Issue - January 2007

January 2007

Once again, a New Year is starting with plenty of hopes and ideas for 2007 making it even better than the last one.

We have a special commitment with organizations and people that look out for the welfare of other more...

January 2007

My life in Taricaya

by Bethan Wiley

SnakeDespite having been in Cochabamba for over two weeks now I still find myself completely unaccustomed to the wonderfully peaceful nights sleep (without rude interruption by rat, opossum or cockroach), delicious food and presence of street lights and cars as opposed to fire flies and peccaries!? Prior to this I spent three months of my life living in a small wooden room in the heart of the Peruvian rainforest! This was, retrospectively, the best, worst and most bizarre experience I have ever known.

My first night in Peru was unsurprisingly strange. I arrived in Lima airport tired and bemused. Nineteen hours previously I had seen the beginning of a beautiful English summer's day, here it was 8.30pm and the city was already in darkness! Leaving the plane behind I was met by an overwhelmingly vast sea of faces! The hostel I had opted to stay in for the night operated an airport pickup service so I calmly scoured the hundreds of cards and signs for my name, ´Bethan Wiley´. Nada! After much confusion and many panicked phone calls to my hostel (whilst random taxi drivers attempted to put my bags into their cars) a sheepish looking man shuffled over to me holding a large cardboard sign that read ´MR BETMAN´. He then proceeded to tell me that I was not, in fact, a man and he liked my nose.

ButterflyWhen we eventually pulled up to the hostel (an unmarked building on a quiet, secluded street!?) I headed straight to my bed. Unfortunately there was some kind of karaoke bar directly behind my bedroom so I spent the majority of my three hours there (I had an early plane the following morning) contemplating what lay ahead of me whilst listening to a man repeatedly, and terribly, singing ´Hotel California´ in a strong Peruvian accent. The next morning I left the hostel at the crack of dawn in order to catch one final plane to, what was to be, my home for the next three months.

DonkeyTaricaya Lodge is a Projects Abroad run conservation scheme located along the Rio Madre De Dios. The nearest town is an hour and a half up river so whilst at the lodge you feel truly detached from the rest of reality. The volunteers and staff carry out a wide variety of different daily tasks ranging from the best; feeding the spider monkeys, walking the ocelot (a small wild cat) or training the donkeys (this basically involves riding a donkey around the jungle) to the very worst! I was not fond of digging 2000 holes for a local farmer in the scorching heat of the day or preparing hundreds of flowers for market whilst swarms of sand flies and mosquitoes enjoyed a continental dinner on our behalf!

FrogIn the evenings we generally spent our three hours of electric light playing cards, moaning about the terrible food and occasionally watching the odd film accompanied by homepopped popcorn. This was always dripping in butter and often salty to the point of being impossible to eat without a gallon of (brown, creek) water at the ready. At 9 o clock, when the generator was switched off, most volunteers would opt for sleep (16 hour days are pretty tiring… ) but from time to time a small group of us would stay awake to finish our game of poker, and supply of warm rum and coke, by candle light.

SnakeYesterday, when reading some unfinished letters I began writing in September (oops!) I realised that other jungle occurrences had already slipped my mind. For instance, I had completely forgotten the morning I woke to discover dirt and grass covering my pyjamas following a vivid dream in which I was sitting outside conversing with a snake!? I had also forgotten the day we nearly caught a fully grown stingray using only handmade bows and arrows. Apparently they are meant to taste great. It was all in the name of Steve Irwin of course!

Although the jungle was in no way similar to the hometowns of any of the volunteers, it was very strange how quickly everything became so normal to us. The day a two metre long Bushmaster, one of the deadliest snakes in the world, was found lurking near our bedrooms I couldn´t understand what all the fuss was about (although this could have had something to do with the fever I was suffering from at the time!). Nor do I remember blinking an eyelid the morning a member of staff convinced us to eat live grubs. Though I am certain that I shall always consider my time at Taricaya as one of the most amazing I have known, by the end of my stay there I was desperate to leave the claustrophobic, humid environment behind and head for Cochabamba. What I had not expected was just how unbelievably overwhelming I would find being in a city again! I'm just about used to the traffic (I had a few near misses with cars to begin with!?) but it's going to be a lot longer before I am able to walk into a supermarket without xclaiming ´oooohhh!´.

If you are interested in more information about the Reserva Ecologica Taricaya please visit

When one arrives to Colomi and asks the local people about the location of the Inca's road they immediately point out toward the "Abra k'asa" hill (which means "broken path" in Quechua.) What is the significance of this name? A person can only understand this if he/ she gets near the hill and finds the deep cut located in the middle of the hill summit, like a door that opens up toward the sky. There runs one of Bolivia's most beautiful pre- Hispanic roads that connects the highland of Colomi with the warm valleys of Inkachaca...
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