Feb 24 – March 4 2011
Week 4 in the jungle
Thunder and lightening very very frightening
After 7days on the week before I was able to enjoy 2 days off in Tena. the second day there was blisteringly hot and just thinking of running errands made you feel quite exhausted. But I had promised numerous people to bring back essentials like chocolate and cigarettes. I also need to pick up a large amount of vet supplies with all the injuries we had to clean. After running a few errands the heat started to turn into a humidity and a storm was building. This caused internet to be a bit spotty at the hostel so I headed to Cafe Tortuga and worked on email as a fantastically wild intense storm moved in. I have always loved storms and this one was a doozy.
I had been craving a steak for a few weeks now and decided to veer away from my usual pizza and try a meat platter at the place attached to the hostel. It was good, although the 1/4inch thick steak was like old shoe leather and the sausages had a weird flavor. When my plates were collected she commented on why I didn’t want the salad, I just smiled sheepishly. But next time I will return to the pizza. The steak can wait till I can find a decent steakhouse somewhere, most likely San Francisco.
Return and first swim in the river
After finally reaching the point of recovery it was time to return to the refuge. When I arrived it was perfect timing for a swim in the river with one of the teachers at the school. We put on our bikinis and headed down the path 15min along the bank to where we could jump in and float down the river. Due to all the rain the river was very high and it was a little nerve racking trying to get into it. But once in you just floated with the current, keeping a sharp eye out for the exit otherwise you might float all the way down. It’s also great exercise as you can swim against the currnet but you don’t actually get anywhere. The water is constantly brown from all the sediment, but as far as everyone knows there is nothing dangerous in it. A few of the locals use dynamite to fish and that has limited the number of things that bite. the best part was that when I went to take my cold shower, it almost felt warm because my body temperature had been lowered by the river swim. This is an important thing to remember in order to survive the last 4weeks of cold showers.
Dealing with monkeys
Tamia, one of our young wooley monkeys, is often a real pain in the you know what. He got his name, which means rain from above, because he has a delightful habit of peeing on you when you are cleaning his cage (luckily I have avoided this priviledge, so far). He was raised by humans his first few months and has a considerable attraction to children. For this reason he remains in his cage until after the school has let out. However, on this particular day, I had a group with a large number of American teenagers and they were exactly what Tamia wanted. I had to constantly pick him up and throw him a short distance away, he usually beat me back. On more than one occasion there was a concerned “Kathy, Kathy”, as he attached himself to a students leg. Its really hard when you have to get aggressive with him, but if you are too soft then thinks it is a game. Luckily we got through the tour without anyone freaking out and in the end they loved it. But Tamia had to go back in his cage, much to his very vocal disapproval.
Discovering my cookie power
Upto this point there is a lot of groaning when I attempt to make bread or even when I make dinner. Usually I am a fairly good cook, but for some reason bread from scratch is not my forte and I am nervous of over spicing the food. On a day off I decided to make cookies and discovered I have the power. Sarah (Canada) gave me her fool proof recipe and boy did I get a lot of “moi rico” (very delicious) comments. After that volunteers started requesting cookies from me. Muwhahahaha so good to discover a niche that you are good at. Please see recipe below (note this is part of the reason I didn’t loose as much weight as I hoped).
Sarah’s Jungle Chip Cookies
1 cup butter – beat it
2 eggs – combine and beat
1 teaspoon vanilla – combine and beat
2-3 cups sugar (white and or brown) – combine and beat
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups flour
Mix all together and add lots of chocolate chunks. Bake at around 200 C for 15min.
Woohoo I am no longer the newby. 2 girls from Germany arrived with a friend of theirs. It is great to get new blood and to have people who are happy to speak English. Yvonne doesn’t speak much Spanish so we started practicing together. Nora is pretty fluent in Spanish so she will have no problem. Nicole, their friend, is just staying for a few days but we got on immediately.
Monday is my day off and also my 1month anniversary here at the refuge (can’t believe how quickly it goes). So after the 7am meeting I asked about tours at Liana Lodge (volunteers get them free). There was one leaving in an hour and I had to hurry to get there as it was at least a 15min walk through the jungle to the lodge. I made certain of instructions and even got a few different versions of the same thing (I have a habit of getting lost). Then headed down to get ready and see if Nicole wanted to join.
