A Travellerspoint blog

Inti Wara Yassi - Playing With The Big Boys

all seasons in one day 28 °C

The rain kept going all night and the girls that are working in the Aviary measured 45cm overnight.

I let my guard slip while I was playing with Cesar and he proceeded to give me a hard bite with like half of my hand in his mouth. Only one tooth pierced the skin but my hand feels really bruised and tender. He got me good haha. There is a reason why these guys are in pens.
I also got groomed by Baby for the first time. It is probably going to be the last time as well because he is mental when it comes to grooming. It felt like a dog trying to dig a hole into my skull. He cut up my scalp and when I pulled away he grabbed a chunk of hair and ripped it out. It gave me an instant headache and I actually got an egg from where he ripped my hair out. It was pretty intense but I can easily avoid that happening again by not presenting my delicate skull within reach.

At dinner I was asked by Megan (volunteer co-ordinator and Spider Park specialist) to change from Quarantine and dedicate 2 months to the spider monkeys in Spider Park. There were several reasons for this. One of them being that the spider monkey group known as Los Negros is quite unstable now that they attacked and removed one of the core males (Mickey-Thomas) from the group and by having more long term volunteers it is one less stress for the monkeys not to have to deal with new people. I agreed, which means that I actually only have a couple of days left with the capuchins in Quarantine. I’m a bit sad about leaving Quarantine after only 2 weeks; I intended on staying for at least 6 weeks. I really wanted more time to further develop the relationships that I have worked so hard for. But perhaps I will go back there after the 2 months with the spiders.

The last couple of days went smoothly. As expected I was bitten both days, once by Corolla right on the first joint of my index finger, it’s also a bit infected so I’ve been washing it with Iodine. Baby also got me again as I was feeding him peanuts.

I also had a hilarious moment while I was lying on the ground with a curious Eric checking me out. Not sure if anyone has lain down before so he was really curious. He got fixated on my lips and I opened my mouth to show him my teeth and he instantly shoved his arm up to his elbow down my throat. It was so scary and hilarious at the same time. Luckily he didn’t grab any of my guts, but I certainly won’t be letting a monkey look down my throat again.

I was able to get a few nice photos on the second last day but it’s almost impossible to use a camera around monkeys. They all go crazy trying to grab it and bite it and smash it so that is a shame but these memories will take a very long time to fade!

What was meant to be my last day in Quarantine ended up being fairly horrendous when I woke up at midnight needing to run to the toilet to simultaneously shit and spew. This repeated every hour until 6am. I also had a crazy fever and I slept in a shirt, 2 jackets, and track pants, where I normally just have boxers on. So I had a day off – this was a bit shit though because I had planned on taking heaps more photos. But I’m sure I’ll get back there some point :)

So tomorrow I start my first day in Spider Park – not looking forward to that hill but it will be a good experience to work with such a different species of monkey.

These are a few of the pictures that I took.

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^^ KP being super cute as usual

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^^ KP

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^^ KP

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^^ Edwin finally lets me touch him without going mental

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^^ Edwin

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^^ Edwin

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^^ Edwin enjoying a snack

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^^ Edwin

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^^ Cesar investigating a flower

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^^ Cesar - The alpha male in the Heaven side of Quarantine

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^^ Cesar - he's a big boy

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^^ Cesar

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^^ Cesar

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^^ Baby enjoying some peanuts

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^^ Baby

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^^ Baby

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^^ Giving peanuts to baby moments before almost losing a finger

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^^ Baby is fast - luckily his canines missed

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^^ Eric

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^^ Eric enjoying a swing - they get really good at using their cord

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^^ Lilush

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^^ Awe Lilush

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^^ Paske

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^^ Paske

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^^ Hanging out with Paske

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^^ Paske resting in my lap

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^^ Pequeno with his mischievous look

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 17:19 Archived in Bolivia Tagged monkey animal coca volunteer tortuga male thunderstorm puente puma bite capuchin quarantine cesar cochabamba pepper yassi inti alpha tunari villa_tunari ciwy wara espiritu_santo_bridge totito Comments (1)

