Trip Report Peru October – November 2014
To see photos of our trip on flickr, please go to the following link –
This is two trips; trip #1 is southeast Peru/Cusco to Manu Road, from Oct 19 to Nov 3. Participants are Jim Snyder (who started with an early extension to Machu Picchu), Joe Schelling, and Chris Tenney. We were supposed to have 2 more, Priscilla Brodkin and Kevin Painter, but they had to cancel at the last minute.
Trip 2 is central Peru, Satipo and Oxapampa to Pozuzo, from Nov 3 to Nov 21. Participants are Joe and Chris from trip 1, plus Tony Hoare, Rebecca Gracey and Steve Cary, and Jim heads for home. Both trips have been arranged through David Geale at Tanager Tours, firstname.lastname@example.org, who is coming along as well. He’s a birder, lived in Cusco for 10+ years, but has been corrupted to butterflies and has become a serious butterfly photographer. You can see lots of his photos on his website, www.eroraholic.com. David has become a wonderful butterfly guide in only three years. His exponential growth in his butterfly knowledge has been amazing. I highly recommend him if you’re interested in butterfly photography in either Peru or Colombia.
Day 1 Oct 19 – fly overnight from LAX to Panama to Lima on Copa, arrive about 1pm on the 20th.
Day 2 Oct 20 – arrive in Lima, stay 1 night at the Hostal Torreblanca in Miraflores.
Day 3 Oct 21 – fly to Cusco and drive to Ollantaytambo for 2 nights, about 9,000’/2800m, stay at Hotel Pakaritampu.
Day 4 Oct 22 – drive up Abra Malaga pass, 14,000’/4100m.
Day 5 Oct 23 – drive up Abra Malaga pass again, go over to cloud forest, then drive back to Cusco for 1 night at Hotel Garcilaso.
Day 6-10 Oct 24-28 – drive to Cock of the Rock lodge for 5 nights at 1400m, worked the road at higher elevations on the way in, work the road for the next 4 days, both down to Quitacalzon at 1050m & up to about 2000m.
Oct 25 – walk road at COTR
Oct 26 – drive down to Qt 1050m
Oct 27 – drive up to 2000m
Oct 28 – walk trails & road at COTR
Day 11 Oct 29 – drive down to Villa Carmen for 2 nights at 600m.
Day 12 Oct 30 – explore trails at Villa Carmen.
Day 13 Oct 31 – drive back up 4 hours to Wayqecha Research Station for 2 nights at 2,950m.
Day 14 Nov 1 – explore the road below Wayqecha, down to 2,400m.
Day 15 Nov 2 – drive to Cusco for the night
Day 16 Nov 3 – fly to Lima for the night, get group 2, Hostal Torreblanca
Day 17 Nov 4 – drive to Oxapampa for 3 nights, 1833m at Hotel Botteger
Day 18 Nov 5 – drive up the nearby road to NP Yanachaga Chemillen 2150m
Day 19 Nov 6 – drive up to Bosque Shollet 2400m, rainy day
Day 20 Nov 7 – move to Pozuzo for 5 nights,800m, lunch at landslide with great sun 1400m
Day 21 Nov 8 – drive back up to the ranger station and do the trail & bridge, 1100m
Day 22 Nov 9 – drive up to 962m at the big waterfall, with the small generating plant, Catarata Yulitunqui
Day 23 Nov 10 – drive higher to cock of the rock lek
Day 24 Nov 11 – go back to ranger headquarters & bridge, 1100m
Day 25 Nov 12 – drive to Satipo for 3 nights
Day 26 Nov 13 – drive up the mountain above Satipo to 1800m, rain
Day 27 Nov 14 – lots of rain
Day 28 Nov 15 – drive to Pampa Hermosa in light rain, near San Ramon, for 4 nights
Day 29 Nov 16 – explore trails & road at Pampa Hermosa, 1200m, cloudy morning, sun about 11:30am
Day 30 Nov 17 – bright sunny day, a million butterflies
Day 31 Nov 18 – more trails & road & beach
Day 32 Nov 19 – drive to Tarma for 1 night, 3100m
Day 33 Nov 20 – drive back to Lima, butterfly for 30-40 minutes at high pass 4800m, some leave on midnight flights to home, I spend the night in Miraflores
Day 34 Nov 21 – I fly out at 7am for LAX
Day 1 Oct 19 – take a midnight flight from LAX to Panama on Copa, then connect to Lima, arriving in Lima about 1pm on the 20th. All goes well.
Day 2 Oct 20 – Airport transfer is $22. Chris meets me at the hotel and we have dinner a few blocks away at El Senono de Sulco, Peruvian cuisine. We get free pisco sours with a coupon from the hotel.
