Barry Walker, originally from Stalybridge on the outskirts of Manchester England, first came to Peru just before Christmas 1980. He recounts “It was a very different place back then. Cusco was not like it is now, there were families living around the main plaza, and Chef Victor was the only restaurant on the Plaza.” Little did he know all those years ago, that he would one day become a leading expert of Birding in Peru. Paul Jones, one of our Peru travel experts met with Barry a few days ago, and recounts his story.
It was by sheer luck that Barry found himself in Peru. After working for ‘fast cash’ in the North Sea as a scaffolder, he and two friends planned a short adventure abroad to pursue their child hood passion of birding. “We decided to go to Thailand as that was the most exotic place we knew. But at the last minute our plans were dashed.” Due to the busy Christmas period, all the flights to Thailand were fully booked, so after consulting a few people in the birding community, it was recommended that Peru would also be a great option.
“We flew from Lima to Iquitos in the back of a Peruvian Air force plane. We didn’t do any research about Peru, and on arrival in Iquitos I remember seeing enormous trees and strange looking plants; I was instantly fascinated and hooked!” After their adventurous trip to Peru, they all returned to the UK. Barry knew that he wanted to see more of Peru, so he went back to scaffolding in the North Sea to earn himself enough money to buy a flight back to Peru.
On his second trip to Peru he travelled to Cusco. “There were foreigners in Cusco back then, but it was only hardy backpacks and hippies.” It was in Cusco that he met with a pioneer adventure travel company called Expeditions Manú, located just off the plaza in Calle Plateros. “There were no English speaking guides in those days, and they asked me if I wanted to work for them. I accepted, and soon I started taking on other guiding jobs, including leading groups along the Inca Trail.” Barry soon realised that he could actually make good money in Peru as a freelance guide, allowing him to earn a wage, continue living in Peru and continue his passion of Birding in Peru.
A few years later, Barry and his wife, went on to purchase the adventure company that he first started working for, renaming it Manú Expeditions. His notoriety as a leading birder quickly spread, and his company grew to become a leading adventure tour company in Peru.
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In later years, Barry went on to contribute to several publications on birding in Peru. Such publication include a book called ‘Peruvian Wildlife – A visitor’s guide to the Central Andes’ (published by Bradt Guides, October 2007) and ‘A Field Guide to the Birds of Machu Picchu’
Barry also featured in the BBC documentary series – Full Circle with Michael Palin. Where he guides Michael and his camera crew from Cusco to Quillabamba (close to Machu Picchu) and along the Urubamba River through the Pongo de Mainique. He recounts “This was probably one of my favourite moments of living in Peru. It was a fascinating experience, and Michael Palin was an extraordinary person to meet.”
Also, as Honorary British Consulate, Barry has had the pleasure of looking after members of the royal family that have visited Peru. “I have been privileged enough to meet a few royals over the years. I remember that Prince Andrew had quite a keen interest in ornithology too.”
Now at 58 years old Barry still maintains a busy work schedule, leading birding tours in Peru, Columbia, Bolivia and Brazil. In a few days’ time he is due to head off to Machu Picchu for Peru’s 2012 Birding Rally Challenge that got underway last week, where he is one of the judges.
If you are interested in Birding in Peru, why not contact Barry Walker through his website at Manú Expeditions.
This article ‘Birding in Peru, The Story of Expert Barry Walker’ was brought to you by the travel experts at TheonlyPeruGuide, a useful Peru travel information resource.