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The Beautiful Pongo de Mainique in Quillabamba

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The Beautiful Pongo de Mainique in Quillabamba

You may wonder what the Pongo de Mainique is or what its importance is. The Pongo de Mainique is located in the water gap of the Urubamba River. In the Quechua word, the word Pongo seems to have undergone variations, being its word of origin “punku” which means door or entrance to a new horizon, in this case. 

The Pongo de Mainique was formed over time, by the passage of the waters of the upper Urubamba river, causing erosion among the rocks, making way for it to flow into the area called lower Urubamba. 

The famous Pongo de Mainique has a width of approximately 45 meters, by testimony of some people who came to this wonderful place, they mention that this place is a gift of nature. 

But, where do the waters of this place come from? The water of this place is born from the snow-capped mountains near Cusco and irrigates the entire Sacred Valley, its river is 3 kilometers long and its elevation is approximately 450 meters. 

And, that is not all regarding the Pongo de Mainique, since it becomes part of the National Sanctuary of Megantoni, which is located in the district of Echarate in La Convencion-Cusco. The main objective of this National Sanctuary is to keep the forests and water sources of the Timpia and Ticumpinia rivers intact, in addition to giving value to biological cultures such as the Pongo de Mainique, a sacred place for the Machiguenga people. 

Description

The Pongo de Mainique is a 3-kilometer river crossing with abrupt falls and torrents, which separate the upper Urubamba from the lower Urubamba. In other words, it leaves behind the last eastern Andean foothills and enters the immense jungle plain.

Its name is related to the Quechua word 'Punku' or 'Puerta', in Spanish. Due to its difficult currents, the Incas believed it to be sacred and impenetrable.

The Pongo de Mainique has a large tributary of water that makes it navigable. However, during the rainy season (between January, February and March), the strong eddies and torrents make it a dangerous passage for boats.

The pongo de Mainique has a width of only 45 meters. Its mountainous and green cliffs located on its sides reach up to 1,200 meters high. This overwhelming geography makes it an exceptional landscape. It is as if it were a gorge between the mountains where the river crosses!

On the river tour you can see up to 30 waterfalls.

In the rainy season, the Pongo de Mainique is considered one of the most dangerous river crossings in Peru.

Crossing the Pongo de Mainique, you reach the lower Urubamba, a lowland jungle area where the waters are more navigable. This area is protected by the State of Peru. It is called the Megantoni National Sanctuary. 

Location:

This beauty is located in the interior and extensive district of Echarate (Pangoa sector), province of the Convention and region of Cusco, Peru. 

The Pongo de Mainique begins at the mouth of the Yoyato River, until it reaches the Toteoroato River ravine (Snail River). 

It is about the rupture of the Cordillera del Vilcabamba through which the waters of the Urubamba River run; This famous river is born in the snowy mountains near Cusco and its waters irrigate the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The pongo is the gateway to the Megantoni sanctuary of which it is a part. 

Its mountains are part of the eastern chain, and it is there where it ends, to give rise to the Amazonian plain, dividing into two types of relief: the Upper Urubamba (mountains), and the Lower Urubamba (plain). 

Name's origin

Pongo de Mainique comes from the Quechua word “pongo” or “punku”, which means door or entrance, towards a new wide horizon. It was formed in many years by the passage of the waters of the Upper Urubamba River, obtaining erosion in the rocks opening its way and flowing into the Lower Urubamba area. 

Altitude:

It is at an approximate altitude of 462 meters above sea level, is 50 meters wide and 2 km long.

History

The Pongo de Mainique was formed millions of years ago as a result of erosion and the force of the powerful waters that forged their passage through the chain of forested mountains.

This area was inhabited by several tribes many centuries old. Currently, the Machiguenga communities inhabit part of this jungle area as well as the Camisea, Manu, Picha and Timpía regions.

According to the Machiguenga worldview, the pongo of Mainique was a sacred place that gave rise to origin because it was the door that connected the mountainous worlds with the jungle ones. Likewise, it was believed that the pongo gave rise to its ethnic group. The Incas, aware of the importance of pongo, also considered it a sacred place.

These Amazonian ethnic groups had a commercial exchange with the Incas who inhabited the upper Urubamba. The products that the Incas obtained from the pongo of Mainique are the coca leaf, cocoa and various fruits.

Due to the biological and cultural importance of the pongo de Mainique and the forested areas that exist there, in 2004 the Peruvian authorities created the National Sanctuary of Megantoni, which had the function of conserving natural life as well as the native peoples that live there. 

The National Sanctuary of Megantoni

The National Sanctuary of Megantoni is an area protected by the Peruvian State. The reason is its great biodiversity as well as the original ethnic groups that inhabit its area. It covers a territory of 215,868 hectares, including incredible natural geographies such as Pongo de Mainique, Angel Lake and more.

It was created on August 18, 2004. In addition to the Machiguengas in Megantoni, there are indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation, such as the Nanty, the Kugapakori and more.

The tourist route through Megantoni runs along the banks of the Urubamba River, including the Pongo de Mainique. The route also includes a visit to the pre-Hispanic path of Lambary as well as the Pongoa petroglyphs and, of course, a great diversity of flora and fauna. 

How to get?