Day 3 Oct 21 - fly to Cusco, an hour flight, arriving about 12:15, where we meet David Geale of Tanager Tours, who’s made the arrangements. We drive to Ollantaytambo, about 2 hours from Cusco, for 2 nights, about 9,000’/2800m, stay at Hotel Pakaritampu. This is a nice tourist hotel with gardens full of flowers where we see several species of hummingbirds, including bearded mountaineer and giant hummingbird.
Day 4 Oct 22 – we drive up Abra Malaga to the top at 4,300m, but it is raining and foggy. After running into 2 landslides, we decide to head back down. We’re on the dry side, and we were hoping to go over the pass to the wet side where there is some cloud forest. But not today. Jim has been at Machu Picchu and is coming to join us today, taking the train from MP to Ollantaytambo, then a taxi brings him up the pass to find us. Chris was sick last night and took a taxi back to Cusco for some tests, but fortunately all is well and he comes back early the next morning.
We stop at a couple of wide areas with lots of blooming flowers, but only see 2 species of butterflies. The best spot is at 3,317m at Collpani, just below some ruins. Lots of Metardaris cosinga are flying, the big high elevation firetip that is at the pass to the Cosnipata valley. But they only come out briefly when there is a bit of sun.
Day 5 Oct 23 – Today is much sunnier and no rain, so we try the pass again. This time we make it over the top, about an hour drive, and down another half an hour to about km 156-153. David puts out lots of bait, and eventually the fog lifts and suddenly we have satyrs. We probably see about 10-12 species, and we get good photos of almost all of them, so everybody has a good couple of hours.
We drive on down the road to San Luis, just past an orange bridge, to where David knows a small dirt track off to the left. When he led bird tours here before it was paved they used to camp back in here. We find more butterflies here, including the gorgeous Morpho sulkowskyi that fly in between us when the sun is out. Also 2 species of Vanessa, braziliensis and altissima. But the fog comes back in, so after lunch we start our 4 hour drive back to Cusco.
We make it to Cusco about 4:30pm and get into our hotel for the night, have a tasty dinner down on the big square. I have chicken brochettes, and they are delicious. I also order mushroom soup, which is a mistake, as it is too salty and thick, very artifical tasting.
Day 6 Oct 24 – 6am departure for the 3 hour drive to the top of the pass at 3,600m, where we hope to get some sun. Then we drop down the east slope into the fabulous Cosnipata Valley for the next 10 days. My favorite butterfly road in the world.
First snag is the main bridge is closed, so we have to take a couple of hour detour. This gets us to the Manu pass at 11am, instead of 9:30 as we planned. It is cloudy, so we continue on down the side. We stop just past the 2nd tunnel at 2800m and start seeing satyrs.
Later we work our way down to several other spots, and hit the jackpot at 2250m at 57.265 km, where a stream runs across the road. 9 species of Perisama, and tons of other stuff. We run around photographing like crazy. A good start to our time here in the Cosnipata Valley. You can spell it Kosnipata, or even Kcosnipata, as it is a Quechua word and the exact spelling is open to debate.
We spend the next 4 days moving up or down the road, hitting different elevations. Here’s the general layout of the Cusco to Manu road, starting at 4,000m at the pass. There are kilometer posts increasing as you go down past the town of Paucartambo, where the numbers start at zero. This is where our detour rejoins the main road. Cock of the Rock (COTR) lodge is at km 74 from Paucartambo, probable 4 plus hours if you drive it straight through. But you never drive it straight through. It’s about 30-45 minutes to the top of the pass at 4,000m.
From the 4,000m pass down the east slope it is about half an hour to Weyqecha Research Station, 2,900m just past post 39, where we will stay for 2 nights on our way back up. Then about 15 minutes below that are the 2 tunnels about 2,800m. COTR lodge is about 2 hours from here (yes it is a very slow road). Besides you want to stop and get out and walk many sections of it, or in the case of butterfly photography, stop and check all the stream crossings or quebradas, where the water runs over the road. Many of the streams have big bridges, and it is difficult to get down to the water, but there are many small crossings as well, where the water runs across the road. These can be fabulous for butterflies.
Below COTR about 10km, to post 84 (25-30 minutes), takes you to the famous Quebrada Quitacalzon at 1,050-1,100m. We get out and bait about a km above that, past the km 83 post, at a nice stream coming down on the left, then walk down to the bigger crossing, with a bridge, just before 84. There are a couple of short trails to the left off the road here at the bridge, one trail that parallels the stream back up the ravine, from the pullout where you can park, and the second maybe 100-200’ down the road. David baits both trails heavily. He’s made up a bunch of bait, mostly urine, dead fish, and lemonade, before we came, so it is getting good and ripe.
We spend a full day at Quitacalzon and take tons of photos. I take over 500 myself. Lots of new riodinids for me, and everyone else goes crazy with all sorts of butterflies. I see Baeotis felix, one I’ve wanted to see for a long time, and a spectacular Ouleus narycus, which sounds like a boring brown spreadwing but is beautiful blue and rainbow colored.
