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  • Writer's pictureRomy Jansen

It's a Wild Life! – Culture and Endemic birds

As you already know, we are nature lovers, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like culture. The way we travel to search for wildlife brings us to the most remote sites. At places like that we meet lots of people who probably haven’t seen a white person before in their life because they live in more isolated villages and don't travel far from their home town. Children are staring when we pass by. Adults stare at first without any shame, and when we greet them in Spanish they start giving compliments about our beautiful blue eyes. If we don’t cook for ourselves, we eat in restaurants where the locals eat too. So in that way we see a lot of the real culture in a country. But for the people that believe culture has to be found in museums and archaeological sites: we also visited Machu Picchu (and meanwhile added a couple of bird species to our list ;)) and of course learned more about the Inca Culture. What a beautiful place! We were really lucky that we could get last minute tickets and that it was a dry and cloudy day. Romy even ran into an old colleague of her at the entrance of Machu Picchu. What a coincidence! We also visited Caral: another archaeological site in Peru. Caral is site of the oldest known organised civilization in South America. And if that’s not enough culture for you; we also visited a Mummy museum in Leymebamba (yes, we also had to kill some time before we could search for an owl in front of the museum).

The people in Peru are really friendly. When we were searching for a special endemic bird, the Purple-backed Sunbeam, we met a man who worked for the organization that protects this hummingbird species. He invited us to his house and together with his wife and sister we prepared a meal. But our meal was still alive. In this region of Peru the people think Cuy (a Cavy / Guinea Pig) is the best meal in the world. There were 30 Guinea Pigs living on the kitchen floor. Once a month they kill two or three to eat with their family. As soon as they heard Romy never ate Cuy before, they invited us to share this meal together. Rob had to catch a guinea pig in the kitchen and two hours later we sat at the table eating our meal. Honestly, it was not our favourite. It has a lot of bones and little meat, but it was very interesting to see this whole preparation process (and we believe it's good to see where meat comes from). And we were impressed by their hospitality.

After a few weeks of traveling full time, we need some time to relax. And the best place for us is in cities without distractions of nature ;). In Lima Rob knew a lovely family from his travels through South America in 2015. They were happy that we wanted to visit them and gave us a room to take as much time to relax as we wanted. They helped us arranging our fourth Covid vaccine and spoiled us with great coffee and breakfast every day. It felt like home. They took so good care of us and we enjoyed each other's company. Of course we went to a cheese fondue restaurant and on our last morning in Lima we visited the Zoo. The Zoo had some great species (like Margay, Pampas Cat and Spectacled Bear) we wanted to see to prepare ourselves for when we would search for them in the wild :) After this week we were totally ready to travel the next part of Peru.

We will be travelling through Peru two times. This first time, our focus was on birding the higher mountain altitudes and the valleys between them. Peru has a lot of endemic birds that live in different valleys surrounded by high mountains. So we slept a lot of nights in our car above 4000m altitude. Only once we slept in our rooftop tent in Peru. It was really fun to have time to explore these more remote sites and to see birds that are more difficult to find during a holiday because it takes too much time. We sometimes had only a few bird targets which made it relaxing under the high altitude conditions. As we walk for hours every day you would think we are fit people, but walking at those altitudes we have trouble catching our breath. But even if we don't walk we would be out of breath, because the mountain views were breath-taking :)

The most remote site we visited was the valley of Utcubamba. Rob found information about the endemic Yellow-browed Toucanet. In 1979 an expedition took place in this valley. Back then, they went on a horse to this valley and did their research for weeks with extreme conditions like high amounts of rainfall and finding their ways through thick vegetation etc. After this expedition no birders, for as we know, went searching again in this area. ‘Challenge accepted’, we said! Rob found something that looked like a road on Google Maps in that area and we asked around if the area was safe to go to (the region had been the territory of the Shining Path guerrilla group). The road was narrow and high clearance was necessary. We stayed for 5 days in this area and we birded on different altitudes, because different birds live on different altitudes. Although we saw many nice species, we didn’t see the Yellow-browed Toucanet unfortunately. But during the two months we’ve been in Peru, we managed to see about 90 endemic bird species of the 120 in total in Peru. So in our next visit to Peru, we hope to find the remaining ones ;) But first: Ecuador, Colombia and again Ecuador!:)


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