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AmaZOOnico Day 58 – 63 – Week 6 in the Jungle

March 5-10 2011

Week 6

What the???
Our volunteer house is 2 separate living areas connected by a walkway and the bathroom, as Murphy’s Law dictates, is on the other side of the walkway. Add to this the copious amounts of water we drink during the day to stay hydrated and that equals midnight runs to the bathroom. On this particular night there was one of our typical mammoth storms with rain, thunder, lightening and much rain. As I headed out on my usual 1am potty run I opened the door to see a large furry shape sitting on the walkway. Once I recovered from a mild heart attack, I realised it was just Luka the Liana Lodge dog. He ended up sleeping in my room that night and then took a liking to it and often showed up around once a week after that. The best part is that Liana Lodge would send a canoe to pick him up, so there is also the chance he just liked the free ride.

Carnival
Carnival is a 4 day national holiday all over South America. It involves lots of fiesta, drinking, eating and general merry making. For us at AmaZOOnico it means hundreds of visitors a day, mostly Ecuadorians. The first day was reasonably quiet, but from Sunday we were swamped. A tour almost every 30minutes. Mostly it was Spanish speakers which left the volunteers who could not cover tours to do the feeding and cleaning. But even though it means more work, it also means a much needed influx of money for the refuge.

The Tuesday of Carnival we got to go enjoy it. We headed out around 5.30pm after work and caught a canoe to Ahnu (15min up the river). Iho, one of our Kichwa volunteers, lived in Ahnu and his grandfather had agreed to let us sleep in his house (which was a mansion by local standards). Then we headed up one of the 2 streets located in town to the main fiesta site. Within a few minutes we had been doused with canned foam, covered in powdered paint and flour and it didn’t take long before we were all sprayed with beer.

We danced, ate and drank all night and had a blast. It felt great to be out with everyone away from the refuge and being covered in powder and foam to the point of not recognizing each other just made it all that much better. It also turns out that I am fairly good dancer when it comes to Latin music and had a fair number of people to dance with. Around 12.30am Sarah and I headed back to the house and the others followed an hour later. At some point someone put a blanket over us. At 6.30am we had to wake up and try get a canoe back in time to start work at 7am. We pulled in at 7.05am, brushed our teeth and went straight to work. I spent all my tours saying “I am sorry for the purple hair and skin, but we were at carnival”. It took 3 days to get the paint off my skin and 2 weeks to get the purple out of my hair.

Tena bound
I might have had to work the day after Carnival but I also got to finish early and head to Tena. I took 3 warm showers and still was covered in paint. The combination of yellow and purple around my neck made it look like someone had tried to throttle me. It would take many more showers before the color came out. And I would repeat the experience in a heartbeat.

Stay tuned for more adventures in the jungle

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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AmaZOOnico day 37-49 – week 4 in the Jungle

Feb 17 – 23 2011

Week 4 in the jungle

Routine keeps you sane!
After only 4 weeks here in the jungle I have started developing routines, especially when coming to Tena on my day off. It goes something like this:
Arrive in Tena and drop off laundry
Check in at hostel and have a WARM shower
Go have hawaiian pizza and fanta
Go to the little old lady store pick up a bottle of water and choose some sweets from the candy case
Go back to hostel, relax and check internet then sleep

I once tried to alter the route by eating dinner somewhere else and when I returned to AmaZOOnico it just didn’t feel like I had had a proper day off. Routine and friendly faces at regular stops definately keep you sane and grounded. It also let you feel a bit more like a local than a short termer.

Road accident…It had to happen sometime
On my return trip to Puerto Barantilla to pick up the canoe the bus had an accident. Or perhaps it was more like a car hit us as it came screaming round a blind corner on the wrong side of the road. The bus hit it broadside and it slid off the road. Then the screaming match began and finally the driver just jumped in the car and drove off, much to the annoyance of the bus driver who ran down the road after him. Since the only speed limits in South America seems to be FAST and EXTRA FAST, I am surprised it didn’t happen sooner. Even after standing in the road looking befuddled for 20min the bus driver still managed to get me to my stop on time, but am fairly certain he was just going fast this time.

The tail’s tale continues
I have started helping with the cleaning and medicating of Francisco for his tail. It looks ok, but there are concerns of infection and healing correctly, there also appears to be a small piece of bone that is sticking out as the sutures did not hold correctly and the wound is healing with a gap. It takes 4 people to clean the wound as 1 person has to hold the head, 1 person has to hold the feet and hands, 1 person has to hold the tail and the final person cleans and rebandages. The whole time Francisco is screaming, its quite stressful. We have to abrade, reopen scabs, the area every day to make sure that there is no puss or infection and I can only imagine how painful that must be. But it is too dangerous to constantly medicate him to keep him calm, not to mention the lack of adequate medications. On one cleaning I was helping Michael, manager, with cleaning and then he handed me the convenia injection, antibiotic, and told me to give it subcutaneous. I have officially injected cats, dogs, lizards, snakes and now a wooley monkey. Not to bad a list if I say so myself, although a wee bit stressful trying to find a good location on Francisco with 3 pairs of eyes watching my every move.