To get to Pongo de Mainique, the first thing you should do is: 

Take a bus from Cusco to Quillabamba, the trip will last approximately 8 hours, where we will take vehicles that will take us to the Port of Tintiniquiato (Echarate, La Convención), (approx. 10 hours) it is here where you take the boats that take you to the Pongo de Mainique (approx. 2h). travel time will be approximately 20 hours.

In another case, you must take a small plane from the imperial city of Cusco, and after 50 minutes you will arrive at the community of Timpia. From there you have to take a short 10-minute walk to reach the pier, then take a 15-minute boat ride to reach the Machiguenga center.

Hire a travel agency: Definitely the safest and most recommended option would be this, because they take care of the transfer to this archaeological zone in a better way and solve any inconvenience in a better way.

Why is the Pongo de Mainique important to the Machiguengas?

According to myths and legends regarding the importance of the Pongo de Mainique for the Machiguengas (an ethnic group that inhabits portions of the Peruvian Amazon), it lies in the fact that their culture originated in this place, representing the historical link between the Andean world and the Amazonian. That is why for the Machiguengas the Pongo de Mainique is very important.

What things can we observe on the way to Pongo de Mainique?

If you are one of the adventurous people, Inkayni Peru Tours is sure that during your trip you will enjoy getting to know this beautiful and fascinating place to the fullest, because this place is one of the few that still has its intact vegetation and this helps to better connect with nature, you will also be able to perceive the connection between the puna and the low jungle. 

Other wonders that you will be able to observe on your trip to Pongo de Mainique will be the diversity of wildlife such as:

Military Macaw:

The Military Macaw is a species belonging to the Psittacidae order of the South American parrot family. The military macaw has a long, pointed tail with reddish-brown feathers with blue tips at the bottom. Its wings are olive yellow and a large part of its body is made up of green feathers, hence the name Military Macaw or Green Macaw. 

Unfortunately, as a result of people's bad habits, these birds are in danger of extinction. 

Cock of the Rock:

Also known as Peruvian rupicolous, it is the national bird of Peru. Due to its incomparable plumage and many individual and collective manifestations

Spectacled Bears:

The Andean bear, spectacled bear or "Ukumari" in Quechua, is a unique species in the world that lives in South America and Peru has the largest number of specimens with around 5,750 individuals. However, this plantigrade faces threats to its survival. 

Black Machin Monkeys:

The Black Machin is light brown to black in color and has a patch of white fur on its head, with dark-toned cheeks. Its hands, feet and tail are black or dark brown. Females prefer the dominant male; however, other males have the opportunity to mate when the leader is not present. 

Maquisapa Monkey:

The body of the maquisapa is covered with black, brown or brown fur, although it is lighter in the lower parts. The eyes are bordered by a white ring. 

Another question that passengers often ask is: And where will we sleep? I tell you that the only place where you can rest is in the accommodation in this area that is the Machiguenga Center for Tropical Studies. As a curious fact, the owners of this place are approximately 125 families from the native community. 

What is the best season to visit the Pongo de Mainique?

It is recommended to visit in the months of May to October, which are times of drought, it does not rain, therefore, the river is very navigable; in rainy seasons, it increases the waterfalls and is much more colorful, causing cloudiness, the river increases its flow, making it difficult to navigate, access to the plain through this area is restricted. 

Climate

The Mainique pongo has a humid and hot climate with temperatures reaching a maximum of 32ºC. and a minimum of 17ºC.

The rains can occur in any month of the year. However, they are more frequent in December, January, February and March. It is in those months, the rainy season, that the waters of the pongo become dangerous.

The rest of the year, from April to November, it is advisable to visit it with a guide who knows the route well. 

Visit Price

The tours to Pongo de Mainique that depart from Cusco last several days.

The 4-day and 3-night tour that starts in Cusco and includes the Megantoni National Sanctuary costs between 400 and 600 dollars per tourist.

It is also possible to go on your own. For this it is necessary to organize on your own: transportation Cusco – Quillabamba – Echarati – Ivocote. Also the rental of a boat with a local guide. Many tourists choose to camp on the banks of the river or in a local town. 

Admission Schedule:

We can visit this wonderful "Pongo de Mainique" from Monday to Sunday, throughout the day, without time restrictions; but it is highly recommended to visit in the morning. 

Recommendations to visit Pongo de Minique

It is recommended to visit this tourist attraction with a travel agency or organized tour, or it is highly recommended to book your trip to Pongo in advance with prior arrangements for boat transportation and overnight accommodation.

  • Take a good coat for departure and arrival in Cusco.
  • Wear light clothing, a bathing suit, sandals, and a towel.
  • Rain poncho
  • Sun hat, sunscreen and repellent
  • Camera, binoculars, flashlight and batteries
  • Snacks (energy bars, dried fruits, chocolates, cookies, etc.).
  • Cash in soles and dollars.
  • Personal first aid kit
  • Bottle with water

Best Jungle Tours in Peru

Many are the routes that take you to Machu Picchu, but none is like the Inca Trail Tours, the most famous pedestrian path in the Americas. After flying from the capital of Perú, Lima, you will arrive in Cusco to walk for four days along a path through forests and dense fog, millenary stone steps and discovering the ruins of ancient fortifications and Inca cities, and all the time enjoying majestic views. 

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