When the taxi came to pick me up in the morning,everyone stopped to hug me good bye and wish me well. Again, it is hard to leave, but I had my reunion with Jacob to look forward to. As usual, the bus was an hour late and I sat talking to the store owner at the bus stop in broken Spanish. The ride was the clearest I had had yet. Every turn was spectacular, rippled mountains against the blue and cloud sky. I was late getting to Cusco, but still made it to the main square in time for the projected rendez-vous. Unfortunately, Kim and Jacob were much later still, and so I left before they could meet me thinking that I would go and check if they had left messages. All ended well; we did meet up and have dinner together. Jacob would join me the next day.
Although we had a full day in Cusco, we had so much to do that the day passed too quickly and almost without any sightseeing. We did get a couple of market visits in, and then we needed to reorganize all of our clothes for our stay in the Amazon. I
didn't want to bring all of our stuff since we were hauling it on and off boats.
In the morning, we needed to catch the plane at 10:30. It is only an hour flight to Puerto Maldonado, but the plane was delayed by an hour. Arriving in Puerto Maldonado means arriving to heat and humid. It's been at 29 to 33 degrees for weeks. We were taken to the market to buy Jacob rubber boots and then home with Elvira for lunch till the boat would leave for the project lands.To get to Taricaya, you have to travel in a long narrow wooden boat for an hour down the Madre de Dios River. There is a canopy to keep the sun off. It feels exciting to motor into the Amazon, taking a side route and then docking in the middle of green. We were brought to our rooms. Jacob and I get to share a cabin to ourselves. There are two sets of bunks and a bath room. The rooms were covered in dirt and the bathroom is filthy, there was a flood here and everything was covered 2 meters in water. Recovery has been slow, and has been
the majority of the work here for the last two months. Regardless of the condition, the cabin is sweet and its nice to have it to ourselves. There is a cook house/ mess hall, an insect lab, the rescued animal kitchen, a tv house and a set of hammocks outside. There are over 25 volunteers so the atmosphere is quite different than what I experienced with the Inca project. Here there are divisions along language and friendship lines, it is not just one big happy family. There are about 5 of us over 30, the rest are between 18 and 25. I think these projects pull good people though, as everyone is friendly. We got a tour, settled in, had supper, and Jacob played some cards before we went to bed.
In the morning, everyone but us and two staff left for the weekend. There is so little to do, no alcohol allowed and really poor conditions for washing clothes, so everyone goes to town. This was a perfect way for Jacob and I to get introduced to Taricaya, our new home. We had work to do, the animals always need to be fed. This project has a large
rescue and release animal center, an insect lab, a turtle nursery protection project, a farm, an animal observation project and general maintenance work. Most people want to feed the animals, we got to do that all weekend. We cut up and weigh fruit and veggies for the Spider Monkeys, the Capuchins, the Red Howler monkeys, the birds, some other smaller monkeys, the dog (a special amazon wild dog), the ocelot and the tapirs. The puma and the jaguar only get fed once or twice a week. When everyone's food bucket is ready, we get to go feed. We started with the birds, exchanging their trays and then the smallest monkeys. Then I went in with the Ocelot. She is little and wants to play, she wanted to get out of the cage too. I had to pat her back from the door and remove her from wrestling with my boots. She is beautiful. Then its the Tapir's turn. Jacob climbed the ladder over the fence to muck out their food troughs and leave new food. Tapirs are from the horse family but look like they are from the pig family. They have a large enclosure, that was completely flooded so
the breeding pair swam away and now their are only two brothers left behind. Next, we go to the capuchins and spider monkeys. There are lots of them. To feed them, we close doors to the feeding chamber, clean out the chamber and then dump the food and leave before we open the doors. There is one female who doesn't leave that chamber, but she is very polite and doesn't bother anyone. Jacob did the same in the large spider monkey room. There are small spider monkeys and a cage where two old other monkeys not endemic to this area live, and won't be released. Then it is off to the howlers. They are the most fascinating to me. Loud and beautiful, they are testing their genetics to see if they are the same type as from this area before they release a group. There is also an anteater here, fed at night, an owl that flies freely and a couple of other smaller cats. This is a job that Jacob and I really like.
On Sunday, the highlights were the Tapir "Theo" nipped my hip. He's as big as me, but certainly did not hurt, or even leave a bruise. And the Raoul didn't quite close the door when I went in to feed the small spider monkeys and they started coming into the cage with me. Raoul calmly says, go a little quicker. They were sweet, and more interested in the food than me.
Alejandro cooked for us over the weekend. We fed the animals twice a day and we played lots of cards. It was very peaceful, hot, humid and satisfying. Jacob already does not want to go to town next weekend where we can do our laundry and access our email, no wifi. I'm not sure if I want to miss our only other weekend here either. Everyone returned around 5:00 and we made a long chain up the stairs from the river to haul tons and tons of gear, and food for both the humans and the rescued animals. I then helped unload and clean all the veggies for the animal kitchen. Supper was pasta, not anywhere near as good as the food at El Establo and then bed.
Good Night and Sweet Dreams
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