Cooking duty on a Thursday
Our human food arrives on a friday morning and by Thursday we have VERY limited options which forces people on cooking duty to get creative. Sometimes food is almost finished by wednesday depending on the number of people to feed. On this week Flavio, Kichwa volunteer (Kichwa = people from this region), and I were the designated drivers and there was pretty much nothing left on the shelves. So we did what we could and came up with a hodge podge that actually worked reasonably well:
Rice
Mash potato with lots of butter
Tuna with fried onion and garlic
Coleslaw (cabbage and carrots with mayonaise and raisens)
and finally fruit salad for dessert.

Not too bad considering the limited supplies and that most of the stuff was starting to rot in the humidity.

Enriching the life of Felix the Jaguarundi
One of our weekly tasks is to design an enrichment activity for one of the animals, so that they are challenged and do not become too bored with living in a cage. I have had a number of successful enrichments and so I decided to try something for Felix the jaguarundi. I got permission to use raw eggs and soaked them in as much blood as I could find from the meat for afternoon feeding. The plan was as follows:
Hide the eggs and he would search them out and then play with them and finally figure out how to eat them. Jaguarundi’s have been known to pilfer from birds nests so this seemed like an easy plan.

One factor to note though, is that Felix was raised by humans and does not have much wild instinct. In truth he is not the smartest jaguarundi but we love him anyway.

Turns out the enrichments went a little like this:
Get Felix in smaller cage to lock door and enter main cage.
Hide eggs near fence where I can observe.
Release him, and watch as he searches for his afternoon meat. (due to meat shortage the eggs were his afternoon feeding).
He found the eggs pretty quickly and licked them with enthusiasm, but once all the blood was off he looked at me confused and released a terrifying “Meow?”.
Get him back in small cage and return to egg site where I cracked 1 completely, 1 slightly and let the last untouched. (Assuming he would figure out that there was yummy stuff inside all of them).
Released him, he enthusiastically lapped up the egg that was open and licked the egg that cracked, then once again looked at me and said “meow?” (and I am not kidding with the ? either, he was definately confused).
In the end we had to crack all 3 of them as he just couldn’t figure out what to do with them.
Maybe he is actually smarter and realises we will do the work for him…

Fairwells and alcohol
We always try have a party of sorts for people’s fairwells and when Genesis left it was no exception. Its tradition for everyone to make a dessert of some kind and we usually end up having those for dinner. We also end up playing games that involve alcohol. This time we had some limited rum, so our head volunteer made these amazing rum drinks (rum, sugar, lemon and water). Amazing! When the rum ran out we turned to the locally made stuff. Its called agua chiente (spelling?) and I am fairly certain you can use it to strip paint. In South Africa we would call it witblitz (white lightning) and in the states moonshine. Its made from maize I believe and the trick is to not smell it before you drink it. However mix it with something and you barely taste it, which can be very very dangerous.

Rainy season in the rainforest
When you talk about the rainforest you assume there are daily showers and that it always feels hot and humid. However make it rainy season and you can rapidly run out of dry clothing. One one particularly intense day it rained cats and dogs, torrential downpour would be an understatement. The kind of rain where rain jeckets and ponchos do no good. I had big tour with 2 of the girls and we were saturated almost immediately. Followed immediately by 2 tours. Giving me only 10min for lunch before afternoon feeding, it was still raining, where I was volunteered for big tour. They love deciding who does what in Spanish and leaving out a couple of us who don’t realise they have decided. But it was all good and I was wet anyway, whats another gallon of rain down your pants.

Beata strikes again
On Sunday I headed down to clean the bathrooms and have a quick shower before our volunteer meeting. When I went into my side of the house all doors were closed. When I came out the other living room door was open. This could mean only one thing and I found Beata (spider monkey) sitting on Sarah’s shelves. I tried to coax her out but she decided she wanted to roam around a little and climbed over the top of the wall into Sara’s (Spain) room, she was away and it was padlocked so I couldn’t get in, but I could hear her searching for things. Finally Beata reemerged in Sarah’s room but then promptly climbed back into Sara’s and then over into Lukas’ room. This was continued for about 20minutes, with me yelling for help every 5minutes. Finally someone came and we continued to try get her out. Ever since she bit me I have been a bit more cautious around her. After about 25minutes of chasing her from room to room and just as Lukas was about to come save the day she put her arms out and let me pick her up as if that was all I had had to do from the very beginning. Locking doors became a mission for me after that.

