’s eye view of the Otuzco valley with its stands of Willow and Eucalyptus and herds of milking cows. The Cajamarca area produces large quantities of milk and the local cheese is a speciality. Cochineal (Cochinilla in Spanish) is also produced locally, some of it natural but some introduced. While we were there local children performed a carnival song for us.
Outside, Fanny bought us a Chalarina, a green fruit that looked like a green tangerine and we all tasted it. It was soft, like an avocado inside, but tasted like a cross between a pear and a banana. We also tried Tarwi, a bean produced from a plant like a lupin. These beans were an Inca staple being high in protein. They require boiling in water and then soaking in water, changed daily for 7 days to remove the bitterness.
After buying postcards, we drove into Cajamarca city centre and admired the colonial buildings, all built of Tapial. They looked very beautiful with their elaborate doorways, carved balconies and deeply overhanging roofs.
Our first stop after circling the Plaza de Armas was at El Cuarto del Rescate – the Ransom Room where Atahualpa was imprisoned for 8 months by Francisco Pizarro. He gave a ransom of two lots of silver and one of gold filling the room. There is a line that would have been white but is now marked in red that indicates the level to which the room was filled. Despite paying this huge ransom Atahualpa was killed by the Spaniards because they thought he was too clever because he had learnt to play chess by watching the guards and gave advice that led to victory for the man he advised. When he realised that he would be burned at the stake he accepted Christianity and was baptised and this allowed him to be garrotted and his body could go into the afterlife complete. After his death, 29th July 1535, his people took away 4-fingers depth of soil that he had died on and kept it sacred.
This is the only remaining Inca building in Cajamarca. When the Inca Atahualpa was killed the other Incas destroyed their homes so the Spaniards shouldn’t have them. Later the Spaniards completed the destruction.
We crossed the road and visited the Chapel of the Dolorosa (The Virgin of the Sorrows), built 1699, which is intricately carved inside and out. The carving of the Last Supper in the chancel has a guinea pig on a plate in front of Jesus. Attached to this chapel is the church of San Francisco, so called because it was a Franciscan establishment for many years but was actually the Church of San Antonio. This church now had two bell towers added in the 20th Century. The other church and the Cathedral have no towers because the Spanish taxed finished churches. There was some form of fund raising concert, for poor people, taking place outside on the patio. We walked across the square, passing the fountain in the centre, to the Cathedral (1689). This is only open for Sunday masses and, as mass was just finishing; we managed to get in to have a look around. The altar was covered in gold leaf – the only one to survive a war with Chile. The pulpit is contemporary with the building but repaired after an effigy of Christ, covered in gold, was stolen.
This cathedral was originally the church of the higher class Spanish whilst San Francisco was for the local people and this social split still survives. We looked from the square up to Santa Apolonia, a hilltop Calvary built on the site of a pre-Inca altar. We decided the 120 steps to the church followed by 40 more to the Calvary were all too much. Instead, with both Fernando and Fanny, we went to the market where almost everything was on sale. We then went onto a small craft market where we all bought essential souvenirs including the ‘catch a ball on a stick’ game that Elmer is good at, we won’t mention everyone else’s efforts.
As time was getting on we made our way to the El Querubino Restaurant for lunch. We happily paid a little extra each for Fanny to join us, as she had been so good. The food was excellent but too much at lunchtime. It was quite smoky in the restaurant, as the city electricity had been turned off for essential maintenance and no extractor fans were working. During lunch Fanny told us that some of her family thought to have been killed in the 1970 earthquake had survived. She said that she was working in the local goldmine and they extracted 100kg of gold a week. She eventually understood our question about getting free samples and fell about laughing.
We arrived back at the Hotel Laguna Seca about 3pm and variously pottered about. Judith studied the Chachapoyas book, Peter and Geoff checked their bird lists and Mary read her book. Joan and Richard decided to check out the local fire station as Richard thought he had seen an old Bedford ‘Green Goddess’. We walked down the driveway of the hotel and a short distance along the main road and, lo and behold, there was a ‘Green Goddess’ in smart Bomberos livery, donated under the Emergency LatinAmerica Scheme, with a registration plate SYH 491. We came back to buy a book about the Birds of Cajamarca produced by the hotel. Mary, Geoff, Judith and Joan had a swim in the hot pool but didn’t stay in too long this time. We had a beer in the cafeteria at 6.30 and went for dinner at 7pm. After a big lunch, Fenrnado had a starter and main course while we all had starters only. Mary, Geoff, Judith and Peter managed a desert too. After studying Fernando’s ‘Birds of the High Andes’ we decided this morning’s early birds were juvenile Peruvian Sierra Finches.
