Thursday, 19 July 2012

Boating on Lake Junin at 4,150m, Peru

From Huanuco we headed south to Junin, stopping at a couple sites that we had stopped at on the way up, for Andy to catch up with some birds.  At the polylepis site, Birdgirl enjoyed running around, exploring and paddling in a cold but clear mountain stream.

By now I had plucked up the courage to ask Andy (in a round about way) what his list was.  We had already worked out that it must be enormous, but we were surprised at just how enormous it was.  I’m glad I didn’t know before meeting him, as I would have been extremely anxious about Birdgirl and I being on a trip with a big world birder!  Andy has been extremely good company and brilliant with Birdgirl.  Hopefully, we will meet again on this trip if not back in the UK.

Junin Lake is the second largest lake in Peru and is a 4,150m, significantly higher than the largest lake, Lake Titicaca.

We arrived in Junin in time for lunch and then checking into to our hotel.  It was market day and so Birdgirl and I went out to have a look around and buy some embroidered blankets (used for carrying babies and loads on women’ backs).   The market was full of amazingly fresh fruit and vegetables, probably picked that day.  Less pleasant was the snake skins for sale and also what looked like a freshly skinned snake.  We tried to avert our eyes.  We managed to buy our blankets and returned very pleased with ourselves. 

We then headed off to Junin Lake, picking up a local guide Cesar on the way.  The target for the afternoon was Junin Rail, a subspecies of Black Rail (reputed to be the hardest bird in North America to see).  We had heard that the only way to see Junin Rail was to catch it in a mist net, but in the last year or two Cesar had managed to show them to people in grassy fields near the water’s edge.

What they had forgotten to tell us was that the fields were very marshy.  Birdgirl and I fell behind the others as we tried to negotiate the deep water by trying to hope from one tussock to another.  Walking at this altitude was tough on the chest, particularly as we were hurrying to try and catch up but instead had fallen further and further behind.  I then tripped on some barbed wire and fell into a ditch, soaking my trousers from the knee down as well as up to my elbows on my fleece.  I was not happy at all.  Obviously it was Chris’ fault for not staying back with me and helping me through the quagmire!  I carried on walking but then reached a section that was deep in water and seemed impossible to cross without very wet boots.  By this point I was very fed up and annoyed.  The group ahead stopped and Chris finally stopped and beckoned for me to come over.  I did not move, determined to be as annoying as possible.  Chris lifted his bins to see why I was not moving towards him as I vigorously stuck two fingers up at him.  The stand off continued for a few moments longer until I eventually marched through the water, shaking with anger.  As I approached them, I childishly shouted that I was really p*****d off and at the same time stumbled and fell over, adding to my rage and ridiculousness. 

Cesar seemed oblivious to my immature behaviour and continued to search for the rail.  It was not long before he heard one and instructed us to look towards a small dark hole in the bottom of the grass only 6 inches wide.  Even before we were completely ready and standing in place, just as Cesar started to play a recording of the bird calling, a Junin Rail ran across the hole giving us all a short but good view.  Cesar continued to play the recording but the rail did not reappear.  At this stage, Birdgirl whispered that she felt hot and sick.  She then had to sit down and recover from the sudden effect of altitude and sun.

Chris and Andy got some more views whilst I stayed with Birdgirl.  This gave me the opportunity to reflect on my behaviour and improve my mood!

Birdgirl was feeling much better but needed to go back to the vehicle, so Chris walked back with her whilst I stayed with Andy to try and get another view of the Rail, with no luck.

The sun had gone down by this stage and it had turned pretty cold.  Back at our comfortable but basic hotel Birdgirl and I decided that full thermal wear was necessary and that we were going to go to bed fully dressed.  We therefore had a wash, quick change of underwear before getting re-dressed in as many layers as possible.  This paid off when we went out for dinner, as it was cold and all the locals were also eating with their woolly hats on.  Getting ready for bed was a taking our coats off, brushing our teeth and getting into bed.  We amazingly both got 9 hours sleep, despite getting up at 5.30am the next morning.

Next morning we went out on a little boat to see Junin Grebe.  The water levels were very low, so Alex, Cesar and Andy pushed the boat whilst we jumped when the water got too deep for boots.  At such a high altitude it was enough to almost kill Andy!

Boating anyone?

It is a bit cold

Junin Grebe

Ornate Tinamoou

We got some great views of the Grebe before going around to the other side of the lake and managing to get close views of Andean Avocet, a bird we didn’t get to see in Bolivia and a lifer for Alex, even though it was his 8th visit to the Lake.

Andean Avocet

Chilean Flamingo
Junin Lake

A group shot

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