Martin
That afternoon we decided to return Martin the wooley monkey to the cage he shared with Herman. His wound on his shoulder had healed nicely and we figured he would be ok in the cage. That night around 9pm, while we were relaxing in the living room, Lukas came down and said I was needed in the vet room. He had been counting kinkajous when Martin had been attacked by something again, but had passed out when he tried to help (he is a very sensitive guy). So up I went in the pouring rain, and what a sorry sight I found. We think that something got him through the fence. He had 3 large gashes on his head, his right thumb was split almost in half, he had bite wounds on every appendage and a large chunk missing from his tail. He was screaming bitterly and we all trying to figure out exactly what and how we were going to treat him. It was finally decided to use only local anesthetic and stitch the wounds. We only finished about 2hrs later and when Martin resembled the monkey version of frankenstein. He now faces another few weeks of daily cleanings and treatments until his wounds heal and we have figured out the problem with keeping him safe in the cage. The best solution is to put chicken wire over the whole cage, but its $500 (US) for just the supplies, more for labor.

A long week ends
Due to the delicate nature of days off this week has been 7 days straight on, and I think I am ready to drop. My knees are starting to kill me and I end up in bed by 7.30pm almost every night. Can I really feel this old at 33?? Luckily I have 2days off in Tena, which means a whole lot of sleeping, eating and warm showers would should hopefully help me recover before returning.

Freddy, Monica and Flavio (Kichwa volunteers) have the day off too so we all headed into town together and went out for pizza. I veered away from my usual fanta and had a beer instead, and it was a good change with company. Then I returned to the hostel and remained comatose for about the next 12hrs.

Join me as I start my 2nd and last month of volunteering in my next post…

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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AmaZoonico: Days 36-42 – Week 3 in the Jungle

The management wish to apologize for any delays you might have experienced with updates. Due to technical difficulties involving internet access in the jungle we are a little behind.

April 10th to 16th 2011

Week 3 in the Jungle

The joys of things that bite in the night
In the morning I woke up at the hostel covered in small red bites. Having previously managed a hostel my first thoughts were bed bugs. But the owner assured me they had no such issue and it was most likely the beastly sand flies and mosquitoes who got me. in the end I believed him as the bites did appear more sand fly like in nature. I went back to sort out some things and suddenly his mother appeared (she is the most darling old lady ever and always calls me “mi amor”). She indicated for me to put my feet up on the side table and then proceeded to smear a green liquid that smelled like menthol all over my legs, feet and arms. Needless to say, that afternoon I went on the hunt for some of this amazing stuff.
I permanently carry a small tin of mentol chino with me when I do tours and this was like a liquid form of it. Mentol chino is about the only thing, other than copious amounts of cortizone cream, that helps the itchiness… speaking of which where the heck is my tin, ahhhh I hate sand flies!!!!

My very own room
When I got back to AmaZoonico I found out that none of the others wanted the newly available single room that was recently vacated. So I immediately started moving. It has 2 lovely windows, a shelf and a bed side “table”. Fantastic! However it is above the kitchen (which can get very noisy) and its wain wall by the bed is the one facing the popular lounge, which means talking to all hours of the night and cigarette smoke. But hey, its my own room!

A tale of a tail
When a group of woolly monkeys were due to be released we realised that one of them had an injured tail. After close inspection (involving 4 people holding him down and one looking at it) we realised it was most likely broken but as there was still blood flow we decided to bandage it and see how it healed. We believe he was sitting with his tail outside his cage when another wild monkey came up and broke it right below the part they use to grip things with (prehensile). After an initial check I headed off to do a tour and Michael (the manager) headed off to Tena for his weekend off.

Shortly after my tour ended I was called to help with Francisco again, it turns out he had started chewing on the injured section and was now causing severe damage. We bandaged it up again and called the vet in Quito we work with. His suggestion was to amputate the section before infection set in. We then called Michael to tell him his weekend off had come to an end. He returned the next day and preparations were made. We still had no vet, the vet from Quito was unable to come and so it was up to Michael to do the deed. Upto this point the only amputations he had made were on necropsies (autopsy on an animal), so this was going to prove interesting.

With limited equipment I became the monitoring machine with my stethoscope and watch. I made up a monitoring sheet to keep things in order and then we were on our way. It was really difficult cutting through tendons and moving the skin and hair away from the bone and then came the decision of where to cut. If we cut too high it would mean a redo and the wound wouldn’t heal well. If we cut too low we would remove part of his healthy tail. Luckily Michael’s guess seemed well aimed and the cut was clean. As we were starting to close up, Francisco decided to start waking up which lead to mild panic as we tried to turn up the anesthetic and hold him down at the same time. In the end the surgery appeared to be a success, Francisco woke up without problems and appeared to be leaving his tail alone. Michael was so impressed by how well it went he bought us all a soda.

