Written by two people known as Thumble and Josh (…). It’s actually 4 weeks after they did this, but better late than never!
When we arrived at Parque Jacj Cuisi, hot and sweaty after our truck ride in sitting on metal poles and holding onto a pram, it signaled the start of our month long project phase. The month was to be spent in two parks; Jacj Cuisi, where we were working on construction, and Ambue Ari, our animal reward. Some of us settled into our new accommodation better than others, with an eventful first night – one man in his pants, with a plastic bag against (in Doc’s eyes) the worst Mother Nature could throw at us and Stephen Fry’s soothing voice lulling us to sleep with tales of Hogwarts.
We got used to the 6am wake ups and the 7.30pm bed times as quickly as we got used to rocks and sand, rocks and sand. Our construction work was on two puma cages; one for Luna, a puma who is going to be moving to Jacj Cuisi soon, and one for Simba, who’s already a resident but needs a larger enclosure. We spent our first week finishing Luna’s cage and then 4 days starting Simba’s – we managed to get all the poles cemented in for the main cage which was a great achievement. The work, in the main part, consisted of carrying the rocks and sand that was needed for cementing the fence and the poles, to the new enclosures – a 20 minute walk, mainly uphill through the jungle. We had a few scrapes along the way; Thumble’s barbed wire cuts; Jamie’s ribs being not quite as hard as a wheelbarrow handle and the fact that large spiders can bite through plastic bags.
None of this, however, was dramatic enough for Peaches, who was set on fire by an exploding bottle of 96% alcohol that was being poured onto the fire by another volunteer. After rolling around he decided that the ground was on fire and ran away and had to be tackled to the floor and have his flaming trousers ripped off him. Very luckily he escaped with just some burns to his legs and arms, not nice at all but it could have been so much worse!
I think we will agree when I say that it was such a relief to look back after ten days of sweat and… more sweat, to finally finish what we had come to do and get on a long bus journey to Ambue Ari. The construction work was so tiresome yet so rewarding. On our last day we travelled to Rurrenebaque, where we could finally have a proper shower and put on clean clothes when going for a steak meal that night topped off by brownies and ice-cream. We began our long bus journey late in the evening, had salteñas for breakfast (street-side style) and had the usual greasy egg sandwich for lunch. When arriving in Ambue Ari just after dinner, we soon took to our straw mattresses and dreamt of such things as kittens, rats and being stuck in the jungle…
With over 60 volunteers, the park was soon lively and enthusiastic in the morning… 6:30 in the morning, to be precise. We had a tour around the area which involved visiting some of the three types of cats (Ocelots, Pumas and Jaguars). This was followed by Noemi, El Jefe, who talked about ´Amor, Paciencia y Respecto´. However, we were not aware that this talk would take place every day for at least an hour! During the two weeks at the park, we all enjoyed working with our specified animals; whether it was walking a cat through it´s trails, taking care of the animals in Quarantine (such as monkeys, a Tejon and a chancho called Shmelda) or helping out at the monkey park with the howler monkeys. Every volunteer was counted as part of the Inti Wara Yassi family, thus having their own weekly and daily task in order to keep the park in order – this would involve putting the pios to bed by chasing them with sticks (if you felt particularly cruel), cleaning out Don Pablo and The Chocolate Pudding Palace (our old friends, the toilets), or being on Patio or kitchen duty etc. This gave us a chance to mingle with other volunteers, especially the Israelies and Aussies who were particularly pleasing to some of our party…
Every Friday and Saturday most of the volunteers would hitchhike to Santa Maria where we would buy food, drink and groove to ´La Bomba´. There would be other opportunities, such as Movie Night, to chill out and forget the long, tiring days ahead of us. Overall, this experience was less work and more play. To be in contact with these amazing animals was incredible and such an experience as ours will never be forgotten. Even after only two weeks, we felt that a bond had been made with the animals and also the people that we had shared this experience with. I am sure that many of us have the intention of returning to Ambue Ari, yet at the moment we are just over half way through our trip and will have so much more to tell you during our stay in Bolivia and Peru.
Thumble and Josh