Saturday, 7 November 2009

The Mancora dream is over

So I´m back in Lima now all tanned up and lovely! I was definitely a little bit sad to be leaving Mancora, tears flowed as i left Rhiannon and the girlies at the pool. Crazy to think me and Rhiannon have been travelling together for 7 weeks now! Loco. I´ve been walking around Lima today in a bit of a daze, replaying all the best bits of the last 9 months in my head, whilst trying to ease the pain with some retail therapy. Seriously, shopping has never been so hard! NEVER! Somehow I got through it. But then once the shopping was over (incidentally i shouldn´t have been shopping in the first place, my bag already weighs 25kg!EEK!) I slipped into a lull. And then i went back to my room and cried. Once i pulled myself together I figured I should probably come check my emails, i figured it would be a good idea to send mum my fligth details, and I am so glad I did. Mum sent the perfect email and reminded me... It´s not over till it´s over. Wise words from a wise woman. They made me cry, but I´ve stopped moping now, and my last 24 hours on this blessed continent are going to be bloody good ones.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Mancora

Sorry I can´t date this piece, I got here Monday, and I think today is Wednesday and I have to leave on Friday in order to reach Lima in time for my flight on Sunday! I´m on Mancora time baby! I no longer have a watch, my phone battery is dead and when i really need to know the time I take great efforts to consult my ipod which i think is either twenty late or early. Time! Piff! Mancora is very chilled, I have spent most of my days here lying by the pool for the most of the mornings. When i get hungry I take a casual stroll around the pool and order a sandwich and cocktail from the bar. I then sit with my girlies and eat said sandwich and drink said cocktail (sadly no Mojitos despite Bestie Chris telling me that EVERYWHERE in Mancora sold drinks with leaves in them!) After I am fed and watered the girls and I retreat to our loungers where we strenuosly lounge around until the sun goes behind the bar. Maybe we go buy an ice cream to break up the busy afternoon. The afternoon also involves getting harassed by this nightmare of a Peruvian guy called Alfreddo who sits and leers whilst having a conversation with himself at me about how rich he is and how he is so wonderful because he has Money and is from Peru and has a stash of Cocaine in his room that he tries to push on every person in the place. The evenign then pans out with a shower followed by more drinks at the bar. Some times I don´t even bother with the shower and go straight to bar. Depends on the weather. The evenings are chilled with a party vibe and everyone hangs out, drinks, and dodges Alfreddo like the plague. Very chilled, very cool, very sweet. Perfect ending to a perfect trip!

Dear Mum

As we now seem to communicate via my blog here is your response. So, aaages ago (like 2 months ago!) you asked me what I wanted to eat when I get home, and naturally I went a bit skitz because I was in denial over coming home, but now the time has come... well, to be honest I don`t really fancy anything in particular (except maybe fish and chips and jacomellis from Scarborogh, but that is a bit of a mission), so how about on the Monday we go straight to Reading and take William out for his long overdue birthday dinner at that really nice pub we went to with the Goose Pasta and all the other lovely foods in Reading! NOT TOBY CARVERY I WILL ADD. Please note that I do enjoy your cooking very much so please do not take any offence at the fact that on my first night I am suggesting eating out at a restaurant. Then on Tuesday, poached egg for breakfast. For lunch a nice Squash soup with really good whole meal bread on the side for lunch, possibly with sun flower seeds you know the one they have in Tescos. Followed by an evening meal of Corned Beef Hash served in a giant Yorkshire Pudding (not three piddly little ones) with HP brown sauce (in fact HP Fruity sauce in the green label if it is still possible to get that). I would also like a slice of Waitrose`s Carrot cake, from the COUNTER, not the boxed one. I`m not craving a roast dinner just yet, but maybe I will by Sunday. Also, a belated joint birthday meal for me and you at Cafe Masala should probably be scheduled in at some point!As for snacks, Peanut Butter would go down a treat, as would flavoured crisps, possibly a McCoys selection pack. In other news, Anna Friel is playing Holly Golightly in London and I would very much like to offer you first refusal as being my prestigious honoured accompanier to the theatre. I most definitely want to see Anna Friel on stage, I`m sure it would be amazing! Let me know your thoughts on the matter. And finally, can you bring my Ugg Boots to the airport with you please, flip flops are not going to be cutting the mustard me thinks! Much love, your daughter, Amy, who you clearly no longer regard as a daughter but merely as a blog.

Friday, 30 October 2009

p.s.

I am in a funny mood for writing this evening. Veyr short sentences. And if you read them in the same tone of voice that I think the words in, then they will be funny.

Too much red wine.

Tomorrow Morning, 31st October

Tomorrow Morning I shall be jumping in a taxi, then on a bus, then in another taxi, then finally onto a 5 seater aeroplane! The aeroplane will fly in to the sky and I will see the inexplicable phenonmenon that is the NAZCA LINES. I am scared of the flight a little, but looking forawrd to seeing the lines from the sky. Should be very cool indeed. Tomorrow afternoon I will head to Lima!

Arequipa, 28 October 2009

We were going to spend two days in Arequipa (Me and Rhiannon that is), but we decided to spend no more than 14 hours.It was a pretty city, but time is ticking and Mancora is calling, so after seeing Juanita the iced mummy and the super photogenic nunnery of Santa Catalina we decided to jump on the next bus to Huacachina. It was good to move on but rubbish because the 12 hour bus took 15 hours! Urgh! We spent the whole day by our pool when we arrived in Huacachina nad went to bed at 8pm. We were tired.

Huacachina! 30 October 2009

So this morning we went ot the Islas Ballistas and saw real, live, wild, Humboldt penguins, sealions and Pelicans! Very very very cool! But it was a little cold. After a few hours by the pool we went out Dune Bashing and sandboarding in the amazing desert. To be concise here is what I worte on Gwilym´s wall about the event;

I went dune bashing today and it made me think about you because we went dune bashing together in Dubai. Except, if i´m to be brutally honest, the dunes in Dubai were nothing in comparison to the ones I went on today. The car we were in was a real buggy too without doors and without windows! And the sanddunes themselves were actually higher than Mount Everest. And, I sat in the front seat which made it freaking awesome when we went down the vertical dunes! Scream! ARGHHH! I also hit my guide in the balls with my sand board! Oops!

So in all had an awesome day today as ever. Also, just had realyl good pasta for dinner... like the best pasta in the whole of South America with a nice drop of red to go with it!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Note...

Just to point out, I only have two weeks left of my trip now, so for the sake of making the most of time, and keeping all you fans up to date, the blog will become a little shorter for the last 14 days, that does not mean that you will not hear in full all my tales and travels, i will promise to get everything up to date properly when i get home and am busy job hunting.

Just had a wonderful day shopping in Cuzco and having red wine lunches. I have another day here before I head off to Arequipa tomorrow night.The plan from here is Arequipa, Huacachina, Lima, Mancora then back to Lima for a flight home!

The Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu! 21-25 October 2009

Oh my goodness, the last 5 days have been amazing! AMAZING! Hard, incredible, so much fun and I loved it. Machu Picchu was magical, spectacular and out of this world. I somehow found the energy to even climb Huyana Pichu (a near vertical 4km crawl!) to get the outstanding birdseye view of the incredible M.P. Having Happy Birthday sung to me by my group and other tourists at M.P as the sun brooke over the surrounding mountians was such a special moment of my life. Who said getting old was rubbish! Life just gets better. I have so much to say about the trip but here is one brilliant ¨Marguerite pearler¨ to keep you excited and on your toes! So, the trip was hard-ish, mainly because of the altitude (our highest pass was 4650m above sea level), but I reached Aguas Calientes (MAchu Picchu town) without any tears! But of course, the whole trek was never going to be tear-less. Our group set off at 4am on my birthday, SUnday 25th October, to start climbing the steps to the entrance of Machu Picchu, we left early so that we would be eligible for tickets to Huyana Pichu (only 400 are distributed each day!). It was dark, pitch black and suprisingly hot for so early. As we came to the first flight of stairs I decided to take off my jacket and fleece so i wouldn´t roast. The others set off ahead of me, just a little ahead of me, but by the time i reached the top of the first flight of stairs up the cliff side I couldn´t see the tohers, i couldn´t see torches ahead of me or hear any noises. I foloowed the white direction arrow along the road track and still didn´t manage tot find anyone. I panicked. It was pitch blakc and I was in the jungle all alone and lost! SOme birthday this was starting out to be. I stayed cam and returned to the steps and found the rest of the path that I had managed to miss on the way up! I followed the path but there was no one around me, in front or behind. It was so scary. I knew I was already 15 minutes behind the group and I had no hope of catching up on the vertical steps. I kept hoping that someone would notice i was missing and would hang back and wait for me, but with every turn there was no one. Then i bumped into a German mand aged around 50 who took me under his wing. Unfortunately for him, he didn´t make me feel any better as he sklagged off PEruvian guides who are unable to hold a group together adequately. He then asked me questions about Peru and Bolivia and the rest of South America, i answered as politewly as I could while chomping my way up a cliff side, holding back tears. I found a covnenneit point to ditch him, he wanted to walk the road, and I was happy to keep climbing the stair case. Alone, I let rip. The tears came flwoing. It was no longer dark, but I was still alone and I was struggling with all the steps. I stumbled over, and then got in a tizz about if I fell and twisted my leg. I began to hyperventilate as I puffed and panted up the cliff. Oh my goodness I was a mess. WHen i finally reached the top there were around 80 people head of me all there chatting and talking, i was a jibbeirng mess ofof tears despite ahving tried to calm myself. I found RHiannon in the masses and she eventually calmed me down, after I explained my getting lost and lsoign everyone. Oh my goodness i felt liek such a dipstick! No one else had got lost in the dark, and it wasn´t the end of the world that i had to trek up by myself, but i was jsut in one of my traditional birthday tizzes that I always seem to get in on my birthdays! After this it was all plain sailinh and Machu Pichu lived up to all expec5ations and even went beyond! I just had an awesome day with beautiful blue skies and perfect heat, but we did leave when the Inca Gods got mad and started thudnering at us. Luckily we didn´t get wet, (I had got drenched the day before to the extent that my waterproof boots were so wet from my sogging socks that when I woke up for machu pichu that i had to wear carrier bags inside my boots!) It was a perfect day that was rounded off with Pisco and Cuba Libre (no Lambrini Trigg unfortunaltey). Added to the whole amazing day, the German couple on our trip got engaged at the top of Huyana Pcihu whihc was so incredibly romantic and so exciting. I knwo I´ve been so lucky to have a lot of incredibly amazing days on this trip, but this one, my birthday, coudln´t have been anymore special! Loved it!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Eight Months Without Heels

Huh? It´s called Eight Months Without Heels, and yet, I have been away for longer than eight months! How did that happen? Well, I made a decision a while back to stay away for nine months rather than the original eight. Many reasons for this, but yeah that´s the way it is. I haven´t changed the title of my blog, obviously, but mainly because i figured that nine months without heels sounds more like a pregnancy blog than a travel blog. So there, for those of you wondering in bemusement at how I can still be travelling, there is your answer!

