So it turned out that the end of the bike ride of death was the beginning of La Senda Verde. An animal sanctuary that catered for snakes, parrots, tortoises and most visibly of all, monkeys!
I’ll make one thing absolutely clear right now before I continue however. This blog is currently being written not a moment after writing a review of Senda Verde on Tripadvisor. Unfortunately I felt this place only deserved two stars out of five.
Two stars for a charity animal refuge you say? GASP! COUGH! SPLUTTER!
Yeah but as a paying guest my review was aimed at my experience from that point of view. It was a bit crap to be honest. However what they do for the animals is nothing short of fantastic. It’s just a shame I couldn’t promote it without being a closet liar. With this being said, my short stay did allow for some pretty special moments. That I can’t deny.
First of all I managed to secure the very cool sounding tree house that was available for the night. It seemed the place to stay if you wanted to be near all the monkeys. As it would turn out, I was right.
Another animal that enjoyed chilling out around my new place of residence were the local parrots. I was later told that they were normally a little anti-social, or at least, didn’t approach people often. It takes a unique type to get along with them. With these beautiful birds wasting no time in pecking my hands and pulling at my shoelaces, I guess I am one of those types. They call me “the parrot whisperer” in those parts now! No not really…
The monkeys were, on the most part, equally as sociable. One in particular, named ‘Baloo’ was only too happy to climb all over me, play with my towel that was hanging up to dry, and mischievously cause a nuisance of himself. Another, much larger monkey, was soon arriving from a nearby branch to greet me. Although he much preferred to lick all my windows. I later learned four things about this particular lad, whose name I have now forgotten. One, he was in fact the alpha male of the group. Two, that it was unusual for him to get so close to new visitors, so close actually that he used my shoulder to gain leverage when approaching my windows. Three, this saliva spreading treat that my tree house was to endure was actually him marking his territory. And four, he was in one of those high testosterone rampages that apparently happen now and again. So perhaps it was lucky that he had simply decided that leaving some residue was more than enough, because he probably could have torn me limb from limb had I annoyed him. He even had a massive scar on his head from banging it against a cage that he was put in the last time he was “on the rampage.” He was clearly a nutcase, a small part of me wanted to ask if he was in fact from Pilton in Edinburgh. He definitely had the right traits. Males and their testosterone huh!
The tree house itself was simply yet pretty cool. On the lower level were a pair of simple box shaped beds on the floor which contained mattresses and several covers in each one. There was a couple of shelves and even a plug. I also had my entrance to the rope bridge that led out to the sanctuary. Opposite this door was another that led out to my balcony. This is where all the shoelace tugging, camera snatching and windae licking took place. To the right of the entrance was a ladder. It was more just lengths of wood nailed against the wall but it did the job. This took me up to the second level. A scattering of seats, another triangle shaped window that followed the trajectory of the roof and that was about it. Comfortable yes, but with a balcony teeming with hilarious parrots and monkeys below, it was safe to say I spent very little time up there. There was also one more animal that I have yet to mention. One that paid me a visit whilst I slept up in the trees. This one however, was far from welcome.
If there is one thing you can be sure of sleeping in the jungle, it’s that you won’t do much sleeping. Noisy crickets chirped without pause for breath, moths battered against the window repeatedly as they tried to get within touching distance of the light. Even after switching everything off they continued their self inflicted torment. The odd shake of a branch and ruffle of leaves could sporadically be heard outside. Occasionally I would lift my head slightly off my pillow, focussing my hearing on whatever it was I could hear above this seemingly endless wildlife orchestra taking place all around me. “Was that a monkey? What the hell was that?” The noise would stop and I would eventually rest my head back down, awaiting the next round of ‘guess the animal’. Then another noise sprung out of the darkness. Only this noise wasn’t outside. This wasn’t the scuffle of something running along a long branch, or a howl or a hoot. This was coming from inside the tree house. It was coming from the very room that I was lying in. It seemed to be coming from the bed next to mines, and it was close.
I quickly began flicking through the apps in my phone, searching frantically for the one aptly named ‘Super-Bright Light’. Now I normally go looking for ‘Torch’ or ‘Flashlight’ to begin with. It’s the one bloody app I can never find quickly without having to properly read every app in my phone. Eventually I found it and firmly pressed down on my screen. Hoping that the perpetrator would still be within sight. The entire room was instantly flooded with my phones powerful beam. I looked at it, it looked at me, and then instantly began scurrying away. It leaped up the wooden ladder, across a window sill, up another couple of wooden beams and disappeared out of sight through a tiny hole. After watching it make it’s escape I turned to glance at where the sound had been coming from. A bag of biscuits that I had in hindsight, stupidly left lying, had been ever so slightly nibbled. Although the bag was sealed clearly it was alerting a few visitors that something tasty was nearby. To this day I still don’t know exactly what that animal was, but judging by the long tail, the furry texture and the astonishingly impressive way in which it was able to leap out of sight within seconds. It was either a giant hungry mouse, or even worse, a great big rat. Sweet dream indeed!
The following day was more of the same, chill out with all the monkeys and a couple of parrots. Watch fights break out now and again between the socially inept ones. It is amazing just how much monkeys have in common with us humans. The day was more a waiting game that anything else. At around 4pm the biking company Gravity Assist, which I had hurtled down the WMDR with the previous day, were due to arrive with today’s motley crew, and seeing as I had effectively paid for the bus trip back to La Paz, their arrival was to be greeted with my patient expectation.
5pm came and went. Rumours had begun circulating between a couple of the volunteers who were also planning to leave for La Paz. There had been an accident and somebody had been taking to hospital, leaving Gravity Assist one bus short. Drat! There was nothing left for it. Two young English volunteers who had decided after only one day that they may have had enough and another who had been at the sanctuary for a good few weeks, along with myself, were all ready to leave. Looks like it was to be a public transport job. Except we were in the middle of a jungle. Drat again!
Walking under the falling sun, backpack in tow, our only concern was getting a taxi to the nearest town before sunset where we would be able to get a bus to La Paz. Each passing vehicle was met by 4 hopeful thumbs whilst the sun sunk lower, and our shadows grew longer. Eventually a small bus stopped, two spaces were visible, in Bolivia this translates into about 6 spaces. We crammed in and set off, ten minutes later we had reached a small town. It wasn’t long before a taxi was negotiated and with the darkness finally setting in, we had once again set off, this time to the big city. The journey was long but time passed through spells of sleep, swapping travelling tales, the inevitable questions directed towards me about the pending referendum in Scotland, and some more sleep.
La Paz was as pleasant as always, although it had turned fairly cold recently. Another couple of random walks to explore the odd market and what not was on the cards, as well as a trip to the south of the city where all the rich people lived. After wandering into a sports shop in search of the Bolivian football top, a man (I think he was Japanese) asked if I spoke English, “Si” I awkwardly replied, purely out of a growing habit. Why didn’t I just say yes? He man blinked at me for a second, and then proceeded to launch into his question. It turns out he was after a football, but didn’t know what size to by. “Ah! Well! You want the size 5, this is the official size of a football” etc etc. After effectively selling him the football through my knowledgeable spiel, I was on my way. The ticket had been bought and the bus back to Potosi was imminent. A 9 hour trip overnight and I was to be back where it had all began. The travelling was finally over and my role as English teacher was soon to resume.
If I have taken anything in from my 18 days of travelling, it was this. If one day, I decide to pack in the teaching and pursue another career. Selling footballs to Asian tourists might just be the very thing to do. I certainly do seem to have a knack for it.