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Solo traveller

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Sloth in treeI am pleased to announce that I am still ‘ringworm free’ and have now moved to work in a wild animal rescue centre. This is the most amazing place. Sick and injured animals are brought here by members of the public or the Costa Rican government. Some have been trafficked or injured and others have been kept as pets. The aim is always to release them back into the wild. Sadly this is not always possible. There is a Sloth that fell out of a tree as a baby, and hence requires physio on his back legs every morning, and there is a Capuchin monkey who was tragically kept in a bar and fed on alcohol and cigarettes and is now too domesticated to fend for himself.

The  work here is enormously rewarding, we feed and clean out over 100 animals every day. Although the policy is that we must never touch them, being up close to monkeys, parakeets, sloths, raccoons, lizards, deer and wild pigs feels a real privilege. These residents live in complete luxury and eat the most delicious combinations of fresh fruits and vegetables, which we chop up every morning. I wish the same could be said for the humans…

Dog shelter San JoseIt was with a very heavy heart that I left the Galápagos Islands and the wonderful 2 and 4 legged inhabitants I had shared my stay with. 4 boats, 3 planes, 3 taxis, 3 buses and 2 hotels later I arrived in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. My route involved a change of planes in war torn El Salvador and I was relieved to note, as we came into land, that the runway was basically  intact and the terminal was functioning.

I have many things on my bucket list but camping on the side of an active volcano isn’t one. However when the opportunity for such a trip arose I knew that I couldn’t say no. One of the group volunteers in the Galápagos National Park office and he had managed to get clearance for the trip, which had never been done before. When I was told I had to submit my passport number so they would know who was missing if the volcano erupted, I thought it was a joke. Sadly it wasn’t. The Sierra Negra volcano erupts usually in October every 2-3 years, and it hadn’t erupted for 3 years. On Friday afternoon our random gang piled into pick-up trucks and headed off into the lush countryside. After a steady climb for an hour the trucks stopped and on the side of the road were 4 horses and 2…

My journey from Ecuador to the Galápagos Islands was far from straightforward. Firstly, I had to catch a plane to the tiny island of Baltra, which is only the length of the runway and the airport terminal. So if a pilot gets it wrong his plane ends up in the Pacific. I was on a big plane so, needless to say, it was a heavy landing following by a deafening screech of brakes and screams from nervous passengers. Once through the tiny terminal, I caught a bus to the edge of the island where a small boat ferried passengers 200m across the sea to the island of Santa Cruz. This should have been a pleasant little crossing, but the majority of the passengers were short, plump Ecuadorian ladies with massive suitcases and even bigger behinds. I had a suffocating 5 minutes squashed between such two senoras and 4 suitcases, on…

After my unplanned, but most enjoyable week, in the city of Cuenca I started the three day journey to the Galápagos Islands. My first worry was finding a driver I could actually trust to take me on the 125 mile journey to the airport in Guayaquil, my second was how to avoid being robbed en route and my third was the notorious mountain pass I had to cross in the El Cajas National Park. The hotel recommended a ‘safe’ driver who turned up at the correct time, which was promising, and I told him I was going to the Holiday Inn at Guayaquil Airport. He looked at my blankly then said with a with a huge smile ‘Si! Si! Holida Yin!’ Relieved he knew where we were going, I settled down for the trip, momentarily. I have actually no idea how the hotel could describe old Carlos as a ‘safe’…

Ecuador volunteering Well here I am in Ecuador, in a remote fishing village called Las Tunas, 6 hours drive from the cosmopolitan city of Guayaquil. However my 2 day trip to get here certainly had its moments…

I arrived at Cusco airport in Peru 4 hours prior to my internal flight to Lima as instructed, although I thought this was excessive. It wasn’t. In the entrance hall I watched as some poor travellers had their hand luggage raided by security guards and the contents strewn across the floor. ‘How awful’ I thought to myself. Sadly I was next.

Peru volunteering

My time in Peru is coming to an end as I leave for Ecuador tomorrow. My time here has been filled with highs and lows; from the elation of trekking up to Machu Picchu to the lows of witnessing the misery of so many street dogs.

Maccu Picchu is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and the ‘Lost City of the Incas.’ It was abandoned in the 15th century and not discovered again until 1911. The architecture is an absolute masterpiece. How the Incas managed to build a beautiful city out of blocks of rock 2400m up a mountain is unfathomable. They were way ahead of their time.