La Paz

I realise that I haven´t told you a thing about La Paz, I spent about 8 days in La Paz altogehter and I had an awesome time there. La Paz is an incredible city and I have so many stories to tell, but I might just have to save those for another time!

Since leaving Villa Tunari

We arrived back in La Paz on Thursday morning. We would have like to have dived straight into a bed but we weren´t allowed to check in straight away. We made a list and started do all the things we needed to do... Buy shower gel, post postcards. By 3pm we were past it and had to find beds to crash in. We met up with Margot (another volunteer) and Will (her boyf) in the evening and dined high style at the best Japanse restaurant in La Paz, pricey yes, but we deserved after two weeks of deprivation.

Friday morning we jumped on the bus to Copacabana and then on a boat to Isla Del Sol where we spent the night.

Saturday we trekked from the South to the North of the island in the morning which was beautiful, so stunning. Then we jumped on the boat back to Copacabana and then straight onto a bus bound for Cuzco.

Sunday we arrived at Cuzco at 6am! YuK! And we checked straight into a twin room at a quiet little hotel. Rhiannon and I are both so tired still from Inti Wara Yassi and we just wanted soemwhere to crash out and catch up on sleep.

Not sure how long I will be in Cuzco for, I plan to start my walk to Machu Pichu on Wednesday or Thursday depending what trek I opt for and so I will arrive at the Gates of Machu Pichu on my 24th birthday! What a way to celebrate! After that I may hang around in Cuzco as there is so much to do here or I may bust my gut around the rest of Peru, but for now I am not sure. I lvoe not having plans, but m y looming return flight is getting closer by the day. Who knows!

Last few days at Inti Wara Yassi, in retrospect

Oh, it was a sad affair leaving Inti Wara Yassi, if it wasn´t for a stupid return flight home I would have loved to have stayed for longer. Even now I miss my monkeys, so much... something I can´t actually believe given the terror I went through in those first few days. I managed not to cry before leaving, but it was hard work. Luckily the last two days were filled with monkey love which was super special. Here is a few things that were highlights or notbale events of the last few days at Inti Wara Yassi.



The las run in with Salim

My relationship with Salim has been a little bit sketchy over the last few weeks. He was a real gentleman to me on my first day, and on my second day he was the complete oppostie. For the rest of the time I have pretty much kept my distance from him. After about 9/days I had learnt to respect him and isntead of looking at him with fear I admired his beauty. Unlike some of the younger scarwny males, Salim was buff in monkey terms and had a beautiful glossy coat. I don´t know whether the monkeys knew it was my last day or not but Salim certainly did seem to know. At dinner time I was pouring food into one of the feeding platters and a monkey jumpe don my shoulder. I looked to see who it was but couldn´t make it out (it´s kind of hard to angle your neck at the right angle to be able to identify a monkey on your neck - not to mention double chins!) A few minutes later a monkey jumps off with a bean. Yep, it was Salim. I think it was his way of saying he was sorry to me and a way to bury the hatchett. I´m glad that he jumped on my shoulder before I left. I think it gave me some closure on the whole thing. Shame no one was standing around to take a photo!

Last night party time

I met some awesome people at Inti Wara Yassi and I actually miss them just as mcuh as the monkeys. There were around 50 people whilst I was volunteering there. But on our last night a few of us who had become quite close had a private dinner party cooked up by English Anna. It was a lovely evening with around 12 of us and we ate, drank and got merry. Very merry. Normally dinners out involve everyone from the parkl rocking up at hte same restaurant and so delays ensue and you can get stuck if you are unlcuky with someone you aren´t best mates with. It was nice for once to be in a smaller crowd with closest IWY friends, especially for the last night. After dinenr hilarity ensued when a Cholita Wrestling mask was brought out whihc we all had to be photographed wearing. Then came the animal photos where we all have to pose as animals. Gracie played away on the guitar and the vodka and singani continued to flow. One of the housemates in the hostel we were at asked us to keep the noise down, so we decided we would head to Vegas which had a communcal area away from the bedrooms. En route to vegas we stopped off at the cafe, which was closed, but the benches and chairs were still out. We played games of charades where we did impersonations of each other and did dares and all sorts of stupid drunken things. When we ran out of mixer rhiannon suggested we do singani toffee shots with the remaining toffee. Not one of your best ideas besties! Then Elle and I had a great idea of taking monkey blankets of hte washing lines and pretening to be ghosts to the otehrs. We were hilarious. Eventually after a two hour detour outside the cafe we all made our way to Vegas and continued the raucous fun there. But hte racucous fun didn´t last for long as tiredness kicked in and we all fell asleep. I was so happy htat I didn´t have to be up the next day for work, sooo happy! But the tohers all had to be up! Ha! It really was an awesome night and I htink it will go down as one of hte best nights on this trip. I think the reasons for this is that it was with peiople who I had been friends withfor 2 weeks rather than randoms that you maybe spend a couple of nights with when backpacking. Awesome, thanks to all of you guys for lots of fun and memories.

Anita

I was so glad I didn´t have to be up the mroning after our last night party. So glad, and when I eventually surfaced and headed down to the park I came across another reason why I was glad to be in bed. Anita is a gorgeous little capuchin who for the last few days has been trying to feed me beans while she eats. I always politely make chewing motions so that she thinks I am eating. She isn´t a popilar monkey as she has a fondness for picking peoples noses, but I lvoe her. When I worked my way up to monkey park I heard some tragic news, Anita had given birth in the night to a still born monkey. As the new monkey park people told me they found her in distess when they arrived in the morning with a dead baby in her hand I was traumatised. Just what you need for a jungle hangover. I was devestated. And then she hopped over. She still had the still born baby in her hand, The umbilical cord and placenta were dragging as she moved around. Her eyes were everywhere looking for help and explanataion. She was so sad. The vets had tried to catch her earlier in the morning but she was uncatcable. She was so sad.

Birds

There are birds at the park, blue and yellow macaws, red and blue macaws. Pedro the yellow and blue can speak. He said Ola to me. I love the birds, even the ones who pick out their own feathers.

Balu

We were so lucky to get to spend half an hour wiht Balu on our last afternoon. HE was gorgous. He ate soem Coca LEaves and played football with Edwin and Ben. I lvoed Balu.

Getting out of Villa Tunari

We spent the whole of our last day hanging aroudn the park with the monkeys, the birds and the bear. It was a nice day, and so nice to be chilled in the park rather than running around feeding and cleaning. After a last supper of pizza Rhiannon and I took station at the layby in Villa Tunari where the buses stopped. There was no bustop per se so cathcing a bus was a case of thumb out and hoping the bus had seats. At about midnight a bus passed and they told us they had seats in the front. Oh, no, we don´t want seats up the front with the driver, we want to sleep. It´s ok, it´s ok said the driver. We shrugged our shoulders and threw our packs under the bus... we were shown the best seat in the bus which would be our for the next twelve hours. Except, it wasn´t really a seat, it was a sleeping compartment... The sleeping compartment where the spare bus driver sleeps when not driving. It was certainly cosy for the two fo us as we lay in there top and tail. But we weren´t moaning too much as it was fully reclined and we managed to get kind of comfy. I wasn´t too impressed however wehn i woke up in the night to discover two capcuin monkeys curled by my head and rhiannon´s feet. But I was too tired to tell them to move so i just let them be. It certainly was an interesting means of transport to La Paz.

Things I have learnt

Inti Wara Yassi has been an amaxing experience for me. I can´t express quite how much I have lvoed my time here. Obvously I have overcome my fear of animals, and have learnt that I can build relationships with animals, but there are a few other things I will be taking away with me. I remember Scott saying to me when we were in the Jungle that if he ehars something buzzing in his ear, he doesn´t insitnctively batt it away, but will look to see what it is. I have sort of also grown itno this mentalitly as I have got more familiar with animals. I have spent a lot of time looking at the creepy crawlies and lizards around the jungle rather than jsut batting them away and screaming them off. I guess it was something I never really imagined would happen, but i became almost ´at one with the jungle´ (cliched!) I learnt to lvoe it for all the bugs and flies and saw a different sside to myself other than the squealy girl who normally shirks away from nature. I have also learnt to respect nature and wildlife. I lvoe watching animal documentaries but have only ever before watched them as telelvision shows, I have always been detached from them because they were just as real as everything else on tv. But having worked with wild animals now I have so much more respect for them and I see them differently. And so, I have decided that I am not going to buy any products or make up that have been tested on animals. In the two weeks at Inti Wara Yassi I have gotten to meet to some great personalities in the monkeys and the thought that htese animals are badly teated for the sake of animal testing makes me run cold. Rhiannon and I went into a restaurant in Copacabanad yesterday for some lunch and when we dicovered an ocelot skin hanging on the wall by the toilet we were both devestated that we had eaten somewhere that thought an ocelot skin was soemthing to be hung on a wall. So yeah, it´s something I never thought would happen but I have developed a moral! Don´t worry I won´t be turning veggie just yet!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Doctor Jane Goodall

I´ll admit, I was a little cynical about the preparation that consumed everyone at Paeque Machia in the days leading up to the arrival of Doctor Jane Goodall (or JG as I affectionately call her). Scrubbing the outside of the monkey cages seemed utterly futile, would she really appreciate the fact that the outsides of the monkey cages in the middle of the jungle were immaculate? And as I chopped together a dull dinner of green beans and mouldy cucumber (we normally try and serve at least 3 varieties of veg for monkey teatime) I was joking that we were scrimping and saving so that we could afford caviar to serve up in front of JG. And then when someone suggested we should get t-shirts saying ´Look busy Jane is coming´ I laughed very hard.

I knew that Sunday, her date of arrival, would be a day involving lots of Monkey Nuts (Monkeys love them, but they are a bugger to clear up), and oculd potentially be a day with a great anti climax.

She was due to arrive at midday, but her flight was delayed so she rocked up later to be greeted by 30 orphans. Inti Wara Yassi is more than just an animal rehab centre, an oprhanage in Cochabamba is crucial to the work we do here, oprhan kids are given a sense of purpose as they are DEfenders of Nature and the Environment and help find mistreated animals in Zoos and at circuses. It was great to have the kids here to welcome her.

