Walking with Pumas - Day 1 - 15

Trip Start Apr 10, 2012
Trip End Apr 06, 2013

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Flag of Bolivia  , Beni Dept,
Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Day 1

After spending two & a half weeks in La Paz, waiting for a parcel of natural insect repellent, natural soap & memory cards for the camera (and SJ's precious lip cream), AK & SJ decided to leave for the volunteer project in the Amazon, without it. We were getting really bored of waiting round every day, not knowing when it was going to turn up.
We set off for La Paz airport, in order to catch a short flight to the jungle town of Rurranabaque, for which we would have to board a very small aircraft. SJ was not looking forward to it, and after boarding the very small plane, she began to get nervous. The plane was about a twenty seat capacity, which was only half full.
The flight only lasted forty five minutes and although it was a bit scary just because it was a small plane there was no scary moments, good for SJ. As soon as we left La Paz we were flying over beautiful jungle, which was good to look down on, and an exciting prospect knowing we were going to spend some time living & working there. We came in to a sudden and steep landing on a short stretch of tarmac, as soon as we landed the plane turned onto a field, and parked outside the "airport", which was, in this case, a small old wooden building with a corrugated tin roof, we'd seen bigger....in Brookvale!
A quick journey into Rurranabaque, and we were directed to the river crossing, where we were to get the boat across to the more secluded town of San BuenaVentura. This journey cost 1.50 bolivianos (15p). We crossed the river Beni to find out we were the only gringo's in this smaller, more isolated village, but the locals were pretty kind & helpful. AK managed to tell the woman in the small ticket booth that we needed two tickets to Parque Jacj Cuisi. We waited for about one hour, then left in a small van full of locals to the Parque. The journey only took about forty five-sixty minutes, on a bumpy dirt track, during this ride the amount of different butterflies we seen was unbelievable.
We walked through the Parque gates, and the first person we seen was Natalie, who we met with Gareth in our hostel in La Paz, she was lying in a hammock in the midday sun. We were introduced to Molly, the volunteer coordinator, and Peter (aka Maximus), one of the volunteers. Slowly but surely through the day we met everybody else, and we got a good feel about the place. One of SJ's first tasks was to carve up all the meat for the cats for the next three days. They have chicken most days and beef on one day. It was not a nice job as you have to weigh it out precisely a set weight which means breaking some of the chicken bones to get the right weight At about five o'clock we were introduced to the stream, a nice place to get washed, and relax in at the end of a hot day. Half seven was dinner time, and we found out that the food we were going to be eating was pretty good....especially considering there was no electricity here.
The bathroom is worth a mention just for he fact that it is a hole in the ground with bricks on either side for you to stand while you squat! SJ found them very stressful but AK took it in his stride as usual.
By now we had been introduced to the small community of volunteers and family at the Parque. Querubena was the Parque coordinator, she was a very warm and friendly woman with a strong passion for wildlife. Her husband, Dimitrio was the construction coordinator, he loved a of football, and taught us all some of his favourite swear words, although not intentionally, he would yell them out when he would lose to dishes at rock paper scissors. Their two young daughters were Miriam and Vanessa, a shy, cute couple of girls.
Jael was the young,attractive female vet, who was always up for a laugh and a game of football, she lived at the Parque with her young daughter, Catalina. Catalina was a cute, yet slightly mischievous girl, but in a nice, fun way.
Molly was the volunteer coordinator, she was there for a while and well and truly settled into Parque life, including mass coca chewing.
Dave was a young lad originally from Puerta Rico, but moved to Chicago when he was a kid, he was good with the cats and always up for a laugh.
Pete was a volunteer from Reading, UK. He was also always up for a laugh, and always up for gelling his hair....in the jungle of all places!
Then there was Gaz and Nat, who we'd met in La Paz before arriving here. We'd been talking to them about coming to Jacj Cuisi, and that night they'd decided they were going to join us for three weeks. They were a down to earth couple from Wakefield in the north of England, this was rare for AK and SJ to come across northeners on their trip, as most of the English they met were from down south....southern fairies!