Volunteer Dynamics
It is inevitable to find the occasional issue when you take a large bunch of people of different ages and cultures and push them together. At present the majority of volunteers were female and under 22 from Europe. Its never a good idea when there are too many girls barely out of highschool in a group together and they proved this when they called me into a room and sat me down and proceeded to tell me that I wasn’t working hard enough. This was a bit of a shock as I was barely on my 2nd week and still didn’t know everything, they named a few instances from that (all of which turned out to be when I was in surgery). When our head volunteer arrived she looked fairly concerned at this apparent gang up. So it turns out that I am back in highschool, and still not popular. It really took its toll on me and I seriously started considering leaving. Working with a bunch of youngsters who refuse to speak anything but spanish (great for immersion but you need someone to give you the occasional translation) and who treat you like someone who isn’t worth being there was not my idea of fun. But after chatting with Sarah I decided to stick it out and just focused on myself instead of trying to be part of the group. In the end I am very thankful to her advice, as groups change and so do the dynamics.

Tours in foreign languages
Today during fruit delivery we had a Belgium group arrive for a tour. Lukas, from Holland, could have done the tour but he is much more useful with the fruit carrying than I am. So I got to do my first tour in Afrikaans (a form of Dutch spoken in South Africa). It was a lot of fun and the most amusing part is that every time I said something they all got this look on their faces and said “oh how cute”. I switched to English after the 5th time they said this. It was all rather amusing and great practice for my Spanish.

Happy Valentines
I spent my valentines in Tena with my usual pizza and fanta. Turns out I have 2 days in a row off. the down side is that it is only 1 day after my last day off and means I will most likely have to work 7 days straight, but on the upside I really need a couple days to myself and away from the highschool atmosphere.

Stay tuned to see if I survive repeating highschool and how dynamics start changing

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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AmaZoonico: Days 32- 35 – week 2 in the Jungle

Feb 6th to 9th 2011

Week 2 in the jungle
After the mammoth party the night before, that rivaled the nightly party at the local Kichwa community across the river (we regularly go to bed listening to dance beats thumping through the forest), the revelers rolled out of bed and put on their gum boots. Today I repeated front tour in the hopes that I would have it memorized and able to do it alone on the next round.

English tours
As my main language is English and there isn’t much call for Korean or Afrikaans tours, there are often days when I never have tour. Then again there are days where I have tours back to back. My first tour went off rather well and I was feeling really good about myself…until I went for lunch and one of the volunteers told me all my info was incorrect. I explained I had followed the information we had been given and she said well that was wrong too. Apparently since we change animals so often the booklet often gets out of date, but the information about the general animal is not wrong its just the story about that precise animal that might be different. Other volunteers just laughed and told me it was fine as long as the biological info I was giving was correct.

Danger Will Robinson Danger
Sarah, the head volunteer, had a little intro with me, much more in depth and useful compared to my initial one. She told me about all the different duties and chores we have as volunteers (such as basura/trash and cleaning banos/bathrooms), she also gave me more info on the tours and day to day life. Then we got down to the nitty gritty and the dangers of life in the jungle. These included the following:
– try not to scratch itchy bites as they could become infected
– if you get diarrhea let it run its course but if it continues past 2 weeks tell management
– beware of scorpions, always check your shoes
– tarantulas are scary but not dangerous
– and finally beware of snakes, especially the Eckies, but never fear you have at least 7hrs to live if you are bitten and the hospital is only 2hrs away… Why does that not instill confidence in me??

Sunday Meetings
Our schedule is 7am to 5pm 7 days a week, even on Sundays, although it would be nice to have an early day off. Oh well one of the joys of volunteering. As it was Sunday it was also the “Volunteer Reunion”. Our weekly meeting to decide on duties and days off. At 5.15pm we all filtered in (I had tried to quickly jump in the shower and was still changing when my name was yelled – oops late for the first meeting). Then we went through all the happenings of the week, any problems, any news and finally the list of duties. Sarah calls them out and we all raise our hands quickly if we want it or look in the other direction hoping we aren’t made to do it. Finally days off rolled around, we start with special requests and then from one side of the table we name off a preference, it then returns back to name your second preference. Sometime you are lucky and it works out, sometimes you get stuck with 2 weeks of days off close together and 7 days on or the like.

Monday Meetings
On mondays we have a 7am AmaZoonico meeting with the volunteers, teachers, the trail guides and the big boss (Remigio). This is all done in Spanish and so I spent most of it looking like I was watching tennis as the conversations flew over me at great speed. I had been warned I would have to give an introduction in Spanish and I had been practicing my lines for 2 days. All of a sudden I realised everyone was looking at me expectantly and my introduction was due, caught off guard I sputtered out something resembling Spanish which included my name, age and where I was from. Then the meeting continued. Afterwards Sarah gave me the headlines which took 2minutes after an hour long meeting.

