Healing in the House

Well hey there my lovelies! Thought it was about time I updated you all with my antics.

First of all, since my last blog, can you believe, I’ve spent over a month or so here in Cusco and in Healing House! It’s been fab. It’s pretty much been like living in a hippy commune here haha, it’s been magical. What’s made it so special is that everyone can really truly be themselves here without any judgement or prejudice.

And hey, I know I’m talking in past tense here but that’s because the ‘call’,  the ‘itch’ has started stirring in me again and has given me the ‘C’mon, let’s get out of here’ type of nudge. So I can’t ignore it…it’s time to move on!

I can tell you though, I have made so many like-minded friends and it’s been so wonderful all going out for dinner together – sometimes up to 10 of us!

And everyone here has amazing gifts to offer such as reiki, massage, music therapy, arts and crafts. There is an array of skills here and I have just loved living in it all, the atmosphere, the energy, vibe and the experience. I’m so blessed and lucky to have met the most amazing life long friends…but hey, for some of us, it’s not over as a few of us are checking out together and headed for the mountains…

Trip to Pisac

So just to backtrack….

A few of my new friends and I decided to all take a girls trip to Pisac. We spent a few nights in the Sacred Valley and also spent time visiting a meditation retreat which was amazing!

It’s only a 45-50 minute bus ride away too so it’s very easy to get to, you just jump on the ‘Colectivo’ bus. for 4 soles (about £1!) You know you’re in the right area for the bus too because you can hear Peruvians shouting “Pisac Miss, you want Pisac?” And if you didn’t hear them, you’ll soon see them all waving their little tatty ‘Pisac’ signs in your face haha.

Just an FYI, if you take the Colectivo bus, be prepared to be chucked about from left to right in your seat! If there is a seat belt…DO IT UP haha! They drive like maniacs. Luckily the drivers know the bends really well but they don’t half chuck the buses round them corners, oh my word! I felt quite sick but thankfully I had a window seat and a slight breeze on my cheeks. But best not have a big breakfast ok!!

Pisac is so different. It really does feel like a sacred place. There are nothing but fields, mountains, locals walking their cows…oh and a huge market in the centre of town! Yep, bartering skills have well and truly been dusted off once again 😉

Pisac is almost like the more chilled out, scenic version of Cusco! It’s a small town full of funky hippy shops, baggy aladdin pants, vegan restaurants, crystal shops and cafes. There are also adverts everywhere calling for people to join them on ayusacha or san pedro retreats – these are plant medicines that people drink out here and they have been doing so for thousands of years.

I loved seeing busy locals loading up their wooden trolleys full of fresh home made bread or cups of black corn juice and carting them around the cobbled streets and alleyways. It almost felt like a scene out of Oliver Twist…Cue the song….’Who will buy my fresh tasty bread…who will buy my black corn drinks?’ I felt so stuck in the dark ages but that’s just the way I liked it and exactly how I wanted it to be here.walk your cow

One night, we went for a walk round town when suddenly I heard Summer scream “Hey…ya’ll come and take a look at this…”  I looked around and saw Summer looking towards the ground. She was beaming her head torch on a small, brown scorpion!! Of course, I came running over! “Wow! Ah that is a female Bark Scorpion. They aren’t venomous to us but can still sting!” Shining my torch on the 8 legged beauty, we watched as she scuttled off over the small, grey stones and into the grass. “Well thank god you’re hear to tell us that things not gonna kill us!”  Hahah.

That’s the one thing I really miss here. BUGS. We are too high up for any kind of bugs! The only critters I have seen (so far) are large ants with golden, honey coloured butts and black bumble bees! Yep, their bumble bees here are black!

Oh and we also witnessed some kind of mountain fire too! The locals told us that people go up the mountains and set fire to all the thorns to clear paths and make the mountains more fertile again but Local in Pisacapparently this is illegal. We all stood and watched for a while as a small path fire rapidly spread and engulfed one whole side of the mountain! We were now looking upon a huge, angry orange blaze! Flames were reaching up so high as though almost trying to lick the clouds! Our cheeks were almost reflecting a glowing a warm golden, yellow…it was THAT bad! “Can you imagine the people that started that? They are probably panicking so much right now!” I couldn’t help let my imagination run…’You were only supposed to set fire to this one bush you idiot!’ ‘Sorry boss! I got carried away’…I was just glad we weren’t up there trekking at the time!

“Shit!” I gasped. “It looks as though it’s going to spread right down into the valley. Um…do you think they have a fire service out here?!” “Of course not!” Ariana chuckled. “How are they gonna get a fire truck up the side of that?” HAH! But fortunately it didn’t spread any further downward.

The next morning we could see smouldering smoke rising up into the sky and burnt, crispy pathways. It was clear the fire had been burning the whole night through.

The meditation was good too. It was mainly a break to get away from the hustle and bustle of Cusco itself. The hosts of the meditation were lovely! A warm, motherly Australian lady called Sue held space for us with her husband Paul. Paul was originally from Leicester in the UK, what a small world! He was such a hippy too! Paul had long white hair pulled back into a pony tail and he sounded exactly like Neil from the Young Ones (google moment if you’re not sure haha) Actually, at one point during our meditation, I swear his face morphed into the BFG (Roald Dahl’s animated Big Friendly Giant) haha. Spitting image! hehehe.

After a few nights exploring Pisac, it was time to hold on to our stomachs as we headed back for Cusco on the dodgy Colectivo bus…

Hollistic Mystic

So someone in the house recommended me to a hollistic doctor here just to try out a natural therapy. Realising I’m here for new experiences, I followed my curiosity one afternoon dragging my dear friend Summer with me for company hehe.