Day 2

We woke up to the sound of a group of macaws flying over us, AK woke up with a bad back, as the thin, straw mattress we used were not the comfiest for sleeping on, unusually SJ found the bed and pillow very comfy as she likes them to be thin and rock hard! Today we were to meet the pumas that we would be working with for the full time we were here. First though, it was time for breakfast. Everyday the volunteers were assigned tasks, simple things like helping to prepare breakfast, cleaning the dorm or kitchen etc.
AK's puma was a large male called Lishou, SJ's puma was a female called Luna. AK found out how hard it was going to be to look after Lishou, whilst taking him on a walk through the jungle with Dave & Pete, the two lads who had been looking after him before we turned up. The walk to Lishou was about 1 km through the jungle, as we approached his cage, which is about the size of a small mansion, in the middle of the jungle. We stroked him & played with him for a while then let him out of the cage to walk him with a long rope for a lead. The start of his walk was down a steep hill, which he decided to sprint down dragging Dave, who was leading him today, with him. At the bottom of the hill Lishou turned around & jumped on Dave & held him on the ground, he informed me this was pretty common & not to get freaked out. The rest of the walk was pretty calm, sometimes exciting. Another thing Lishou likes to do is hunt, so when he sees a bird or another animal, he rapidly darts off, prompting everyone else to run after him, which can be pretty difficult when you're trying to dodge fallen trees, dangling vines and streams. AK would have to get to know how to treat Lishou, as well as knowing his trails through the jungle. As Dave had been working with him for a short while, he was to help AK for the next week. We got back to his cage after walking him for about 90 minutes, then Dave left to take SJ to meet Luna, while AK & Pete stayed to feed Lishou.
Meanwhile, SJ started out on the fairly long walk to Luna's cage. This consisted of an uphill hike along a stream, wellies are a must for this trip. We all have to shout 'hola Luna' as we approach so that she knows how many of us are there. We eventually got to her cage (the cage is really big and is more like a huge den with trees and bushes and a house for her to sleep in!) and SJ was confronted with a large sandy coloured female Puma. She was a bit unsure about SJ initially but it only lasted a few minutes and soon she was purring and giving SJ affection, through the cage of course! It all went quite well and Dave said that Luna seemed to like SJ which made SJ happy. After we had fed her and given her water we left her for the evening and would return the following day to walk her, the first time for SJ.
After being out in the jungle, the best time of day is bath time. We get washed in the creek which is over the road behind the neighbours house. He doesn't mind us using the creek and we always make sure we shout 'hola' and keep friendly with him as we love taking a bath in the creek. It's cold but feels good after getting all hot and sweaty in the jungle, you have to use natural soap and shampoo and you have to keep moving as the fish in there bite you! SJ found this out when one bit so hard it gave her a blood blister.
It was AK's & Daves turn to make dinner, so after a dip in the stream, they headed to the kitchen to start preparing. Who's ever turn it is to make dinner, basically decides what to make out of what ever is available....which is mostly vegetarian! They decided on pasta with meatballs, using the left over lentil veggie burgers from lunch time. The meatballs turned out great....the giant pan of pasta didn't, at least not the first one anyway. It all turned out well in the end & everyone had a good scran.

Day 3

Another wake up call from the great sounds of the jungle, and we headed straight to breakfast, AK's back was better today as he put another, softer mattress on top of the other one the day before. Meal times are great at Jacj Cuisi, the table is always full of banter, jokes, and camaraderie, which is what you need when you're working in this type of enviroment. Also during meal time, every body at the table takes part in a paper scissors rock competition, to determine who washes all the dishes, SJ soon found out she was either bad, or unlucky at the game and now refuses to play the game. She thinks gambling is a mugs game anyway!
AK & Natalie were to spend the morning helping Dimitrio with construction, while SJ was going with Dave & Pete on her first walk with Luna. After the usual walk up the creek we got there Lina was in a good mood. SJ was to be the third person and was excited about taking Luna out. After giving and receiving affection from Luna through the holes in the cage and after running around her den like a nutter Luna indicated that she was ready to go and walk by licking the bars of the fence door. After attaching a long thick rope to her collar (which is then attached to the first person by a thick rope around their waist) Luna was ready to go. Dave was the first person, Pete the second and SJ third. At first Luna showed no interest in SJ and we headed out on a long and tough walk, up steep hills through the jungle. At times Luna was running quote fast and if Luna runs, we all have to run too. It's all about the cat! Eventually she wanted to stop and rest and it was then that SJ learned that Luna had a 'jumping' routine. She lies down, taps her rope and makes a run for you which she did to SJ a few times. She is just playing but it's quite scary having your whole thigh inside a Pumas mouth!
Meanwhile AK & Natalie were moving timber for Dimitrio, when he got bit on the finger by a bullet ant, which made his finger swell straight away. Bullet ants are literally an inch long, and are found all around the jungle. Not long after this, whilst walking back to our camp, we spotted a couple of macaws in the trees above us, they looked so big & colourful, and weren't fazed by us standing there, photographing them.
In the afternoon AK went to walk Lishou with Pete & Dave again, he never went running too many times this time. He'd literally took the skin off AK's arm the day before, just by licking it, he has a tongue like sand paper! After the walk it was time for a game of football back at camp on our improvised pitch. SJ was on dinner duty, so AK, Gaz, Dave, Pete, Dimitrio, Nat & Jael all played for about forty five minutes. AK was made up as this was his first game since we left home four months ago. After football it was down to the stream, where we washed our body's & clothes, it was to nice to cool down at the end of the day as the heat was pretty intense!
SJ in the mean time was not having a successful time making dinner, the portable gas can had ran out & we had no more on camp. The food was swiftly transferred to the fire area, and back on course for eating. On the menu tonight was a rare steak, which SJ had marinated, so being flame grilled on the fire it tasted great....everybody was fighting over the scraps! SJ might just have some cooking skills in her yet!