We had to pack again after dinner, ready to move on tomorrow, but managed to get to bed at 9.45pm.
Monday 11th September 2006.
It was a bright sunny start and through midday and very windy in the valley of the Jequetepeque River and along the Pan American highway; misty – just like Lima – in Trujillo.
Up for breakfast at 5.30, we loaded up and were away at 6.00am.
We drove through Cajamarca, today we only saw Andean Gull, Snowy Egret and Cattle Egret in the wet meadow, and up and over Abra El Gavilan at 9989ft (3050m). Not far over the summit, we stopped and looked for Rufous-backed Inca Finch without success. However, we did a new subspecies of Cloud Forest Brush-finch, Atlapetes latinuchus baroni, Jelski’s Chat Tyrant, Grey Chinned hermit and much better views of the Black crested Warbler as well as Chiguanco Thrush, Cinereous Conebill, Mountain Wren, Unicolored Tapaculo heard, Spectacled Whitestart, Andean Flicker, Band-tailed Pigeon, Scrub Blackbird and as always we heard the Chestnut-crowned Antpitta.
We continued downhill but then stopped very suddenly as a large Tarantula was in the middle of the road. Fernando moved it with his foot (!) into the side of the road so that it wouldn’t get run over and we all studied it from a safe distance. It was very motionless and we feared Fernando’s kick had damaged it; we all got very brave and examined it closely. Fernando tried to lift it into some vegetation, using to polystyrene trays but it was still very lively and it took him a while to get it into a safe place without it touching him.
We stopped at a second place and resumed our search for the Rufous-backed Inca Finch, again without success but we did see lots of other birds Oasis Hummingbird, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant, Eared Dove, Golden-billed Saltator, Long-tailed Mockingbird, Slate-throated Whitestart, Greenish Yellow-Finch, Golden-Olive Woodpecker, White-tipped Dove, Golden-bellied Grosbeak, Red-backed Hawk, Vermillion Flycatcher, American Kestrel, Band-tailed Seedeater, Turkey Vulture and Black Vulture. Fernando stood on an ant’s nest to everyone’s amusement, especially Elmer, Pedro and Señor Bernal.
As we drove down steeply for over 100km, we saw several convoys of heavily laden lorries with materials for the gold mine near Cajamarca. This happens every Monday – glad we were going in the opposite direction. Along the way we saw Croaking Ground Dove, Great Egret, Groove-billed Ani, Little Blue Heron, Shiny Cowbird, Bare-faced Ground Dove and Saffron Finch. We had lunch beside the road overlooking orchards and the river.
As we approached the coast, the countryside became increasingly arid. On the journey, research into the distribution of Andean straw hats into the lowlands continued. In the end it was decided that whilst hats were uncommon in the lowlands they were still quite widespread on the coast; at least it stopped us going to sleep.
At Tembladera, we saw the start of the Gallito Ciego Dam (Blind Cockerel Dam), a huge reservoir that we ran alongside for about 3km. Many of the rocks on the hillside looked very unstable and there were signs that some landslips had been recently cleared. The Pan American Highway was being windswept and barren with hazy fog obscuring the usual beauty of the dessert. Some areas, where water was available, were very green and lush. Along the main road we saw Pacific Hornero, Tropical Kingbird, Neotropic Cormorant, Peruvian Meadowlark, Blue-and-White Swallow and House Sparrow.
We arrived at the Hotel Libertador in Trujillo at about 4pm and were soon booked in. Our room was very nice with huge beds but clearly aimed at one-night stays.
After showering, we explored the Plaza de Armas outside the hotel. There was a very unusual central memorial with a strange, deformed, figure on top. Geoff, quite correctly, said he looked as if his foot was on fire. We met at 6.30 for a beer and had dinner at 7.00pm, Ceviche followed by fillet steak and vegetables followed by a choice of sweets from the trolley. We did the bird list in the lounge area and went to bed at 10.00pm.
Tuesday 12th September 2006.
Misty all day in Trujillo, bright, sunny and pleasantly warm in Sinsicap.
