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!