Day 4

After spotting the macaws in the jungle the day before, AK decided to get up half an hour later to walk into the jungle & try to spot some monkeys, but was unsuccessful. You have to be out there between six & seven to spot them, which is hard to do when you're so tired from the day before.
SJ went off to take Luna out after breakfast, while AK helped do some gardening with Jael & her mum. Today was particularly hot, so we were welcoming lots of breaks, including one where we split open a couple of coconuts, and drank the milk from inside. SJ walked Luna as the second person and they were getting along great even though Luna jumped SJ a couple of times. SJ thought it might be the trousers she was wearing so she decided to try a different pair the next day.
In the afternoon AK went out to see Lishou with Dave, by now he was getting to know AK a bit more, and licking his arm through the cage all the time (Lishou, not Dave). It was AK's first time leading the walk, which means you hold the lead & walk directly behind him. He was good through his walk, besides his growling & hissing when he did not get his own way, but nothing too serious. After every walk he got fed, which consists of raw chicken or beef. Watching him eat was a sight, he goes through bone like butter!
SJ had spent the afternoon with Dimitri and Nat chopping down dried banana tree leaves. Toward the afternoon SJ spotted a small snake in one of the trees so we took loads of pictures and were having a good look with Catalina the vets 4 year old daughter when Dimitri told us to be careful as it was a baby bushman snake that is poisonous!
It was nearly tea time & it was time for the stream/bath/laundrette, especially for AK, by now he had his own system going where he'd wash his underwear & t shirt from that day, take them back to dry, then change into the ones he washed the day before!
Everybody met up for dinner, which was to be held around the campfire again. Jaels mum, Alba took control of the cooking, as she did most of the time as she was so good at it, she never disappoints when it comes to meal time!
The sun goes down quickly in the jungle, and with the lack of light pollution, the stars look phenomenal, we can even see part of the milky way most nights! It's a beautiful sight.

Day 5

Everybody woke up to the sound of "DESAYUNO" being shouted from the kitchen on the other side of camp, desayuno means breakfast & is shouted by which ever volunteer is making it on that day. We made our way to the kitchen, and ate sweet bread & oranges, washed down with hot chocolate.
Again today SJ had her duties with Luna in the morning and it was her first time walking Luna as the first person. She was a little nervous but it started out great and Luna was fairly relaxed and enjoying exploring the jungle. Things took a slight downward turn when Luna jumped SJ and sunk her teeth into her thighs! Its still only playing in Luna's eyes but she is a big powerful Puma and left some big bruises on SJ's legs. We also got lost so by the end of the walk Luna was hugely pissed off with us.
Meanwhile AK was with Lishou in the afternoon. After SJ went off, AK & Nat helped Dimitrio clear the fields of old dead shrubbery, by burning it all....which was fun. This had to be done every so often to clear the fields, and make way for new growth.
Today for lunch, everybody payed 15 bolivianos (£1.50), to eat pork from a nearby farm. Although the vegetarian food we were eating most days tasted great, the chance to have a nice piece of meat was not turned down by anybody....and it was delicious!
AK went out after dinner to see Lishou & take him out through his jungle trails, SJ stayed at camp & helped Nat & Dimitrio with construction, which consisted of lighting more fires & trying to prevent them from getting out of control. Lishou only had a small walk as his back leg seemed to be bothering him, which is an existing injury. It was great spending time with him, even if he jumps one of us or puts his mouth around one of our limbs, it's not malicious in any way....just a big, fully grown puma, wanting to play!
Time for the stream for that much needed cooling down, this is one of the things that gets us through the day, a nice cool dip as the sun starts to go down. Not that you need any encouragement to get through the day, just being in the amazon while working with, and seeing all the wildlife is enough!

