Monday, 9 July 2012

Satipo Road, the eastern side of the Andes, Peru

After a sandwich lunch at Ticlio Bog, Gunnar arrived with Alex and our new vehicle. So we said our goodbyes to Alejandro, moved our things to the new vehicle and got on our way with Alex, who had flown from Cusco that morning. Meanwhile, Gunnar drove Alejandro back to Lima.

We were heading for the village of Apaya, driving down the eastern slope of the Andes along the road to Satipo, which is down at 650m.  Back on the main road we managed to make reasonable time until we were close to the Satipo Road when we encountered engine trouble.  We ended up breaking down outside of a petrol station at 6.00pm, with the car refusing to start.  However, within 30 minutes we were in a taxi on our way to the nearby town of Conception, where we stayed in a picturesque hotel and had a Chinese before having our first internet of the trip and still getting to bed pretty early.  I was secretly quite relieved not to have had another 3 hours of driving and to have also reduced the number of nights at the basic accommodation by one.  I was feeling quite anxious about how basic it was going to be.

Getting up at 4.30am didn't seem to agree with Birdgirl this morning

5.00am the next morning, we left Henri behind with the 4 x 4 to get it fixed, whilst we headed off along the road to Satipo with Miguel and Daniel in an old bus, which had lots of room and could cope with the bumpy roads.

Rather than the direct 3 hour drive along the Satipo Road, we turned off onto a higher loop road through the Andamarca Valley, birding the whole way.  The road was very dusty and after a 12 hour drive with the windows open (for birding), we and everything in the bus was covered in thick dust. 

Enroute we saw Milpe Tapaculo and Mantaro Wren which are two newly discovered and as yet undescribed endemics as well as the endemic Black-Spectacled Brush-Finch, Creamy-Crested Spinetail and also Puna Snipe which we had not caught up with in Bolivia.    Then just above Apaya, on the Satipo Road, we saw Tschudi’s and Large-Footed Tapaculo within 3 minutes of each other as it was going dark.

Milpo Tapaculo taken by and copyright Alex Durand
Creamy-Crested Spinetail taken by and copyright Alex Durand

We arrived in Apaya, which is at 2,300m, at 6.30pm.  The building was a converted stone house with concrete floors and new flushing toilet and sink with a separate cold shower with curtains in front at the back.  There was talk of showering the next day in daylight hours, but I think Birdgirl and I had no so such intention.  The building was split into three partitioned sections, so we took the one with the most privacy (and not enroute to the toilet) and had a sofa and armchair. Dinner was in the local restaurant and I was glad that we were vegetarian as it tends to be much safer.  Birdgirl and I went to bed in one of the large single beds at 8pm.  She was happy so long as I went to bed at the same as her, though I am not sure how she thought I was going to protect her from spiders (her only fear).  I went to bed with a torch under my pillow convinced that my rodent phobia and fear of insects generally was going to keep me awake all night. The torch was used a couple of times to light up imagined rats in the dark before I fell asleep in the very comfortable bed for the night.

The following day was pretty relaxed birding along the road above Apaya.  During the morning we saw the endemic hummingbird, Fire-Throated Metaltail and Eye-Ringed Thistletail.  We returned to have a lunch cooked back at our accommodation but were delayed birding in the afternoon, as it started to rain heavily.  We did go out late afternoon but the rain prevented us from seeing our two target endemics.

Eye-Ringed Thistletail taken by and copyright Alex Durand

Dinner was in the restaurant in the village again with another early bedtime. We were unfortunately woken for several hours by the sounds of Miguel being sick during the night. The next morning we left Miguel in bed and headed off birding, managing to see the endemic Marcapata Spinetail, Inca Flycatcher, Peruvian Wren all pretty easily.

Peruvian Wren taken by and copyright Alex Durand

Blue-Banded Toucanet taken by and copyright Alex Durand

At lunchtime, Daniel drove Miguel (who was looking terrible) back to Conception. We birded on foot around Apaya and managed to get great views of the endemic Bay Antpitta just behind the accommodation. It would be great for the community if they started feeding the Antpittas, attracting for birders to their accommodation. The accommodation could be so much better even with a few thousand pounds spent on it, tiling the floors, putting in plasterboard walls and doors for more privacy. Maybe this is something we can help raise money towards?

Chris and Birdgirl at Apaya accomodation

Inside Apaya basic accomodation

Late afternoon, we were then picked up by a taxi and driven (at speed) down the mountainside to Satipo at 650m, which took 1 ½ hours. I am sure that it should have taken considerably longer, but our driver hurtled down the narrow mountain road taking bends at a dangerous speed. At one stage, the rear of the car swung around to the left as we headed around a right hand bend with a drop sheer drop on the left. At this point the driver got an earful from Alex and slowed down a little. It was a relief to get to our comfortable hotel room and a lovely surprise to find that it had internet. Even Birdgirl was glad to have a long hot shower (and that is saying something!).

The next morning we were greeted by Elisayo in his Toyota estate and headed back up the Satipo Road, but only to the lower section.  Here we saw Amazonian Umbrellabird, which Birdgirl had really wanted to see.  She has been playing animal alphabet since knowing her alphabet (obviously she knew bird names before she knew her alphabet) and Umbrellabird was an excellent bird name starting with “U”.  The first time she used it he must have been around 6 and I thought she had made it up as I could not believe that there could be a bird called an Umbrellabird.  I was so sceptical that I made her show me in the book.  I had not done any South American birding at time.

The next bird was a Sunbittern which was also on Birdgirl’s top ten birds she wanted to see (Harpy Eagle being at the top) as she had seen it in the book and thought it was really beautiful.  She had told me that she really wanted to see one only days before, not knowing that this was a possibility on this trip.  It was also a bird that Chris and I had seen before and those always seem to be the sweetest lifers for her.

It was a good morning for catch-up birds, as we also saw a Dark-Breasted Spinetail which Chris and Birdgirl had seen in Ecuador but I had not got onto and missed.

We then headed back to Satipo, where I managed to get some colouring pencils for Birdgirl as she had left her pencil case on the plane and some popcorn, essential food for our trip.  After another Chinese, which was good for our vegetarian diets and Birdgirl’s fussy palate, we started the next part of our tour.

 Rufous Antwren taken by and copyright Alex Durand

Flame-Faced Tanager, not rare but lovely taken by and copyright Alex Durand

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