Jane´s only real port of call on Sunday was the Monkey Park. I had been explicitly told, after asking a direct and explicitly obvious question, that the day must go on as normal... So if the Machos appear I can shout them off and throw stones as normal? Well, i wasn´t allowed to throw stones, but I was allowed to shout them off. But of course when Jane and the monkey nuts arrived at the monkey park with hoards of kids, so did the machos. Johni the vet (and master of stitches) gave me a look that said DON´T START SHOUTING. As Jane and the children played with the monkeys in the glorious/hideous sunshine (glorious for sunbathing in, hideous for working in) efforts were made to subtly get rid of the machos without drawing attention the fact that the park was being invaded. It came to cooking time and I disappeared down to the kitchen away from the infuriating suppressed macho invasion. It was a lovely scene though, the animals were great with her and just came to her like a Disney scene. Her aura was incredible, she was almost unhuman in the way the animals gravitated to her inner calm and her oneness with the animals was amazing. Incredible. Naturally dinenr was a feast, we had already dished up pineapples as a new feature of the fruit salad lunch, so when I saw beetroots, cabbages, lettuces, carrots, tomatos, cucumbers et al it was awesome. It was great to dish up such variety, but by the time it was time for dinner, Jane and the orphans had gone off. The monkeys enjoyed it all though.

A special dinner was planned for the evening and everyone in the park helped out with the prep and got very excited with the menu of Roasted Beetroots, Minted Green Breans, Sweet Potato Soufle, Soya MEat Rostini, Risotto and a dessert of Brownies and Pavlova. It wasn´t just the monkeys eating well today!

Dinner for 80 (volunteers and all important people) was served in the main room of the site, which has been a construction zone for the last few weeks with constant welding and cage guilding going on. This usualy scuzzy site was beautiful with flowers, candles, mishmatch cutlery adn tablecloths. It almost brought a tear to my eye.

As you´d expect from the incredible menu dinner was amazing. Jane gave a lovely speech at the end of the meal and was full of positivity about the park and all she had seen. It was great to have her support for the work we do, especially given the politics that frustrate the the organisation. She was so serene even after a glass of wine and it was very peaceful and calming to be in her presences. We gave her monkey noises and chanted the Inti Wara Yassi chant to her to show her appreciation.

Afterwards she posed for photos and I asked her kindly if she would mind posing ofr a HEAR NO EVIL, SEE NO EVIL, SPEAK NO EVIL photo with me. SHe was too kind to say no, and a couple of others joined on my 3 Monkeys bandwagon and we got an awesome photo! Hilarious! I asked her after if people asked her to strike the pose often (i hoped i wasn´t just part of a big unoriginal cliche) but she told me this was the first time she had ever been asked! Oh yeah! Originality at its best.

It was an awesome evining and the 24 hours that Jane has spent at the park ahs been a real priviledge ofr the park and all the volunteers who are here. I have lvoed my time at Inti Warra Yassi, but the arrival of Jane and the teamwork in the run up to her arrival has really made me feel like I am part of something worthwhile and very sepcial indeed. Everyone thinks the Inti Wara Yassi chant is a bit trash, but I love it, I feel so part of the place, and feel liek a very appreciated memebr of the Inti Warra Yassi family. I am overflowing with love right now for the Park and I am soo incredibly happy that I made the time to take the detour and be here. Obviously Jane Goodall dosn´t appear every week, and I have been in the right place at the right time, but it has been a great volunteering experience, and even greater given the fact that it has all be spontaneous and unplanned. It is my last day at work tomorrow and I am incredibly sad, I would love to stay for longer, and I am very jealous of those volunteers who have been here for months. Despite the few gripes I have with the place, I have so much respect for the organisation and the people who make everything happen here, it is fantastic and having Jane Goodall here acknowledging our efforts is quite simply special!

Friday, 9 October 2009

Mas fotos? Si, claro!





The last few days in AMAZING pictures!

What´s that? Pictures you say!





This place is a bit like Cluedo

There have been a few occasions in the last 11 days where I feel like I´m in a game of Cluedo. Please note that all of these have all occured and are 100% true.

Monkey with a machete in the Small Animals Enclosure. (Yes, people do leave machetes lying around)

Capuchin with a knife in the Aviary. (The moral of the story is, don´t leave anything lying around!)

Spider monkey in the kitchen with a Baby. (This is becoming an every day occurence! Kitchen door is being fixed tomorrow)

Tyra with half a squirrel monkey in the Small Animals Enclosure. (We have so many Squirrel monkeys running around the park! One less, and no one really notices, but it makes a great story!)

Spider monkey with a frog on the waterfall. (Not the same one as Abram on the beach, another one!)

Spider monkey on the loose in Quarentine. (I am disturbed from lunch by Gracie, asking me to take my SPider monkey back to MOnkey Park, I go and check it out... That´s not my monkey! He looks scary. Turns out it is a Quarentine monkey escaped from it´s cage! Lock your animals up Quarantine!)

Capuchin with a video camera and camera at the top of a 30ft high tower. (Poor James and Sasha, thankfullñy all the memory cards survived, shame about the video Camera.)

Important things that have happened in the last few days...

When I say Pub, you say Quiz, Pub...

We had a pub quiz the other night. We came third. We might have come second or even first, but some people doubted my answers! No names mentioned, Louise.

I won a bottle of rum though for guessing how many corn kernels were in a 2 liter bottle. I guessed 2137. There were 2007 in the bottle. The second nearest guess was 1500. I definitely wasn´t given a tip off before the Quiz started before one of the Quiz Masters, or was I?

Arguments ensued in the evening about whether or not Australia is a continent or a country. Obviously it is a country, and Australasia is a continent. Even the Ozzies themselves were divided on the issue. The education system is shocking in Australia.

I´m so good with the monkeys now


You know how I wrote before that I wanted to be one of those people who could fearlessly play with monkeys... Well now I am one of those people. I no longer flinch when they launch themselves at me. I let them give me play bites. I let them play inside my top. I am so brave. I never want to leave because I am now so courageous!

I confronted Salim

So Salim is the baddie that bit me. I hovered round him so tentatively for days, but yesteday I confronted him and actaully poured the API right next to him and let him drink from the container as I poured. Everyone else said they would never get that close to him. Maybe you think me stupid for this, but I see it as being brave! Maybe I will become friends with Buster when I get home.

James has left

James has been my boss for the last 9 days, but he left yesterday (now I´m in charge! can you beleive!). He told me he was really proud of me for confronting my fears and getting on so well with the monkeys. This was really nice of him to say and I appreciated it. He and his girlfired Sasha contributed so much to the Park in their time here. They both rocked!

Back in surgery!


Nope, no more bites, but I´ve had my stitch out now! Woohoo. It only hurt a little bit. Rhiannon and I seem to be frequenting the surgery quite often! Ooops!

I sawed a sloth!

I saw one! It was grey and big and cool. It doesnt belong to the park, it just lives in the jungle. and i sawed it! Gutted i had already run down my camera battery so i didnt get a snap! Dammit!

Waiting for Goodall

Sounds like a play by Samuel Beckett. But the real deal is shaping up this weekend. On Sunday, the legendary famous Jane Goodall will be coming to the Park. SO everyone is on a cleaning/painting/axing/raking/bleaching/cage making frenzy! Its pretty mad at the minute. Will be cool to meet her though!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

When Monkeys go WILD!

First up, a note to Mum, the monkeys haven´t gone wild on me and I am safe and fine!

Secondly, the SDpider Monkeys are going crazy at the minute.

Spider Park is further up than Monkey Park, but both Parks work quite closely together sharing cooking, washing and cleaning duties. Yesterday, Spider Park had an attack of the Wild Macho Spiders that live in the jungle. We´d only just served breakfast and we were on look out for the Machos who come and steal our food. We normally shout FUERA and throw rocks (with the intention of missing, although with my crap throw I have no chance of getting anywhere near a monkey!) to scare them off and it normally works, except yesterday, the Machos made their way all the way into Spider Park and attacked a Spider called Iggy. It had four wounds on it and had to be rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery (pushing Rhiannon´s unusal toe to the back of the queue.) Luckily the monkey was ok, it had to have a lot of stitches, both internal and external. BUt was taken back to the park later in the day. It was such a sad morning, and the Machos keep coming back for more. Some of the lady spider monkeys are calling the machos down with their mating calls so they are only doinf what is natural to them, but its all a bit traumatic and there is lots of shouting going on. This morning the guys and girls in the spider park have been doing A LOT of shouting to scare them off. It is so frustrating because they don´t really listen. It´s painful to be down in the monkey park and not be able to help, it´s so frustrating. Just before lunch one of the Spider boys was attacked on the face by a Spider who went a bit skitzy while the machos were terrorising the Spider Monkeys. Poor guy! He had so much blood gushing from his face. I wish I could have seen myself post my attack, it must have looked pretty gory and cool! Although incidentally, I haven´t seen my reflection since I have been here, this is a place where no mirrors exist! Woohoo!

In other news, I have stopped being afraid of the Monkeys I see in my room at night, I have learnt to stroke them fearlessly and then they disappear and turn into jumpers, sleeping bags and towels. Woohoo! The fear is going.

In other news, Rhiannon had a parasitic worm pulled out of her toe yesterday.

And finally, I have got Welly Rash! Yukk, gross, but the wellies and the heat have resulted in a disgusting rash. Thank god for anitseptic creams and potions!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Monkey, monkey, monkey, monkey, monkey!

I don´t think it is very clear from this blog, but I actually LOVE animals. I can spend hours watching animal programmes and standing in zoos. ANIMALS ARE AMAZING! And, despite the fear, I am having a great time watching the monkeys here at Parque Machia. Here are a few stories about my lovely monkey friends.

Abram and Fidelia, I think I mentioned before, but these two are on cords and runners and we are working to integrate these two into the capuchin society. Day by day they are becoming more part of the community. Several of the monkeys will come and nit pick them now, which is an improvement since I arrived a few days ago, when only one monkey would nit pick them. They also now walk up and down the hill to the river. Before they always got carried, I´ve pushed them quite hard and they are both more confideent now about the jungle path. Abram is probably my favourite, he squeals like a baby some tiems because he gets scared, but he pulls the cutest face with his eyebrows and smiling a nervous smile that flashes all of his teeth. I love him, he is so cute. The other day when we went for a walk on the beach he caught a frog. He picked it up, squeezed it, rolled it on a rock and then pulled off two of it´s legs, and the frog was still breathing. Nature, gotta love it! He then got bored and went off to find insects. Traumatised by the half death of the frog I decided to put it out of it´s misery with a good old stomp of a welly boot. When I see abram like this and fighting I love it, because he is brave, but then when he starts crying it makes me so sad. Fidelia is toughening up too. The two of them get fed separately and the other monkeys often try and get their beaks in and steal food, however, yesterday Fidelia started to fight back against the other monkeys. That´s what I like, a bit of girl power! Love it!