Day 6

We all woke up excited as today was our last day in work before a much needed day off. After breakfast SJ headed out to Luna, while AK chopped down bushes with Nat & Pete. SJ was a bit nervous about walking Luna after getting jumped the day before but fortunately Luna was having a lazy day and just spent time on her runner before going back to her den. AK & Nat spotted a couple of vultures whilst working in the morning, so they got closer to investigate & take a couple of pictures.
We had lunch in the early afternoon, then AK headed off to walk Lishou with Dave & Pete, whilst SJ carried on with some bush cutting duties around camp. Today was to be the last day that Dave would accompany AK & Pete to walk Lishou, by now he was pretty used to them both so it would just be the two of them walking him from now on. Lishou was quite good & pretty calm on his walk, which was only a reasonably short one today. AK and SJ then returned to their cats den & fed them their chicken, played with them for a bit and then left them. We wouldn't see our cats for two days as we had a day off the next day, and were all heading into Rurrenabaque later that day, to spend the night. SJ felt sad leaving Luna knowing that she wouldn't see her for a while and was going to worry about her.
Everybody met up at camp in the late afternoon, got washed in the stream, and got ready to hitchhike into town from camp. The ride is 25k & takes about an hour on a bumpy dirt road, but well worth it knowing we could have a cold beer....or several as it turned out. Dave & Pete left camp first & hitched a ride from an ambulance, then AK, SJ, Gaz & Nat ended up waiting for a few hours longer for their lift. Eventually a jeep turned up & the driver agreed to give us a lift. SJ & Nat sat on the back seat next to a local stranger, while AK & Gaz got stuck in the boot next to the chain saw & other tools. By now it was dark & the drive to town seemed to take longer than it actually did, the bumpy road was particularly bad as it was dark so the lads in the back were rocking all over the place, but they did see a lot of fire flies outside amongst the trees, as they looked back, out of the window. SJ was getting rather warm as the guy in the back kept falling asleep and cuddling into her! We finally arrived at the town, then it was a quick boat ride across the Rio Beni & we were in Rurrenabaque, but not before SJ had fell down on the boat twice and she had not even had a drink yet. It took us a while to find the cheap hostel we were told to meet at, but we got there in the end, where we were met by Mollie, who had sorted our private rooms. The rooms were really basic but for twenty bolivianos each (£2) for the night, we weren't gonna complain. Straight over to the shop across the road to buy some cold beers, then we chilled out on the balcony for an hour or two, before heading off to one of the bars to drink cocktails, play pool, and requested some of our favourite songs to be played. After the bar closed, we went back to the hostel, and all congregated in Nat's & Gaz's room to drink vodka & potable, the 96% proof Bolivian spirit. Night time turned into the early hours, and after most people went to bed, AK, Dave & Molly carried on the drinking back at Mollies room. The session finally ended at a rather late hour, then it was bed time, although we're not sure if anybody actually remembers going to bed or sleeping for that matter.

Day 7

The next morning came & AK was definitely still drunk when he woke up, something SJ had seen many times before in the past. He woke early which meant he hadn't had much sleep after drinking rather a lot of alcohol....it was going to be a long day. Everybody headed to the Internet cafe next door to Skype home, which nobody had done for a week. AK's call home to his mum & dad was particularly interesting, because he was drunk he was slurring his words, & repeating things he'd already said, including the story of waking up of a morning to macaws flying over head. This made some of the others laugh listening to him, i'm sure his mum & dad weren't too impressed, but glad to speak to him at the same time, plus, like SJ, they had experienced this kind of scenario several times before in the past.
In the afternoon, AK, SJ, Gaz & Nat decided to pay a small fee to use the hostel to catch up on some much needed sleep. After a couple of hours of kip, we got up to buy some bits to bring back to Jacj Cuisi. Things like chilli powder to add to our meals, and crackers to nibble on during the day, also some of us stocked up on some coca leaves for the week. After visiting the shops it was time to go for our long awaited steak....and it was well worth the wait. We had been talking about the steak all week, and we enjoyed every moment of it.
The sun went down & it was time to make our way back, we jumped the boat across the Beni, to San Buenaventura, where we waited for two hours to get a lift home. Everybody was tired at this point & ready to get back & go to bed. Eventually we managed to find a lift, so we all crammed into a jeep (turned out to be the same one the four of us got a lift in the day before). The ride home was unbelievably uncomfortable due to there being so many people in the car, plus the long bumpy dirt road we had to travel on to get there. After what seemed an eternity to get back to the Parque, we unloaded the weeks supply of groceries, and the gas canisters, brushed our teeth, and as it was by now 11pm went straight to bed where we all slept through the night.

