Friday, October 31, 2014

Her Grand Adventure

Hello All,

So I know this is probably the most long overdue email, but my Internet access was much more restricted that I thought it would be.  I was also wanting to focus on being in Peru and not thinking so much about home. Alas, here are some details on my trip thus far.
Never could quite capture the beauty.
For the last eight weeks I have been volunteering at an environmental conservation reserve called Taricaya. It is a one hour boat ride from Puerto Maldonado. The reserve is very basic and the electricity runs off of a generator. I wash my clothes in a bucket and the food consisted of rice, potatoes, pasta with very little vegetables.  The time spent was pretty amazing. Typically there was between 20-25 volunteering with me. The work was gratifying but it was also really hard.  Actives included shoveling and moving gravel, cutting down bamboo and cleaning the Tapier pool (think smelly shit infested pool).  There was also amazing activities such as animal feeding, helping collect hatched turtles and climbing up a canopy that was approximately 42 meters high for bird watching. I have made some wonderful friends during my stay there - it is impossible to not bond with people when you are walking through the jungle and experiencing what we were experiencing.  The days have been really hot. Typically it reached 35 degrees, and when it went to 23 degrees I would wear a hoodie.  I have also never sweat so much in my life with the humidity.

Some favorite memories have been clearing trails with a machete, helping hatch the turtle eggs and simply becoming so comfortable in the rain-forest to the point that it isn't a big deal to throw a tarantula out of your bedroom.  We have had quite a few drinks over my last weekend  at Taricaya (one of the only times I drank there) and during the drinking I was conned into helping with digging up the turtle nests to see if they have hatched yet.  So, the next morning a staff member and I crawled out of bed and got on a boat to make our way to the farm and check out the turtle nests.  In the sweltereing heat and direct sunlight, Alejandro and I dug up the hatching turtles and made our way back to th boat.  The boat motor however wasn't starting so we spent the next hour floating in the river back down to the main part of the reserve discussing how terribly crummy we felt.  It was quite a way to end volunteering.

The Burning of The Field
A really gratifying part of volunteering was when we burned down a hector of the rain-forest (secondary growth). It was such hard work that began at 5:30 AM, moving trees into piles to burn them while trying not to melt our rain boots. Once the area was cleared we planted the seeds for corn.  Within a couple weeks the corn was already growing. It was so fascinating to see the before and after pictures of what we did, what my hands and back did.
The Corn We Grew

The Canopy Walkway for Birdwatching
Another memorable moment was when we released eight spider monkeys into the rain-forest.  Most of our animals that we have are either previous pets (yes, even the jaguar and ocelot) or baby animals that get dropped off. This means that the spider monkeys that we released don't actually know how to act like real monkeys. They don't know how to move through the rain forest or forge for food.  So for a weekend myself and five others slept in the rain forest and followed the eight monkeys documenting what they were eating, which helped us see if they were learning how to find food, and watching to see how high in the canopy they were going - the higher they went the more comfortable they were becoming.  In all honesty it was a really tough three days and probably the least fun of my time there. We got slightly lost in the forest at one point. Literally everything looks the same and you cannot remember which way is what direction. It was the only time I actually feared for my well being. I was mostly frustrated that I let myself be put into that situation.  We also had to trek off trails in pitch black back to our base camp because no one brought their torch.  Also, shitting in a hole with bugs biting your ass was not a good time.
The View of Taricaya from the River
Hannah & Lucy, my volunteer/Cuzco Travel Buddies <3
Last Monday I flew from Peurto Maldonado to Cuzco.  It was such a terribly sad and extremely exciting time. I was greeted by two wonderful volunteer friends at the airport and for the last few days I have been staying in a Hostel and venturing around Cuzco. I believe a moment that my personality was tested was when I walked into the Hostel pub, order breakfast by myself and sipped coffee without knowing a soul. Making friends when you don't know anyone was a bit of a test of courage, hoestly. Yesterday myself and two American guys went around the city and randomly ended up horse back riding in the mountains.  We had to walk back to town by ourselves.. We then went out for fabulous beers and food and myself, Hannah and the two guys played pool and drank beer all night long.  The other night I met a guy who rode his peddle bike from California to Cuzco in a ten month span. After chatting it up at the hostel we ended up leaving at midnight and going to a Pervian disco dancing the night away and eating street food. It was such a silly and fun night. I have never relied so heavily on my instincts to keep myself safe.  The Americans laughed at me and said how happy they were that I was willing to venture off with two burly (and really genuinely nice) guys on my own.  I think 50% of it is vibes of the situation and the other 50% is trust.

I am quite sure that the rain forest has changed me more than I have changed the rain forest.  I keep thinking about how amazing my life is at this moment - I have never lived so much in the present.  I think traveling solo is something everyone should do as my character has never been stronger and I have had so many opportunities to learn about myself.

Cuzco - The city I fell in love with
I know when I return back to Canada I will see life so much differently than when I left. This trip has confirmed that my lifestyle will revolve around traveling the world.  I've been thinking about teaching English in Thailand, working in Europe for 6 to 12 months as well as hiking to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. All of this will revolve around traveling with a purpose (volunteering) My list of things to do have increased immensely and I have never met so many like minded people. It has been so great to know that my way of life can be a permanent possibility as I have met so many other people doing it.  A difficult part of the trip has been being without my family. I think I talk about Shawna and Megan so much that the volunteers started referring to them on a first name basis. I realize that I would have never made this daring move without the support of my family and if it wasn't for them and Hugo, Cuzco would have probably become my home base. I really have found my happy place.

The Americans
I have been slowly thinking about what it will be like to go home and making a list of things I want to do such as Spanish courses, learning to play poker, first aid courses, volunteering and such. I am in the process of re-booking my flight as I am not ready to come back to Canada yet. I know I have more to learn and do.  I will extend my trip by four weeks and fly home December 25th.

Looking forward to seeing everyone soon!
Oh, and they refer to me as the Crazy Canadian. Ha!!


“If it’s both terrifying than amazing, then you should most definitely do it” - Erada