Inti Wara Yassi - Loving It More and More Every Day

all seasons in one day 28 °C

I have exciting news! I went 2 days without getting bitten – good times, good times! My run was ended by Pequeno who decided that he didn’t want to hang out with me anymore and that a hard bite on the finger was appropriate behaviour to get rid of me…he was right. He got me good and it bled a lot. He got me right on the end of my finger, one of his canines was stopped by my nail however the other went in nice and deep through the bottom of my finger. All part of the job though, and we’re still friends :)

We have 2 new volunteers in Quarantine and unfortunately they suck. They are sooooooooo slow at doing anything and it is beginning to rub on my nerves. It’s shitty when you are hard at work scrubbing under cages and you look up and someone is just standing with a broom playing with the monkeys. There’s not much I can do about that though. I have come to realise that some people inevitably come here to volunteer with the mentality of more play than work which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the team that actually want to finish the day before it’s pitch black. People need to be reminded that we are here for the animals. You can play with them all you want but if they are sleeping in shit they are going to get sick and die then there is no more monkeys to play with. Sorry for the rant I’ll stop now.

The days have been starting so promising with no clouds in the sky so I decided to scrub my clothes and hang them out. It was sunny all day until 6pm at which point the heavens opened up and everything on the lines back at the casa were drenched. This is a frustrating process that repeats every day.

Today I finally broke through to the massive males in the pens and got to play with Edwin, Cesar, and Baby! I think that once you get through to one the others see and accept you as well. Cesar is the alpha male in Heaven so I always greet him first – he also gets fed first and gets to play with the biggest branches. He plays rough though and his play bites are very close to piercing the skin. My fingers were all bruised after getting grabbed and man handled by him but there was no aggression so I can’t complain.
Edwin groomed me and it felt soooo good because he is the roughest groomer I’ve ever seen. It was the best scalp massage as he rummaged through my hair looking for dead skin and bugs (of which there were plenty of both). He is really strong though and a few times slammed my head into the side of the cage;pretty funny and scary at the same time.
Baby let me groom him and scratch his back but he wasn’t interested in touching me in return. In fact 2 minutes after I gave him a good scratching he grabbed me when I walked past and viciously sliced his nails down my arm drawing blood. So I still have a fair bit of work with him.

Patty started going on heat today and she is the craziest one on heat that I’ve encountered. I was unable to clean the corner of Quarantine that she was in because she was being so psycho. Giving me the sexy face all morning but if I got too close she would pick up rocks and throw them at me. At one point she tricked me and walked away so I got in closer to sweep and she turned and lunged at my head. She grasped onto my head and when I started walking away and her runner was pulling her off me she decided to go into attack mode while sitting on my head. I made a run for it but she still managed to take a chunk out of the shoulder as she fell off. The other bite only got my boot so that was lucky. Crazy monkeys! I love ‘em!

We’ve been doing a fair bit of construction with Jackie. She is one of the very few Bolivian volunteers and loves changing up the areas putting in new obstacle and redesigning runners. It’s been pretty fun. I’ve never really done construction before but today I dug two pole holes through cement with a sledgehammer and pick. I discovered that digging a hole is a pretty satisfying activity. Although the blisters hurt, but they do look pretty manly and the monkeys like to lick them.

Once again at around 6pm it started raining – although this time soo heavy that we couldn’t even hear each other from the noise of rain on the roofs and ground. I decided to try and avoid my boots from getting saturated and decided to strip down to my boardies and finish the day embracing the rain. It made me feel good when I watched everyone else emptying small lakes from their boots – tomorrow I’ll have dry boots.

I’ve been working now for 10 days and it’ssooooo fucking cool being here. This is probably the best thing I’ve done in my life. I love it here and totally understand why some volunteers have been here for 3 or even 5 years.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 17:14 Archived in Bolivia Tagged monkey animal baby coca volunteer tortuga male thunderstorm puente puma bite capuchin edwin quarantine cesar cochabamba pepper yassi pequeño inti alpha tunari villa_tunari ciwy wara espiritu_santo_bridge totito patty Comments (1)

A Quick Update From The Jungle

sunny 29 °C

All of my clothes have been wet for 4 days now and they have achieved that stinking stench that occurs if you leave your clothes in the washing machine for too long. It’s pretty gross but everyone is in the same boat so I’m not the only mouldy person walking around. Fingers crossed the rain lets up for a couple of days to dry everything out.