Day 8

Morning came & we all had to be woken up for breakfast, even AK who'd spent the whole of last week waking up about an hour before breakfast was ready. We all ate breakfast & spoke about how tired we were, and the day we had ahead of us. Today AK & Pete were starting to look after Lishou all day, without the help of Dave. SJ & Dave were starting to look after Luna all day, instead of the half days we were doing the week before.
AK & Pete , made their way to Lishou after breakfast, he seemed to be very lively in his den, licking our hands non stop, and running around when we shook the branches (this is what we did to get rid of a lot of his adrenaline before we took him out, other wise he would be very hyper). The time came to try & get him out, so Pete went in to saddle him up, and got "jumped". This wasn't uncommon, but Lishou wouldn't let go, AK had to go in to intervene but it was still a struggle. After about a minute (which was quite long for a situation like this), he let go and we put him straight back into his den. After this he seemed adgatated strolling around his cage, they decided not to bring him out this time as something was obviously bothering him, so they decided to just sit with him outside his cage for a couple of hours.
Meanwhile SJ had a successful day out with Luna even though she had broken through her runner and jumped SJ! It was definitely a very scary moment to run at full speed by a Mountain Puma! But Luna was very chilled and although she didn't actually walk that day SJ had some time bonding with her at the cage.
During lunch the team from Quest turned up, Quest were a volunteer organisation who payed a lot of money to go to various parks & help out with building, and general maintenance work. They were basically a group of rich, private school eighteen to twenty year olds and although some of them struggled with the work others really gave it a shot even though they admitted they had not done anything like this before, even admitting that they didn't cook as all their meals are usually prepared for them. Some of them were slightly annoying as they spent the two days bitching all the time about the heat & mosquito's although a couple of them did work hard like a lad called Victor! I guess they were just not cut out for the jungle. Also that afternoon, Kyle, the lad who we'd met in Rurrenabaque the day before, who told us he was thinking of coming to Jacj Cuisi for a few weeks to help out, turned up. We all introduced ourselves & told him about the football game we'd be playing at about five o clock, which we were going to play against the volunteers of Quest. AK & Pete went back out to Lishou in the afternoon, this time he was a bit more keen on going for a walk, so off we went. He was quite energetic at first, sprinting away with no prior warning, prompting me & Pete to sprint after him while dodging the hanging vines & felled trees of the jungle....quite an exciting way to spend your afternoon. Meanwhile SJ has been back to feed Luna who was still very chilled but happy to see dinner arrive.
We returned back to camp at approximately five to play football, turns out Quest only had one male volunteer, but also two male guides, so we put Kyle on their side along with Dimitrio, to even the sides up, but they ended up getting turned over by Jacj Cuisi all stars.
The sun set quickly as it always does, and after our ritual dip in the creek we were all round the canteen table eating dinner, Kyle was officially introduced & welcomed by Querubena, then we all sat round & swapped stories for a while. SJ was actually getting used to the straw filled beds by now and looked forward to bedtime which was normally about 9pm! Another first for her.

Day 9

The sun rose & we heard the familiar sound of "desayuno" being shouted from the kitchen. AK was normally one of the quickest out of bed, while SJ was normally one of the slowest...no changes there! Breakfast was scoffed & AK & Pete headed off to see Lishou, while SJ & Dave went to see Luna. Lishou was acting the same as the day before, so instead of taking him out, they sat outside his cage for a couple of hours & practiced their spanish on each other.
SJ & Dave had to keep Luna out for longer today, as the Quest team were in her cage building a new shelter for her. It was really difficult as she knew there was someone in her den and it was driving her crazy! AK & Pete returned to camp early because Lishou didn't want to walk, so they decided to head to Luna's cage to help out for an hour. Before leaving some of the Quest volunteers had been returning, moaning about all the flies & bees in the cage, AK & Pete assumed they were just being dramatic as usual but found out they were actually telling the truth. They got there & were instantly surrounded by swarms of sweat flies & bees, which were pretty harmless but really annoying as they were relentless. It must have been a bad day for bees in general as SJ & Dave got attacked by the sweat flies too and this coupled with the fact that they had to stop Luna returning to her cage made it quite a long difficult morning than ran on until 3 in the afternoon. By the time we got back to camp we were pretty tired and hungry.
AK & Pete returned to Lishou in the afternoon, it was a bit too late to walk him, plus AK was on dinner duties with Gaz today, so had to be back in plenty of time to get prepared. They had been planning for a couple of days to make a big curry & rice when it came to their turn, so it was time to put their words into action, also today they had twice as many people to cook for, as the Quest team were still here.
After sorting out the vegetables, they realised there was no curry powder left, so had to make do with using cumin, and what ever else they could find to give it some flavour. After searching the cupboards they found a load of ground black pepper, and some hot & spicy chilli flakes, plus a load more garlic on top of what they'd already put in. The finished product was a success, and everyone wolfed down their food, and went back for seconds until it was gone. AK & Gaz had the final say on the giant curry wok, by using some (stolen) bread from the canteen to mop up the final dregs that were left over.

