Dairy excerpts from Peter Lowe, a Crees volunteer

Diary excerpts from life as a Crees Volunteer, Peter Lowe recounts his time with us at the Manu Learning Centre 

Greetings from the Amazon, nothing could have prepared me for the view from Mirador ten minutes trek from base camp with the snow capped peaks of the Andes in the far distance, it was jaw dropping. The Amazon is truly amazing.

View from the mirador at the MLC.

Today I came by boat with three volunteers and a group leader to Salvacion where we will stay overnight in the Crees office. Whilst here we re-fitted the main posts in the local school that will form a covered bio garden for the kids to grow fresh veggies as the supplies from Cusco are once a week, 8 hours by road so they have little fresh produce. Tomorrow morning we will help a local repair his veggie garden damaged in the recent heavy rains.

Work on the bio garden in Salvacion.

Greetings from MLC, Peru, this is the most remote location I have had the priviledge to stay in, being accessible only by boat.  Provisions come every Thursday from LPG cylinders, sacks of potatoes to eggs. Then all hands on deck to carry them up from the boat to the MLC. Darkness falls around 17.30 when candles and torches are used. The days are full on with workshops, surveys/treks into the rain forest both day and night and presentations. Never a dull moment with Sunday a day to recharge the batteries. The bird alarm is around 5.00am. The vibe here is perfect with card games, film evenings, games and fun.

Candlelight after dark at the MLC.

It is the start of the rainy season, temperature, humidity and rainfall are recorded every 6 hours. 26.4 cms fell in 6 hours on Wednesday, 55 cm on Thursday and 43.2 cms on Saturday. This has meant that a few surveys have had to be cancelled, forest streams have become rivers, paths very muddy with deep pools of murky water, washing clothes a challenge to dry and the river has risen and more turbulent. We have all fallen in the mud!

One of the many streams at the MLC full after heavy rainfall.

We have been studying how to identify 56 types of birds, mammals, reptiles, butterflies and plants. The night treks have been especially exciting with the forest taking on a different dimension, trekking both the trails and streams spotting numerous frogs, caiman, insects, scorpion and an owl. A team found a fully grown Dwarf Caiman on a night trek. The following day he was located by two of the research team and brought to the MLC to have its stastistics recorded. I was fortunate to be there to capture this beautiful creature.

Dwarf Caiman at the MLC having it’s statistics recorded.

Well this has been another amazing week with many unique experiences. Monday started sunny and hot.  Myself and two other volunteers and an intern then went on a 6 hour trek through the rainforest in the search of Woolly Monkeys. Unfortunately we did not spot any. However we were treated to sightings of Squirrel Monkeys, Spider Monkeys and Large Headed Capuchin Monkeys. At around 11.00 the forest became very dark and thunder was all around us. Shortly before mid-day the rain started. We had just sighted a group of squirrel monkeys when my foot stuck in a submerged root in a deep muddy puddle. I then lost my balance falling backwards onto a large thorny branch! It took two of my colleagues to get me out and the squirrel monkeys came down to have a closer look! We had our picnic lunch under a tree by a stream as it was raining heavily.

Squirrel Monkey on the reserve.

Tuesday morning I went to check and re-bait butterfly traps, which were baited with a rotting fish solution which not only attracts hopefully butterflies but also soldier ants and other insects!!  In the afternoon, a fellow volunteer and I entered up data after which there was a presentation how to read study reports, followed by a Spanish lesson.  After supper I took part in a night visual survey and saw river Possums, frogs and spiders. Thunder and lightening accompanied us!!

Butterfly traps one of the research techniques for monitoring at the MLC.

Wednesday morning was spent at the Bio Garden and entering data. In the afternoon we were split into three groups for a treasure hunt each group having clues on separate trails in the forest which was great fun.
It was a 4.30am start Thursday to take part in a bird monitoring programme. It was a beautiful sunny morning and besides birds we saw two Titi monkeys. A fellow volunteer and I were doing the weekly roundup presentation so we started preparations. The weekly boat delivery of provisions arrived so we all helped bring the goodies up to the MLC.  After supper the media interns gave a presentation as one of their tutors was leaving. Friday morning I helped check and re-bait butterfly traps, entered data and worked on the “weekly roundup” presentation. After supper I took part on an amphibian survey. We found three species of tree frog and saw an Armadillo.

Presentations, workshops and Spanish lessons are all part of daily life here at the MLC.

The nights this week have been clear without light from a moon and the stars have been stunning with part of the Milky Way visible,numerous fire flies and my first shooting star!
Saturday early start 5.40 to partake in Colpa to observe/record the Macaws, parrots and parakeets,from the hide on a mud bank in the rived, which cross the river to feed on the salt lick at the MLC. The plumage on these birds, especially when contrasted by the green foliage if the trees is spectacular, wonderful experience to see them flying in their natural environment, so different to those kept in captivity
After breakfast I helped to check butterfly traps and we were very fortunate to see two Saddleback Tamarins and four Capuchin Monkeys with a very small baby.  After lunch I helped check the content of the First Aid bags, Laura and I gave the weekly roundup presentation,then after supper we all dressed up in Halloween attire and had a traditional Peruvian christening for the Day of the Dead, ending with the sacrifice/eating of the baby which was a delicious cake and great fun!

Milkyway over the MLC

This morning we were woken at 4.50am by an intense thunderstorm which lasted for over an hour with at least two thunderbolts making everything shake plus sheet lightening and torrential rain
This was our last day. First the last breakfast at MLC, the send off, hour boat ride up river, 6 hour bus ride mostly on the mud/stone mountain road to Cusco. I have learnt and enjoyed so many awesome experiences here with a very special group of people, thank you. I will leave with many happy memories of this time shared with you and the rainforest that surrounds

Huge thanks to Peter Lowe for sharing some of your time with us.