Mono Tour (aka Monkey Tour)
Today I start learning the ropes, so to speak, of Mono tour (Mono is monkey in spanish). The tour includes:
Small monkey table – (where all the wild squirrel monkeys and Beata and such eat) clean, wash and place new food
Big monkey table – same as above but bigger in size.
Aves 1 (bird cage 1) – clean and feed and try avoid being buzzed by the blue headed parrots
Capibaras (worlds largest rodent) – toss in new food

Herman (woolly monkey) and Lyria (agouti) – pull door closed (Herman has women issues) clean and feed


Johan and Mea (spider monkeys) – pull door closed (Johan has male monkey aggression and tries to get out to kill any other male monkey) feed and clean

It is one of the shortest tours and the easiest. It usually means you get to clean the bodega, food prep room, when you are done but that is all good.

Dehydration
Dehydration is a big problem when you are working in the heat and humidity and I got an up close and personal introduction to it during this week. I had been drinking all morning but then had 2 tours back to back, followed by food prep and a feeding. The sun had come out and that is when it becomes blisteringly hot and all the sweat dries so you don’t even realise you are losing moisture.
At the end of the feeding I felt like I was on the verge of collapse, a headache was thumping, I just wanted to tear off my clothes and stand under a cold shower (I never WANT to have a cold shower) and I was beginning to feel like I was going to throw up. Toki took one look at me and told me to go rest. I ended up curled up under my mosquito net all day drinking electrolyte water and trying to avoid the urge to cleanse my system.
The next day it appeared that everyone had known how sick I was and were asking how I was feeling.

Note to self: always carry a bottle of water and drink from it continuously.

Martin
Poor little Martin! He is a woolly monkey that has a neurological problem, his right side doesn’t work too well and he acts just like a human 2yr old in that he puts everything in his mouth. This often results in him being sick and having diarrhea. On this day Lukas and I had noticed him huddled in a corner acting very strange so we had reported it to management. Alejandra (a local biologist who works at the center) called me to help check him out. Since he lives with Herman (the one with women issues) we had to be very careful, but luckily there were no problems and we got Martin out the cage before Herman showed any interest.

He was in poor shape, with a large gash on his shoulder and severe diarrhea. It didn’t help that it had been pouring with rain all day and so he was soaked to the bone and very cold. We had to try shave the area which even in his weakened state, he still managed to squirm and wiggle. Then lidocaine and finally stitching. He was not very happy and screamed most of the time, its too dangerous to put him under anesthetic for a simple procedure, but I think he would have preferred it. Eventually we got it all stitched up and settled him in to one of the cages at the bodega with a nice hot water bottle to keep him company.

So this is the rainy season
Well you never would have guessed but it rains a lot in the rainforest. Usually there is a shift in the wind and you can almost count it off as a sudden deluge of water falls from the heavens. During this week it appeared as if the rainy season had hit with some intensity. A large tree had fallen on the laundry area and involved much pulling and hauling to remove it and left us all soaked to the bone. Also a piece of bamboo had fallen like a javelin and almost pierced the front cage that houses Kinti and Tamien (woolly monkeys), all very exciting, in a manner of speaking. Doing feeding tours in the rain is one thing but then you also have to lead tourists around in the rain…thats when you know you are committed and very wet. At one point you consider going to change but you are going to be drenched within 5minutes anyway (even a rain jacket/poncho doesn’t help as you sweat so much its like its raining inside) that you end up weighing being comfortable for 5minutes and wasting a pair of clean dry underwear. Usually we just end up sitting it out in soggy clothes and praying for 5pm to arrive so we can dry off.

Beata and biting
I had been told many times that Beata, the spider monkey, did not have any teeth so it was ok if she tried to bite you when you had to shoo her away or pull her off someone. We don’t want to encourage her to get too used to hanging onto people, as it could be dangerous. So when I came out with my tour and found Beata draped around one of the guides (who I had just told not to touch Beata) I did as I was told. You grab her hand and unwind her from the person. Her reaction to this was equivalent to a 5yr old being caught with candy and being made to give it up. She creamed blue bloody murder and bit me on my hand and hip. Turns out she does have teeth, just not very big ones. Luckily it didn’t pierce the skin but I did have a fairly cool bruise on my hip for a week. My tour looked quite shocked at this, but being the professional I am… I was able to remain calm and explain the reasonings (meanwhile I was cursing inside and sayings some fairly unpleasant things to all those who said she didn’t have teeth).

Ending the week in Tena
My week ended with another trip to Tena. I was absolutely exhausted and just went and checked in, showered and had dinner. Part of me wanted to be social and there was even a group of fairly good looking English lads, but consideration was as far as it got. Flirt with the boys or bed, screw that bring on the bed and sleep!!

Stay tuned for more adventures and more poop!

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Tena to AmaZoonico: Days 27 to 31 – Week 1 Jungle Time

Feb 1st – 5th, 2011

Getting there
At the appointed time on the appointed day I headed out to find my bus. Turned out to take me a lot quicker than I had thought and gave me a 40min wait till departure. When the bus arrived I jumped in and was thrilled to see that I could get the seats at the door, what a score, air and I can see where I was going. 5minutes later I noticed two very confused looking Ecuadorians behind me looking at their tickets. What do you know, we have assigned seats! I apologised profusely and made my way near the back to seat 18 aisle. no air and no way of seeing where I was going. Well I waited and sweated a young boy came through selling some kind of frozen popsicle, the best 10cents I ever spent!