Day 10

We had a simple breakfast like yesterday, just bread that was baked a couple of days before, with some chopped fruit & hot chocolate. It was something easy to prepare, as Quest were still here so there was a lot of mouths to feed, but they were due to leave straight after breakfast.
We ate breakfast & straight after the Quest team left, and although they had complained a lot we were still greatful for the contribution they made for a couple of days. After cracking on with our morning chores, it was time for AK & SJ to go & spend time with their pumas.
AK & Pete arrived at Lishu's cage, and after stroking & playing with him for twenty minutes, he was ready to go out. They weren't to know it, but Lishou was up for a long walk today, he must've wanted to make up for the last couple of days of only short walks. After walking Lishou for several hours in the very hot jungle, Lishou decided to take another one of his many breaks in the shade, this time he opted for a shady, heavy shrubbery area where he was quite well hidden from the sun & his walkers....as AK was to find out. They tied his long lead around a tree, and found a place to rest while they waited for Lishou to be done. Pete found a fallen tree to sit on, while AK decided to stay stood up as he knew it would be difficult to get back up again after a nice sit down in the intense heat....big mistake. While Pete's spot was hidden away from Lishou's vision, AK stood on his own, was not. This prompted Lishou to dart out of the bushes towards AK, who's first reaction was to take a few steps back (even though he was still well in range), as he stepped back his wellies got caught, tripping himself up on to his back, and on his way down, seen a fully grown, male puma running towards him. As soon as AK hit the floor Lishou was on top of him, luckily though, for him, this was more of a game to Lishou, plus as soon as Lishou was on top of him with his mouth round AK's arm, Pete was at hand to help pull Lishou off. It was still a heart stopping moment for AK, most people had been "jumped" by their pumas, but most were not like this situation, almost as if he was wild & stalking his prey. Because the pumas had so much interaction with humans, moments like this were always more playful to them than anything else.
Meanwhile SJ had an eventful day with Luna and had been pulled down a few hills on her backside. Luna has the second highest trail and loves to demonstrate how quick and efficient she is at running up and, mostly, down the steep hills. The only problem being that she had a human attached to her who couldn't quite make the Puma's pace! The result was SJ sliding down hills with Luna looking back at her in disappointment and a look that said "stupid human".
The pumas always got fed in the afternoon, and as Lishou had been out for so long on his first walk, he didn't need to go out again. Pete went on his own to feed Lishou, so AK went off with Jael & Kyle to feed the Pumitas. The Pumitas were two, two year old sibling (twins) pumas, who were being looked after at the park because there mother was killed when they were cubs, and the woman who had them when they were younger couldn't look after them anymore. These pumas were different to the other four they had at Jacj Cuisi, when they first arrived at Ambue Ari (one of the three parks of Communidad Inti Wara Yassi), they were inseparable, one was really protective of the other. So as they grew a bit older, couldn't be walked by humans, so the decision was made that the best thing for them was to keep them together, in a giant cage, in the jungle here at Jacj Cuisi. At two years old they are now mean, angry & very intimidating, approaching their cage they were jumping up with their claws out, hissing & growling at us, nothing like what AK & SJ were used to. When approaching Luna's or Lishou's cage, you hear them purring & rubbing themselves against the fence, then when you put your hand through the cut out holes in the metal fence, they lick your arms and hands with their sand paper-like tongues! The Pumita's were fed with whole, un-plucked chickens, and AK watched one of them skin it like a barber shaving a head, then eat it until there was nothing left. The park are going to try and spend more time with the pumetas to try and make them trust people a little more, it's sad that due to the actions of humans all the cats are in captivity. The park gives them the best life possible with the resources they have but it is still sad they are not living a natural life in the wild.
Our usual dip in the creek was, as always, very welcome and our favorite part of the day. Tonight was SJ's & Nat's turn to make dinner, unfortunately because we had twice as many people when the Quest group were here, the ingredients were diminished twice as quick. In the end they decided to make a giant vegetable omelette with chips, so they got to work on it, using twenty six eggs in a giant wok. They added a load of vegetables, then tried turning it but it all broke up because it was so big, so the omelette turned into a load of scrambled eggs, which turned out nice anyway, mixed with the vegetables and chips to eat with it.

Day 11

AK got up early & joined Gaz & Nat in the kitchen to help make pancakes for breakfast, SJ got up when breakfast was ready....she very rarely got up before she had to. Pancakes were one of the better breakfasts that we would have, and everybody finished them off in no time.
Pete didn't feel well today so he was a bit slow getting out of bed, plus he wasn't feeling up for walking Lishou, so him & AK just went to his cage & spent a couple of hours with him. AK seen a couple of macaws in the trees, he had become obsessed with spotting them by now, which was a bit of a running joke. Another habit he had picked up, was chewing coca leaves, SJ didn't understand & couldn't see the benefit (plus the fact it makes your breath smell and looks disgusting) but AK was adamant they were good for energy on long walks in the jungle with Lishou.
We got back for lunch (SJ late as usual as Luna likes to stay out until mid afternoon), today on the menu was pasta with veggie burgers & salad, another nice vegetarian meal. We had been spoilt with some really nice food since we arrived, which was cooked by Jael's mum, Alba. Unfortunately she was leaving today, she had been here since June, but it was time go back home. Everybody was gutted that she would be leaving, particularly because of the great meals she made every day when everyone was starving, she could knock up a great scran whether it was on the stove, in the pizza/igloo oven, or on a campfire when we ran out of gas. Because she was leaving, we all decided to bake her a cake, which Nat was put in charge of, the only ingredient we were missing to make it, was orange fanta. We're not sure why fanta was so significant in the process of making a cake, but it's probably something to do with the fact that we only kept basic ingredients at the camp.
In the afternoon AK went out to re-map Lishou's trails with Dave, he had quite a few, and some of them were a bit messed up, even crossing into other cats trails & civilian paths. Dave knew Lishou's trails pretty well, so he was probably the best person to do it, plus it was good for AK to try & get used to them as they covered a pretty big area.
SJ took Nat with her to feed Luna and it was a success as Luna seemed to like Nat and was calm around her. It wasn't enough to persuade her to work with them though! In the meantime Querubena had been into town to buy the fanta for Nat to start baking the cake. After taking a dip in the stream, AK & SJ headed to the kitchen, where Kyle was cooking dinner, Dave was making coca leaf bread, and Nat was baking two cakes which SJ helped with. We ate dinner, then brought out Alba's cake, surrounded by candles. She was really surprised and slightly emotional, she made a small speech & we all had a piece of cake, which was really nice & everyone enjoyed.
We ended up in the "fumador", which was the smoking shelter where some people gathered at the end of the night. Everyone swapped stories about past experiences in their lives, which produced plenty of laughs & great memories from home for the person telling them.
SJ had minor drama when she returned to her bed to find the pillow and top half covered in dust and straw from a ripped mattress above. It looked as though a mouse had ripped open Kyles mattress. After stripping her bed and giving the sheets a shake, putting her mozzi net back in place it was time for bed.

