La Sende Verde animal refuge

Trip Start Jan 19, 2008
Trip End May 01, 2008

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la sende verde

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

We woke on the tuesday morning full of excitement that we were going to spend the next couple of days playing with monkeys. First of all though we had to get there. This involved catching a local minivan from La Paz. They go when full and Kat and I were the last two on the "bus". Matt had to squeeze into the front in the middle seat. This meant that whenever the driver wanted to change gear Matt would inevitably get his bottom fondled. To cut down on costs it appeared that the van had been constructed without suspension and the journey was a bit of a bone shaker. It also looks as though the bolivians are fighting a losing battle with the frequent landslides that baulk their efforts to construct half decent roads as the bus frequently had to negotiate fallen boulders and move to the far side of the road to avoid the several landslides that we encountered enroute.

A positive side of these adverse conditions was that the bus had to take a diversion which took it right past the entrance to the animal sanctuary, which saved us the trouble of catching a taxi from Coroico town 7km away.

The refuge works with around 6 permanent staff, most bolivian but with a Swede doing the cooking and a canadian girl who has been there for the past 4 months after returning from a previous (shorter) stay there. There were also 4 volunteers there who pay around $100 to stay for up to 2 weeks to feed and walk the various animals. They were two English couples all around our age (ish), Jo (social worker) and Chris (ex marine tree surgeon) and Neil (IT consultant) and Lisa (producer of TV ads).

We had plenty of opportunity to make friends with the various animals as they roam free throughout the small refuge. "Making friends" involved getting regularly peed and pooped on and this appeared to be an occupational hazzard for all concerned.

In the past couple of days they had a new arrival of a 3 month old monkey who seemed content to hang onto our necks for much of the first morning. The small squirrel monkeys (all called Jimmy as they couldnt be told apart) liked to reek havoc, steal food and mate with anything of a convienient size (The dog and cats were all viable candidates for their amour - and there was something just about seeing a dog having it's leg humped).

Our favourites were probably the black spider monkeys who were the most 'human' and since pretty harmless were never on a leash so we saw the most of them. Matt made good friends with Sambo and you can see them playing in one of the videos uploaded.

We had a great cabin for the two days with a terrific shower (always a big plus point when being regularly wee'd upon!) although since lunch was pasta every day (even great tasting home made pasta) we did being to feel the need for a change of diet by the second evening.

There is nothing much in Coroico itself, although on our second night we went, with the volunteers and Robin the canadian, to an excellent french restaurant that is reputedly one of the best in Bolivia. It was an outdoot restaurant - but since we were down now at about only 1500m above sea level it was semi-tropical and the evenings were pleasantly warm. Were typing this from Lake Titicaca back up at around 4000m and even though its midday our fingers are still freezing!

On the Thursday morning we left shortly before midday and caught another nasty minivan back to La Paz and then, bumping randomly into Clare (the girl who played in goal for Doncaster Belles), caught a much nicer (though equally as cheap) tourist bus up to Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The highlight of the journey was when we all had to get off the bus as it had to get onto a raft to cross the lake cutting off about an hour of travel time. The rest of us got onto a much more stable looking motor boat to make the journey across where we were reunited with our bus for the remainder of the journey.

It was at this point that Kat, who has been suffering from bad altitude sickness (and so was really not looking forward to leaving the low lying animal refuge) perked up a bit when Matt found her some imported (and horrendously expensive) Salt and Vinegar pringles...
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