Baby Monkey
Surprisingly the bus left at precisely 2.30pm and we were soon on our way at top speed (which I think is the only speed). I had seen a few people with boxes of chicks getting on the bus and was not surprised by the cheeping sound coming from the family next to me. I did feel sorry for the poor, strange looking black chick that the young boy had a vice like grip on. It was particularly strange that it appeared to have a long tail… I then realised it was not a chick at all but a baby monkey.
The family saw my reaction and let me hold it, for the entire bus ride. He was tiny, barely the size of my palm, it sounded like he was only 15 days old and his eyes were just open. He clung to me and made cheeping sounds looking for safety.

I have since found out that it is a Chichico monkey or Tamarin monkey. They are the 2nd smallest monkies in South America. This was a Saddleback Tamarin. Black with a white moustache. Too cute and so in need of its mother and mothers milk. At one point it made its way up my shoulder and under my hair where it clung to me for dear life.

As the trip progressed I tried to convince the family to let me take the baby to the refuge with me, but through broken Spanish I was able to get from them that it was their sons pet and they couldn’t take it away from him… $30! Number 1 I didnt want to encourage the selling of wildlife and 2 I didnt have $30 on me. So unfortunately at the designated sign of Puerto Rio Barantilla I had to return the poor thing back to the family knowing, full well, that it would unlikely survive. A very sad start to my volunteering. I wish I could have done more.

Arrival
Moving on to happier topics, I found the very big sign announcing I was at the location, went through the big metal gates and down the bank to the left to find my canoe…not waiting there for me.

Mmmm what to do, sit and wait was all I could think of. It was quite pleasant at the river but after 15min I started getting concerned.

Then low and behold a canoe appeared, woohoo, I grabbed my bag and set off to the waters edge, just as the canoe pulled up, the kids got out and told me they were off duty. Ok then guess thats not my canoe! As they were walking away another canoe appeared coming from the opposite direction and they pointed at that one. Ok then here we go this must be my canoe, I shouted : AmaZoonico: and they stared at me as they motored past… But luckily there seemed to be mutual agreement that the gringo (foreigner) looked quite pathetic and they came and picked me up. This wasnt the tourist canoe but a work canoe and no one jumped out to help me put my bags in. Eventually one realized they might be there forever if they left it up to me and took one of them. Then we were motoring down the river, me balanced precariously on the edge of the boat (it was full of bamboo so nowhere to sit).

When I arrived at the “dock” to AmaZoonico I was met by one of the long term volunteers. Pascal is from Germany and has been here for almost 6mths, he will stay for a year. He showed me to my room and gave me a debriefing in the kitchen. When he handed me the keys he said the short one was for the kitchen the other for the bar/curio shop (it took me over a week to realise the key lengths were the same but very tops of the keys were different lengths). When he gave me my sheets, stating “I think they are clean”, that was the end of the briefing and I left to settle in my room a little bewildered. My roommate is Karyn from Germany and is very quiet but has a lovely personality and is a very hard worker. She will leave in 2 weeks.

I wasn’t feeling so well and by the time dinner arrived I had a splitting headache and had already thrown up once. By the time I went to bed, unable to eat the pizza they had made, I had thrown up twice more. Brought on by dehydration with a touch of stress added into it.

Day 1
Waking at 6am, feeling much better, I got dressed and wondered what to do. There was some fresh bread for breakfast and someone gave me some jam (we have personal stashes of food that become very important). Then I went upstairs (a total of 75) looking for Celine (France) who had already gone upstairs to start.

Finally finding her she showed me where the Bodega (food prep room) was and had me start cutting up choritos (small bananas) and platanas (plantains). It was all very confusing and there was no set system really. To start off I was following “Big Tour”, what a way to start, you have at least 6 buckets full of food (which is difficult when there is only 2 of you, luckily with me there was 3), and you walk the majority of the loop through the refuge, up and down numerous stairs. My biggest problem (other than the weight of the buckets) was that due to my height the buckets kept hitting the stairs as I walked, needless to say I have an array of interesting bruises.

Big Tour includes:
-Peccaries (wild pigs) that get lots of yucca
-Aves 2 (bird cage with macaws and parrots) that get lots of fruit. One of the macaws tried to redo my hair with its beak.
-Kinkajou cage 1 involves cleaning in the morning, food in the afternoon
-Jaguarundi (a feline that can jump 4m to catch a bird) feed meat and clean cage
-Kinkajou and agouti cage – clean and feed
-Pond – feed tilapia and turtles
-Capucin monkeys – clean and feed while they yell insults at you
-Ocelot cage (felines) – walk to check perimeter and check electric fencing in the morning, lob pieces of meat over fence in the afternoon.