One day we go up to km 62-65, about 1800-2000m, and get better shots of many Perisamas and other high elevation goodies. We see Apexacuta astoreth flying around, but can never get photos. It clouds up in the afternoon, as usual, and we end up back at the lodge by 3pm. The only electricity at the lodge is by generator from 6-9pm, but we pay an extra 30 soles/hour, about $US10, for them to turn it on at 5pm, so we can work on all our photos. Electric poles and lines have been strung down the valley, so they will have shore power soon, who knows exactly when.
Our last full day at COTR we walk around the lodge, in the gardens where some folks find Parides and skippers coming to the porterweed. I get a ride from Juan, our driver, and go up 3 km to Manu Cloud Forest lodge at Puente Union, 1600m, then walk back down. There are a number of good quebradas in this 3 km, and Joe and I find the 2 missing Perisamas. So now we have seen all 12 species here on the road.
Late in the day we go back up to the cock of the rock lek, now owned by the higher lodge, about 72km post. We pay a small fee and see at least 5 males displaying. Very nice.
Day 11 Oct 29 – we drive down to Villa Carmen, which we thought was 2 hours, but it turns out to be only a little over an hour. It is a cloudy morning when we arrive about 8:30am, too early to get our rooms, so we wander some of the trails. They have a lot of trails here, but they don’t appear to be very well maintained. Some are quite overgrown and impossible to follow, and all that we walk are in thick bamboo which snags on everything.
I get in a pile of ants, paying too much attention to the butterfly I’m trying to photograph and not enough to where I’m standing. The ants get way up inside my pants, so the pants come off, as I’m being bitten up to my waist. And I don’t even get the photo! This reminds me of why I don’t like the lowlands much any more, too sticky, too many damn ants. David has put out lots of spitwads, and many of them are already covered with ants.
The guys go back out late in the afternoon, about 3pm, back to my ant spot, and get a goodly number of shots. Our rooms are quite a ways from the dining hall, which is very new. This place is just being developed as a eco-tourist lodge, it appears to be a working hacienda/research station with lots of people around, lots of college age folk.
Day 12 Oct 30 – we have a beautiful sunny day, and we walk down trail 1, which is a rutted track, to the junction with trail 5. This gets us into fairly good tall forest, on a road wide enough for a vehicle. We hang around here all morning, working trail 5 in both directions, and the road which runs right into the river, so there is a sandbar and some butterflies coming to the beach. It’s not fabulous, but we get lots of Euselasia, some hairstreaks, and a variety of nymphalids. The hairstreaks don’t show up until about 11am, then suddenly we have quite a few. My theory is they are up on top, in the canopy, then when it gets too hot late morning they drop down into the shade near the ground.
We had asked for lunch at 2pm, so we could be in the field through the best butterfly time, but I think this is too long in the hot lowlands. Plus we had a skimpy breakfast, just 1 egg and a few strips of bacon, no fruit or juice, so we’re all starved and tired from the heat by 2pm. I shower and work on photos the rest of the afternoon, but the hardcore go out.
Day 13 Oct 31 – we had planned to leave after breakfast and return to Quitacalzon up the hill, but there is a tremendous thunder storm about 4am and tons of heavy rain. We hoped it would have rained itself out, but no. It starts raining again at breakfast, so we hang in the dining room and work on the computers, as they have electricity all the time here. The rain gets heavier and heavier as the morning goes on. By 9 to 10 it is a deluge, I haven’t seen rain this hard in a while. It finally lets up a bit by 11am, so we go for it.
We’re driving 4 hours up to Wayqecha Research Station for 2 nights at 2900m. We pass on butterflies at Quitacalzon, about half an hour uphill, due to the heavy overcast. Unfortunately there has been a landslide at Puente Union, by Manu Cloud Forest Lodge, and no one can get by. We pull up in line behind 2 big trucks and can see 30-40 people moving rocks and digging like a bunch of ants across the ravine.
4 hours later, we finally get through, after a series of stops and starts. When they finally had it sort of cleared, the vehicles coming downhill went first, so we waited our turn. About the third truck got stuck and much more digging had to happen. Then the last big truck across coming towards our side stopped for some inexplicable reason. Finally someone walking over tells us they have a flat. How long does it take to fix a flat? An hour and a half later, he finally gets out of the way. We find out from our driver that they had to patch the tire, as they didn’t have a spare.
Anyway, we get to Wayqecha about 5:30pm, before dark. The view from the rooms is stupendous. Tomorrow hopefully we’ll have some butterflies.
I wasn’t overwhelming impressed by Villa Carmen. If I was to return to the lowlands, I would probably go to Amazonia Lodge instead. It has more trails and better forest. It is a bit further, but I prefer it.