We were up for breakfast at 5.30, loaded the van and left at 6.00am. We drove east towards the Andes. At Simbal we turned left onto a dirt road that wound slowly, via numerous hairpin bends, up 2000 metres. It was very bumpy and dusty and we all had a bush stop after about 2 hours travelling. The scenery was increasingly beautiful as we gained altitude and we saw several birds during the journey including Blue-and-white Swallow, American Kestrel, Groove-billed Ani, Vermillion Flycatcher, Croaking Ground Dove, Long-tailed Mockingbird, Eared Dove, White-tipped Dove, Black Phoebe, Peruvian Meadowlark, Pacific Parrotlet and a Turkey Vulture sitting on a house roof at one end, there was a big television aerial at the other end. We passed a huge lorry going the other way and we were astounded when we came round a bend to see Sinsicap, a large village or small town completely hidden until we almost reached it. It was a strange place that seemed to have very few people. It is supposed to be healthy and could be weekend houses for Trujillo people.
We drove about 3km beyond Sinsicap and stopped to look for a Russet-bellied Spinetail without success but we did see Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Tumbes Pewee and Bay-crowned Brush-Finch amongst others, Blue-and-Yellow Tanager, Golden-bellied Grosbeak, Rufous-collared Sparrow and Black-throated Flower-piercer. We drove round to the next turn where the road crossed a ravine. The vehicles parked up and we walked the last bit. Because the road was so poor, the support vehicle stayed with us all day rather than, as previously thought, returning to Chiclayo after we had we reached Sinsicap.
When we reached the ravine, we looked downhill first and were watching a Yellow-bellied Tit Tyrant when a Curve-billed Tinamou literally flew from under our feet and drifted down the valley. It looked just like a partridge with a patterned back and russet or rufous in the wings. Trying next up-hill we saw two or three Russet-bellied Spinetails as they flew back and forth above us but we failed to locate them perched, as the scrub was very thick. We also had very good views of the newly discovered, and as yet unnamed, subspecies of the Speckled Hummingbird and House Wren, Hooded Siskin, Scrub Blackbird, Shining Sunbeam and Three-banded Warbler.
As we thought of leaving, Fernando heard a Unicoloured Tapaculo and recorded the call. With this he managed to entice a pair near enough for us to see them hiding at the bottom of a bush beside the road. A bus passed by during this operation but it did not disturb the birds too much.
We walked back to the vehicles to have our lunch, which we shared gladly with the drivers. During lunch we had a group photograph session – all very posed. We set up the telescope, also used our binoculars, and looked down on Sinsicap watching a man walk under the new bridge and out of sight. The commentary on his movements was hilarious and we were all shaking with laughter.
After lunch we decided that the road was so bad that we preferred to get back to the hotel in daylight so we set off back the way we had come. We stopped on the way and tried for a better view of the Spinetail but didn’t hear, or see anything of it. We did, however, get excellent views of a Giant Hummingbird and saw Southern Beardless Tyrannulet (much less exciting). We had a swap round to seats in the van and continued down. There were lots of Black Vultures waiting on rocks beside the road, which was a little alarming. There were also Shiny Cowbird and Bare-faced Ground Dove beside the road, recording sightings in a notebook was very difficult on the bumpy road. We passed another bus, this time on its was uphill to Sinsicap and St. Ignacio, a village even further on, and saw another two on their way up as we drove back to Trujillo. Total journey 67km and more then 3 hours each way. As writer of the journal and lover of precipitous roads I enjoyed the trip but most of the group felt the end did not necessarily deserve the means.
We arrived at the Hotel Libertador about 3.45pm and said farewell to Pedro and Señor José Bernal as they left to drive back to Chiclayo with all the camping gear.
We had showers and changed for dinner and went down for a beer about 6.15pm. An American lady, from Seattle, came over and chatted for a while as they had been to the places that we were doing tomorrow. We went in for dinner at 7.00 but it was ages before we were served. We all ate too much of the pancake, cheese and asparagus starter and the ladies, at least, could not finish the fish main course – it was strong and very rich.
Fernando announced that he would not be flying with us to Lima but would be going straight back to Chiclayo tomorrow.
We did the bird list and chatted until Luis Ocas, our guide for tomorrow, arrived about 9.15pm. Luckily his plans for us were exactly what we had in mind so we arranged to meet at 8.00am in the morning.
We went back to the room to pack, ready to fly to Lima tomorrow evening, and bed at 10.15.
Wednesday 13th September 2006.
