I saved another turtle….

There is so much to tell you all this time around, the internet in Tortuguero has not been working (and the poor lady who runs the business is tearing her hair out as she is not earning any money…) but I am on a weekend away in the Caribbean rasta town of Puerto Viejo and finally have an uninterrupted spell on a computer to update on all of my news.

I won’t keep you waiting with the news of saving another turtle… Turtles are poached in two different ways.  Firstly, the poachers take the turtle eggs, which are apparently tasty and also supposed to be an aphrodisiac.  We try to prevent this by hiding the nests on the beach, staying with the turtle while she lays and educating the community to the plight of the turtles.  The second way of poaching the turtles is to take the adults for their meat.  This has a much more serious impact on the turtle populations as it takes females 35 or so years to reach maturity, and so the killing of an adult female removes the ability to lay many thousands of eggs in her future years.

A few nights ago, we were doing one of our regular night walks along the beach, the ‘late shift’ which is from 10pm until 2am at the morning.  It had been fairly uneventful apart from the Perseid meteor shower providing us with the most amazing shooting stars I’ve ever seen. 

Our group then saw a person with a white light travelling rapidly along the beach, and go into one of the houses along the beach (there are two lodges and perhaps 5 houses along a 3 mile stretch of beach).  We didn’t think too much of it, as we do see people along the beach and in fact one of our tasks is to count and report the numbers each night.  We then came across a set of turtle tracks, and at the top we found a turtle flipped upon her back, but still alive.  Once a turtle is on her back she is completely helpless.  The person that we saw on the beach had found the turtle, flipped her over, and must have been going back to the house for a machete to kill her.  We had disturbed him, and by doing so had found the turtle in time to flip her back over and make sure she got back to sea safely.  It was amazing and really made us feel like we were achieving something great!

Lots of interesting things have been happening around base as well.  I’ve started trying to do some situps and other exercises on a regular basis.  We found some camping mats that are similar to yoga type mats, and use these to do the workout.  The best place to do this is in the rancho which houses a small natural museum with skulls and other specimens, so doing situps while surrounded by turtle, monkey and caiman skulls, and spiders and turtle embryos in bottles is an interesting experience!

Many of you keep telling me to watch out for big spiders.  I saw another Brazilian Wandering Spider the other day and I do have a photo which I will upload when I can – probably when I get up to Nicaragua.  However we mostly encounter spiders in trees.  Strange I know, but when you are canoeing or motoring down the canal, if the person steering is not paying attention, or just not a very good steerer, you veer off into the trees which line the banks.  More often than not, you’ll then find that a jumping spider has appeared in the canoe! Trying to extract a jumping spider from a canoe with just a paddle is a most interesting experience, especially since it is mostly the squealing girls (myself included) that REALLY do not want the jumping spider to jump on our heads.

I got back from off-base the other day to find a notice on the board ‘There is a Caiman in the Bodega’ (storage room). This is really quite unusual so I was keen to find out what this meant.  Apparently one of the up river lodges had come across a Caiman who had been hit by a boat and had a deep cut to her face so they brought her to us! She’d been tied up with a bag over her head (to keep her calm) and we eventually delivered her to a vet in town who could help her out.

I saw 2 river otters the other day, who swam in front of us for quite a while before taking off.  I was quite excited as I have a list of creatures that I am really keen to sight while here.  I still have to see a sloth, kinkajou, Great Potoo and Boat-billed Heron.  I am working on it and will keep you all updated… I also saw a troupe of spider monkeys swinging through the trees the other day including a mum with baby on her back, and a young and small monkey who must have been a ‘teenager’ and who was taking all the crazy teenage risks.  They reached a BIG gap in the trees and all had to take a death-defying leap to make it across.  It was amazing to watch.  Even the monkeys seemed nervous, they all stopped, crept right to the closest point they could, and then made the huge leap, dropping a couple of storeys in height on the way over.  We were mesmerised and it is one of the most amazing things I’ve seen!

A few weeks ago we went to dinner at a luxury lodge quite close to us called Turtle Beach Lodge.  The head chef there told us that he would come over to the station and cook us dinner.  I believed him, but when we got back to the base and told the staff they were very skeptical that he would turn up.  He was as good as his word though, and came over to the station to cook us up a feast that we all chipped in a few dollars to buy some special ingredients.  I volunteered to be his sous-chef and spent 3 hours in the kitchen peeling, chopping and helping to prepare, I learned a few tricks!  Our kitchen must be a chef’s worst nightmare.  It is not the cleanest, we have barely any plates, pots, equipment or bench space, the gas on the burners ran out and had to be replaced, and finally towards the end of the cooking process the power went off and we had to finish up by candlelight.  In testament to his skills however, he turned out an amazing meal, in quantities that 25 hungry people could not even get close to finishing.  It is definitely the most well-fed I’ve been yet!

As I mentioned, I’m in Puerto Viejo this weekend, enjoying a well-earned rest from the hard work over at base.  I had a massage today and tried to work out some of the hideous knots in my back, and am just enjoying being able to sleep in, and have some delicious food and of course cocktails!

I’ve got 2 more weeks as a volunteer, then I am heading up to Nicaragua.  The first week I’ll be spending in another backpacker/surfie town which is called San Juan del Sur, just over the border from Costa Rica, on the Pacific coast.  From there I have two weeks in Granada at Spanish School, and then I will return to base for the last of the 4-week interphase, to help set up for the incoming volunteers.  From there I have 10 weeks as the staff intern, so will be seeing things from the other side of the fence!

I will have much more time and internet access up in Nicaragua so will catch up on all of my surfing and correspondence then…. until then I hope you have all enjoyed this installment and would love to hear from you guys!

Jess xxx


3 Responses to “I saved another turtle….”

  1. MutantMaster Says:

    Hi J,Not much happening here except that spring is well on the way. M & J have gone to Rotorua today so I have peace, perfect peace for three days. Paul has nearly finished installing a bathroom downstairs plus upgrade of basement but the pace is funereal. One of his mates tiled the bathroom floor and I asked him how long before we could walk on it and then I suggested that if I hopped on it it wouldn’t be taking my full weight but he just didn’t get it!
    Only three weeks now til J goes to Nice . Are you going anywhere near Alaric’s neck of the woods during your wandering?
    Love Dx

  2. Iris Greenland Says:

    Hi Jess

    Thanks for that fascinating account of life there. Absolutely amazing. Jo and I have been back from Rotorua for about an hour. We had a nice relaxing time – mostly eating but we did have a swim and a massage. Got to do a lot of Sunday chores now. Hope you enjoy your break. When you’re a staff member will you get any pay? M xxx

  3. Hannah Says:

    Hiya Jess,
    Sounds like you’re having a great time still out there!
    We have not really had much of a summer over here, but I have been doing my best to be away for as much of it as possible. I am off up to Stamford for the Burghley horse trials to see Matt with Steve, Rachel and Tammy next weekend, then to Malaga for Steve’s work jolly in a few weeks, followed by Munich for the beer fest and then Berlin for his friend’s birthday. We have you to thank for inviting us both to your bbq where we first met! Work is the same as ever, though this quarter is going really well so I am not busting a gut…I bet you’re not missing sales….

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