The Poison Apple
All over the galapagos is a plant called Manzanilla which has little apples as its fruit, but whenever you break the leaves or the bark, sap comes out which burns your skin and forms blisters, and then you just have to wait for them to go, although lemons and moisturising cream can help a little. So we were all warned about this from the start. But one unfortunate Aussie put his shirt on a Manzanilla tree, then rubbed the sweat off his face with said shirt… He put a brave face on but was definitely less cheery for a few days!
A nice girl called Steph had been staying in Jatun Sacha for 2 months, and a few weeks before I arrived she had rescued a wild piglet after he’d been attacked by other animals and separated from his mum. She helped get him stitched back together, bottle fed him and looked after him. He would trot after her as though she was his mum! He was originally called Oscar, but then Ozzie.
There were also two dogs Negro and Linda, a filly called Jenga who only made an appearance for a day, and cockerels who thought dawn was at 3am, 3.30, 5am, 2.30pm…
Susi had her own project a few afternoons a week. She had volunteered with children and with the disabled before, and so she helped a group of disabled people of various ages to do some exercises to prepare for a mini ‘olympics’ competition. Don’t know how she did that after all the mora chopping, and always had a smile on her face, even though it meant she got back to Jatun Sacha a bit late on those days so her dinner was always cold!
We saw another pickup truck one day en route back to the town. We wondered who was in it, maybe some different volunteers. Realised the contrast to home; here we’re so used to the roads being empty that we’re interested in the contents of the one other vehicle.
On Friday mornings there was always a non-work activity. The first Friday, we paid $25 to go ziplining. It was cold and wet and I didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as Go Ape back in the UK! Boring. Won’t do that again. Ah well, live and learn.
We were working about a 15min walk from the station and Eduardo, one of the guys who work there, joked to Màiri that he’d hurt himself with the machete. He said afterwards that he intended it to be a practise exercise in what we should’ve done in that situation. But Màiri came straight over to our group and asked if anyone had a first aid kit. No-one did, and Bekki was worried so ran back to the station to get help, where someone rang Cesar, who was in a meeting; he got someone else to call a taxi thinking he’d need to go to hospital an hour’s drive away… Meanwhile Eduardo had confessed to the joke and someone had to go after Bekki to stop this chain of events! Eduardo was ‘red-carded’ and made to feel bad about it for days afterwards! Turns out, he had a first aid kit with him anyway. I now carry my first aid kit with me whenever possible, just in case!
Some people bought machetes as souvenirs for people at home. I ask you…
Cesar is the guy who had been there for 12 years, the director of this galapagos project. On our way up to Jatun Sacha he got out of the truck, picked up this chick and joked: “Baby albatross!” At the beach (see pic below) he creeped up behind me and grabbed my leg making sea lion noises which was very convincing! He wasn’t there for my last week because he has to go back to the mainland every year to renew his visa to stay in the galapagos. But each time he does so he’s at risk of losing his job; as he’s not originally from the galapagos, someone who is from there could apply for his job and be given preference because of where they’re from. Hopefully that won’t happen! Jaime is the guy who took over from Cesar but we hardly ever saw him, and he’s the one who failed to book our hostel rooms on my last weekend…and got defensive and aggressive about it!
And finally… The Crutches
The first Thursday I was there, there was a football game. Andre had been there for three days at the beginning of a two month stint; played about five minutes of football… and turned his ankle. After putting a brave face on for a couple of days, the bruises (and his wife’s insistence!) meant he decided to go to the hospital. They put a cast on his ankle but had no crutches to give him. After a day in town hopping, it was very clear that this wasn’t feasible long term and definitely not up at the station. So Eduardo took some planks of wood and fashioned some crutches, which were painful in themselves for Andre to use so he taped some washing-machine-fluff to them for some padding! He stayed really cheerful and helpful through most of the couple of weeks he was out of action (although Marcela might not entirely agree); pretty impressive, considering!
On the beach day, he managed to get down the long path with some effort, and found a good spot to sit. But the sea lion nearby then decided to use his crutches as a pillow! I wasn’t quick enough to move them out of the way, sorry Andre! Eduardo and Cesar then used the crutches as a chairlift to get Andre back to the top of the path, hard work but much appreciated.