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Trip Start Oct 12, 2010
Trip End Jun 15, 2011

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Flag of Bolivia  , Cochabamba,
Monday, December 6, 2010

21 days in the jungle.

Yes! Today is my day off… I´ve been working for 21 days with no time off. We can´t afford days off, working with the animals, so each one gets only 1 day every 2 weeks. Today it was mine! Finally I can wake up late and do whatever I want (and not walk in the muddy jungle all day long). Unfortunately – they had some sort of a strike today so almost all the shops and the restaurants were closed in the village!

21 days of walking Sonko. The lazy cat. The people´s cat. The crazy puma… After 3 weeks I got so used to walking with him, and we´re both so comfortable around each other. Whenever he lays down on the floor to rest, I sit next to him and read a book. Sometimes I pet him a bit, and there´s a certain point where he´s so cute I have to hug him and spoon him a little. But just yesterday Clancy and I both had a reminder that he´s a wild puma, not a house cat. Stuart, the guy walking with Roy, had his last work day. He wanted to see Sonko and I was the one who was supposed to walk him. I told Stu that it´s fine, and he can join us. ¨If Sonko shows any sign of aggression during the walk – we´ll separate and go on without you¨ – that´s what I said, knowing that Sonko is a good mannered puma most of the time. As Stu came down to our area from Roy´s cage, trouble began. Sonko hissed at him twice and seemed very angry. We gave him 20 minutes to relax, and then he seemed back to normal. This was the point I decided to take him off the runner and attach him to me – to start the walk. I attached the karabiner to my rope and Clancy detached Sonko from the runner, standing between Stu and him. As soon as he was free – Sonko tried to jump Stu. He used a LOT of force and I couldn´t stop him. Luckily, Clancy was there in between, however as Sonko jumped – Clancy slipped and fell over the anxious puma. Then a strange fight began - Stu trying to clear away, I´m pulling Sonko´s rope as hard as I can and Clancy is crouched on the floor with Sonko climbing on his shoulders. For a few seconds, Sonko held Clancy´s neck between his teeth and grabbed his shoulders with both of his paws. I thought about pulling him off as hard as I can, but I knew that if his teeth and/or claws are stuck into Clancy´s neck – I would rip him apart if I pull. I decided not to, and Sonko calmed down. After we reattached him to the runner we saw that Clancy was lucky enough to have just a few scratches, and 2 small holes in his neck where Sonko´s teeth sunk in. No damage really, but it was a scary sight… So no, he´s not a house cat. Although he does eat grass out of our hands and does enjoy petting on different occasions (see videos attached!).

It´s rainy season here, so we have 3 days of rain and then 1 sunny day. The trail is slippery and filled with insects, animals and strange plants… I´ve added a LOT of photos this time so feel free to browse through them all. To make my blog a bit more interesting – I decided to add a small quiz to see how well you guys know the Bolivian jungle.

There are 4 photos of insects, and 4 photos of plants. For each photo there´s a description and an explanation of this extraordinary plant/insect. Out of each group – only one explanation is correct, and the rest are just my imagination going wild… Can you guess which one is true? Just write it as a comment on this blog entry, I will write the correct answers the next time. Prizes for the winners ;)
Here we go:


  A.      Crazy mushrooms – These yellow mushrooms contain one of the most powerful hallucinogens in South America. One small mushroom causes 2 days of hallucination. 3 mushrooms kill you (there are 10-20 deaths each month in Bolivia due to overdose).

B.      A walking tree – These trees grow huge and wild. They usually lack a central trunk and are feeding through spiky roots that they send to the ground. These trees ¨walk¨ by extending roots to the desired destination. Old roots die and the new ones shift the tree over… They move a few centimeters every year.

C.      Cup mushroom – This rare mushroom grows only in certain parts of the bolivian jungle, and only on rotten meat from a dead animal. They´re orange or bright red, therefore showing their potent poison. Sleeping pills contain a microscopic amount of these, and the only animal capable of actually eating these poisonous mushrooms without dying are the red legged frogs – extremely poisonous creatures themselves.

D.       Passion heart – This plant has wonderful flowers and is in a way related to the passion fruit (hence the twisted name). It´s fruit are similar to the passion flower, however they taste completely different. The bitter fruit is used in Bolivia to make hands cream as it´s moist and smells like perfume. The fruit itself is not poisonous, but will give you a serious stomach ache if you choose to eat it…


A.      Fire wasps – These wasps are the worst of their species. They´re called fire wasps for a reason… Their sting hurts and leaves a burning sensation for hours. They are extremely aggressive, especially in vicinity to their nest. Although less lethal than other insects, it could be fatal to a person, having more than 10 doses of their poison.

B.      Invisible spider – This spider remains invisible until a pray shows up. In fact, it´s so invisible – he can barely spin a web (and they don´t really have to). As soon as another insect gets near, the spider lashes and bites it. After the release of the venom – the spider´s natural green color changes into white green, and that´s the only time it´s actually visible.

C.      Sleeping fly – The female of this fly is capable of putting animals to sleep with its sting. It does so and then injects its eggs under the skin of its victim. The maggots crawling out of the eggs will eat the skin and flesh of the victim for a few weeks and then crawl out. It cannot cause an adult man to fall asleep (just to feel tired), but there were cases of kids falling asleep for hours while being injected with eggs.

D.      A bullet ant – A huge ant (its size is about half of my finger). It´s sting is the world´s fourth most painful insect sting, and it releases poison that is actually neurotoxin. The poor victim will suffer terrible pain for 4 consecutive hours. In fact, it´s called a ¨Bullet ant¨ since it´s sting is supposed to hurt just like being hit by a bullet.

Well, good luck to you, I tried to be very creative ;)

I have 8 days left to work here, and then I´m off to Buenos Aires for 2 weeks! Meeting Danny there and then celebrating with friends all the way through Xmas and new year's eve ;)

 Until next time – please keep in touch and take care!

Gilad and Sonkito…
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Daniela on

the pictures look pretty awesome!
my guesses are walking tree and bullet ant ;)
so enjoy the remaining 8 days with Sonko and pet him for me! :)

Dan Malta on

I don't understand what just happend here.
I got a link from an old friend regarding his newly established Blog about life as an interm at Columbia medical school, and look who waited to be found just two links away, behind that elusive digital corner...Gilad Hizkiyahu. Amazing.
That little gizmo they like to call the intenet is an amazing thing...
Take care, man. It's been a long time since we last met...
Maybe when you'll be back to Israel you'd have some free time to play squash with an old friend...

Enjoy the trip ya'mamzer,
Dan (malta_dan@hotmail.com)

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