Hazy all morning, briefly sunny midday to mid afternoon then back to typical Peru coastal mist.
We were up for breakfast at 7.00 and Fernando had his last huge breakfast and we gave him his envelope as a token of our appreciation of his efforts during the tour. We got our luggage and deposited it in Judith and Peter’s room ready for collection this evening.
We gathered at 8.00am to go to Huaca del Sol and de la Luna and had final group photographs. We said our sad farewells to Fernando and then Luis, our archaeology guide, took over as leader for the day.
The drive to Huacas took no time at all but we saw Rufous-collared Sparrows, Long-tailed Mockingbirds and a few Least Grebe on the Moche River on the way. The road had been improved significantly, since the guide book had been written, with stone block paving all the way beside a 2000 year old Moche irrigation canal. Moche irrigation produced a huge fertile area now reduced by 90% by building on the land.
The Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna lie at the bottom of White Hill, which has APRA in stones marked in it in support of a political party.
The Moche did not worship the sun or the moon so the names were given erroneously by the Spanish, who assumed they were Inca constructions. The word HUACA is appropriate however as it means ‘sacred’.
The man-made mounds have many holes in their sides where grave robbers have been looking for plunder. When complete, the Huaca del Sol was 35m high and the Huaca de la Luna 25m high and they were built, between 0 and 600AD, of adobe (mud bricks).
Excavations first took place in 1894 by a German archaeologist but the present work was not started until 1991 after a tiny piece of painted adobe relief was found. Pilsen Trujillo is sponsoring the excavations and all the workers were wearing Pilsen tee-shirts.
We went up and entered the Huaca de la Luna compound through a new south entrance in the boundary wall. Part of White Hill is included in the compound and over 100 sacrificed bodies of men were found close to the stone. All the skeletons were embedded in mud suggesting they were sacrificed during a period of El Ňiño to try and stop the rain. Rain was seen as a punishment by the gods. Gladiatorial type battles took place between two men, the victor survived and the loser was sacrificed. It appears that any injuries received during the battle were allowed to heal before the sacrifice took place. Before being put to death the victim drank a powerful narcotic. The blood of the victim had an anti-coagulant added, which is poisonous, so, despite some theories, the King would not have drunk the blood. It was possibly poured onto the ground for fertility. Images on pottery show scenes also suggesting the sacrifices took place during wet periods.
Originally when the archaeologist started excavating they numbered the layers from 6 at the top, downwards 5, 4 etc. Realising that that might not be enough numbers, they now identify the layers with ‘a’ at the top, ‘b’ then ‘c’ etc.
AI-PAEC was the Moche god with the eyes of an owl, later this was a condor, teeth of a jaguar and stylised snakes surrounded his image. Moche symbolism had Condor for sky, Jaguar or Puma for earth and snake for water or the underworld.
As each temple was ‘improved’ it was built over and larger than the previous one. The lowest (earliest) was a single layer, the second was built completely encircling the first and on top of it, the next carried on this method. Tombs of Kings and Priests were buried in the floor of the temple. New temples were built about every 80 –100 years. Many tombs had been looted but a tomb of a priest contained a spike or needle of a type still in use today for putting lime into the mouth with coca leaves to speed up the release of the coca. The needle would be pushed into a squash that had lime put inside. The needle has a disc attached to seal the top of the squash.
We were shown a selection of adobe bricks with an assortment of makers’ marks, as at Sipán. These temples were made using an estimate of 50 million adobe bricks!
Quipu (knotted strings) were used to record the number of bricks used and are interpreted as a form of writing that, sadly, no one now can understand. Quipu are not purely an Inca invention as they have been found from 2000BC at Caral, 190km north of Lima. The Caral at 3000BC are the earliest civilisation found so far.
We climbed to the top, where a throne with ceremonial steps was located – steps of adobe were weak so access was via a ramp. The king would sit here to receive the ceremonial blood from the sacrifice and was in full view from the bottom of the temple outside the sacred area. The walls adjacent to the throne had been redecorated on several occasions. From the top platform we looked down onto the area where the common people lived. Their houses were built of Quincha, cane and mud mixed together, (wattle and daub is a similar idea but the framework is built first and the daub applied afterwards). The artisans lived in sections, potters, weavers, chicha makers etc. The Moche people worked in silver, gold, copper and bronze but they did not know iron.