All very exhausting at the end of it and in the heat and humidity even more so.

Our day lasts from 7am till 5pm, there is a lunch at noon, but we have to stay up in the general area in case a tour comes in. This makes for a very long day in sweaty, dirty clothes trying to avoid being bitten by the sand flies. But all in all its great fun.

Day 2
On big tour again, new people do each tour at least 2 days in a row. Today was also “bebidas”, which means we have to take the empty bottles down to the canoe in preparation for new drinks arriving the next day. This is exhausting work, going up and down stairs with cases of empty bottles. At least I thought so until it was up and down with cases of full bottles.

Beata
Today I managed much better and dare say, may even be getting used to the heat a little. It was much like yesterday with chopping of fruit, cleaning of cages and feeding of animals. I did get to meet Beata, a spider monkey that lives at the center. It was quite a memorable introduction as she managed to get into the kitchen and we had to try get her out before she got into the food. She has an injury or deformity and is so used to humans that she will never be released, so she lives with us here. But it is very important that we don’t hand feed her or try and get her to sit with us, in fact we have to discourage her seeking attention as much as possible as it could cause potential problems with tourists.

Strings
I have hit a popular note with the volunteers due to my strings and making of bracelets (thank you hippies in Coffee Bay, South Africa, who taught me). I am even making some to donate to the shop to sell for the center. When I pulled them out I immediately had numerous orders and after a week am still trying to catch up on everyones. I even sold a couple of my fancier ones ($5 plus a bar of chocolate) to them.

Day 3 (the dreaded thursday)
On thursdays and mondays we have fruit delivery. This means lugging huge bunches of bananas, platanas, bags of papayas (pawpaws) and a variety of other fruit from the canoes to the Bodega and up the 75 stairs. My first attempt was a bunch of bananas and by the time I reached stair 68 I was seeing stars and battling to breathe. Toki (germany) luckily came along and grabbed it from me. I crumpled into a pile on and found myself shaking and crying. Note to self, start small. I managed another 2 trips with smaller bags of fruit and then focused on tidying the bodega.

Front Tour
It was also the day I started learning a new tour. Front tour is much shorter and has more variety. It includes:
– toucans – clean and feed avoiding the one that likes to bite your rubber boots
– Kinti and Tamien (baby woolly monkeys) need to have their enclosure cleaned and disinfected, all the time avoiding tamien who likes to pee on people
– Tamarin monkey is one of my favorites, she is super cute and does great acrobatics for you when you bring the food.
– Mono Loco (crazy monkey) is a capucin with rather severe mental issues and is kept alone, which doesn’t help his nervous behavior. We hope to neuter him and introduce him to the other capucin cage (we hope this will make him less aggressive)
– Barizo (squirrel monkey) – clean and feed, also super cute.
– Paca – walk up steep hill and throw food in, we are not sure if he is there but something eats it so we feed.

Day 4
Am very excited as I get to go to Tena today, but first I have to survive another front tour and today is also Comida (human food delivery). Another day of lugging heavy, bulky things up the stairs from the boats up to the kitchen, really wish there was another way.

Tena
I was told I could leave at 3.30pm and get ready and the canoe would pick us up at 4.15pm. I got down and the others going said it would be there at 3.45pm….ahhh communication issues. Tossed on clean clothes (no time to shower), grabbed my stuff and went to get the canoe. It came at 4pm (go figure). When we got to the bus stop there was virtually no traffic and no bus coming from the direction we needed so we started walking. After an hour and 3km (didn’t matter missing the shower anymore) we were finally able to hitchhike and squished the bunch of us with another family in the back of a tiny pickup. It sounded like there was road issues a way back and everyone was help up, so we were very lucky to get this guy.

As I have been told hitchhiking is very safe here and the biggest danger is being killed in a car accident. Considering the speed limit is a suggestion, and extra fast is the only way with the cars usually driving in the middle of the road and honking as they come around the bend, I once again became fairly religious. But we made it to Tena about the same time the bus would have got there had it been on time.

Dinner, shower, sleep
There was a major festival going on in Tena with loud party music and fireworks. But Karyn, who had joined me, and I were only concerned with dinner and then shower. Afterwards I skyped the parents and then, both exhausted we went to bed, my bed being hard as a rock and hers being soft as a feather, we both assume the top bunk must have been just right.

Errands
the next day we ran errands, picked up supplies, checked emails (I didn’t get a chance to update blogs unfortunatley), and general administrative stuff. Turns out the late night entry into our room was Sara (canada) our head volunteer. She headed back early that morning.
While we were in the store we bumped into Lukas (Holland) who had come to town for the day to pick up supplies. Later on we got our tickets for the bus, picked up our wonderfully clean laundry and hung out till it was time to leave.