Day 14 Nov 1 – We drive back down the road to about km post 48-49, where we start putting out bait, or David starts putting out bait, as he does all the baiting. Some of us walk down, and David drives down to the river at the bottom of the ravine about 51. We spend the morning working this area, which is fantastic.
On my way down I come across a great wet wall at post 49, with about 6 species of Dalla and a Thespieus othna, among other more common species. I spend a lot of time photographing here, then walk on down to join the others. Juan our driver comes up looking for me about 10:30, and drives me down to the bottom of the ravine to join in the fun. We also have the beautiful Polygrapha tyrianthina, and people get good photos.
There is another even better wet wall here, with orange water running down that must contain lots of iron or minerals, at post 51, GPS 13 09.438, W 071 35.893 2385m. The Catasticta love it. I stand here and photograph and catch at least 6 species, maybe more, as there are over 30 species along this road. They are easy to pick up when they are drinking like this. I photograph them untouched, in the water, then pick them up and shoot both sides. They are impossible to id from just the ventral, especially when their wings are closed down and you can’t see the ventral forewing. David figures them them all out later, and we have 10 species.
We head back for our usual 2pm lunch, and the sun stays out. We see another Catastica at higher elevations, close to the research station. David gets good photos of C.marcapita coming to flowers, that has an all yellow hindwing.
Day 15 Nov 2 – we get up to an overcast and cool day, not good for butterflies. We drive towards Cusco, about a 4 hour drive, looking for places to stop but not finding much. We stop at the 3,600m pass, but it is too cool. So we continue on, stopping on the other side at a couple of stream crossings that have always look interesting (post 11), but it is still too chilly for butterflies.
So we make it back to Cusco by early afternoon, get into the hotel and spend the next several hours catching up on emails, having been offline for the last 10 days or so.
Day 16, Nov 3 – we have a 1pm flight to Lima, leave for the airport at 11. I spend the morning working on the computer but some people wander around Cusco. Our flight is a bit late, and the traffic from the airport in Lima is awful, so we don’t get to the Hostal Torreblanca until about 4pm. We go back to the same tasty restaurant Chris and I ate at our first night, free pisco sours!, and it is tasty. The 3 new people are flying in tonight, and we’re having 5:30am breakfast for an early departure to Oxapampa, trying to beat some of the dreaded Lima traffic.
Day 17, Nov 4 – we make it to Oxapampa after a long day in the van, arriving about 5pm. 11 hours with a restaurant stop for lunch and a couple of leg stretching/toilet stops on the way. But we’re here, finally. We hire a mototaxi to lead us to the hotel, a private home where I stayed 7 or 8 years ago. Fortunately it is as nice as I remember, and Doris, the owner, is very pleasant and eager to please. GPS S 10 34.728, W 075 24.104
David goes to town and orders pizzas and pasta which is delivered later, about 7pm, and we all sit at a nice table in Doris’s lovely home and pig out on pizza and a great veggie salad, yum.
Day 18, Nov 5 – we explore a road that goes to the nearby national park, Yanachaga Chemillen. The road starts right at the edge of town, we find it by locating the km marker that starts with 0, then turning left (as we leave town) and head up the dirt road. It is only 7 km to the top, but we can only get up to about 5, as the road isn’t very good. It has lots of stream crossings, which is great for butterflies.
As we’re driving at the beginning we come to a fairly fast running stream crossing where they have built a little bridge, which appears to be only for foot traffic and the small mototaxis that are ubiquitous here. So we head for the in-the-water crossing below the small bridge. Just as we touch the water, down the steep embanqment, a mototaxi driver on the little bridge yells to our driver, ‘no, come this way over the little bridge’. However, when we try to reverse, our tires spin, so we’re committed to the stream. But Juan, our driver, slithers our way across, to the cheers and thumbs up of watchers, and us in the van.
As we drive up, above post 3 it gets to be better forest, very patchy but some good areas. David and some people get out at post 4 or so and head up, baiting as they go, while I ride up to post 5 where the remainder get out. We can’t cross the stream at this point, but there is an interesting trail that heads off to the right, a foot path that crosses the car road a bit further up. We put out bait and stuff starts coming in, several firetips including the big orange and black ones, probably Mimardaris montra but there are several that are similar.
We end up with 5 species of firetips and a number of other goodies, including 2 different riodinids. David gets good shots of what we later decide might be a Paraphthonia species, but we’re not sure. Different from any we have seen. We also get a gorgeous black one with red curving lines on the forewing, which later we thin must be a female Necyris, no metallic blue on the ventral.
We have dinner at our house, made by Doris, tasty and easy for us, as we don’t have to go out. She’s also done all the laundery from those of us on the first trip. Her yard is filled with laundery drying on the line.
That night there is a great lightning storm. I lie in bed and watch it over the nearby mountains. It blows towards us and we have good rains for the second night in a row.
