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Born amidst the snow – Kim McQuarrie

 The Manu National Park owes its existence to an event that took place a century ago, under the snow and the howls of the freezing Siberian steppes. It was the end of the 19th Century, and in Russia a profound revolution that was to crush many beings and send others to the dungeons was unraveling. Amongst these unfortunates was Jan Kalinowski, a Polish zoologist who had been taken for a spy and incarcerated after being discovered while traversing remote areas of Imperialist Russia with mysterious purposes. 

Since his confinement, Kalinowski wouldn't stop repeating that he wished to see the Tsar; "take me before his majesty and I will grant him an unforgettable present". His captors, who feared that it could be some sort of threat, took the prisoner before the Tsar. Once in front of him, he asked for the opportunity to grant him "the most precious gift anybody has ever offered you". 

It was like this that our protagonist left for Siberia escorted by four Russian guards to seek a present for the Tsar. Once there, the zoologist expert hunted an enormous polar bear and stuffed it in an attack posture, standing on his two rear limbs. The peculiar gift enticed the monarch and it was not long before the ingenious Jan Kalinowski was liberated. 

Sickened by the destruction of war, Kalinowski embarked on a journey to Peru, sent by a Polish Count that wanted to gather an ample collection of birds from these far away lands. Kalinowski arrived on 1887, and settled in Cusco, where soon he got married. He then left for the jungles of the Marcapata Valley, some 160 km to the southeast of Cusco, where he devoted himself to explore the native fauna and flora, and he even discovered a new species of rodent, the Darsyprocta Kalinowski. One of his 18 children, Celestino, was a companion and a follower to this father in all his adventures through the remote jungles of Cusco, where he learned everything that his father and the Indians that he had met taught him. 


Pachacutec, the ninth Inca of the empire, send a great number of troops to the intricate jungles of Vilcabamba and Cosñipata, where the rivers Yanatile, Paucartambo and Madre de Dios, were born. The Incas called this last one Amaru mayo, "serpent river", probably in allusion to the great anacondas they found on the way. 

When Pachacutec died, the tribes from Cosñipata rebelled refusing to pay tribute to his descendant, Tupac Inca Yupanqui. Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa tells that this even ignited the fury of the Inca, who gathered a numerous army to tame the rebels. The cusqueños managed to defeat four jungle tribes: the opataris, manaries, chinchos and manosuyos. With theses advances, the Incas not only ensured their territory, but they also gained new ecological niches where to cultivate products such as coca, cotton and chili. 

A sword in the green

With the arrival of the conquistadores, the jungles of Cusco acquired special importance as they became the new capital for the rebellious Incas, lead by Manco Inca, who established the new capital of the empire in Vilcabamba, within the most intricate forests of the region. Between 1537 and 1572, Manco and his successors pursued the Spanish all through the south of the Andes and even threatened with reconquering Cusco. 

In 1567, the Spanish Juan Alvarez Maldonado obtained a permit from the Viceroy of Peru to take over the land and government of "the province of Mojos", a supposed indigenous nation that possessed enormous riches and occupied the eastern region of Cusco. With 250 armed men and 200 horses, he went to Paucartambo, where he was to begin a vertiginous descent towards the Amazonian plains. After 37 days of journey the Spanish arrived to the source of the Madre de Dios River between the regions of Pilcopata and Salvacion. 

Once settled, the Spanish devoted to the construction of a fleet of canoes and rafts that sailed with 80 men under the command of Captain Manuel de Escobar, on the 20th of May 1567. Suddenly, Escobar encountered another expedition leaded by Gomez de Tordoya, to whom the Viceroy had granted the same rights as Maldonado three years before.

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