Day 12

Another beautiful sunny morning to wake up to in the jungle, it still hadn't rained by now, which nobody complained about. It was AK's turn to make breakfast today, so he was up before everyone else. For breakfast we ate the coca leaf bread that Dave made the night before, Jael had left the bread in the oven for too long so it was black on top, but still very nice to eat.
AK & SJ went out in the morning to Lishou & Luna. Luna was her usual self, chilled but alert and ready to take any opportunity to jump SJ. She didn't get many real chances as SJ was wise to the signs of an imminent jump. One thing that had started to bother SJ was the constant itching around the waist band of her trousers and also on her nipples! She was baffled how the mozzies or sand flies had managed to bite her under two layers of clothing and through her bra! Lishou hadn't gone out the day before so he was ready for a big walk. He walked until about 2pm & we returned back to camp for lunch, rice & chicken today which everyone polished off in no time at all.
After lunch AK, Dave, Kyle, Pete & Dimitrio went into the jungle to try & collect fruit from the top of a very tall palm tree. The fruit is called majo, Dimitrio had spotted this tree a couple of days before, apparently the fruit is pretty valuable, but really hard to get to. Dave & Dimtrio tried to climb up but there was absolutely no friction on the tree to climb, Kyle had a go & got three quarters of the way up, but ran out of energy so slid back down. We almost gave up hope until Kyle started climbing another tree that we seen leaned against at the top of the tree we needed, he managed to climb to the top & proceeded to chop down the vines containing the acorn like fruit. Kyle earned some good jungle points for getting up, we used the term jungle points when we did something "cool", like getting jumped by a puma....sometimes not that extreme.
After the jungle expedition to find the fruit, AK, Kyle & Dave headed to the stream to get washed, they found a new place the other side of the small waterfall, where there was no fish & there was a sitting area under the water falling down where you got massaged by it when you sat under it...this was the new bathing spot in the stream! We finished our washing in the new spot we found, then headed off towards the kitchen to help out with dinner. The juice that Dimitrio made from the berries we retreated earlier, was drank while eating dinner, it didn't taste the nicest but apparently Dimitrio had made it wrong. After dinner we ate the second cake that Nat made the day before....there was no left overs.

Day 13

Today we woke up knowing that we would be heading to Rurrenabaque later on for our night off, after we finished work. During breakfast we talked about having a beer later on, but first we had to walk our cats until the afternoon.
Lishou didn't want to go back to his cage as usual, he always wanted to stay out for as long as possible, while being grumpy at the same time. We eventually took him back about 2pm, then fed him a bit earlier so we had more time to get ready & catch a lift early. It was another typical day for Luna and SJ was starting to settle into her routine and was chilled walking her, although SJ was still bothered by itchy nipples! After bathing & washing our clothes in the stream, we got dried & straight away the others waiting on the road had managed to stop a lift for us all, we got a shout so quickly got our stuff together & rushed out. Seven of us fitted into a 4x4, but it was pretty comfortable compared to the week before. SJ had a little companion in the form of Vanessa who after reluctantly sitting on her knee proceeded to fall fast asleep for the entire 1 hour journey and ha to be woken up when we stopped.
We arrived at the small town of San Buenaventura, opposite Rurrenabaque over the Rio Beni, this was our first chance to grab a cold beer from one of the stores, it was nice & refreshing after a long hard week in the jungle. The boats across the river were pretty constant, about every 5 minutes, so we didn't have to wait long at all to get across. A quick walk to our twenty boliviano hostel, another beer, waited for the girls to get ready (of course), and we were off to Juliano's, the steak place where we went the week before. They had wifi in here, so straight away AK was checking sky sports news & BBC to see what was going on in the world of football/Olympics. After Juliano's it was off to Luna bar where we went last week, Dave was particularly keen on going there as he had the bar men believing he was a tour guide, bringing in tourists to spend money, in turn this got him free drinks. We had a few games of pool, and drank a few cocktails, then it was off to another bar, which didn't turn out to be too good. We decided to just have the one drink in there, then buy a bottle of rum to bring back to the hostel & drink, so we did just that. In the mean time Kyle had got talking to a good looking Isreali girl in the bar, so he wasn't going anywhere. AK, SJ, Gaz, Nat & Dave all stayed up for half the night (after SJ swearing she wasn't going to 'get on it' this weekend!) talking & drinking, until it was time for bed.