Carlita. Carlita is a cheeky spider monkey, who lvoes to pick on the capuchins. She really goes for them and loves to bite their tails. There are soem brilliant fights and lots of swinging from trees by arms, legs and tails to get in the best tail-chewing position! Carlita is funny.

Monkeys on a bridge. To reach monkey park you have to cross a little bridge, it is a bridge made of slats of wood. Yesterday, and this still makes me laugh now as I type, one of the blonde capuchins (can´t remember his name) was sat minding it´s own business on the bridge, another blond capuchin (can´t remember his name) was under the bridge hunting for insects. From nowhere, the capuchin under the bridge decides to thrust up it´s hands between the slats of the bridge (a la the awesome horror movier Carrie) and thus petrifies the other blond monkey. The blonde monkey was so petrified by the mysterious hand that it squaled solidly for 3 minutes. It was devestated and constantly kept twitching it´s eyebrows back and flshing it´s teeth. The sound was horrendous and he kept looking for us to help him. Man up mono! (Mono is spanish for monkey)

Nanita is a gorgeous spider moneky, but she is sooooo fat! All the tourists ask if she is pregnant, but now she is jsut fat! I love her.

The tourists get bitten too. We get a lot of Bolivian tourists visiting the park and they are hilarious. They often get bitten because they don´t listen/ think better when you tell them ´No Tocar, solo mirar´. I always feel smug when they get bitten and then I can turn round and say told you so! I reckon five toruists have been bitten this weekend, but that is only out of stupid behavious. They deserve it anyway, because even though they are told not to bring stuff with them, they still bring packets of biscuits and bottles of water which the monkeys take and run off with into the jungle. I have developed a good skill at trading bottles for leaves/bananas/whatever is in close reaching and a good distraction for a plastic bottle. I hate the tourists. Apparently, and I will go skitz when I see this, some tourists have been known to give monkeys cigarettes. EVIL! It´s nice not to be a tourist for a while.

I saw a puma! I don´t know if I said before, but there are also a few cats at the park, ocelots and pumas. You only get to see these if you work with them, they are temperamental creatures and don´t make friends easily (hence you have to stay for 4 weeks if you want to work with them). But, Gato the puma was being walked along the beach the other day when I was walking Abram, and I got to see her. She is beautiful! So, so so beautiful!

I saw a bear! We also have a bear in the park, his name is Baloo! I love him. He is gorgoeus! I saw him yesterday. He is super cool.

I also saw a tortoise, a weird wombat rodent thing and a lizard that was brown, green and blue and was in the process of changing colour! So cool! Is aw a glow bug too!

I lvoe being in the jungle, but the monkeys aren´t the only things that bite. I have been eaten by the sand flies and mosquitos. We can´t wear mosi spray because of the chemicals that will affect the animals, so we have to deal with the scrathing of the flies! URghhhh! If I counted how many bites I actually have it would bee insane. I prefer not to think a bout it!

So yeah, i think that is it for monkey goss at the moment. I´ll le tyou have more in the next few days. Wish me luck with Salim and cross your fingers that I don´t come a cropper again with that bad boy. Incidentally, he is very beautiful, so dark and gloosy and so manly in his appearance. Such a shame we never became friends!

Facing fears

So the last few days have not been easy, not because of the long days and gruelling hours, but because of THE FEAR!!! Shudder! I have slwoly been working my way up to do more and more jobs. DOn´t get me wrong I haven´t been shirking, the jobs I am able to do, cleaning cages and cleaning blankets, I have done with gusto. But `problem lies at feeding time, and believe me, these monkeys are well fed... 3 times a day! I have been fine preparing the food, but carrying the food from the kitchen to the Monkey Park and then distributing the food between the feeding trays. As you walk from the kitchen to the Monkey Park with an open bucket of fruit and veg, you are an absolute target for ambush from squirrel, spider and capuchin monkeys! And they do leap. Today (Sunday) is the first day sicne the attack that I have carried buckets up to the Park. I have for the last few days been known as API girl, i carry the containers of API up to the park and yesterday I braved pouring the API out for the first time. But today has been a big break thrugh. At lunch and dinner I carried a bucket up to the park, and then proceeded to distribute the food. At lunch time I was mugged by a squirrel monkey, it was scary but they are so so so small, that my fears were pretty stupid and silly. I let it sit on my neck for a bit quite calmly. At dinner I was mugged by a spider, but they are dopey and slow so i don´t mind that. I haven´t had any capuchins approach me luckily, they go for eveyone else... they can smell my fear. I lvoe the capuchins, but htey are just a bit too skitzy for my liking. Serving dinner has been a bit tricksy and I have been on red alert on look out for Salim (the bugger who bit me). You need to have eyes everywhere, and I´ll admitt that I have employed Louise and James (fellow Monkey Park volunteers) to watch my back while I serve up food. But, the good news is that I am still alive. I am going to try and serve breakfast tomorrow. In the mornings all the monkeys are a bit skitzo, they are hungry after a whole 14 hours without food and so carrying a bucket to the Park is more of an assult course than it is at lunch and dinner. Hopefully I will survive.

Rhiannon suggested to me that to overcome my fears I should stop being scared, instead I should treat it as excitement. I guess that´s kind right, and I´ve been kind of thinking about it like that with most of the monkeys, but then I see Salim and my excitement disappears.

Both James and Louise agree with me, but since I´ve been working with monkeys I keep thinking I see monkeys out of the corner of my eyes all the time, there is a blue stool next to me in the internet caff right now, but from the corner of my eye it looks like a spider monkey. My brown boots in my room always trick me into thinking they are a capuchin monkey. My room and the internet caff are on the other side of the river, a long way from the jungle, the chances of the monkeys getting here are miniscule. It kind of reassures me that James and Louise get the same though, it means it´s not justa fear thing.

However, there is another indicator of my abject fear... my nightmares. Well, not really nightmares, just disturbed sleep. Here´s a story about last night. I woke up in the night and sat bolt upright. I looked around and I could see a spider monkey curled up at the bottom of my bed next to the foot of my sleeping bag. I started to have heart palpitations. I hadn´t realised but I was alone in the room, Rhiannon had popped to the toilet. As I sat and eyed the monkey at the foot of my bed I looked up to the line where I hang my towel and could have sworn that there was another spider monkley sat on the line. All of a sudden the door flies open and I have a mini heart attack as Rhiannon returns from the bathroom! I look to Rhiannon dazed and ask her if htere is a monkye on my bed, I am half asleep. She shakes her head ¨Sweetie... I don´t know´ and she plonks herself back into bed. I get brave, I find my phone, i couldnt fine my torch, and use it as a light to check the bottom of my bed. Suprisingly it is not a monkey, it is infact a screwed up black top. I shine the torch up to the washing line, it is definitely a towel and not a monkey. Relief, and I fall back to sleep again. I am seriously messed up in the head. I am seriosuly scared isnide. I hope I don´t get more of these weird dreams tonight.

I really, don´t want to be scared anymore, and I really am getting there. I had a playful bite off one of the monkeys today, so I know now that playing bites don´t hurt, I am getting more and more confident because I keep forcing myself to do things. I love the monkeys they are so gorgeous and incredible and someday very very soon I will no longer be living a life filled with fear. Bring. It. On.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Morning 4, Chillaxing with the Monkeys, 2 October

It´s lunchtime, I get 90 minutes for lunch so I´m making the most of time by internetting! I should be handwashing some clothes but I´ll save that for another day!

This morning has been ok. In fact it´s been very ok. You´ll be gald to know I have no new bites and have no need for anymore stitches on my face, body or clothes. I´ve probably just tempted fate now for this afternoon by saying that.

I cleaned the Spider cages this morning as a time out from the monkeys. Monkey poo, may smell disgusting, but it is nice to have a break from the intenseness of the monkeys.

I had a really nice cuddle from Abram this morning. He is a little funny today. He might have to go back to the clinic. One minute he is full of cofnidence, the next he is terrified and crying. He needed a cuddle cos he was crying and I was good at cuddlign him. Panchita came and join us for a cuddle too and she started to pick his nits. This was good as it means I didn´t have to do it, it also shows that he is accepted by another monkey in the group.

We went for a walk to the beach again and I took Fidelia and she was lvoely to me as well.

I also poured the API this monring, some of the monkeys came over as I did it, but they were really good and very placid. Woohoo! Maybe I can just be in charge of pouring hte API from now on.

I made a slight faux pas ebfore lunch though. We put the lunch in a cage and wait for the spider´s to leave bfore we feed the capuchins. Once the spiders are gone we get the food from the lcoked cage and dish up.

When we reach the cage we see Salim with a banana, hmmm... where did he get the bananan from. Next look, how did all those monkeys get inside the cage? My bad, i totally didn´t close the cage sufficiently and now we have tipped up buckets of fruit and a whole laoda monkeys running riot in the cage. We got the fruit out and the monkeys left eventually. There´s a job for this afterrnoon.

Right gotta head back now, it´s time for lunch and it looks good today, tomato veggies with rice. One of the girls is cooking up an Italian banquet for tonight with reall home made pasta! What a treat! That is, if I survive the afternoon!

Day 3, Another day, another attack, 1 October 2009

I was terrified when I woke up this morning. Absoultely terrified. But I was determined to go back to monkey park.

I shotgunned the API, this is a water tank full of milky goodness as opposed to an open bucket full of bananas. I decided I would be less of a target if I carried the API. And I was. While everyone lese got mobbed by squirrels and capuchins, I walked along quite happily, except that I was petrified of one jumping me.

I reached the park and there was Salim. Everyone told me not to look him in the eyes. I listened to what they said. And kept as far as way from him as possible, but kept him in sight.

I was too te rrified to take the breakfast up to the feeding bowls and sat around for most of the morning.

I was so frustrated. I wanted to help, but the fear was stopping me. I daren´t evnen clear up after brekkie, even though the monkeys had scarpered into the jungle I was petrified that they would come at me from all angles , pin me down and eat the rest of me.

I decided that after lucnh I would go to construction and help build cages. Monkey park was not for me. i just sat like a nervous wreck.

Then along came Adrian, he had been working with the really nuahgty monkeys for 3 weeks, on his second day hi face was attacked by one of the baddies. He also studied psycology at uni. HE told me lots about fears and phobias and how he found it really hard to go back up after his attack. Suddenly I didn´t feel like such a scaredy cat. I was allowed to be terrified by the monkeys, they may be about 40cms tall, but I had been attacked by one, and that fear was perfectly legitimate.

The previous night at dinner a lot of people had told me that they had a lot of respect for me and the way I was going about facing my fears. With all this in mind I decided to take two tablespoons of cement and harden up. I wasn´t leaving monkey park, I was going to face it, head on, for the next two weeks! Hell yeah!

