Expedition Photography: Pongo de Mainique Peru
journal to the Pongo de Mainique peru

Introduction for the Pongo Adventure in Peru.
The Pongo Journal has six chapters, each chapter with several pages. To follow the story once you have read this page select Chapter 1.

Tonkini Waterfall: Peru travel Adventurers to the Pongo de Mainique on Urubamba River, Peru.Tonkini Waterfall

Our boat jerked quick to the side. At the bow I could see the whirlpool of foaming water in its fight against the outboard motor of our 10-meter canoe. The fern encrusted canyon walls, a sheer 1000 feet, closed in to our sides blocking the morning sunshine. The angry waters of the Urubamba River, birthed from the snowcapped peaks of the Andes, charged head-on to a portal just 50 meters wide through the mountain ahead. The horizon of water lifted back upon itself, swirling in a rage upon the canyon walls. The air about us was a white mist, as wind swept the rapids blurring the worlds of river and air. In but a second, a deafening roar took command of all senses: Water storming from 1000 feet above was crashing down to each side of our passage, feeding the wrath of a frenzied river. Then a stillness inside me taunted this splendor of nature. I stood up within the boat, clenching my camera. The sun broke the canyon peak awakening the falling waters as streams of silk. Jim, Ben, Dara, and Wayne turned to me from the front of the boat, each with red-flushed faces soaked in a shower from the Pongo.

"Right-On!" was a soft whisper.
Jim, Ben, Dara, and Wayne in the Pongo de Mainique on the Urubamba River, Peru

The Pongo de Mainique is a 50-yard-wide, two-mile-long canyon through which flows the mighty Urubamba River on its 451-mile path north from Cusco and the Sacred Valley to a convergence with the Apurimac River. This canyon is the only break in the Vilcabamba Mountain Range. The Vilcabamba Range arises from the southwestern edge of the Manu National Park, swinging west to the cut formed at the Pongo, then continues west and finally north flattening out into lowland Amazon forest.

The Pongo, a natural splendor unrivaled in scenic beauty, boasts a unique biodiversity, immensely photogenic tropical forests, and a fair share of mystic history. Heavy mists sweep into the Pongo canyon from the Amazonian lowlands supporting a cloud-forest flora and fauna at a lower than normal elevation. Herein awaits a variety of wildlife species for the infrequent visitor: Spectacled Bears, Military Macaws, Woolly Monkeys, Black Spider Monkeys, Brown Capuchin Monkeys, and Golden-headed Quetzals...and Peru's national bird--the blazing scarlet Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. In spectacles unique to all the world, rare Military Macaws nest within holes of the rock walls near the main waterfall ("Tonkini"), and Black Spider Monkeys take a precarious climb down the sheer canyon walls to reach a salt-clay lick along the river's high water mark. At the base of the Tonkini Waterfall lies a raging rapid held sacred by the Machiguenga Indians. This rapid is considered the Machiguengas' gateway to the afterlife: Where their soul will disappear into the large rapid for final judgement before being dispatched either to heaven or to hell.

Our Journey is to the Pongo. Our Destiny within a canyon.

Up to Top!   Or, On to Chapter One !  The Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Satellite Map of the Urubamba River
Satellite Map of the Urubamba River
To view a larger image of the Urubamba River area click Here!
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Chapter One
Cusco through the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Chapter Two
Passage across the Mountains to Quillabamba.

Chapter Three
Quillabamba to Kiteni and Tintinienkato.

Chapter Four
On the Urubamba River to the Pongo de Mainique and Timpia.

Chapter Five
Timpia: "Center for Machiguenga Indian Studies". The Sabeti macaw Clay Lick.

Chapter Six
Timpia to Sepahua and Pucallpa.


The Pongo Team
Index Page of the Pongo 1998 Adventure.


Quick Facts:
In 1536 the Spanish defeated Manco Inca, the last ruling Inca, in a fierce battle at Ollantaytambo. Manco Inca retreated to a safe haven somewhere in the Vilcabamba mountains. To this day, legends and theories abound on the fate of the last Inca and his followers. Some believe the Incas retreated further on, possibly through the Pongo Canyon, to a yet undiscovered ruin named "Picha".


Tonkini Waterfall: Peru travel Adventurers to the Pongo de Mainique on Urubamba River, Peru. Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru. mountains, Peru. waterfalls, Peru. indians, Peru. primary rainforest, Peru. Sepahua, Peru. Pucallpa, Peru. parrot, Peru.