Happy birthday to me, and adios to the jungle

Trip Start Sep 20, 2007
Trip End Dec 20, 2007

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, November 26, 2007

Back to real life! Or at least back to real travelling life, the thought of proper real life in a months time is quite frankly terrifying...

So my final week in Ambue Ari has been amazing, I never imagined when i first arrived in the Parque I would grow to love it so much or find it so hard to leave. I left this morning, and saying goodbye to both the animals and the volunteers was really tough. I'd also just got used to being settled in one place again and it feels weird to be on the road once more! But, im now on my way to Argentina (Patagonia) and apart from an absolute lack of clean clothes it should be awesome :o)
One of the highlights of the week has to be going swimming with 3 pumas - Inti, Wara and Yassi. They are 3 sisters of around 3 years old who have been living in the park since they were 3 months old, adn were raised mainly by Noemi, the bolivian women who runs most of the park. They are named after the charity the owns the park - Communidad Inti Wara Yassi - and the names mean: Inti - Sun (Quechua), Wara - Moon (Amryan) and Yassi - Stars (some other local language with a complicated name...) Anyway, because they have been handraised, have always lived in the park, and have each other to keep them entertained, they are the most humanised and friendly cats in the park, although can still be pretty lively! Every day they are walked by 3 volunteers and I joined them on Thursday afternoon. To walk them we have to attach the rope to our bodies to avoid them being able to break free. So i walked Yassi who is an absolute darling, and its very different to walking an ocelot! They are a lot faster for a start! Every so often Yassi wanted to run so I had to try and keep up, running in wellies through the jungle is not easy! Pumas also jump really well - up to 8m horizontal or 5m vertical! So we had to be a litle careful that they didnt jump at us to play :o) We took the 3 cats to the river and then all went in for a swim! Pumas dont hunt in water naturally so arent very strong swimmers but they really enjoy it. The only issue for me was that they swim with their claws out so you have to be careful to avoid them, which can be hard when they are swimming towards you as its deep with a strong current! I only got one smallish scratch. We all swam together against the current, which was so strong that just staying still was hard, but it was awesome! See the photos :o) The only downer was the mossies (as always) as they collect at the surface and swamed around my head the whole time - yuk! Im not gonna miss them! When we had swum enough and the chicas (girls) had worn themselves out we all got out. Wara used Jays clothes as a very convenient towel (heehee) and then tried to sit on me as i was getting changed, aww. Yassi had her head on my knee and was snuggling up, so cute! So then we walked back, a few lazy sleeping spots, and one crazy moment when Wara stalked Yassi and pounced on her, making Yassi freak and run up a tree! When we got back we cleaned the cage and then fed them, also good fun. The chicas are kept seperately to avoid them fighting, and then on the count of uno, dos, tres each is thrown a kilo of meat that they catch using teeth and paws, and devour pretty rapidly :o) So all in all it was awesome :o)
The second highlight (in a week of many) was walking with one of the jaguars. She is incredibly tame and friendly, loves cuddles and is very playful but never with teeth and claws. Walking her is like walking a large dog, but much more fun :o) I walked her with Nina, who is a really sweet Danish volunteer, and it was really fun. She can be a bit lazy (the jaguar not Nina!) but she walked really well, just stopping every so often so scratch her (extremly large) claws on a tree or have a cuddle and lie on my feet :o) she huge but so gentle, bless. After walking for an hour or so we put her on her runner (ie attached the lead to a rope stretched across the clearing so she can run around) and had playtime! She has a big tyre, and when its rolled towards her she jumps on it and wrestles, its so funny. Can also see quite how big her teeth are and how strong the jaw is. This sort of jaguar, once fully grown, could kill a 200kg bull with one bite to the head, crushing the brain, and then drag it up a tree with its teeth to eat in peace. Impressive huh! They have the strongets jaws of any cat in the world. Luckily she only uses her mega strong jaw on killing tyres, not volunteers. When she got tired I sat down adn she came and sat on ym lap and chewed on my fingers, awesome if a little scary to have my hand in her mouth! I've put up a couple of photos of her too :o)
So what else have I done this week?? Well Lazycat has a bit of an up and down week in terms of volunteers changing (to replace me) but she is still awesome! Towards the beginning of the week to new girls arrived Stinna (danish) adn Carolyn (finnish). Stinna took over OB and engine from me which was a huge relief! I spent the first couple of days training her, both with Lazy and her two cats, and she was really good with them, a little scared (lazy wsa being a touch on the playful side) but really patient and affectionate. Then Carolyn decided that she was also going to stay for a month, and so would replace me as Lazys volunteer once I left. On Weds I took her to meet Lazycat and she greeted me as usual by jumping playfully on my knees and chewing slightly. Unfortunately this terrified Carolyn, who then wouldnt go anywhere near Lazy (unless I had her head and claws occupied), never mind hold the rope and walk her! Obviously Lazy is a wild cat and therefore potentially dangerous but shes such a softy I feel safer with her then our house cats! Anyway, so Carolyn kept her distance for the whole walk, and wouldnt even come in the cage with us as Lazy would be off the lead :oS this was getting me pretty worried for Lazy! So on Thursday she came with me again. She held the lead briefly but when Lazy jumped at something (not her) rapidly handed her back to me. Eep. I would have loved to see her walking with the pumas, hehe. Anyway, I wsa maninly worried that she had little patience (i have learnt it in the jungle, I know its not natural :oD) and she didnt actually seem to like Lazy! Which is totally weird! Who could not love her, shes adorable! Anyways, on Thursday night Carolyn went to gurayos for internet and came back funnily enough having found that she cant stay for a month after all. I should be annoyed but actually i was quite relieved! Shes also scared of the monkeys, the tejons, and the pig... So now Stinna will be taking Lazy as well until a nueva volunatria arrives. She'll be great with her, although its a shame that shes now lookign after 3 cats. In other Lazy news, she is still amazing, very playful but I think that is because the more she knows someone the more she plays with them. The last day with her we took a nice walk through the jungle and I sang her all her favourite songs (The Lion King, Tarzan,  various numbers from Grease, West Side Story and My Fair Lady, Voi Che Sapete...) :o) then we sat and played on the runner adn she sat on my lap. Saying goodbye to her was really hard - I've spent 6 hours a day with her most days for the last month - but shes in good hands. Wish I could take her home, but not sure she'd like London!

Argh - I just wrote loads more and then managed to delete it - stupid spanish keyboards! I will rewrite it tomorrow, sleepy now.

Thanks for all the birthday messages, much appreciated! i will reply individually asap :o)

i'm flying to Buenos Aires tomorrow - another passport stamp yay! And then to Trelew (welsh settlement) on tuesday where im hopefully goign to see whales, penguins, orcas and sea lions! And maybe do some diving :o)

Lots of love xxxxx

NB to me: Tuesday
Leaving parque
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