I started to help with the water carrying to power the hose, and even though I was a bit jumpy as I filled and carried the buckets I managed to help out and escape attack.

Escape attak that was up until a point. After an hour of fetching and carrying water it all went wrong. I was climbing over a plank of wood and was attacked again. BUt not by a monkey, oh no, I was actually acttacked by a bucket! A sharp bit of metal caught my trousers and tore through. A wound that will require 30 stitches! Lucklily I just got a teeny tiny scratch on my leg.

After this I was sent to wash the monkeys blankets, a pretty rubbish job to be cleaning poo from sheets, but at least there were no monkeys around so it was a haven for a bit.

I helped prepare lunch and then proceeded to stand back and watch. Again I kept my eyes on Salim, the baddie, and i watched him slinking around.

After lunch we took Abram and Fidelia for a walk. I had Abram and we had a lovely walk, he climbe on my neck really nicely and sat on my without touching my face. We found fish and bugs and grass down on the beach and then wandered back up.

The afternoons in monkey park are pretty chilled and the rest of the day went smoothly, for me at least. On of the other volunteers came running voer in the afternoon asking for Vladi (the Bolivian guy with a broken ankle who knows every monkey by name and can probably talk to the monkeys as well), turns out that the alpha males had broken into the aviary and were stealing food. Except Vladi was sorting out another crisis in the SPider Park. I called for Vladi and half an hour later he hobbled over to the aviary to try and ease the crisis. However by the time he got there the crisis was over.

Tea time came and the monkeys were all very well behaved. I still hadn´t managed to serve the monkeys theri food, but hoepfully I´ll have the confidence to do that soon.

After work I ate banana fritters! Yum, yum, yum!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Day 2, One stitch later...

So I woke up again this morning all ready to take on the day ahead. My fears of animals had been decreased after a day of affection from the lovely Capuchins and Spiders, and when it came to delivering breakfast to the monkeys I was straight in. I took a bucket of bananas and carried it up to the monkey park! I was a little nervy that I might get monkey mobbed for my ´nanas but I was lucky and it didn´t happen.

When we reached the Monkey Park we had a conflab with the Spider Monkey Girls about the shared chores of the day. Once the conflab was over we had to start putting the bananas in the monkey trays. As I lifted my bucket along came Salim. Salim is the alpha male of the Capuchins and the only monkey in Monkey Park that comes with a warning. He had jumped on me yesterday and was fine with me, so I thought I had made a friend. He´s the biggest Capuchin and is a heavy bugger too.

So there I was, bucket of bananas strung on my shoulder and Salim perching on me. As I tried to walk away to distribute the bananas Salñim decided he was coming with me too. Fair enough I figured. Fair enough until I started to move. As I moved off the bucket started to fall quickly from my shoulder. At this point Salim thought I was trying to take the bananas off him. Obviusly this wasnt the case. I mean who messes with a monkey when he wants bananas. It was bloody gravity, curse it. So with Salim on my shoulders getting cross that the Bananas were being taken away from him he reacts in the only way possible... BITE! Teeth sink directly into my left jaw and chomp! ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

My initial reaction is to scream and I toss away the stupid monkey with all my might. I can´t remember what happened to the bucket of bananas, it must have fallen, but the monkey was off me.

I put my hand to my face and pull it away. I have blood on my hand.

At this point James looks over and sees me. ´Go to the vets!´

I didn´t stop to pick up by bananas and legged it away from Salim and all the other monkeys just hoping that I wouldn´t get jumped on by another sneaky monkey on my walk back.

I daren´t tocuh my face, I don´t want to get dirt in my wound. I have no idea how much blood there is, I just keep walking.

I reach the cafe and there is a group sat around eating breakfast. I appear in tears and Bec and Bondy jump up to take me thorugh to the vets.

I´m shaking and in shock and I am sat down on the same table which they use to operate on the Pumas, monkeys and birds.

Neneh the park manager appears with a bottle of coke and the vets come over straight away.

Bec (volunteer coordinator and cat handler) was an absolute hero and held my hand the whole time. She told me stories of people who had to have mutliple stitches on their faces. I was only going to need one!

A stitch! I´ve never had a stitch before! Arghhh!

I´m cleaned up by the vets and then anesthetised. Luckily the vets get a lot of practice at stitching people up and within 15 minutes I´m all fixed up and patched up. Althouhg, I am still drippin with tears. I am given the morning off to recover and I go sit in the cafe.

Recounting the story to the other volunteers turns me to a teary mess, reliving it is awful. It´s kind of ironic that the one who is scared on animals gets bitten on her second day. Everyone is really nice though, and I hear more stories and see more scratches from cats, monkeys and tejons. And people wonder why I am scared of animals!

I knit to calm myslef, thank god i brought my knitting down iin my bag this morning. I eat chocolate to stay calm.

I get bored, sitting on your own is not fun. BY lunch time I am ready to go back and with my heart pounding like somethihng that pounds realyl fast I walk back up to the monkey park. The first monkey i see is Salim sitting on the bridge. I eye him, and dodge as far as I can. He was just chilling. I sit down and look at the monkeys. None come particuarly close and I am half relieved half annoyed. I want to be smothered in monkeys so that I can overcome the terror that is racing through me, but of course, the fear is scaring them away from me. None of the spider nmonkeys want cuddles today. Damn them, i need a cuddle.

I eventualyl get a capuchin on my shoulder and he immediately goes to pick off my dressing. NOPE! Not happening mate. The monkey is off me. I am monkey free and allowed to chill and sit with the monkeys (work free) juyst so I can get used to them again.

I had done so well the previous day and now I was a mess again. As we went to prepare monkey dinner I got another Capuchin on my neck and he insisted on hanging on me all the way back to the main centre. Grrr you Capuchin.

I helped make dinner, but was too petrified to take it up to the monkeys with the others. I cleaned the kitchen instead and then went to eat popcorn with some other Volunteers.

Today has made me remember why I I don´t like animals. Dont get me wrong I LOVE animals, I just can´t cope with dealing with them. Loads of volunteers came up to the monkey park on the breaks today and were playing and swinging, completely fearless. I want to be like that. I want them to jump on me as I walk along and be totally unbothered. I want to play and not squeal and react when they come to me. I want to be able to feed them and not get scared. I´m going to go and do breakfast tomorrow morning but I am going to feed them their milk, a little less intense than the bananas. Hopefully after tomorrow morning I will be alittle more confident and will be able to move forward with the monkeys, i really want to, but this is a mind over matter experience worse than anything I have done so far.

I bet you can´t wait for the antics of tomorrow´s post.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Day 1 in the Monkey Parque! 29 September 2009

Woke up at 6.30am. Pulled out the grottiest clothes in my bag and walked to the cafe for breakfast. At 7.25am I am told we don´t have to start till 8! We were supposed to start at 7.30am. The weather is drizzly so the monkeys don´t want to go out in the rain.

8am we walk up to the monkeys. The other monkey volunteers know that I am scared of monkeys and so I dont have to carry any food buckets up. Even without food bucket in tow I still get attacked by a Capuchin monkey. I was taken off guard and I scream. Everyone laughs and giggles. This was going to be a long day.

James and Nicholas my co-workers show me the ropes for serving breakfast and I get to grips with the routines. There are a few monkeys around but none are really bothering me, they are more concerned with food.

My first job is to clean the SPider MOnkey cages. The Spider Monkeys are caged at night because they have had to be rehabilitated into the wild, and there are worries that if they were left out at nihgt the really wild spider monkeys in the jungle would get them! I was instantly up to my knees in monkey poo as I had to get read of every little bit of poo by using a squeezy, a hose and a broom. I was glad that I had bought a piar of wellies for 50pence before starting work.

After an hour cleaning I was back up with the monkeys and getting used to them. The Monkey Park is the tourist area of the Park and so all the monkeys that hang out there are used to tourists and the volunteers and so like cuddles.

Today was particularly wet so i spent a lot of time cuddling spider monkeys to warm them up. 2 of them weed on me while cuddling which wasnñý particulalrly pleasant, but it did warm me up a bit as i got a bit cold.

There are two capuchin monkeys that we have on cords and runners, these two are slowly being introduced to the wild and to the social groups and are kept on cords and runners for their safety. They are called Abram and Felicida, they are lovley and by the end of the day I was used to having them crawl over me, into my jacket, inside my hood.

At one point in the day I had a Capuchin checking me for nits. Can´t say this was pleasant, she was definitely a bit rough, and I had BAD hair after, but I guess htat means they have accepted me.

I was dismissed for Dinner distribution duties today, they wanted to ease in the one who is scared of animals slowly, but instead I had to move Abram and Felicida, all very well, excpet there were 30 Russian toursits watching me intently as I did so. There i was, still a little nervy trying to coax down two capuchins to my shoulder so that I could move them. I had arms, legs and tails all over my head, and they were wet as well from the rain. URghhh!

So, in all, my first day has been fabulous. Getting weed on by a monkey is not particularly glam, but I loved it anyway. The monkeys are great and have so much character and personality. I am still not used to the jumpiness of the monkeys as you walk through the jungle they do like to jump on you from all angles, and this is definitely the scariest bit. Give me a few more days and the fear will be gone I hope and I will be talking monkey too!

La Paz - Cochabamba - Villa Tunari, 28 September 2009

So after a bit of hassle with lots of rude Bolivianos, Bestie Rhiannon and I finally made it on to a bus bound to the city of Cochabomba, Cochabomba, Cochabomba! The night bus was actually quite reasonable, and apart from the slow part of the journey getting out of the city it was a good, smooth ride for Bolivian standards! We arrived at Cochabamba at abuot 6am and then grabbed a cab to the street where we caught our transport to Villa Tunari. We would be taking a Micro to Villa Tunari, a small town 175km from Cochabomba. The micro wasn´t setting off till it was full so it was 7 before we hit the road. Although we slept on the bus we were still happy to get some shut eye as we drove through the Central Highlands of Bolivia. That was until we were abruptly awoken. From my sleep I was suddenly awake, a shot went through my whole body, I had been jolted forward and I could feel air behind me. I heard a scream, i think I heard a scream. I looked to Bestie and she looked at me, ´Are you ok´ we both said still not realising what had happened. I turned behind and saw the back window was shattered and behind a Dodge Ram covered in shattered glass. We had just been in a car accident. It took a while for it all to sink in. Both cars stopped and everyone was a little confused. We had been driving slowly along the road and we could only assume that the Dodge behind us hit the accelerator a little too hard and shunted in to us. Thankfully we were both 100% fine, as was everyone else in both cars. We were shaken obviously, but fine. We hoppped out of the car and ran up the road to rescue Rhiannon´s sleeping bag and day pack that had fallen out the window in the smash. Then the damage was assessed. The car couldn´t be driven onwards , the Bolivianos in the micro quickly flagged a car and all 5 of them piled into an estate car that already contained 4 people. Me and Rhiannon were not going to join them and so we insisted that our driver should flag a car down for us. Luckily he obliged, and while we spent the next hour keeping out of the wet, he spent the nex thour flagging down other micros to take us onward to VIlla TUanri. We sat relivng the moment and checking with each other that we were both ok. We were in shock, but pulled out a carton of Ades that helped the situation. Eventually a bus stopped and let us aboard. Except, there were no seats on the bus so we had to pile into the aisle big bags and all and sit and suffer. It wasn´t the most comforatblke bus expertience, but it was only for 75km so we didnt mind. After a couple of minutes we reached a police check point and at this point we were allowed to put our bags under the bus, and seats appeared for us. This drive itself was also pretty hairy as we drove through thick, thick, thick cloud! Nice! We didn´t really know where we were going, but we knew that Villa TUnari was a town with lots of hostels, and that we had to get off just before a bridge. We watched out of the windows alert, ´Does this look like a big enough kind of place?´ ´Do you reckon this is it?´ ´Will the driver remember to stop for us?´All the questions, and then we crossed a bridge and the driver called out for the two Gringoes aboard. We had arrived.

