Back in Cano Palma

Firstly I must apologise for my lack of updating this blog, I cannot believe that I have been back here for over a month already, time is flying in time-honoured jungle fashion, and the volunteers are almost ready to leave for their mid-phase break… 

After leaving nicaragua, I arrived back on base a week before the volunteers in order to meet the other new staff members, and to help out with the turtle walks and preparing the base for the new arrivals.  It was a fairly chilled out week and walking with staff members only was enjoyable as everybody was pretty experienced and you could relax and enjoy the walk while watching out for turtles.  One night we sat with a turtle for four hours while she dug body pit after body pit, finally deciding to go back to sea at 3am without laying any eggs whatsoever.

The day of the volunteers arriving came around quickly, and the newer members of staff were a little nervous at the thought of being in charge of the fresh-faced new arrivals, although also excited to be sharing our slice of jungle paradise with a new bunch of eco-warriors.  The boat pulled into the dock, with 15 newbies on board, and who knows what they thought of the welcoming line of staff members, all nearly identically dressed in our matching staff shirts.

The first week is training week for the volunteers, who are hearing presentations, studying or sitting tests virtually from dawn to dusk for the entire week, whilst the staff members are cooking all of the meals, doing all of the cleaning and conducting all of the turtle surveys.  I did not have an appreciation of how hard they were working during my own training week (probably due to how hard I was also working that week!) but I can tell you that it was exhausting although rewarding.  The big reward comes after the end of that first week, NO MORE CAMP DUTY!

For those of you not familiar with life on base, Camp Duty is when two volunteers are rostered on to do all of the cooking and cleaning for the day.  It was quite entertaining at first, but cooking for 25 or so people is not easy, and it is a looooong day, commencing anywhere from 3:45 onwards, and not finishing until the dinner dishes are done at 6pm or so.  It was usually at this point where I needed a cold beer more than any other time during the week.  It is a massive relief not to have to do this any more.  We do however have to do a day of duty staff, which is a more supervisory role.

I have been walking a LOT since being back this time around.  I never got any blisters last phase, but my feet had somehow softened up during the 3 week holiday (despite wearing flipflops and not shoes during that time) and I was having problems with blisters at first, thankfully my feet have now got used to the long miles again.  Last phase I walked around 200 miles over the 10 weeks, and I am already up to over 180 miles this phase, at just before the halfway point.  Night walks will stop some time in the next couple of weeks, but I am thinking I might do 300 miles, and therefore crack the 500 mile mark for my time here in CP.

There have not been many turtles around since the volunteers arrived, despite having quite a few in the last week of interphase.  We went 5 nights without seeing any, and I really thought they had gone for the season, with a couple of volunteers not having worked one.  Thank goodness however, a couple more have come up and now all volunteers have worked a turtle.  I have also managed to tag one, after doing my tagging training and hoping mightily that a suitable turtle came along.  It was a turtle that somebody else had badly tagged, with the tag upside down and embedded into the flipper.  We removed the bad tag, and put a new one in, which I am proud to say I managed to get correct on my first attempt! (luckily for the turtle). 

There is a new community intern who is living over in the San Francisco village. She is a bubbly enthusiastic and rather hilarious girl from the UK.  I took her over into the village to show her around for the first time which was interesting to say the least.  She got bitten by a dog, then was talking to the locals about the differences in vocabulary between UK and US English speakers.  Fair enough, except she used the example of ‘pants’ as her illustration of this.  As in – in the US it means ‘trousers’ and in the UK it means ‘knickers’.  The middle-aged Juan-Pablo found this really tickled his fancy and sat there for a few minutes giggling and saying ‘hee-hee…. bikini!’  ‘hee-hee….. panties!’  On the way back to the base, she then slipped and fell squarely into a huge mud puddle, right in front of several local women and children who were sitting out the front of their house.  What a way to make a first impression in her new home! 

We have had some amazing wildlife sightings since being back-

– Two Mexican prehensile-tailed Porcupines in the trees out by the boatdock.  One of them fell out of the tree onto the angled roof, scrabbled his way up to the top, only to realise there was a steep angle down the other side of the roof.  He rolled all of the way down the roof and fell onto the floor.  I felt sorry for the little fellow, but it was quite amusing as well.

– A baby bird of prey that two of the village children found and gave to the station manager.  We took a vote on his name and the clear winner was ‘Crusher’.  This name suited him very well, considering he was only a few days old and about two inches long.  We had a nice couple of days trying to keep him alive on a diet of mashed banana but unfortunately he stopped eating and died.  RIP crusher.