Party all night long
When we returned on the bus we got to canoe point and discovered there was no canoe… this seems to be a trend. Victor who lives there and usually takes us back was no where to be found, luckily Lukas had a phone and called in an emergency pick up from Liana Lodge, much to our appreciation as we did not favor hacking through the bush to get to the center.
Tonight was a huge fairwell party for 3 of the volunteers, and the music blared until 3am. I was in bed at midnight. Another exhausting day over and new one starting in a few hours.

Stay tuned for next week!

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Lima to Quito – The written version

Jan 26th to 28th 2011

I survived!!!

It really does amaze me what we put ourselves through in the name of travel and volunteering. Before I arrived in Peru my longest bus trip was a whopping 3hrs. In preparation for my long haul to Ecuador I did 2 trips of 6hrs each in the span of 3 days from Cusco to Lake Titicaca and back.

Finally the day arrived to bus to Ecuador, it was an estimated 30 to 48 hrs (give or take a day I guess). My friend Fernando, from Lima, and I had looked at all the options and came up with 2 possibilities for the trip.
(A) take a bus that will run the entire distance (the downside is that it was a less known company and bus quality was a question)
or
(B) take a well known bus co. to Tumbes (Peru border town), get picked up by a shuttle and go through the border then dropped off at the Ecuador bus station. (This allowed some time to stretch and at least the first half guaranteed of a good bus).

We opted for option two… it might have been better to go with option 1!!!
Leaving at 4.30pm I had planned to go on the super first class section, with seats that go almost all the way down. Unfortunately this wasn’t an option but luckily I got the 2nd level seat at the very front for a panoramic view of the trip. I had no seat mate so I was able to “stretch” out and get some sleep. We were even given a small meal and a drink.

Section 1 on the comfy bus with the panoramic view took 20hrs and I pulled into the border town of Tumbes around noon to be accosted by hundreds of taxi drivers.
WTF
This is when things went downhill. There was supposed to be someone to meet me and shuttle me across the Peru and Ecuador border immigration depositing me at the Panamerica bus station for the next leg. Turns out there was no one to meet me, the phone number I had went to voicemail and the taxi drivers at the bus terminal were aggressive to say the least. Eventually the bus station clerk told me my ride was here, a taxi driver hired by the company. He said that his job was to take me through Peru immigration and then leave me at the border to take a taxi alone… Mmm this was the exact thing I had been hoping to avoid, as I had heard taxi drivers regularly take advantage of travelers.
Calling for help
Calling a friend in Peru he explained what i had already guessed from the driver but said the driver was willing to come with me if I was scared about crossing alone. I decided to take him up on his offer, not only to prevent being scammed but also because he was happy to carry my big bag. Peru immigration was a breeze and Ecuador wasn’t much different, just a longer wait. My Peru cabby left me at the bus station after he had got me checked in and made sure I knew where a good place to eat was. I gave him a tip and thanked him profusely.
Panamerica
With a 2hr wait I twiddled my thumbs and caught up with my diary. Finally it was boarding time and it turned out the good bus was being saved for special occasions. Our bus was cleaned with air freshner, am fairly certain had at least one roach and during the following 18 hr trip its bathroom was locked.

But I had no seat mate so I made the best of it and tried to sleep. Finally only 1hr from Quito at about 2am in the morning I started to relax and think it was almost over. Then we stopped! A landslide had blocked our way. Our choices were an 8hr detour or parking and sleeping it out. As no one spoke English I had to muddle my way through and I guessed when we pulled over that option 2 was decided upon. I started to cry and then realised I was too tired to even do that and just made myself as comfy as possible.
Quito, I could kiss you
We finally pulled in at 8am, I caught a taxi to my friends and finally was able to crash out. But first things first I had had to pee for the last 3hrs.

I have spent the last 2 days in Quito and after another 5hr bus trip (this one coming with complimentary S bends numbering in the 1000’s I am sure), I am in Tena. Tomorrow I will attempt to find the bus and head into the jungle. All I hope is that my canoe is there waiting for me.

Now the jungle adventures begin with biting sand flies, monkeys and wild tourists!

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Lime to Quito Day 21 ->23 – A photo diary

Jan 26th 2011

Luckily I had the front window seat on the 2nd level so you get a panoramic view:

leaving Lima


Heading on the highway


Dinner: rice, chicken and some kind of drink


A view of the coastline


Driving along the coast


End of day 1 (total of 8hrs - 4pm to midnight)

Jan 27th 2011

Another 12hrs at least of driving today, before reaching the border town of Tumbes.

waking up from a decidedly strange angle


Breakfast....I think


rolling rolling rolling


rolling rolling rolling somewhere around hour 17


Pulling into Tumbes. Section 1 lasted a total of 20hrs

You are now entering Ecuador

waiting in the Ecuador Panamerica bus station


No panoramic seat this time, trying to get comfy


Entering the banana fields


the mountains, around hour 30 of trip


My bed for night 2

end of day 2

Jan 28th 2011
A landslide detained us a further 3hrs when we were only an hour from Quito…

I survived! Barely! total trip 42hrs!

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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