So, where am I and what am I doing here?

Well, the reason I have come to Villa Tunari is to face my fears and volunteer at an Animal Refuge Centre! Here´s the web details so check it out if you fancy it, http://www.intiwarayassi.org/articles/volunteer_animal_refuge/home.html. I am at the Parque Machia and here we have monkeys, pumas, ocelots, tejons, birds and lots and lots more.

We arrived at noon, but had to wait until 5 to be officially guided round the park, so we spent the afternoon chilling. At 5, we had our introduction to the park. We learnt all about how and why the park exists, why the animals are here, and why the Bolivian government is totally rubbish. Afterwards we were allocated rooms and jobs. Rhiannon was stationed in the Clinic with all the sick animals and I was thrown in at the Monkey Park with the Capuchins and the Spider Monkeys. FOr the next 15 days, I am responsible for cleaning, feeding, playing with and looking after a boat load of monkeys.

Incidentally it is worth pointing out why I am here. After my hungle experience, I decided it was time to face my fears and get used to animals. I am sick of being scared by them and figured what better place than this to face up to my ridiculous fears. YEp, that´s right, I am scared of animals. The terror comes as a result of being harrassed by boys who think it funny to put hamsters in my face, and scare me with skitzy dogs. I have never had a pet other than a fish, and at the grand old age of nearly 24 i decided it was time to put a stop to it. The volunteers at the aprk have all laughed at my fear, and Im already known as the one that is scared of animals! It is going to be an interesting two weeks.

Right here, right now!

So, I´m gunna take a skip from catching up on this blog and let you know what I am up to right now at this moment in my life! Get ready for it it´s going be good!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

The Amazon, 16 - 22 September

I know, I know, I haven´t told you all about the wonderful city of La Paz yet, but I´m still buzzing from my Amazon experience and I want to tell you all about it now. It really is going to be a long one, but I will try to be as entertaining as possible.

So let´s begin...

Characters:
Amy, 23, British, Profesional Backpacker
Rhiannon, 23, Australian, Professional Bestie
Scott, 24, Australian, Professional Bestie
Catherine, 23, Welsh, Professional Backpacker
Gustavo, 30, Argentine, Professional Weirdo
Assi, 37, Profession guide

16 September, 3.30pm

Catherine meets Scott, Rhiannon and I at our hostel and we flag a cab to take us to El Alto International airport. Oh yes, we are heading to the Amazon on a plane.

There are essentially two ways to reach the jungle, by a bus that takes between 16 and 30 hours (weather dependent) or by plane that takes less that an hour. The plane ride was the more expensive option (about 50 pounds one way), but we decided it would be worth it and it would be better to arrive in the jungle feeling fresh after a flight than feeling rough after a LOOOOONG bus journey.

We wonder what the airport will be like? We arrive and I am suitably unimpressed, it´s tiny, International Airport my foot! And as the airport motions are carried out I continue to be unimpressed.

I am the first to check my bag onto the plane. My big pack is weighed, 20 kilos. First reaction, phew, just touching the weight limit. Second reaction, how is my bag that heavy, it´s half empty since Laura took home some stuff for me. Once my bag is weighed my small back pack is noticed by the check in man. The check in lady informs me that hand luggage is limited to 3kilos per person. I said, ´Yes, that´s fine´, whilst knowing FULL WELL that my small back pack weighed nearer to ten kilos, and I tried to brush it off. The check in lady makes me weigh my bag. It weighs 9 kilos. Dammit. Busted. Scott offers me a duffle bag that I can check in and I take out 4 kilos worth of books from my small backpack to check on to the plane in the duffle bag. No one does the maths, but they slap me with an excess baggage charge. A whole 2 pounds more! Honestly cheek of it. After the palava I am made to go pay another 1 pound and forty pence as a departure tax! Seriously unimpressed.

Everyone checks in, no one has the problems that I have with weight. I seriously don´t know what is weighing my bag down.

We head to Burger King in the teeny tiny airport. It is closed. Now Scott is in the unimpressed boat.

We take soem seats and admire the stunning Huyana Potosi (mountain) that can be viewed from the airport lounge. We ponder what the plane will be like, eat Pringles, sweets, Swiss Chocolate and try to obtain bottles of Coke from a vending machine.

After much waiting the plane is ready for us. Because of angles and obstructions I couldn´t see the plane on the tarmac, so when I left the departure lounge and stepped onto the runway I was not impressed with what I saw.

This plane was small. I remember the terror I had going up to my sky dive, at least on that plane I knew I had a parachute to get me back to earth if the plane didn´t make it. I couldn´t see any flight staff handing out parachutes as the people in front of my boarded.

Inside the plane I was even more shocked. There were 18 seats. I had realised that there weren´t many people sat in the departure lounge, but I had assumed that the plane was not going to be filled. No, the plane was almost full. 16 people in 18 seats. I bent my head and crept through the tiny cabin and took a seat at the rear of the plane. BEstie Scott offers me some words of reassurance... ´Great idea to sit at the back Bestie, planes never reverse into mountains.´

I was a jibbering wreck. Take off was horrendous, I could feel every bump of every bit of wind. But as terrified as I was, the views were stunning and I couldn´t help but snap away. We flew right up next to Huyana Potosi, we could almost touch it. It was particualrly cool to see this mountain as Scott had climbed it a few days previous. ´Why take a 4 day hike when you could have flown to the top Bestie?´

I knitted. Knitting took my mind off the fact that a stray pigeon could probably wipe this teeny tiny plane from the sky.

Then we hit turbulence. My heart was in my mouth and I have never concentrated on knitting so hard in all my life!

After 50 minutes of hell, the descent began and we landed at Rurrenabaque airport. If you can call it an airport.

The landing strip was grass. The terminal a tiny building. There wasn´t even a baggage reclaim, you literaaly took your bag from the trailer that took the bags off the plane. But I was not in a place to be judging airports any more, I had survived the plane ride.

Rurrenabaque

We were met off the plane by a guy from the tour agency (who turend out to be our guide, Assi) we had booked through. It was hot in the jungle (durr) and it was so nice as we drove through the dirt roads to be warm again. We felt like we were in Asia, most definitely not Bolivia, the people seemed more relaxed, the buildings were straw huts, it was a whole different world away from La Paz. We were taken to the tour office and explained what we would need for the next few days. We listened attentively while staring at the swollen gloved hand of Assis. Any questions? No one dared ask about the hand. We headed to find a hostel and started the fun game of pakcing for the jungle.

Within seconds the four of us had turned our room into a bombsite, everything came out of the big bags, the small bags and Scott´s spare duffle bag (well, that was just my stuff) and everything was redistributed for the next three days in the Jungle.

I should probably point out at this point that we had signed up to two tours, firstly a three day jungle tour, followed by a three day pampas tour. Most people do one or the other, but we had all been wanting to see both sides of this part of the Amazon.

Conversation flitted between excitement ´We´re going to the JUNGLE!´, bewilderment ´What do you think happened to his hand?` and stressed pakcing ´Should I take tea lights/three pairs of trousers in case two pairs get wet/sarong or towel/dinosaur/first aid kit?´ After two hours of frantic packing it was time to hunt down a long sleeve white shirt for Rhiannon and myself. It was one of the recommended items to take and neither Rhiannon or I had anything appropriate.

´Why does it have to be white? White´s gunna get dirty?´ Amy
´Because nothing in nature is white, therefore no bugs or animals will be attracted to it.´ Scott
´Claro! But, give me ten minutes in the jungle and it´ll be dirt coloured anyway.´ Amy

Suprisingly, it was not difficult to come by a white shirt in this place, all the shops sold them, in act, i´ve never seen so many shirts in my life! As I handed over the Bolivianos I decided to myself that the white shirt thing was jsut a ploy to get people to buy stuff in the village.

Two shops later we found hats. Now a hat is something that has been on my ´to get´ list since I left home. I´m not a big fan of sun hats, they just don´t suit me, and some how I have managed without one up until now, up until I spied a gorgeous ´I´m a celebrity get me out of here´ cow boy hat. Sold. Scott and Rhiannon both bought hats as well. I thought about the consequences of this hat after the purchase. This is not going to pack into my rucksack! Grrr!

We were all fading from hunger and found a restaurant and quickly ordered some sustenance. Our guide came past on a motor bike and said hello. We were eating at his brother´s restaurant. Typical!

After dinner we were all pretty exhausted and fell straight asleep to dreams/nightmares of jungle, snakes, tarantulas.

Day 1


Breakfast came and I wasn´t in any mood for eating. Even when a genuine french man wearing Chef´s whites, flip flops and board shorts came over with a tray of fresh French Pastries, I still could not bare the thought of eating. It was 7.30am and it was too hot for eating.

As we girls faffed over the last little things, Scott moaned that we should hurry so that we could get to the jungle. We were ten minutes later than we were supposed to be and Scott was in a mood with three faffy girls. We then continued to hang around for another half hour or so in the Tour Office. We don´t really know why, we just were. We met our fifth group member, Gustavo. He didn´t speak a lot of English, but we introduced ourselves politley to him. Catherine taught me how to plait my hair and with my cow boy hat on, I was ready and waiting for the jungle. Then from nowhere came the command: ´Vamos chicos´.

We were on our feet in an instant, bags on backs (which were not only full on the inside, but also dripping on the outside with various essentials strapped and tied on that couldn´t be crammed in). We were off to the jungle.

We walked from the office to the river, spying plenty more white shirts on the way. On the river bank the boat was waiting for us. Oooo, this was going to be a rickety ride.