We finally went through to look at the North side of the temple facing the courtyard where gladiatorial fights took place. A ramp leads up from this level to the top. The side of the ramp across the north side of the temple had a snake that was larger at the deeper end of the ramp. Below this were ranks of Khoa, a mythical bear with two heads a bit like a dragon, Fishermen, Spiders, Dancers and warriors. The steps continued underneath the lower ramp and the battle losers could be seen in shackles near the bottom of the ramp. There were also some very complicated painted reliefs, thought to be a type of calendar. It is amazing to think how much more is buried in the temple mound and in the Huaca del Sol which, apart from robbers, is as yet untouched. We completed our tour by visiting the shop for souvenirs and postcards. All around the site were loads of House Sparrows, we could understand why Fernando had told us we could take them all home with us. We loaded up and Elmer drove us back to Trujillo for a city tour.
Trujillo was built by Diego de Almagro in 1534 under the orders of Francisco Pizarro. The position of the cathedral is unchanged although El Ňiño and earthquakes have necessitated several rebuildings. The Plaza de Armes originally had three very large houses on each side. Originally they were built of stone but in 1619 an earthquake destroyed 95% of building so rebuilding was in adobe – much more resistant to tremors.
Trujillo was the first Peruvian city to free itself from Spanish rule in 1829. It was the Spanish Creoles who revolted against Spaniards from mainland Spain who taxed them unfairly.
In 1929, for the one hundred years celebration, the central monument was installed. It was built in Germany and the ‘Angel of Liberty’ was intended to be higher so it looks out of proportion with small feet and too large a head. It was probably reduced in height to keep it lower than the top of the cathedral. The angel was male but was castrated by religious prudes; the missing piece we were told is now in a convent! The various reliefs round the base of the column were also inaccurate with a bulldog being shown and the wrong military uniforms. Knowing more about it did in fact make it less ugly but more amusing – his foot still looks on fire.
We visited the home of Simon Bolivar, now the Central Reserve bank of Peru. The old colonial houses were based around three courtyards, the public one, the private one and the garden. There is a side corridor to allow horses to go from the front entrance to the stables behind the garden. This building became the first bank in Trujillo in 1871 and issued its own banknotes until 1881.
We then walked up a street closed to traffic from 11.30 to 2pm and from 5.30 to 8 to visit Independence House, so called because it was here that the decision was made to take power form the Spanish overlords. The servicios back at the Hotel Libertador, which was one third of one side of the square, beckoned us before travelling to Huanchaco for a fish lunch in a restaurant beside the beach. Our table was upstairs with a lovely view over the beach and we saw Grey-headed Gull, Peruvian Booby and Peruvian Tern over the sea. We had a delicious selection of food and service was quite quick apart from coffee, which took a while to appear.
We went for a short walk along the promenade and looked at a small display of Totora reed being grown, especially for visitors and also an exhibit of a model reed fishing boat. We then went down onto the beach where it was low tide so we had hard, wet sand to walk on. There were about 60 boats propped up along the sea wall drying in the sun after the mornings fishing trip. The fishermen go out daily and the sea is divided into sectors and the fishermen only fish their patch. Elmer collected us and drove us to Chan Chan where we visited the restored and rebuilt Tschudi Palace, which occupies 11 hectares. The whole site of Chan Chan covers 14 sq km, originally it was 24 sq km and had a population of 60,000 people.
There are at least 9 huge palaces at Chan Chan because, when a king died, the new king moved into a palace that the old king had already started in anticipation of his death.
We started by going in via the small single entrance through the perimeter wall that was originally 10 – 15m high. The public square that we entered first is 5500 sq m and the surrounding walls are decorated with reliefs of squirrels at the bottom representing earth; horizontal barring representing the sea and a flat are representing the sky. There is an altar in the middle and a ramp opposite the entrance for the king’s throne.
One route out of the square was for llamas and lead to the storage and kitchen area; a very similar idea to the horse corridor in the Trujillo houses. The route opposite leads past reliefs of fish and birds (pelicans) to the various audience chambers all decorated with diamond fishing net designs. There were enclosed, and possibly roofed, rooms off the audience chambers that were probably bedrooms. We continued going away from the main entrance into a private area and visited a huge square that had lost all its reliefs. Luis told us that possibly only 100 people lived in the palace and most of these would be servants – they must have rattled about well. The mummified body of the king was regularly taken out and shown to the public and the ceremonial route from the private square to the main public square was lined with benches for the offerings.