I got bitten by Pepper again today which I think makes that bite number five. My hands have holes and scratches all over them. I especially hate the days we give oranges out for snacks because the acidic juices make me want to cry.

Totito has come off heat now and is back to hating on all men.

There is only one monkey on the runners that I can’t handle or be near. His name is Gumilo and there is something about me that makes him either want to viciously maul me whenever I am near or sit in a quivering ball and cry. I have a theory that perhaps I remind him of someone from his past that mistreated him. But whatever it is I can’t go near him. This is sometimes a problem if someone moves him and I don’t realise and all of a sudden from the corner of my eye I see him lunging with all of his big, shiny, white teeth through the air at me.

I became accepted friends with KP today. She is one of the monkeys that are permanently in pens. It was nice to be able to groom and play with her through the cage. She is really funny once you get to know her. I’m still working on the big boys though.

Found out tonight that we start early again tomorrow because now we need to haul sand up to Spider Park for the cementing of Mickey-Thomas’s pen. I’ll be fit when I get back home :)

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 17:11 Archived in Bolivia Tagged monkey animal coca volunteer tortuga male thunderstorm puente puma bite capuchin quarantine cesar cochabamba pepper yassi inti alpha tunari villa_tunari ciwy wara espiritu_santo_bridge totito kp gumilo Comments (1)

Inti Wara Yassi - The Capuchins Say Hi

all seasons in one day 27 °C

The last 4 days have been an absolutely amazing experience both personally and professionally. I can’t seem to imagine any other hands on experience that would compete with what I am doing now. Every day I’m growing more and more confident and with this confidence comes an assuring calmness that I definitely know rubs off on the monkeys. They are respecting me more and more and it is becoming more rewarding each day that I get to work with these cool little monkeys.

The long 12 hour days are tough work and the combined 7 hours of hard core cleaning is not the greatest but it’s overshadowed by the fact that I’m doing this work for all my little capuchin friends :) and the hilarious antics that occur all day are worth the scrubbing.

A few noteworthy things have occurred these last 4 days.

  • I was bitten on my second day by my friend Pepper she drew blood and then ran off with a mischievous smile on her face. I could already tell this would not be the last time and unsurprisingly I can report that she has successfully bitten me every day so far, we’re working on it though.
  • My boots have worn all the hair off the sides of my legs and I have discovered the monkeys quite like to rub their hands and feet along the spikey regrowth - my lack of consistent facial hair is made up by my impressive leg hair.
  • I spent pretty much every free moment one day trying to get to know a freaky little monkey called Totito who has an aversion to males. I thought I had made breakthrough progress when she came down and sat on my head even though she was hissing and crying and foaming at the mouth. I’ve now found out that she isn’t my friend she is just on heat and her hormones compelled her to latch onto me.
  • There is a big free male from the jungle that comes down and causes havoc by running around and fighting everyone. I’ve gotten fairly good at chasing him away but one day I didn’t have a weapon and he decided to turn on me and I was forced to run away. Which immediately made me his bitch but hopefully this can be corrected with firm scaring’s in the future.
  • We had to start at 5:30am yesterday to haul rocks before work up to the Spider Park. They are cementing a new pen floor for a spider monkey called Mickey-Thomas who was severely mauled in a massive brawl a couple of days ago. He is currently in the clinic but will need to use this pen as a re-integration step to get freed back into Spider Park. The ‘path’ up to the spider park is a treacherous, muddy passage with sections that require you to pull yourself up using a rope; a fact that would have helped me judge my rock carrying capabilities had I known. The path is hard enough to walk up without a load and I made the mistake of loading my rice bag with about 20kg of rocks – I was horrendously surprised when I realised what I would have to be climbing up with such a heavy sack over my shoulder. I almost vomited when I reached the top and thought I was about to pass out. Needless to say my second and third trip up contained much less rocks. After this backbreaking morning it was off to work as normal at 7:30am.
  • I moved into the accommodation on the park called Casa Copa where I’m sharing a room with a New Zealand bloke called Steve. Luckily he doesn’t snore or do any gross weird stuff so I’m happy.
  • We had a fundraising taco night which was fun. Everyone hung out drinking beers and chewing coca leaves, it was good to get to know a few of the other volunteers. It was also a good opportunity to eat meat because the park café is vegetarian only.
  • Last night we had an incredibly huge thunderstorm that started at 7pm and went through to about 5am. Normally big lightning storms only last a couple of hours but this one was huge. By far the loudest most frequent striking storm I’ve ever been in. The doors on the house were actually shaking from the explosions. It was impossible to sleep so we just sat around listening to what sounded like the end of the world. I asked Steve who has lived in Darwin for several years how this compares to home and he said this was considerably worse. It was very impressive though.
  • Cesar our big alpha male on the Heaven side of Quarantine escaped his pen today. He is one of ten monkeys in Heaven that are permanently in pens due to behavioural issues and his escape was a pretty tense moment. Luckily Or (an Israeli girl who has been volunteering in Quarantine for several years now) was able to quickly blow dart him and after a trip to the vet he was back in a pen. We used the opportunity to change his pen so that he woke up to new scenery.
  • Today I also made friends with a few of the large males that are on runners, that was a big confidence boost because they are fairly intimidating with their huge canines. I still have yet to break through to the humungous males in the pens who still charge and try to grab and maul me through the cage but hopefully with more time and persistence they too will accept me.