We all carefully got on, trying our best not to capsize the shallow hulled boat. The boat was laden with stuff, three days worth of food, a giant gas can, 12 litres of water, not to mention all of our bags and bits. The duffle bag also came with us to carry our excess baggage. We were weighed down with all of our stuff and we were off.

We had a four hour journey to our camp so we all sat back and relaxed as we made our journey. On both sides of the river was lush green jungle. It was lovely. We watched birds dive for fish, we saw parrots fly by. With our feet resting on the side of the boat it was lovely as the water splashed us. The day was on e with beautiful blue skies and sun. We were all in love with the jungle.

At about 12 I started to get peckish and delved into my bag for a honey nut bar to give me some energy. Yumm.

After about 3 hours the journey started to get a bit tricksy. The water was shallow, so one of the guys on the boat had to go up front and pull us through the shallows with a long pole, a bit like a punt. Hmmm, interesting. It was dry season and so the rivers were low.

About 30 minutes later we had hit a really shallow bit, and there was only one thing for it ´Get out and push!´ shouted Assi. Thoughts of piranhas and parasites flashed through my mind, I don´t wanna get out into this river. ´There are no piranhas.´ Oh ok I thought and I clambered over the edge of the boat and attempted to push. I say attempted, the floor of the river was full of slippy stones and I couldn´t get my grip on the ground to push the boat. Rhiannon and I were in hysterics at our sheer inability to contrubite any strength to this massive task in hand. Catherine sat on the boat, she didn´t have flip flops on, and was in no hurry to swap her boots for her flip flops. I ended up drifting to the back of the boat and at that point the driver ushered me to get back on, I was no help. Thankfully Scott and Gustavo had a bit more strength about them and helped Assi, Carmen our cook and our driver push the boat trhough.

´That was hard work´ announced myself and Rhiannon once we were through the hard part. Because we had offered so much.

Not long after thi spoint we ground to a halt and pulled into the shore. There were a few mixed messages about pushing and walking. Eventually it all came to light. We were stopping boat ride here. We were taking all the equipment off the boat here. We were walking from here. We were walking from here carrying all the stuff with us. Say whaaat? ´It is only 800m, not too far´ said our guide. We were all starving, it was 2pm already and we hadn´t had lunch yet. After a few questions, we were assured that this was the closest we were going to get by boat. There water was just too shallow.

We distributed our supply of food into the nooks and crannies of our backpacks and the duffle bags. I had jars of jam and dulce de leche stored inside my boots that were hanging from our bags. In some ways I somehow managed to get the easy ride... my bag, plus the duffle bag, plus a tray of eggs! I was feeling very I´m a Celebrity at this point. Maybe if I managed to get all the eggs in one piece to camp I would get a special star or something. Rhiannon and Catherine copped for most of the water which was not jsut heavy but awkward to carry. And Gustavo certainly got the short straw... the gas cannister.

We were now in the jungle, trekking in the jungle, but it cerainly wasn´t the best way to start a jungle trek. Laden with heavy gear we trampled through, over logs, long vines, thousands of ants. We were all hot, bothered and very unprepared for this. Two minutes before we had been enjoying a leaisurely river cruise. The bubble had burst. It was the longest 800m I have ever walked in my life. We were constatnly stopping and readjusting our loads. In the process of which I picked up 3 ant bites! Ocuh!

After a hard slog we arrived at our camp.

I still don´t know if this camp, was the camp we were supposed to be at. It was clear that no one had been here for a while and Assi confimred that no one had been here for a bout 2 years. Great!

The camp cosnisted of two shacks on stilts. One filled with beds, bats and bat poo, the other with a bug infested table and chairs, and a bit of a kitchen. There was also a toilet block with showers, but this had become a hiding hole for frogs, the water tank was all battered, and it was clear that we woudl be having no showers or flsuhing toilets for the next three days.

It was rough, but it wasn´t too bad. It was all very rustic, but it was going to be fun in the jungle. At least it would be fun if food was provided before I passed out from starvation.

Assi suggest we go for a swim while carmen prepared some lunch. Alhtough I ddint have the energy to swim, i figured it would be nice to cool down, so we all ran down to the river and dived in.

Straight away I started to get bitten. ´Arghhhh Piranhas!!!´ I was assured that these were Sardines not piranhas. But I thought sardines just came in tins. I venrutred further out into the river away from the shore loving sardines. It was bliss. It was so refresshing and lovely. We splashed around and messed a bout. Some fluffy stuff passed us in the river. ´What is that?´shouted Catherine. ´Flesh eating fuzz´ i poronounced matter of factly. I then followed this with a caution ´Remember not to wee in the river, because parasites can travel through your urine and in side you!´

Assi decided that lunch would probably be ready now so we headed back. To my utter dismay, there was still no food on the table, but we were given some squash. Better than nothing I guess. After anouther hour food was finally brought out. Lunch at 4pm!

Energised from food I donned my white shirt and cowboy hat and headed into the jungle with Assi.

We walked and walked and walked pointing out various trees and plants, spiders, caterpillars. It was an awesome walk, and it was great to be able to enjoy it without having to carry a tray of eggs (which incidentally all made it to camp intact).

The noises of the jungle were amazing. Actually amazing. It was awesome to hear all the bugs and the birds. After an hour I started to flail. I was hungry again. Even hought I had eaten loads of lunch, it had not been enough to drag me back up to normal energy. I started to slink to the back and drink lots of water. Darkness was setting in and Assi told us it was time to get back. There was no food ready for us when we got back so Assi proposed a fishing expedition. We went to the river bank with fishing and assi tried to catch a fish. With no success we returned back int he darkness to camp.

We sat around the table anticipating dinner, but sitting upright at a tbale was too much for me. I was totally drained and decided to go to the hut and have a lie down. I felt so feeble. I got into bed and to my horror, my bed was swarming with ants. i had been so careful at tucking in my mosi net I just couldnt understant how they had got in. I started squashing ants, but the more I killed, the more appeared. I burst into tears. All i wanted was to lie down in peace. I decided that the ants were in my backpack as every time i moved my back pack a new swarm of ant appeared next to it. I was too weary to care. These were only little ants, not like the big uns that had bit me earlier. I put ear plugs in and lay down and sobbed. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. I was hungry. My bed was uncomfortable. My bed was full of ants. I couldn´t console myself. And the more I tried to stop, the more i got annoyed myself that here i was in the jungle crying, hardly making the most of the situation was i. Eventually I recieved a call for dinner. I tried to compose myself, but I couldn´t quite do it. I snivelled my way thorugh a plate of pasta and may avoiding eye contact with the others in some vain sort of hope that they would´t notice my red eyes, tears and snotty face.

After dinner I excused myself to go back to bed. The thought of going back to bed was not a great one, I had loads of ants to deal with first. I hadn´t said a word at dinner and so hadn´t mentioned the ants. I climbed into my net and started killing and swearing at the ants.

After a few minutes I heard the door of the hut open and Scott came into see if I was ok. ´I´ve got all the f*****g ants, from the whole of the f*****g Amazon in my bed´ I snivelled. I always laughed at the cry babies on I´m a Celebrity but in the space of a few hours I had already learnt for myself how the tiniest thing can flip you over the edge in the jungle. I´m going to watch I´m a celebrity in such a different light from now on. Scott lifted up a bit of my net and started to brush the ants out of the net. I told him I thought the infestation was in my bag so he took that and shook it out. I continued to bat out ants. As Scott sat on the outside of my net and I was on the insde loads of ciccadas were attracted to his head torch, and as they batted from the light into my mosi net I got even more upset. I hated the jungle. Once the bed was free from ants I lay down in bed and didnt even bother to change into pjs. Scott left the hut saying he was going to close the door and if i needed anything I just had to shout. I was happier now, my bed was ant free. I fell to sleep pretty much straight away.

Day 2

I think I woke up before the others. Too right, i had had the most sleep. I hadn´t heard anyone come to bed. I tilted my head back and saw blue sky out the sides of the hut. Lush. I was determined that I wasn´t going to have a crying day today. I was in the jungle for two more days, and I Was determined to make the most of it. BRING IT ON! i thought to myslf. I wasn´t particularly scared by the jungle, spiders don´t bother me too much, I was back to being excited about exploring. So when breakfast was called I was the first to hot foot it over to the dining room and start piling up the pancakes.

After a big hearty breakfast came the first of the bowel movements. The toilet block was unusable and we all wondered how we would go to the toilet that morning. ´Bush bog´. None of us were too bothered at the prospect, we had all already had to wee in random spots around the camp. But going for a poo was different. Rhiannon was the first to brave the jungle toilet. She announced the direction in which she was heading and took two steps and then screamed a horrific scream! We all started and turned to look at her. She hadn´t taken two steps. She had walked into a cobweb and was terrified. After Rhiannon had calmed herself she employed Scott to walk in front and batt aside all of the cobwebs. We all wet ourselves.

After all this performance we were off into the jungle for a 4/5 hour trek. It was an awesome trek. We cut vines and drank water from the insides, we ate termites, we tried different things inside the jungle and were shown all the medicinal plant. Assi suggested we chew this one piece of bark that he took from a tree for us. Excited I began to chew enthusiasitcally and then my mouth began to burn and tingle. Istarted spitting straight away. My mouth was on fire. We use this to take out teeth, it´s a natural anesthetic. Too right it was, my mouth was numb as anything. We wandered onwards and he made up some paint from the plants and we painted our faces all tribal like. We looked scray, but the beads of sweat meant that our faces ran into big puddles of purple dye. Sexy!

Assi ralyl made us listen to the jungle and at one point we could hear snorting noises. ´Pigs´ he said. Poomba, i thought. (We had been singing Hakuna Matata and In the Jungle a lot). We stopped in our trackes, squatted and listened to the pigs. ´Can you smell that?´said Assi. YEs we could. It was disgusting. A few mintues later the sound and the smell became sight and we could see about seven pigs forraging in the mud. It was cool to watch them. We stayed there until one of them saw us and then the whole group darted.

We continued our walk onwards. We were on the hunt for a cinnamon tree. However, it was hot and by midday we were all starting to struggle and we didn´t have enough water with us. Assi suggested we stopped while he went off to find the cinnamon. We were happy for a rest. We were dripping with sweat and in need of a break. Gustavo insisted that he would accompany assi to t he cinnamon tree which was two hills away. Now that there were only 4 of us i cracked out the 4 lollipops that i had been carrying in my bag. Much needed sugar revitalised us.

After about 30 minutes Assi and GUstavo returned with cinnamon, we all smelled it. It smelled good.

We then started our way back. After 5 hours of walking through the jungle we were all in serious need of food and more water. We were given the most refreshing grapefrfuit juice adn an awesome lunch. Amazing.

