ShelbySkinner's Travel Journals

ShelbySkinner

  • 26 years old
  • From Yellowknife, Canada
  • Currently in San Jose, Costa Rica

My adventures through Costa Rica, Peru, and Ecuador

Weekly updates of my trip

Expedition Week

Peru Manu National Park, Peru  |  Nov 02, 2014
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Well I have made it to week three of living in the Amazon Rainforest! This week was definitely the highlight of my time here. Our group had a half week of work before heading out on expedition to a local community called Queros! It was so nice to get away from the MLC and have a well deserved rest. When I first signed up for this project I thought the expedition was going to be more of a hiking and camping kind of trip but I was very happy with our mini vacation. It was also a good week because I received an email from my Kaya mentor saying that the group in Costa Rica really appreciated my hard work and that I had been one of their best volunteers this year which was really nice to hear.

Monday I was back in the cocina with Alcetos and Dino. We made some really good meals together. For lunch we made fried potatoes and a salad with grated carot, beans, red onion with a freshly squeezed lemon as the dressing. Everyone really enjoyed this meal as there was no rice in sight and half the plate was vegetables which is rare at the MLC. For dinner we made giant hamburger patties with red pepper, chillies, and red onion in them; they were also a huge hit for the non veggie folks. I also made a pesto sauce for the pasta. We were saying goodbye to a 6 week volunteer (Jess) and a staff member (Lawrence) so Alcetos made tres leche cake for them.

Tuesday was a relatively relaxing day. I was supposed to be out all day setting up butterfly traps but ended up going out remarking one of the trails with Laura who is from Scotland. It ended up being quite a long day because we had to measure out 50 m of trail and mark a tree at that point. Many of the old markers were wrong so we had to redo a bunch of them. It was a good day though because I was able to take lots of pictures.

Wednesday was my last day of work for the week and I finally got to work in the biogarden. We made a full garden bed from scratch in one day. First the ground had to be dug down to 30 cm, then we mixed some sand and compost in with the clay rich soil, and finally built the bed out of bamboo poles. That was the morning and then in the afternoon I did lots of weeding of other beds using a machete! 

We left Thursday for expedition and were gone until Sunday. We spent the first night in Pilcopata. As soon as we got there Lisa and I went on a hunt for fresh fruit. After walking to all through town we finally found a market close to the hostel. The highlight of the trip for most people was the ice cream machine inside the hostel which was amazing! The lady at the hostel loves making the ice cream for everyone and only charges 2 soles, which is less than $1! After lunch we went down to a local swimming hole. The water was so nice and there were lots of good deep spots for swimming. When we left the lady gave us all handmade necklaces which are so beautiful. We had a few bevies with dinner and that was day one.

Day two of expedition was quite the adventure. We were supposed to get a ride part way and then walk 2 hours to Queros but it was pouring rain so we waited at the hostel for three hours waiting for the rain to stop. We ended up driving all the way to Queros in one Toyota pickup truck with six people in the cab of the truck and seven in the box of the truck. There were a few spots where there were small landslides and the people in the box had to get out. Thomas had to get out and cut a few branches down that had fallen on the road. It was a true jungle experience! When we arrived in Queros the local community had made us spaghetti for lunch. It was so cold when we got there that most people went to their rooms to hide under the blankets! In the afternoon we had a jewelry making workshop with a woman from the community that was so old no one knew what year she was born! I would guess she was at least 100. She took fibres from the Cedralinga tree and made them into string and then we used different coloured seeds to make our necklaces. We had an amazing dinner that night. They had cooked the fish in a plantano leaf and a salad with beans, beets, and red pepper. After dinner we had a bonfire and they showed us how they start a fire with just two sticks, a piece of cotton, and some wood shavings. Once they got the fire going they started telling us some of their stories. The first was about Pipa and the woodpecker. Pipa was a leader that the animals did not like and they wanted to take his power away. All of the animals got together to plan how they would do this and decided that the woodpecker would take the fire (power) away from Pipa. That night the woodpecker got close to the fire, stuck his head in it, and flew away. Pipa lost his power and that is why the woodpecker has a red head! We heard a few songs and listened to the pipe flute which was so beautiful. To end the night they had a tobacco ceremony where they blow tobacco in your nose to clear your sinuses. I didn't try it but some people did and it didn't look too enjoyable.

On our last day in Queros we had pancakes with tons of fresh fruit for breakfast! We then went on a walk through the forest to learn about the different plants they use for medicinal purposes. Most were used as anti-inflammatories and for pain relief. The old woman had heart problems a few years back and had tried all the Western medicine out there and had no success. She decided to drink the resin from one of the trees so she could die without pain and the resin ended up curing her heart problems and she has been fine ever since! Pretty amazing stuff! After lunch we practiced some archery which I wasn't particularly good at. We were given necklaces, hair pins, and arrows as a gift when we left Queros. It is a great place to visit and the people are so friendly and happy. I would highly recommend a trip there if you are ever in Peru. They also do healing/cleansing sessions there were they use some of their medicinal plants on you. They said you have to come for at least three days because the treatment will make you sleep for a whole day and then you are drowsy for a day or two after. Sounds really interesting. When we got back to Pilcopata I stocked up on more fruit for my last few days at the MLC. We met some other volunteers that were working on the Manu bird project and one of the guys was doing his PhD at UBC in Vancouver so we had a nice chat. That night we ended up hanging out with some people at another hostel who were from Holland as well as the other volunteers mentioned above. We ended the night at the discotech with the Peruvians and a few American students that were studying in Pilcopata.

I had a great time on expedition and didn't really want it to end. It is hard to believe that I only have three more days at the MLC and 6 days in Peru! I am really looking forward to going to Ecuador and my next adventure.

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