Day 19 Nov 6 – unfortunately the clouds hang around the next day, and it is cloudy and cool all day. We drive back out of town about 5 km to a dirt road off to the left that goes up towards Villa Rica. We did this road 3 years ago, and it was great. But it appears to be quite overgrown and neglected, as it is full of pot holes and very slow going. It takes us at least one and a half hours to go about 20 km to Bosque Shottet, which is a preserve for the watershed for Oxapampa. This is about 2400m, and appears to be higher, more of an elven forest and lots of mosses.
We wander around, and see the brand new tower that has been built. Nice views, just before the clouds roll in. We only see a handfull of butterflies today, several orange banded Pedaliodes and Panyapedaliodes, but not much else.
Day 20 Nov 7 – today we drive from Oxpampa to Pozuzo, through National Park Yanachaga Chemillen. It’s only about 80 km, but it takes at least 3 hours. But we plan to stop and explore the dirt road whenever we see butterflies. We find a perfect place to stop, in the forest where there has been a large landslide, and spend all morning there, and stay for lunch.
We have all the ingredients for a perfect butterfly day: good forest, a gravel or dirt road, water running over the road and along in the ditch, sunshine and the magic elixir, male human pee. We have tons of stuff, and everyone is busy racing around taking lots of photos. Catastictas, Leptophobias, firetips, Riodinids, the beat goes on. The GPS for this spot is S 10 16.376, W 075 32.827, 1,444m.
We don’t get to Frau Maria Egg’s cabanas in Pozuzo until about 5pm. This is just through town, up to the left, nice simple cabins in a pleasant garden with a guava tree over the driveway that has rotten guavas, so the owls come in. GPS is S 10 04.192, W 075 33.091, at 750m.
We eat dinner in town at the same restaurant we used last time, not fabulous but sufficient. Their sign says they open at 6pm, and we’re there a bit after 6, but no lights. David wanders in and rousts them out, and they’re happy to serve us.
Day 21 Nov 8 – after a delicious breafast of homemade breads, jams and wonderful eggs with fried yucca balls, we head up to the park headquarters about 30-40 minutes back up the same road we came in yesterday. There’s only 1 road into Pozuzo. Yesterday when we drove in, there had been many landslides and floods. 2 days before we had a heavy rain, and one of the little villages we drove through had lost several houses. There were a couple of places it looked a little dicey, so I just closed my eyes and ignored the outside. Juan, our driver, is cautious and safe, which is a good thing in a driver.
Anyway, we get to the headquarters, which can be really good for butterflies by around 9am, when the sun hits the yard. There is a great trail that heads down to a swinging bridge and loops around upto the road, about 1.6 km. David and some people go that way, I get Juan to drive the rest of us up to the bridge on the main road, and up to where the trail joins the road. So it is a large loop, maybe 3 km. David, being the hotdog, walks it several times throughout the day, and Chris also is a walking fool. I spend more time on the road, putting out David’s pee. GPS for the bridge on the road, at the apex of the ‘V’ that we work, is S 10 11.350, W 075 34.281, 1,080m.
We get a variety of goodies, more in the forest on the trail. Everyone’s favorite is Caria chrysame, a gorgeous little sparkling green metalmark. We must have at least 6 of them on the road. Also lots of Chorinea sylphina, 2 species of the clearwinged metalmarks.
One of the more popular spots is down in the ravine just over the swinging bridge, where David baits heavily. He develops 4 or 5 great puddle parties, where the butterflies are swarming over each other (and a million sweat bees) to get to the baited ground. Lots of crescents, 3 species of Morphos, more and more stuff all day long. We’re falling behind on processing and naming our photos, too many butterflies.
We go back late in the afternoon for dinner cooked by Frau Maria, which is delicious. Huge plates of fresh tomatoes, avocado and butter lettuce with a perfect vingear and herb topping, I could just eat that for dinner. But of course I also manage to stuff down most of the tender beef medallions she serves for the main course. She works half the year in Austria cooking at a fancy ski resort, so she’s a great cook. Must be quite a change, as here she uses a wood fired oven.
Day 22 Nov 9 – we drive lower than yesterday, and concentrate on the road just before the park. There is a large waterfall, on your right as you drive down the road to Pozuzo on your way in, with a small generating plant (very small) at Catarata Yulitunqui, 962m. We spend most of the morning here. The vans that shuttle people between Pozuzo and Oxapampa stop here, at least today on Sunday morning about 10am. We get there about 8am, and have 2 fabulous hours, then 4 or 5 vans descend on us with dozens of people. Of course, most of these people pee somewhere, which explains why this is such a good spot.
Fortunately the vans leave after about 30 minutes, and quiet returns, with the butterflies. A number of new species for our trip list show up here. David also has walked back down the road to Pozuzo, baiting all the way, to the next waterfall about 2 km. In between there is some cleared pasture area, mostly tall grass, but some good patchy forest. We find Emesis brimo on a spitwad here, and lots of Thisbe irenea, a beautiful white and blue metalmark. Tony scores with the spectacular Lyropteryx apollonia, with bright pink spots on the underside, but everyone else misses it.
