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Published: February 9th 2014
Firstly apologies if any of this repeats what I have sent on email, but I have found a hostel where there is twenty four seven Wi Fi and somewhere I can upload my photos so I thought it was high time I sent you some blog entries.
I'll try and tell you about my first month in Costa Rica over a few posts and add some photos. Now, don't forget, if there is any specific questions you want answers to (related to my adventures) let me know and I'll try and answer them around the 9 March (the next time I will definitely be online).
I met the GVI team at Gaudy's hostel in San Jose on the morning of 11 January. I had already met one volunteer - Peter who was on the same flight as me from Heathrow! The team and volunteers is made up of the following:
Peter: English, volunteer for 3 months
Dee: Aussie, 1 month volunteer
Jacob: American, volunteer for 2 months (but already wants to stay much longer)
Mahalia: Aussie, 1 month volunteer
Ellouise: English, 6 month intern
Julia: American, 6 month volunteer
Zoe: American, 3 month volunteer
Max: American, 3 month volunteer
Cyrille: Swiss, 6 month intern
Phil: English, 6 month intern
Michele: Italian, 1 month volunteer
Mari: Italian, Base Manager
Renato: Brazilian, Staff member - expertise in Turtles
Marcelle: Brazillian, Staff member - expertise in Birds
Blaine: American, Country Director (for GVI - she's the big boss we complain to if we don't like the trip!)
That's the group....well the group I met in San Jose. We had a short meeting - the staff went through the timetable for the day and also a list of health and safety risk assessments including (i) dangerous road conditions, (ii) risks of falling out of boats and the recommendation to keep arms and legs inside the boat to avoid tempting the crocodiles (see earlier blog with picture of Andrew who we had not seen at this stage) and the sharks, (iii) and the risks posed by jungle life including a large amount of venomous snakes with the nearest medical facilities at least 2 hours away by helicopter.
We then had our pictures taken in a weird line up....I have no idea why. Apparently GVI
head office keep this information for security reasons in case something happens to us on the trip! We then loaded up the bus and headed out of San Jose.
Now I'd like to tell you about the bumpy ride, the banana plantations, the random cows crossing the road in front of us but that's not very interesting so I will skip ahead to arrival in Siquirres. Siquirres is a small village/town. We stopped here for lunch...rice and beef and lots of cold water. There is an ATM so a number of the group got the last of their pocket money from their accounts (yes, pocket money....Phil and I are the only volunteer/interns who are funding themselves...parents take note......but then again I am about 15 years older than most of the others - except Phil who is 34.
Lunch complete, back on the bus for another bumpy ride to Cano Blanco (about 1.5 hours away). Arrived at Cano Blanco and realised that this is what I had signed up for....the sky was bright blue, the canal looked amazing and we couldn't wait to get on the boat! So, a 30 minute or so boat ride later....watching different birds fly
away. The group was quiet for the first time on the whole journey as we took in the scenery and realised this was going to be our home for the next weeks/months. Boat then pulled up at a load of trees and there to greet us was more staff:
Frank: English, expertise as a general scientist with GVI but previously a marine biologist. He also doesn't eat fish or sea animals... even if farmed!
Kat: English, just finished the internship and helps on the Jaguar project
Ryan: American, also just finished the internship and runs the monkey project
So, wellies on (One of the ten commandments of the jungle. We have to wear wellies whenever in the jungle. If we walk on the beach we don't need wellies and on base we can wear any shoes (well not high heels but otherwise any shoes). And then walked the 1 mile to Base (i.e. where we live, eat and sleep each day). To the right is the beach and sea and to the left hectares and hectares of jungle. For those interested in factual things, and something I learnt very recently from one of the Costa Rican
Rangers - Tortuguero National Park is made up of 10% park and 90% privately owned farms! The farms are a mix of coconut and banana plantations. The owners all conform to the rules of the park and all the canals through the park are no fishing zones but locals can fish at the Estuary (where the sea meets the canals and the south boundary of what is called Jalova which is the area of the Park where Base is and where we conduct the surveys.
Side note from editor (me): sorry if my blogs waffle on a bit. I start writing and then things pop into my head that I think you may want or like to know and then I forget where I had got to. Please accept my apologies. Please also accept my apologies for bad grammar, spelling errors etc. There is lots to write and if I edited it before publishing - it will probably never be published, so in the interests of getting stuff out there, frankly deal with it! 😊
Where was I.....ah yes. Arrival at the Estuary, meeting the staff and then 1 mile walk to Base. Everyone except Julia had read
the notes about not bringing a suitcase....Julia wheeled her suitcase through mud and leaves and twigs and general jungle....suffice to say the luggage is no longer functional. She does not however have a hair dryer so she did read some of the pre-reading! 😊
Arrived at Base, under huge coconut trees and met the final staff member Ian - Scottish, wearing a huge machete around his waist. At this stage I don't know he will be my mentor and he terrifies all of us newbies (as we are called by the staff for the first week). We throw our bags on the floor- all of us dripping with sweat. The humidity in the jungle is thick. It's late afternoon but the sun is still very much sunny so we have water melon and water and then have a tour of the camp including introduction to the shared dorms and the outdoor cold showers!
After the tour, more ground rules are 'barked' at us by Ian....
- no drugs
- no smoking in buildings
- no walking on your own in the jungle
- always wellies in the jungle
- always take water on walks
- no swimming in the sea or canals because of the crocs and sharks
- no hitting anyone on Base
- no getting drunk on Base and no drink before 5pm
We are given a short presentation of the plan for next few days and then it is dinner - rice and beans and lots of vegetables. After dinner people shower, and most of us head to the dorms to put up mosquito nets, spray themselves with insect repellent and sleep. Breakfast is at 7am and first meeting is at 7.30am!
What a day. Went to sleep listening to the tide coming in and jungle noises of crickets and bats flying about. Magic.
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