ShelbySkinner's Travel Journals


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

My adventures through Costa Rica, Peru, and Ecuador

Weekly updates of my trip

My poor, poor, little feet

Peru Manu National Park, Peru  |  Oct 26, 2014
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Well I got my wish this week! I was out in the forest almost everyday all day and my feet took a beating. Monday was a long day with Colpa early in the morning and then all day soil sampling. We had lots of birds landing on the claylick this morning and when we left we had two chestnut-fronted macaws fly over us super low which was really cool. When we were walking back we also saw armadillo prints in the sand along the beach. Soils was a lot of work. We collected most soil from on the trail but had a few points in the forest. We dug approximately 65 soil samples which were about 100 g each so it was a long slow walk back. The sweat bees were out in full force crawling all over me despite the layer of DEET on my arms. Holly saw a peccary (wild pig) and a snake but I missed them both. We did see a tapir print in the mud on our walk back which meant it had been close by.

Tuesday was butterfly trapping day with Laura, Alice, and Karl. They had set up traps at 6 locations with a trap in the low, mid, and high canopy. Each trap was baited with either rotting banana or fish which smells as bad as you think. We got to go into the primary forest which means that it has not been disturbed by humans other than our small trails through it. There were lots of butterflies in the primary forest compared to the traps in partially cleared re-generating and completely cleared re-generating forests. We would carefully remove the butterflies out of the traps by lightly holding their bodies with the thumb and forestry finger. They are very delicate so it is important not to touch the wings or squeeze the body too hard. We would then record the species, wingspan, body length, sex, and then mark them with permanent marker to see if we are catching the same butterflies or different ones. I was pretty decent at identifying them and got the hang of handling them pretty quickly. The walking was quite difficult since it had rained the day before and there were a lot of steep spots to scramble up and down. I was pretty muddy when we got back but it was so worth it.

I was very grateful to have Wednesday out of the forest since my feet were killing me. I finally got to do a Green Words session which is a creativity exercise. Ember and I went out to the wetland area and sat around chatting and doing a few activities. On our walk over we saw 8 squirrel monkeys and Ember showed me one of the edible plants in the forest. It's berries tasted like blueberries! After lunch I had frog trap making which was quite the experience. Very dull work and sort of dangerous. We were heating a needle and poking it through PVC pipe to make a large hole. Was not my favorite task at the MLC so far. We also had a presentation about organic farming which was really interesting. They taught us how to make compost and how to do crop rotations. They also talked a bit about which plants have been found to grow best together. They also give this presentation as a class in one of the local communities called Salvacion.

Thursday was another butterfly trap day with Kitty, Callum, and Karl. We saw way more butterflies with one trap having 20 alone. I figure we identified 50+ butterflies and brought 4 back to the MLC because they are not in the current butterfly field guide for the MLC. We saw 20 or more squirrel monkeys as well as 3 Capuchin Monkeys. They came up nice and close but of course I didn't have my camera out. They are very cute and I have to try hard to get some good photos before I leave. Today was the halfway mark for this volunteer experience so I treated myself to chocolate covered raisins and red wine from the bar. Hard to believe I have been living in the Amazon jungle for 2 weeks already!

Friday was another long day for me. I had Colpa again interest morning and we saw 4 Blue-headed Macaws fly over which is quite rare. There was also a hawk that flew over and scared all the parrots, macaws, and parakeets which sent them in all different directions. It was very noisy with all the birds calling. I had soils all day with Jenni, Karl, and Lisa. We were in completely cleared re-generating forest so it was very thick. Most of our samples were on trail every 50 m for 1000 m. It took most the morning and part of the afternoon to finish these. We stopped for lunch at a nice stream away from the bugs. We had to use the machete to get through the forest for our off trails points which were over 100 m in. Luckily Karl was with us and he smashed his way through most of the forest along with some help from Jenni. A storm was brewing as we were finishing up and I thought for sure we were going to get soaked. The wind picked up as well and branches and leaves were falling down on us as we raced back to the MLC with 50+ bags of soil on our backs! Today was probably my hardest day in the forest with 8 hours spent working and only 2 L of water. I was dehydrated when I got back and had to drink some nasty rehydration sachets. I didn't really eat dinner that night either because I was feeling rotten. We watched Pitch Perfect tonight as a group which I never thought I would do interest jungle. 

I didn't think my feet could hurt any more than they did before but they were so tender and sore when I woke up Saturday morning. I went back into the forest anyways to do mammal track trapping with Holly, Callum, and Tom. This is Holly's internship project so I didn't really want to miss the opportunity to see big cat prints. We checked the traps and saw a few tapir prints. Then we went through and tried different methods of laying the mud out to see which would preserve the best tracks. We did some smooth, some rough, and some really wet. There are 21 traps so it took quite a while to mix them up. On the way back we saw lots of squirrel monkeys and Capuchin monkeys again. I was so exhausted I didn't partake in party night and went to bed at 8.

Sunday was a lazy day. I did not want to put my rubber boots on so I hung around camp all day resting my poor feet. The food continues to improve! My favorite meals this week were porridge and scones (breakfast), steak and fries, and my friend Sahika's chicken dinner on Saturday night. The chef let her cook whatever she wanted and she did so good. She also made hummus at lunch which I missed but she was kind enough to save me some to eat with my dinner. Such a sweetheart. Another busy but good week in the jungle. Next week is a short one for most of us since we are going on expedition to a local community for three days of rest and relaxation. I am so looking forward to it :)

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