We continued eastwards to look at the well; one of 125 in Chan Chan only 6 or 7 of which were in the area used by the common people. We saw several birds on the water, including White-tufted Grebe and Andean Duck also, but not new for the trip, were Cinnamon Teal, Moorhen and Coot.
We continued further into the palace complex and saw an end on view of the wall construction. There were stones at the base, well compacted, then adobe blocks crossbonded but with spaces between for a clay ‘mortar’ or adhesive. In the 1970 earthquake, reconstructed wall around the first square we visited fell down but the chine originals were unaffected. Lastly we visited the cemetery area where the king was found buried in a seated position. Many bodies of sacrificed women were also found, it seemed each time the mummy of the king was removed for display new sacrificed concubines were added to the burial.
Walking back out, we really grasped the huge and labyrinthine nature of the palace. We loaded up and drove directly back to the Hotel Libertador on Plaza de Armas. We took a last admiring look at the Angel of Liberty, back view standing on his left leg with his right foot on fire!
We went for a beer about 5.00pm, we realise beer consumption is important with the Brewery supporting all the excavations at Huaca de la Luna. The chaps got the luggage down about 5.30. Dinner was served on the dot of 6.00pm – the American group were also eating as they were on the same plane. None of us was very hungry after our super lunch. The octopus ceviche was delicious as was the chicken with root vegetables but none of us ate everything and we all declined dessert. Mary made a chicken sandwich for Elmer. We loaded up for the airport at 6.30 having given Elmer his present and all gave him great hugs – passers-by wanted to join in too. We arrived at the airport in good time and soon got checked in. Our luggage was a few kilos overweight but they were not too concerned.
The flight, on an Airbus 319 of LanChile, was full and we too off a few minutes late at 8.35 but we arrived in Lima on time at 9.30pm. Collecting our bags was quite quick and we were back at the Sonesta El Olivar within the hour with Ophelia as our escort.
We found that our room had been booked for two nights, even though we were leaving the following evening, so we did not have to worry about how we were going to wash and change before we left. Eventually we got to bed about 11.30pm – a long day.
Thursday 14th September 2006.
Typical Lima winter murkiness, the sun could be felt but not seen until briefly about midday.
Up for breakfast at 8.00am, it was a very good buffet, consumed at a leisurely pace. The hotel seemed to be full of French businessmen.
At 9.30 Ophelia met us with a minibus and driver and we went on a city tour. From San Isidro, where we were staying, we drove northeast towards the old city centre. We travelled via the Freeway and admired the plantings on both sides of the road and the dedicated bus lanes in the centre, between the carriageways. We passed the Fine Art museum with 2000 years of fine arts on display. At Plaza Grau, we saw the statue of Admiral Grau, who was credited with, in 1871, victory against Chile, which was almost by accident.
We passed the Civic Centre, which at 35 storeys, is the highest building in Lima. High buildings are not good in an area of high earthquake risk. Nearby is the Palace of Justice and a fine French-style building occupied by lawyers and notaries. We drove slowly round the Plaza San Martin admiring the 1920s buildings around it and the equestrian statue of José de San Martin, who declared independence from Spain. The statue is on a representation of snow-capped Andean peaks. We continued to the Plaza de Armas or Plaza Mayor. This square was originally the Plaza of an insignificant Inca city. When Francisco Pizarro came in 1534 it was summer and the weather was sunny, he liked the city so he rebuilt all the buildings around the square but they more or less retained their use in the same place. Had Pizarro arrived at Lima in winter in the misty cold weather, it would probably never have been the capital. The first stones of the square and cathedral were laid on 18.1.1535. The palace of the local Inca leader became the Governor’s Palace. The building used for the administration is still just that and the site of the Inca temple to the sun became the cathedral.
Because of earthquakes, the buildings have been rebuilt frequently. Most of the buildings painted ochre yellow were rebuilt in the 1940s but the 17th century balconies have survived and been put back. To the left of the Cathedral, is the elaborate Bishop’s Palace, with its closed balconies, which was built in the 1920s. The oldest thing in the square is the fountain built in 1650. It was not completed before Francisco Pizarro was murdered. Originally it was powered by a natural water spring but now has a re-circulating pump.