After lunch we took another swim in the river. This was followed by an afternoon of jewllery making. This involved some serious hard work drilling holes by hand with srcrew drivers into seeds. But the final results were awesome. We drank cinamon tea and ate popcorn as we worked. Serious sweat shop business.

When the sun went down we chilled and prepared oursleves for our night time walk. Rhiannon was all ready to face her spider fears, and we were all excited at what we might see. Gustavo, however, was a little scared and didn´t come with us. It was pitch black in the jugle, and the light of the torch was all we had to see with. I quickly realised that by wearing my head torch on my head i was attracting all the ciccadas and bugs to my eyes, so i decided I would carry my torch. On the walk we came a cross a teeny tiny snake, it was reaññy small byt really angry. It didnt like us. We also found tarantulas, mummies and babies. They were really cool. At one point Assi told us to take a seat on a fallen log while he hunted down some other animals. The fours of us sat holiding hands in the pitch dark listening out for animals. In so many ways we all wanted to see a flash of cat eyes through the darkness, but at the same time that prospect was a little scary. We didn´t see anything else and Assi didn´t bring anythihg back to us. It was awesome to listen to the jungle at night. It was a little scary yes, but really awesome.


After a two hour walk we made our way back to dinner. I was in a much better mood tonight and dinner was most enjoyable. After dinner we all wnet to bed. We had had a long day and were all ready to drop. Thankfully that night there were no ants in my bed.

Not quite Day 2, not quite Day 3

Now, if you have read this post carefully you will have noted Gustavo´s profession. Oh yes, professional weirdo, and this is wear the evidence for this ocmes to light. The jungle is never silent, there is always some insect or bird making a noise, but in the middle of the night a new noise emanated. ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I woke with a start. In the bed next to me it sounded as though Gustavo was being murdered. Another scream came. It was a scream of pure terror. Assi (who was sleeping in a tent he had put up inside the hut) asked out if Gustavo was ok. Gustave told him in Spanish that animals were coming at him and grabbing his feet. Assi told him to shut up and go to sleep. No sympathy.

Day 3


Gustavo was late for breakfast, lucky really as it gave us channce to whisper about the previous night{s screaming! We were all laughing our heads off. Gustavo came to breakfast and bluffed over the occurences! Very funny.

We had agreed that Assi take us on a walk to go Parrot Watching for our final morning. We could have gone for another jungle walk, but we figured that Parrots would be fun and we had seen a lot of the jungle. Assi warned us that to reach the parrots we would have to wade across one river and trek through some jungle. River wading sounded fun and we were all up for it.

We set off, I had my boots and flip flops with me. Flip flops for rivers, boots for jungle. We walked about 200m and I was already having to switch my boots for my flip flops. Grrr! Scott and Assi entered the water first while Rhiannon, Gustavo, Catherin e and I followed. We were at a different part of the river to where we would often go and swim, and this part was very pebbly under foot. In addition the pebbles were very slippy as they were covered in algae. I stepped tentaively into the river as everyone else powered on. I got in to my waist and got stuck. Do you remember the blow out that Chris inflicted on my flip flop after his failed attempt to crowd surf me at the Jean Luis Guerra gig? Well, it came to haunt me again. The river was strong and the undercurrent had ripped apart my flip flop! Noooo! I held my boots as high as I possibly could out of the water and reached under, as i reached my flip flop I lost it. It went sailing down the river. My face must have been a picture! What now? Assi had been the hero and had gone down river to rescue my broken flip flop and when he returned my broken flip flop, he traded me for my boots. i started walking across the river bed in one flip flop and one bare foot carrying a borken flip flop. Now, I was in agony, every step i took was a step on a painful slippy rock and my feet were disintegrating. Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch. Scott and Rhiannon were on the other side already wetting themselves as i took the smallest steps and made the biggest ouch noises in the SOuthern Hemisphere. I got to the middle of the river and I was laughing at myself, the river took me offguard and I was swept off my feet and drenched. Laughing even harder I let myself go with current before I got a grip and swam the rest of the way. This is why you are taught how to swim in pajamas at swimming schools! I eventually reached the other side about fifteen minutes after everyone else! Everyone was in hysterics. Catherine had also had a tricky crossing. The Ozzies laughed and commented how they had been wading through rivers since they were toddlers! Good for you!


The group walked onwards and Catherine and I tramped along behind the group. I was drenched, but in the heat it was really, really nice and refreshing. We marched and marched and then all of a sudden I see Assi up ahead turn around and head back toward us. "The path trhough the jungel is overgrown (I havent been here for 4 years)so we are going to have to go another way." Oh he was a clever one, thinking that a path that went throught hte middle of the jungle 4 years ago would still be there. HEre{s a lesson for you buddy, trees grow. Catherine was less than impressed that we had to double back the way we came. I was less impressed when I was told that we would have to walk trhough another river.

We reached the next river and Scott and Rhiannon marched on. I carried both my flip flops and continued to ouch with every footstep. Once i crossed quarter of the river Assi came over and gave me his trainers. I put them on with difficulty in the water bt iwas sorted and i skipped merrily across the river, well ish!

I didn{t hate the river crossing, it was fun, but by the time i reached the bank of this river, 15 minutes after everyone else, everyone was ready to move onwards and didn{t want to wait to let me catch my breath. I through a mini paddy and said i was having a break and I would catch up. I sat down. Soemone said something that made me laugh. I laughed, but the laughter quickly turned to tears. Rahhhhh jungle!

Then came another river. ANd i got a bloody stone in the bloopdy trainer. Again every step was a pain. Scott and Rhiannon continued to march onwards and kept laughing at me as I crossed. I actaully spent more time in up to my shoulders when really it was only necessary to submerge up to the waist.

When the next river came there was hilarity for everyone, everyone except Rhiannon. Half way across a really wide and really deep river Catherine lost it. She was struggling to keep her camera in her dry bag above her head and battling with the current when her shoe got stuck on a rock and then she threw the ulitmate paddy and stamped her feet saying "That{s it. I am not going any further! Arghhh!" She looked around and realised she was slap bang in the middle of the river, she had just as far to go back as she had to go forawrd. When she saw this she started to slap her shoes on the water in an ultimate tantrum moment. The next thing, her shoe was away with the current. Scott stopped his hysteria enough to run down the river bank to try and rescue the shoe. Rhiannon borken down on the floor in giggles and I was fell over in hysterics in fits of giggles and was rolling around on my back! Assi, stifling laughter went out to Catherine and helped her in. Her little Welsh prtoests were hilarious. As she was adament that this was it. When Scott couldnt find her shoe it got worse/funnier.

We were assured there was one more river to cross and that we could go with the current. At this point I ended up leaving my boots behind, there was no point taking htem and we were going to have to come back this way anyway. I went with the river and when I came out at the other side i really felt like Colin Firth inPride and Prejudice in my sopping white shirt. I think the cowboy hat set it off.

Incidentally as we waded I kept getting flshbacks of Kevin And Perry Go Large as Rhiannon waded trhough in a shirt and trekking pants whilst wearing a Perry-esque bucket hat! I laughed, and it cheered Catherine up a bit too when we saw it.

We had waded trhough 6 rivers and had finally reached the parrot watch point. We alls at and marvelled at the parakeets, lorakeets and red and blue macaws! It was awesome as they dpped in and out of their nests and zipped around. After and hour watching in awe it was time for the return journey!

It was just as hilarious as the outward joureny, minus the tantrums. I enlisted the help of Scott to help keep my shoes dry, he was walking through the water like it was a large puddle. I on the otherhand was fully submerged for most of the way back. I certainly wouldn{t be needing a swim today!

When we finally got back we were all in giggles. It had been a hilarious morning. We sat and recounted the hilarity t hat Catherine and Myself had provided the group with our very british inability to wade trhough rivers with sophistication. Sophistication I may have lacked, but I had style! I let out a sudden giggle, since I first met Scott in BA he had been spurting out quotes from Austin Powers in a mockney accent and this time seemed the most appropriate time to repeat Austin{s question "Honestly, who throws a shoe?" Laughter ensued as the answer was clear... Catherine throws a shoe.

After lunch it was time to pack up camp and head back to where the boat picked us up. Incidentally, when we got off the boat when we arrived, the boat had left us at the camp and was due to pick us up again at an agreed point. Scott pointed out as we were leaving that this was indeed a very safe practice. If something had happened to one of us, we would have been screwed with no boat back! We were totally stranded out in the camp. We hadn{t even seen any boats pass us by! Eek!

We carried all of our gear and walked out to where the boat was due to collect us. We sat on a dry river bed and got eaten alive by sand flies. We could hear the engine of a boat pass approaching, but it didn{t sound like a boat big enough to be ours, it came round the corner, and there it was, the smallest, shallowest boat you ever did see. Turns out the actual boat had broken down on the way, and that the boat man had to trade for another boat so that he could pick us up! This is all we could get! I ended up sitting on a very broken slat with my knees up to my chin. Somehow everyone else got proper seats, but i{m not moaning. We sat on the river and sailed back down the river carried by the river. This boat, being shallower, crossed the shallow parts with ease! There were a few hairy moments on the way back though as the boat nearly toppled in the water! Capsize! Now, seriosuly, I don{t think I over react too much, but my reaction to the near capsization turned the others to absolute disdain.

Three days in the jungle had been both incredible and terrible! We had cried and laughed in equal measures. All of use were drained from the experience. It had been rough, that{s no lie, and we had been exhausted by it all. Wehn we got back to rurrenabaque we saw a few other travellers who had done the pampas tour, they were lively, happy and smiley, we were drained! We shut ourselves in our rooms.

Back in Rurranabaque


We all took our time back at the hostel and napped, we girls went to get snickers and coke. We needed them now more than ever. When we came back Scott ventured back out in search of more snacks. And, I only say this, because it is funny, and if you know me you will laugh out loud... but as Scott left to go on a chocolate hunt I stopped him, "Scott... be careful" He looked at me "It{s a jungle out there". Oh my goodness I can be hilarious at times can{t i. It doesn{t happen very often, but when I crack a good one, I crack a good one. Scott, who was currently suffering from Jungle Belly did look impressed, he didn{t even laugh, he just left in disdain. I was hysterical, delirously hysterical, and it took a while for me to realise that not even the girls were laughing with me! I was on my own here!

We all were in need of an early night, so after we repacked our stuff, takin out the stuff we never used in the Jungle and adding things we wished we had we went to sleep. Except, we couldn{t sleep, the room had no windows, only nets and the building across the street was a church, with a PA system, and there was a very active service going on! We kept hearing words like hallelujah. Eventually I cracked out my ear plugs and gave in. I needed sleep!

SO, I know I said i would wrtite about all of this in one go, but I think I will stop here so yuo can laugh your little socks off at the antics of the jungle! The next installment you will get the rundown of the Pampas tour!