– A fer-de-lance, which is the most venomous and dangerous snake in Central & South America.  Mike the station manager catches reptiles and puts them into clear tubes for us to have a look at.  She was massive and certainly looked dangerous, I don’t mind snakes but this one gave me the chills.  I am not sure if it is just the fact that it is so dangerous, or whether it was the fact that she had bitten through her own mouth with her huge fangs and was bleeding as well.

– Many, many Brazilian Wandering Spiders are in camp this phase.  They are nobody’s favourite creature, being also highly venomous and also fast moving and fond of jumping, especially when people are trying to catch them. I do not know if they are seasonal, or why there seem to be so many around at the moment.  My first night back in camp I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night in bare feet, and to my horror when I looked down my foot was about an inch away from one of these beauties.  I have never gone anywhere barefoot since then.

– I took two volunteers into the forest on the Jaguar Camera project (Jag-cams).  This project involves setting camera traps in likely spots to be triggered and get pictures of (hopefully) Jaguars and other mammals.  I really enjoyed being in the forest, it made a nice change from being on the beach every day.  We were walking along, and were startled all of a sudden by a flurry of movement in the undergrowth.  A dozen Coati’s burst out of the scrubby forest floor, and bolted up the surrounding trees, at a distance of only a few feet away.  Most of the family hurried off quick-smart into the jungle, but one individual was ‘trapped’ on the far side of where we were standing.  He sat in his tree, regarding us closely.  We were not sure if his look was aggressive, or if he was waiting to see if we were a threat for him.  We must have stood still regarding each other from a very close distance, for around a minute or so before he felt brave enough to cross our path and join the rest of his family on the other side of the trail.  A fantastic sighting!

– Some HUGE Green Iguanas, over a metre long.  One was in the tree at the cafe where we were having lunch in town a couple of days ago, and did not seem to mind being very closely observed at a distance of around a couple of feet.  It was incredible, you could see every scale on his body and I was marvelling at how prehistoric he looked.  His head was very dinosaur-like and he was eating leaves off the tree like a leaf-eating machine. ‘om nom nom’

– A red-eyed tree frog.  We found this yesterday over in San Francisco, in the middle of the day.  They are nocturnal so he was rather sleepy.  They have three eyelids and we saw at least one pair, which was hatched with gold lines so his eyes appeared open even though they were closed.  When he did open the lids, his eyes were an incredible bright red (surprise!) When he was all tucked up on the leaf he was a lovely peppermint green but when he was (very carefully) picked up and he stretched his legs, he was an amazing bright blue with the characteristic red sucker feet.  So beautiful.

Yesterday was the community event in San Francisco.  There is a festival on in Tortuguero at the moment, and the community is entering a float designed to look like the ‘cerro’ (local hill) on the back of a boat.  We were drafted in to help.  One of the local lodges donated the materials and the school children made and painted flowers from plastic bottles which they picked up as litter on the beach.  So far so good.  However when we got there yesterday, the entire project had been hijacked by one local family, the head of which is a lady who is (or thinks she is) one of the heads of the village.  Firstly, they did not want to put all of the flowers onto the float, only the ‘good’ ones.  Never mind that these flowers had been painted by kids as young as four or five, all of whom were immensely proud of their work.  They then made us go over to the other side of the canal to hack down a huge amount of the natural tree foliage to cover the hill.  Being a conservation organisation we were not too pleased with this.  We then found a furry caterpillar which was more than likely venomous.  The scary machete lady promptly took him off and drowned him in the canal.  Later, a tarantula emerged from the vegetation we’d just been dragging from the forest.  The lady then macheted the tarantula, to our horror.  They then proceeded to tell us we were doing everything wrong, and did not seem to want or need our help at all, so we headed back to base.  The float is launching today over to Tortuguero, I am very interested to see what it has ended up looking like.

It is halloween today and we made some decorations from old bottles also found as rubbish on the beach.  My art work is a bit iffy to say the least, but they look great in the kitchen.  I also made some green porridge for breakfast this morning, which I thought looked fantastic! Most people agreed, but some people could not stomach green porridge at 4am.  Fair enough I suppose.  We’re also going to make multi-coloured spaghetti for dinner and dress up with face paint later on.  It is a good excuse to do something a bit different for the day so I hope that all of the volunteers enjoy themselves…..

That is about it for the moment, I will try not to take another month to update the blog, let me know how all of you are doing as well!

Jess x


2 Responses to “Back in Cano Palma”

  1. Iris Greenland Says:

    Those creatures you’re living cheek-by-jowl with give me the heebie-jeebies!!!

  2. MutantMaster Says:

    Mashed bananas for a bird of prey! No wonder it snuffed it.

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