The big score is David’s find of three hairstreaks on the same baited leaf, and two are fabulous green ones – a tiny Erora species and a very cooperative Arcas imperialis, with the long twisted tails. He comes to get the rest of us and we drive back and they find the same leaf, with the Arcas still there, so we all get photos. Must be clean living.
Day 23 Nov 10 – we try to drive higher to get different species, but we are thwarted by another landslide about an hour up the road. While waiting, we get out and start baiting, and goodies start showing up. By the time the landslide is cleared, (there is a backhoe there working on it) we’re seeing stuff, so we decide to stay here and use the bait. It’s about 1,200m, and we work maybe a km or so from the landslide up the road.
Lots of Adelphas and Memphis, and my favorite for the day is Baeotis felix felicissima, a new subspecies of the one we saw on the Manu road. Bigger with pale yellow corners, it is difficult to photograph to show the yellow. So another great day is had by all.
Day 24 Nov 11 – Our last full day here at Pozuzo, and we go back to the ranger headquarters at the entrance, where the trail goes down through the forest to the swinging bridge or you can walk the road up to the big bridge and up to where the trail joins the road. We wander in different directions, finding many different species. It is amazing when we compare our photos at night, what different species we have each seen.
Just below the ranger clearing, where the trail starts down, there is a riodinid lek where Napaea actoris have been both times. On a baited leaf we get three blue metalmarks, the Napaea plus Thisbe irenea and a new Esthemopsis colaxes (we think).
Down at the beach, where the guys have had a pissing contest to compare whose pee pulls better, there are a zillion bugs. It is at the bottom of a steep ravine, so it gets in the shade by mid afternoon. The firetips seem to prefer the shade, and they pile in late in the day. 20-30 firetips, maybe more, all getting on top of each other, an amazing sight.
Day 25 Nov 12 – our final fabulous breakfast from Frau Maria. Her dinners were far better than what we ate in town, we alternated nights. Next time I would try to arrange for her to cook for us more of the nights. We’ve tried two places in town, Maldonado’s was the second choice. We had planned to go back to our first choice last night, but it was closed. Maldonado’s is ok, but it is mostly meat. Good smoked pork and chicken, but we have two vegetarians, and vegatables are in short supply in town.
Today we drive back to Oxapampa, hitting our favorite landslide at 1,400m for an hour or so, then lunch in Oxapampa, then an estimated 4 hour drive on pavement to Satipo. We’ll see how that goes.
Not much at the landslide, as it is cloudy, but we do see a very fresh Myscelus draudti. After a simple lunch in Oxapampa, (at the restaurant on the square with butterfly specimens in the window) we make the 4 hour drive to Satipo, arriving about 5pm. Satipo isn’t a great town, just a typical lowland scruffy place, and there aren’t any great hotels, so it is a come down from the lovely, quiet, small places we’ve been staying. But we’ll survive.
However, between 6 to 7pm, 10 mining guys’ trucks are parked in the small courtyard at the hotel where our rooms overlook it. They back all the trucks in, beep beep beep, until we want to run screaming. They end up with all the trucks packed in bumper to bumper, they barely fit. At least the guys are quiet once they get to their rooms. A second however, they leave at 5am. So we’re all awake at 4:45 the next morning.
Day 26 Nov 13 – after not a great night’s sleep, we meet for 7am breakfast. The night before the hotel brought in a cook for us, and he made a delicious dinner of mixed brochettes and little potatoes. The only problem was the portions were huge, and we couldn’t eat it all. He appears to be excited to have people to cook for, and asked David what we wanted for breakfast. David said just bread, fruit, eggs, coffee and juice, and I added yogurt. And that’s what we got. No butter or jam for the rolls, no milk for the coffee. Oh, we didn’t ask for that. Details details.
We head up the road from Satipo to the town of Mariposa and higher. It is a very nice dirt road, much better than the road to Pozuzo which was full of potholes. This one is smooth and in great shape. But we are cursed with heavy overcast, thunder at dawn, and rain. We drive on up, nothing better to do, looking for good potential ravines and quebradas where water runs over the road.
Stopping a few times to stretch our legs, we walk some of the road, having almost no traffic. Believe it or not, we actually scrounge up 3 good species, mostly found by Chris who has an eagle eye.
2 new ones for me, a great hairstreak black with 2 white stripes, Lamprospilus nicetus leads us on a merry chase. It is raining lightly, so it doesn’t want to fly. We keep pulling down branches and trying to shoot it. Finally David scrambles up a 10’ bank and stalks it through heavy scrub, almost buried in bushes. He comes up with killer photos, after working very hard for them. It then flies down, and David and I pull down more light branches for the others to get shots as well.
