Expedition to the Amazon Black Lagoon: Manu Peru

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the Black Lagoon Manu Peru  

Southeastern Peru:
The Andes Mountains surrounding Cusco and the Sacred Valley, considered "the Navel of the Universe" by the Inca Indians; and the Amazon lands now called Manu, considered the most biologically diverse place on earth for terrestrial life.

While most exploration of Manu has been confined to accessible areas along the Manu River and Madre de Dios River, legends abound on the existence of a "Lost Amazon City" in the Manu Wilderness. A Lost City conveniently located near a main river. A navigable river extending from the Andes Mountains eastward far into modern-day Bolivia and Brazil. A river route facilitating transportation to the Inca capital, Cusco, from one of the richest gold and silver producing regions of South America.

Before the arrival of Europeans in South America the Inca Empire had succeeded in assimilating the Indian cultures of the Andes Mountains. Along the eastern border of the Andes lies the Amazon lowlands, an area inhabited by Indians deemed savage jungle tribes by the Incas.

One such tribe was the "Antis" who were never subdued by the Incas…theories exist that the Inca were, however, able to establish trading with the jungle tribes and build a remote Jungle Fortress deep within the Amazon Lowlands of Manu. A fortress used not only for trading or gold prospection, but a sacred fortress where the human Spirit would connect with nature, a linkage for the Andean Incas to the Amazon Spirit World.

For the Incas this fortress was accessible in one of two ways. From Cusco they would travel eastward across the cloud forests and by river canoes down the Madre de Dios River. Or, a grueling trek north from Cusco over glaciated mountains and then into lowlands, foraging river rapids of the Urubamba River, avoiding the savage jungle tribes, and circling eastward to the Madre de Dios River.

In 1536 the Spanish defeated Manco Inca, the last ruling Inca, in a fierce battle at Ollantaytambo located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Manco Inca retreated to a safe haven supposedly in the Vilcabamba Mountains, the glaciated mountains north of Cusco. The fate of the last Inca and his followers has since remained a mystery. Some believe the Incas retreated beyond Vilcabamba, then following the Manu River eastward to the Madre de Dios River and deep into the Manu Lowlands arriving at their yet undiscovered fortress named

The Key to all of this legend lies in a sacred tale describing the formal meeting place arranged by the Incas to commence trade with the lowland Indian tribes of Manu, and thereby leading to the building of a jungle fortress. It is said this place would be the "Place of the Truth", on the shores of a lake guarded by an immortal, singular, Amazon Creature. A place called "Enowapi", translated as "Black Lake". For all those who wished to proceed to the fortress, a stop at Enowapi meant clearance from the Guardian Creature and that with Truth in your Spirit you would be allowed passage.

Very few clues now exist to the location of an Amazon fortress. The Incas did not have a written language and legends handed down over the last 450 years are filled with more questions than answers.

Fortunately some possible physical evidence does exist. On the banks of the Urubamba River just passed the rapids of the Pongo de Mainique the discovery of carvings on large river rocks has given a new piece to the puzzle. The Urubamba River runs north from Cusco. A tributary to the river, Camisea River, originates far to the east within what is now called Manu. A river passage from the Sacred Valley and Cusco down the Urubamba and then up the Camasea River leads to the watershed area of Manu that also forms the Manu River that then flows eastward to the Madre de Dios River. Near the junction of the Urubamba and Camasea rivers is an ancient rock of "vision writing", called a petroglyph.

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Map of Manu Peru
Map of Manu Peru

Special Thanks to Daniel Blanco of the conservation organization Selva Sur for all of his help and support to bring about this adventure to the Manu Wilderness of Peru.

To Carlos Seminario, one heck of a great guide.

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