Day 14

Between the cockerel across the road, construction workers out the back of the hostel, and the sweltering jungle heat of Rurrenabaque, we didn't manage to get much sleep. After a shower to make SJ feel brighter AK noticed a large number of blotches on SJ's stomach and back. Upon closer in section SJ realised she had the same blotches all over her nipples. It slowly dawned onager that these were not mozzie or sand fly bites but in fact bed bug bites! It also explained the constantly itchy nipples she had been suffering from for the past few days. SJ was vey disgusted at being bit on her nipples, I mean what sort of sick twisted insect are bed bugs!?
Everybody was up early & four of us decided to visit the French bakery, which is pretty well known for nice pastries. AK wasn't that impressed, he wasn't in to greasy pastry foods, but the others enjoyed it.
SJ went off to bed for a couple of hours while AK skyped home to speak to his mum & dad, they were pleased that he wasn't drunk this week, maybe just slightly glossy eyed from the night before.
After a much needed siesta, it was SJ's turn to Skype her family back home while AK went off to have something to eat with Nat, Gaz & Dave. They found a decent restaurant on the river side that Dave recommended, he said it was only fifteen bolivianos for a fish meal. After ordering the meal, and waiting about forty minutes it finally came out, it tasted fantastic & we couldn't believe that this cost fifteen bolivianos, it was a lot of nice, seasoned fish, fresh from the river, with chips & rice. Turns out it cost forty bolivianos, and not the fifteen Dave told us it was...he must've still been in blag tour guide mode from the night before!
Time to start making our way back to camp, which meant time to haul our weekly supply of groceries & gas on to the boat, across the river, and on top of a minibus that was there within ten minutes, unlike the week before when we waited for at least two hours, to then be cramped into a 4x4. We all had a seat each this time which made the journey a lot more comfortable, plus we got back a couple of hours earlier. After asking the advice of Quera SJ went off to buy two large tubs of bedbug spray. We had worked out that the ripped mattress must ave disturbed the bed bugs for some reason and they had all landed on SJ's bed ready to bite her in the night. Everybody sprayed their beds with bug spray even though it was mostly Pete and SJ that had gotten bitten. Time for bed never the less, we were all tired from the lack of sleep the night before & ready for a good nights rest.

Day 15

Everybody including AK slept until they heard the call of "desayuno", Dave stayed in bed, then turned up for breakfast about half an hour later with pastries from the French bakery, while everyone else was eating bread....he had the right idea.
After breakfast we all sat around & chilled for a bit before we got on with our duties, this was normally the time when the coca leaf chewers would start a ball off in their mouths....AK was one of them now. SJ & Dave went to see Luna who seemed to understand and be sympathetic to the fact that we were all tired as she decided she wanted to chill on her runner. Meanwhile AK & Pete went off to spend the first half of the day with Lishou. Lishou was his normal self, wanting to stay out for as long as he could, while hissing & snarling all the way around, AK was used to this by now.
Back at camp, after lunch, a girl called Kate had turned up, she was a British girl who Kyle knew, we all introduced ourselves and showed her where everything was. It was AK's turn to make dinner tonight with Molly, so he headed up to the kitchen early to start preparing it. They decided on pasta salad tonight, but the pasta turned out to be a disaster. While we'd been here the volunteers had struggled to cook the pasta right, a few of them had noticed Jael's mum, Alba, frying it before it was cooked, so they tried doing this. After the pasta had finished cooking, they noticed that the pasta in the pan was stuck together in one, big, gloopy blob....but it was getting eaten anyway!
Also the two chickens we bought from the chicken farm when Jael went to get the cats meat, were shocking! The chickens for the Puma's hadn't been delivered earlier that day, so Dave & Jael had to go the the farm to pick some up, a few of the lads had decided to chip in & buy an extra two to cook & have with their dinner (SJ had declined the opportunity to have chicken as she was already distressed at the fact the chickens arrive live in a sack and then are swiftly killed). They brought them back, and after their necks were wrung AK & Dave plucked them, then Gaz cut them up and they were put on the fire to cook. When they were done we noticed that the actual meat on the bones was extremely sparse, and any it did have was as tough as rubber, AK didn't eat any of it and the others didn't have much either. They guessed that they were probably given the wrong kind, ones for feeding big cats as apposed to humans....lesson learnt!

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