We headed into the jungle and started walking, the trail was reasonably well marked but there are few sketchy spots where logs don’t quite form bridges and rivers overflowing paths. At one river the path split and for the life of me I could not remember which way. So I sent Nicole to the left along the river and I went right. After about 10 min I realised my path was most likely the wrong path and headed back. It turned out Nicole had been calling me for 5min as she had met someone who pointed her on the right path. The jungle truly absorbs all sound. We made it to Liana lodge just in time and then had to wait almost an hour for the tourists to get ready, Murphy’s law.
Isla Anaconda is the island just across the river and takes about 2min by canoe. We were tacking onto a group of Swiss school kids and it was quite amusing to watch them in the jungle. Our guide showed us yukka fields, and papaya groves, and many other things that make up island life. We ended the tour at one of the houses where we were given a demonstration of how they make yukka chicha. Chicha is a kind of drink that the locals make out of a variety of different fruit and vegetables and if left to ferment becomes a fairly potent alcohol.
Then the kids were able to practice their blowgun skills and we were all treated to ripe cacao, tastes a lot like candy (if only it tasted like chocolate).
We were able to hitch a ride back to AmaZOOnico on the canoe rather than walking. When I got back I had to admit I almost got us lost, and Michael (Manager) said “I told you to follow the river”. Oops, well I won’t get lost again.
As one of the long term volunteers, part of my job is to train new volunteers. So it was on a bright Monday morning that I took Yvonne and Nora on big tour lugging the heavy buckets on the long trail. Our final stop is the capuchin monkey cage, Yvonne and I watched the monkeys as Nora ran back to get another bucket for compost. I noticed that one of them had something around its neck, at first I thought it was a piece of debris, then I suddenly realised what it was… “Is that a baby??”. Indeed it was, still with its umbilical cord. I ran up to the office and said we had a baby in the capuchin cage, Sarah (head volunteer) and Joelle (manager), both sounded surprised, Michael (manager) just said “yes yes” and went back to work.
The hard part was the decision of what to do. We really only had 2 options to remove or to leave but both came with serious consequences.
To remove – involved risking us and the baby in trying to catch the mother, the males can be aggressive. Even if we were able to remove them there was a high chance she would reject the little one.
To leave – meant the risk of the mother not knowing how to feed or raise (she was brought up by humans) or the males attacking and killing the baby.
We decided the lower risk was to leave the baby, it was also the more natural option we had to choose from.
The upside is that it appeared the alpha male, dubbed Stompie for his lack of tail, was the father and this meant extra protection for the baby.
Being the only native English speaker
As our volunteer numbers have dwindled it suddenly ended up with me being the only native English speaker and therefore the main person to do such tours. Of course this also meant a whole lot of English tours arriving. I was in the process of sorting out a group of 25kids into 2 groups when a group of 19 adults arrived. In the end I had to take the adults and the kids had to have Spanish as they were actually an English Language school and so understood Spanish. We usually try cap the number of people in a group to 15, but without any options I was going to have to manage the larger group. I realised this wouldn’t be too much of a problem when I was gathering everyone inside for the intro and asked a couple smoking outside to join us. The one replied “don’t worry you have a loud voice we can here you from out here”…
Couches, being shushed and fairwells
Lukas (Holland) had made us a very impressive looking couch over the past week and was installing it as it was his last day. I was heading to Tena so went to hang out a bit. We were discussing the couch when Michael (manager) came in and asked Lukas to round the edges of the one arm as “the drunk people will break themselves”, I tried to say we could wait and see but he turned to me and said “shhhh, I, am talking now”. All I could think to do was sit down on the couch and say “yes sir”. 2minutes after he left Lukas and I nearly wet ourselves laughing.
I truly hate goodbyes, especially when it is someone you have become good friends with. Lukas was always there with a supportive word in the first month and I was really going to miss him. But that is part of the double edged sword of travel, you meet great people but you have to say goodbye.
Stay tuned to hear about our adventures with the 4 day national holiday, Carnival, which is really 4 days of partying.