That is pretty much all the interesting news I have from the last 4 days, although there is so much more to talk about it would blister my fingers if I tried to type it all up, although it’s all written in my diary so I can’t wait to tell you all about it when I get home.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 17:02 Archived in Bolivia Tagged monkey animal coca volunteer tortuga male thunderstorm puente puma bite capuchin quarantine cesar cochabamba pepper yassi inti alpha tunari villa_tunari ciwy wara espiritu_santo_bridge totito Comments (1)

First Day At Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi

sunny 28 °C

My first day started early at 6:20am as I waltzed across the Espiritu Santo bridge. It’s arguably the most dangerous bridge I’ve ever crossed. There is absolutely no walking room on this bridge and in Bolivia it’s completely normal to be passing an 18 wheeler with your 18 wheeler…on a bridge…approaching 2 blind corners…in the rain…at night…with no lights…drunk. There were more than a couple of moments where hopping onto the side rails above a 25m drop onto rocks below were significant improvements to my foreseeable future.

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^^ Off to work

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^^ The Inti Wara Yassi Cafe

Bridges aside the morning was nice. I had scrambled eggs for breakfast at the park café before heading into Quarantine for a 7:30am start. There are around 60 capuchin monkeys in Quarantine and as is expected that is a lot of shit to clean :).
After they get a breakfast of bananas and api (warm sugary porridge) it’s time to clean all the pens. The clean takes around 2 hours with 6 people – obviously in times where volunteer numbers are low I could imagine this would take significantly longer. Then it’s time for their snack; they get something different every day, it could be corn, fruits, dog food, dried sardines, or anything else that a monkey would like to eat :). We then go out into the jungle and chop down branches for them to play with throughout the day. We then prepare lunch – it’s always 4 different types of fruit. After they eat lunch it’s time to start the clean all over again. 2 hours later most of us get an hour break for our lunch and head to the café for almuerzo – every day is a different dish that the ladies cook up for all the volunteers. After lunch we head back and give the monkeys another snack followed by more branches. This is the coolest part of the day because there is about an hour and a half where there is nothing to do but bond and play with monkeys! After play time is over they get dinner which is a combination of fruits and vegetables, followed by more api. Then the clean begins for the third and final time. After everything has been cleaned up the monkeys on runners are put into their pens and as the sun disappears over the mountains we all breathe a collective sigh and look forward to doing it all again tomorrow. We finished around 7pm and I was so tired I had a burger and a beer at the café, crossed the treacherous bridge back into town, and fell into a coma.

If you’re wondering why there are no photos in the blogs to come it’s because you’re not allowed to take photos until your last 2 days. This is because there was previously a problem where people would sign up for a month of volunteering, take photos on their first day and then disappear throughout the night never to be seen again.

Keep an eye out, there will be more blog entries to come!

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 16:56 Archived in Bolivia Tagged monkey animal volunteer parque puente puma capuchin quarantine cochabamba yassi inti tunari villa_tunari ciwy wara espiritu_santo_bridge machia Comments (1)

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