Manu Explorer - Cusco, Peru

Manu Explorer - Cusco, Peru
- Manu Culture -

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Manu Culture

The absence of major commercial settlements in Manu ensures the preservation of local communities and traditions. There are even two un-contacted groups of natives in the reserved zone but these are best avoided as they rigorously defend their borders. Only in the cultural zone can we arrange visits to local villages such as the Diamante settlement of Piro Indians, and Shipiteari, home of Machigenka Indians. Hunting and fishing are still integral parts of their lives.

The Piro are renowned artisans who produce hunting equipment, ceramics, and basketwork. The Diamante settlement was founded in 1947, in response to exploitation of Piro. At that time, they lived further into the Manu river system, and were used as labour by plantation owners. The airport at Bocu Manu now provides cash work for the inhabitants on a rotational basis. The community has a President, elected by democratic means. Monogamy is not prescribed amongst the Piro and the current President has sufficient resources to support five wives. So neither the State nor Church have had much affect on Piro socio-cultural practices.

The preferred tipple is made from Yuca, a tropical root crop staple. This is actually quite palatable after a brief period of taste acquisition. The growing and use of coca leaves is normal in the tropical rainforest (selva). Chewing the leaves produces a very mild stimulant that helps people to cover long distances in an energy sapping climate. If local people find you tired on a path they will often offer both encouragement and coca. Don’t be afraid, the unprocessed, simple, coca leaf is non addictive and harmless. There are also hallucinogenic plants, Ayahuasca and Toe, which are used by shamans in this region. The Toe plant, we are reliably informed, induces the participant to go on a vision quest in the jungle at night, protected by the spirit of the plant, such that not even the Jaguar or snakes can harm the inbiber.

Manu Explorer has close links with the indigenous communities and can arrange (with advance notice) participative visits to various locations. It is possible to learn healing ceremonies with the local shamans and to visit their gardens. Their knowledge is not limited to the preparation and use of hallucinogenic drugs. The jungle is full of amazing plants with a host of medicinal uses, and you can learn all about these; how to recognise, prepare and use them. Also available are visits with the local timber industry to see how the jungle is harvested and processed in a sustainable way.

Near to Pilcapata on the road journey into Manu there is the opportunity to visit the remarkable stone carvings close to the ancient settlement of Los Queros. The inhabitants are thought to be the original indigenous population of this area, but now only number a few families. The petroglyphs are on two rocks, one of which is in the middle of the old river course, and are possibly related in form to ones found at Tipon in the Cusco valley. There are a second, larger, group of petroglyphs located between Atalaya and Bocu Manu on the Madre de Dios river. Both areas can be visited on walking tours in conjunction with wildlife observation.


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