We also get a beautiful Euptychia, we can’t figure out what it is, probably undescribed. We’re at almost 1800m, so it seems odd to get one of the Eupychia, which seem lowland to me. But here it is. And we got a nice female Doxocopa zunilda, probably ssp floris, with the rufous VFW.
Day 27 Nov 14 – our second attempt to drive up into the mountains west of Satipo. We’re cursed, as it is raining heavily at 6am. And it continues raining at 8:30am. We don’t even bother driving up the mountain. We eat an extensive breakfast, as we’re not in any hurry to depart. The cook keeps bringing out more food, so we have to eat it. He makes nice looking crepes, but we don’t have any plates to eat them on. But when we ask for plates, they bring them out. Very few people eat here, I’m guessing, as the staff seems continually surprised when we ask for something. They’re happy to oblige, just appears they never thought someone might want that item, like plates to eat from.
It’s too bad if we get rained out for our 2 field days here, as we drove a ways to get here to Satipo, and we’re staying in a not terribly pleasant place. But that’s the breaks. However, I would think twice about bringing another group down to Satipo. David was here a year ago and had a nice sunny day. He got some great satyrs up at 2500m, and we were hoping to spend some productive time up at those elevations. This is the only place on the central Peru part of the trip where we will be that high, but it appears not to be. We could get up to about 2400m at Bosque Sholett, above Oxapampa, but we had bad weather that day as well.
Day 28 Nov 15 – it is still raining when we get up for breakfast, then depart for our 2 hour drive to the junction, then another hour more to San Ramon, where we transfer our gear to a 4×4 van to get us into Pampa Hermosa.
The jeep track that leads across the big bridge and into the hills to Pampa Hermosa Lodge hasn’t changed much since I first came here in 2005. It’s only 22 or 24 km, depending on who you talk to, but it is slow going. The first 11 km isn’t bad, but then it gets steep and rocky, and you need 4 wheel drive. We pass the waterfall on our right where our van got stuck on our way out in 2005, but our driver is experienced on this road and we get there fine, after an hour and a half.
Hooray, we’re finally here about 1pm. They make us a nice lunch and we wander around some. The river has changed and taken a big chunk of the woods below the lodge, so the trail is different. This was our favorite sandbar where tons of firetips came, but the water is high and there isn’t much available. They have lost the woods that were around the trail, and there are big cages of rocks, so obviously they have had some major flooding. David dumps a bunch of accumulated pee, as we haven’t used much our last 2 days in Satipo.
Later we check on it, and there are 2 species of orange and black Mimardaris on the rocks. But an hour or two later, the river has risen and washed it all off. It must be raining up in the hills, as we’re not getting any rain here, but the river is rising. Hopefully things will dry out.
We do find some goodies on the trail from the main gate down to the river. This trail goes for days up in to the mountains, where there are several villages. You sometimes meet people coming into town for supplies, and it can be a very good trail to work. You have to cross the small waterfall at the start, which can be tricky. There are 2 small footbridges, the main one if you follow the road (which ends at the lodge and turns into a path) is impassible right now (at least for us), as the waterfall is too strong. But there is a 2nd trail that comes right next to our gate, where the people bring horses and burros, and leads to a lower footbridge. David baits this trail, and I find several nice hungry butterflies.
I have an unknown skipper, big orange bands on the forewing and a blue irridescence on the head and body, beautiful. At first I think it is Lychnuchus brasta, which is common here, but that doesn’t have the blue. We’ll have to figure it out. I also have a couple of different clearwings feeding on the spathes of some plants. David gets several scarlet eyes, a km or so further up the trail. Now we just need some sunny days!
Day 29 Nov 16 – it starts off cool and overcast, still drying out from the last several days of rain, but it brightens up by 10 or 11am, and suddenly around 11:30am it starts hopping. The next couple of hours are great. We schedule lunch for 2pm, usually, to not interfere with prime butterfly time, and that turns out to be a great idea today. We don’t want to stop when 2pm rolls around. Afterwards we’re still finding goodies until 4pm or so, when I return to my cabin.
The beach has gone viral, with lots of species all crawling over each other to get to the pee and rotten fish David has spread all over. The river has dropped quite a bit, so we have lots of beach available. A big swallowtail, Neographium dioxippus, is new for our trip, and probably at least 15 species of firetips. I’m going to busy trying to sort them all out. You have to get ventral shots to go with the dorsals, as there are several that look the same from the top. It’s so nice to see the sun again.
Day 30 Nov 17 – we get up to a beautiful sunny morning, and it stays hot and dry all day. Now we see all the stuff we didn’t see yesterday, Adelphas, Pyrrhogyra, all sorts of Nymphalids and Pierids, and a million firetips on the beach.