We visited the cathedral, which is built entirely of wood with the exception of the stone front. Following numerous earthquakes, it was decided that stone was too dangerous a building material so it is now made from Cedar imported from Nicaragua or Panama. The present building dates from 1809. The cathedral is actually dedicated to St John the Evangelist but it was known, until 1985 as the Virgin of the Rosary. Then, when Pope John-Paul II visited Lima, he said that it should be called the Virgin of the Gospel or the Evangelist. In 1988 he returned and presented a golden rose to the cathedral, one of three presented in South America, and her statue can now be seen holding it. The figure of the Virgin came from Spain in the 15th century.
The bones of Francisco Pizarro are interred in a Chapel built in 1924 and decorated all over with Italian mosaic and Carrara marble. His actual bones were located in the 1970s under the high altar and were put in their present place in 1985. In 1978, 500 years after his birth in Trujillo, in Estremadura, Spain, some soil was brought from Trujillo and placed in a red box on the altar of his Chapel. Most Peruvians hate Pizarro but in Lima many endure his memorial because he founded the city. Other chapels include that of John the Baptist, which has its 17th century altar that has survived numerous earthquakes and has been replaced each time the building has been rebuilt. The Chapel of the Sacred Family has another cedar alter that has just been cleaned showing the glorious colour of the timber. The Chapel of the University of St Mark has columns painted in different colours that indicate the original faculties of the university. The University of St. Marks was the first university in the Americas, founded in 1551, and is now one of the few that is not a Catholic University.
The Choir surrounds the High Altar, which is decorated in 22-carat gold. There are 49 choir seats, each with an individual carving of a Saint and underneath there is a misericord. The choir is the work of one man and it took him 20 years to complete.
The huge pipe organ had some pipes missing so, at present; a Japanese electronic organ is being used! The steps up to one of the towers are being repaired but from the top down, to prevent a slide inside.
We loaded back into the minibus and drove, passing the original University of St Marks, now the University library, to the northwest of the city. Our route took us back past the Palace of Justice where a political demonstration was taking place, Ophelia did not know what it was about but it was all very peaceful.
We visited the Museum of Rafael Larco Herrera is based on the house where he was born in 1926 and the museum opened in 1956. He was an archaeologist and also bought small private collections found by huaqueros.
We explored the pottery first; it was arranged in chronological order in two sections; North Peru and South Peru. Moche in the north and Nazca in the south were contemporary but did not know each other. In south Peru the pottery designs were overtaken by textile development and there were some wonderful examples on display including a Chincha piece (1200 – 1500 AD) with 398 threads per inch and a Huari piece (800 – 1200 AD) piece with 300 threads per inch. There was a big mummy on display and a huge 2000 year old Paracas black woven blanket-sized textile with embroidery of cats in all the colours and all the sizes.
We then visited the display of gold and silver and other metal objects. Most of these were thought to be used only in burials however others that might have been used in life then buried with the owner.
Shells were found that indicated approaching El Ňiño to ancient people.
Huge storerooms contain 14,000 pottery items displayed in design groups, each group in chronological order. Some of the Moche ‘head’ pots appear to depict the same person three times, young, middle aged and old.
Finally we visited the room of erotic pottery, which was situated well out of the way and only open to over 18 year olds – no problem for us then! It is difficult to say if they were pornographic, educational or for amusement but they were most explicit; all the activities in all the positions, including homosexuality.
Back on the bus we drove to the restaurant Brujas de Cachiche (Witches of Cachiche) in Miraflores. The witches are legendary figures from Cachiche near Ica. We had a memorable Peruvian meal washed down with Chicha, beer or Pisco sours. Ophelia collected us at 3.00pm and we drove back to the Sonesta El Olivar to shower, change and finish packing.
Bird watching was not really part of the schedule but we did see, House Sparrow, Pacific Dove, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture and Neotropic Cormorant during the day.
At 4.30, Ophelia arrived with the bus and we drove to the airport (Jorge Chavez) where check-in was quite painless. Notices about no liquids in your hand luggage were about so Joan put a few things in her case. We variously shopped and bought our exit tax stickers. There was standard security when we went through to the departure lounge. However, when the flight was called it took ages, as all hand luggage was fingertip searched. We dumped a few forgotten items and all our water but some French people lost all their toiletries and recently purchased duty frees. We eventually took off an hour late. Dinner was served quite quickly and consisted of chicken salad with either chicken or pasta and ham. The vegetarian dinner was carrot, pea, bean and cheese salad followed by carrot, pea, bean and cheese with rice – not inspired but adequate. We slept through most of the flight until breakfast was served an hour before landing at Madrid for our onward flight to London Heathrow.