Bolivia Team Updates are like buses it seems…. We wait with anticipation for what seems like eternity and suddenly, a wave of tales and photos come in all at once!! We will forgive them as internet and electricity are a little scarce in the Animal Parks where they have been working away… Alas now they’re well into their expedition, the novelties of modern living have found them again – namely a computer and a connection!
So join us travelling back in time as we hear about the team’s time volunteering in the parks…
“Having just arrived at Ambue Ari after two weeks of construction at Jacj Cisi, we were excited to start our new project. Amidst our excitement, we also noticed significant differences between the two parks, which I will now briefly go through to illustrate our wonderful two weeks at Ambue Ari (AA).
Project: The whole reason for being at Ambue Ari in the first place is to work with animals. The day after we arrived, we found out that Annie would be working with Inti, Wara and Yassi, the puma sisters. Natalia was with Carlos, another puma and I with Lazy Cat, the most amazing ocelot in the park.
Annie and Natalia had the added excitement of finding out which other volunteers they would be working with on the cats (as well as discovering that they had swamp trails, fun times). We all started on our cats the next day and had such unforgettable experiences over the next two weeks. Some highlights include Natalia seeing a wild female puma (Carlos’ girlfriend) on his trail, Annie getting jumped by an excited sister and coming back with a decent shirt rip and my knee getting humped against my will by Lazy.
Camp: We had decided that on the first day, I should play the non-English speaking Asian volunteer who could only nod and smile at any direct questions, with the occasional ‘Nintendo’ instead of ‘entwined’ thrown in for good measure. Gill took us on a tour of the camp and I smiled and nodded away. Unfortunately, our plan backfired as Annie and Natalia were also being quiet and smiling and nodding blankly. It didn’t help that all the questions I were given made perfect sense when answered with a nod (things like ‘understand?’ or ‘happy?’) rather than what we were hoping for (e.g. ‘How old are you?’ or ‘What’s your name?’). So that plan went down the meat-hole but we still found the camp tour very useful. Camp at AA was a lot smaller than JC with about three times as many volunteers. There were also a lot more animals roaming around camp: Mundi the dog, Luca the cat, Gordo the parrot and the dreaded tejones, who were guaranteed to find and steal any food around camp, which leads us on to the next section.
Food: There were cooks at AA so it was nice to come back to a hot meal after walking your cat, which was usually tasty, especially on meat days. I may have ended up the biggest spender (again) in the AA candy shop but I was definitely not the biggest loser with all the extra snacks and carb-loaded plates at mealtimes. The AA candy shop had different products to JC, which gave us all the more reason to conduct our taste tests of every single sweet/chocolate in the cupboard. Needless to say, it was nice going out for something different to the daily fare. We did this on Taco Tuesdays, where most of us in camp would hitch a lift into Guarayas, a town about an hour away, and go to Mimoi’s for dinner.
Going out: Aside from Taco Tuesdays, we’d also go into town on Saturdays to relax at the laguna and get the BBQ and jukebox going. Friday nights at the café, however, were the infamous nights we had been hyped up for. Basically a night of alcohol and music, albeit less wild than we were expecting, still very different to JC where drinking nights seemed to be revolved more around potable (96% alcohol).
It was sad when we had to say our goodbyes on our final day. We left covered in battle scars, evidence of our time in the camp, none of which were from the cats. Annie had some peculiar-looking blemishes on her neck from the fun she had had the night before with another volunteer and three tejones (don’t ask). I had been eaten alive by mosquitoes and my hands made me look as if I’d fallen into a pit filled with giant cacti and hedgehogs. Natalia and Karen came out pretty much how they went in, which isn’t surprising really considering Karen is basically Mowgli (she didn’t even use a mosquito net at night) and Natalia is well on her way to becoming a chola, who naturally are resistant to pretty much everything (except perhaps some slight weight gain with age). All in all, working at Ambue was such an incredible experience that the question we ended up asking ourselves was not whether we would return, but rather which park we would be returning to.
Thanks Ladies… Watch this space for tales of the girls on exped coming soon to a screen near you…