Interesting to compare what we see on the beach to what we find streamside, in the forest. We have more Yanguna (a big gaudy firetip that is blue with red by the body and big white stripes) than I have ever seen anywhere. There are 2 species (Y.cometes staudingeri and Y.spatiosa mabillei) and we see more than a dozen in one streamside batch! Usually you are lucky to see one. The idea of a dozen Yanguna in one pile is mind blowing, at least to me.
We don’t see any Yanguna on the beach, just near the stream in the forest, where we cross on planks on the trail. But there are many other firetips on the beach that don’t show up in the forest. Many of them prefer to cruise up and down the river banks, so by putting out pee and fish at the edge of the river, on the sandbar, we get ever increasing numbers.
By mid morning the beach is unbelievable. The sulphurs have arrived, I didn’t see any yesterday, along with groups of whites. They tend to cluster with their own species, so we have clumps of yellows and another clump of whites, with firetips everywhere. Several species of swallowtails too, it is a madhouse.
The trail in the forest is also great, lots of Memphis and some riodinids. Not as many hairstreaks, at least for me, though I chase one Micandra (the reddish brown ones with squiggly blue lines) but can never get him, the tease. I see a snake today, when I’m standing in the trail by myself. He doesn’t know I’m there, and just crawls across the trail with a meter of me. He’s about half a meter long, black with white rings and some rainbow horizontal stripes when I flash him. He’s shocked when I move, and he jerks repeatedly, trying to scare me off.
It is also interesting to compare Pampa Hermosa with Pozuzo, as they are close in elevation. But there are some species that were common there and not seen here, and vice versa. For example, I’ve seen Lymanopoda caudalis here by the big waterfall several times, a satyr with a lot of white below, very pretty, but never in Pozuzo. But we had quite a few more Perisama above Pozuzo. Of course we had the most Perisama on the Manu road, because they tend to be higher elevation like around 2,200m. But I’ve only had a few here in Pampa Hermosa, and we had 5 or 6 species above Pozuzo about 1000-1200m, same elevation as here at 1200m. My gps says we are at 1,224m.
Day 31 Nov 18 – more great weather, and more butterflies. We’re all exhausted at the end of the day, except for David who has endless energy. But’s it is a good kind of exhausted. Surprising how tiring it can be, photographing for 6+ hours, bending over, sorting out different species. New species of firetips keep showing up, plus others. Another fabulous day at Pampa Hermosa, with tasty food waiting for us as we stumble back in. Life doesn’t get much better than this.
Day 32 Nov 19 – today we leave after lunch, que lastima. But four days has been about the right amount of time for here. Most of what we’re seeing today we’ve seen before, but there’s always the chance to catch up on those who got away previously, or improve your photos. I do see several new species, so stuff is hatching out, or coming down to where we can get it.
After lunch we stuff in a local van that comes to take us back over the rutted, steep 22 km road to San Ramon, where Juan awaits us about 2:30 or 3pm. Then a couple of hours up the pass to Tarma, where we spend the night in the nice hotel Los Portales about 3,200m. This works better than driving all the way to Lima, which was too long on our previous trip. The restaurant is nice here, not many vegetables, but hey that’s Peru. The rooms are nice, good wifi, and it is quiet.
Day 33, Nov 20 – the long drive up over the pass back to Lima. It takes a minimum of 6 hours, it can be a lot longer due to heavy truck traffic and construction delays. Tony has the first flight at 9pm tonight, so we need to be to the airport by 6pm. Most of the international flights leave around midnight or later, but Tony’s flying to Spain.
We leave Tarma at 7:30am, and stop at the top at 4,800m to stretch our legs and chase the weird Phulia butterflies that fly way up high. It is like walking over tundra, as we are way above tree line. It is a beautiful sunny day, no wind, about as good as it gets up here. We see lots of butterflies, hugging the ground and landing frequently. Mostly Pierids, lots of male and female Phulia (the females are yellow/brown, the males white), some other Pierids and Colias, and some blues. So everybody has a good time.
It is difficult to bend over and photograph at this elevation, one tends to pass out, at least I do. But we slept the night before fairly high, and we’ve been at altitude for much of this trip, so we are somewhat used to it. Better than driving up from Lima after an overnight flight, when one tends to be tired and the elevation is much more difficult to deal with.
We eat lunch a couple of hours outside of Lima, then they take me back to the Hostal Torreblanco in Miraflores, where we stayed the other times in Lima. This takes several more hours, to only go about 30 km, but traffic is horrendous. I say goodbye to all my great travel buddies, as they’re off to the airport for a long evening. I’m glad I’m staying in a hotel tonight for my 7am flight tomorrow.
Day 34 Nov 21 – 4am departure from the hotel for my Copa flight back through Panama City. All goes well, and I’m back to LAX by 4pm. A long day, but it was a great trip. Saw lots of new stuff, got a zillion photos, and learned a bunch more about the fabulous butterflies of the Andes.