Oh my word it was quite a trek! We basically walked and walked until the trail of ‘tourists’ gradually disappeared until we were the only blonde, white westerners around! Well, you know me by now, that’s what I absolutely love haha. I always live by the motto ‘Live like a local NOT a tourist’.

Finally, after piecing together what crappy Spanish we had between us to ask for directions, we found the place. It looked shut but after realising you had to buzz to get in we waited patiently. A middle aged man came to the door and let us in and instantly assumed we knew Spanish haha. Thankfully this doc dude came out and spoke perfect English…he is from Holland so all was good :)

Summer decided she wanted to go back but I went ahead and had a consultation. I seem to get skin breakouts when I travel so I asked if he could do anything about that? “Ahhh yes…there is never illness, just unbalance. I can make you balanced again”. Yen, an older, white haired guy who is uber nice and friendly and one of those doctors you’d want as your family go to.  “Ok, sign me up!” I was eager to see what medicine he had in mind but he had other ideas other than medicine…

“Ok. Take off your shoes and follow me, I will take you to the treatment room”….Um….treatment room? What did he have planned?! Oh god. I followed Yen through to a room full of what looked like massage tables that had been propped upright. “Ok, so we do a vacuum therapy here where we only work on the meridians of the body. It’s like acupuncture but without the needles. So we place these suction cups on your feet and your hands. It will take around 2 hours”. Yen ushered me to one of the tables next to a Hollistic mysticsleeping Peruvian lady. “Ok, thanks!” I must admit, I was curious but dubious this was going to do anything but what the hell, all about trying new weird and wacky things hey!

It was the weirdest feeling! These cups felt strange but you kind of got used to the feeling after a while. Yen would come over every now and then and move the cups to a different part of the hands or feet. At one point, he would look at the colour of your skin after the cups had been removed and he’d give you information about what you should and shouldn’t eat! “Don’t eat animals with 4 legs, don’t drink cows milk, don’t eat raw carrots, don’t eat raw tomatoes and stay away from too much sugar!” Wow, how does he know all this. Well, so far, I have become vegan anyways. It seems to be the way of life here…well…in some parts of Peru but actually, my digestive system seemed to be getting better living off veggies and quinoa everyday :)

Hollistic“I recommend you come back 3 times per week to get your energy balanced”. ‘What? Is he having a laugh?’ I thought!! That’s a lot of commitment, especially as he tends to go over the 2 hour mark. So, I did it for a few weeks but I must admit, I did notice a great deal of improvement in my circulation haha. But gradually, I had to stop going. My 2 hours were turning into 3 hour sessions and it was taking up too much of my time. I am glad I tried it, I can tick that one off the list anyhows hehe. So I guess you could call me a ‘balanced vegan’ now 😀

Reiki with Gandistein

So, do you remember Gandistein who I mentioned in my last blog? He’s the Reiki dude that looked like a mixture between Gandalph from Lord of the Rings and Einstein haha. Well, as he is a Reiki guru, I decided to go along and see what he was all about and if he could balance me in an hour instead of 3!Gandistein

I popped along to his apartment and we sat for a while chatting and drinking coca tea. Eventually, Gandistein put some music on and we started my reiki session.

“I can tell you’ve had some pain in your heart, emotional pain, maybe…7 to 10 years ago. But I can tell you are healed from this now but you still remember. You are very balanced and you made a pact with yourself 50 years ago to come to Peru”. I opened my eyes and saw Gandistein had his eyes closed. ‘Wow’ I thought. How interesting. He was spot on about the emotional pain which those of you who are close to me will know is correct but how would he know that?

“You like music? You need to let your hair down now”. Gandistein looked at me as though that was an instruction haha! “Um, yeh of course, music is in my blood”. “Then come, enjoy the music tonight with Summer too”. Gandy was taking us ladies out that night haha!

I left feeling energised and almost bounced down the road like Tigger from Winnie the pooh hah. I couldn’t wait to tell my pals at the house of my experience!

Freaky Clown show

So as promised, Gandistein picked Summer and I up and we went to go and listen to some ‘music’ hahah…little did we know….

We arrived at the bar which was pretty empty. Immediately we sat at the table at the front of the stage thinking we’d gotten ourselves the perfect spot. We soon realised, these tables were left empty for a reason!

I ordered a Pisco sour as this was a local drink and of course I wanted to go ‘loco’. This drink basically tastes like brandy with a dollop of raw egg white on top…yuck! I only had 2 and was feeling pretty wasted haha (I blame the altitude haha). Well, it sure helped for what was about to come.

A full on circus show is what happened next!! Juggling clowns and shit magic tricks hahah. Gandistein was sitting in the middle of us and he seemed to be loving this strange, freaky clown show whilst Summer and I kept exchanging looks of ‘What the f**k is going on’ and ‘where is the music’ hahah…it was actually pretty hilarious! I could not stop laughing and even though I wasn’t enjoying the show, I was enjoying the experience, the weirdness of it all and the fact we were just in another country witnessing another cultures entertainment hehe.

And oh my goodness…one clown came out and juggled 3 clubs and badly I might add. Sitting at the front was a mistake because the clown dropped one of the clubs which fell right into Summers lap! He apologised and then went back stage only to come back on yielding…..KNIVES!! Well….you can imagine, Summer and I were crapping ourselves hahaha. We watched between our fingers in cowering positions waiting for his act to finish! Phewie!

Clown showAnd for the finale….A clown came on holding what looked like a whoopee cushion. A poor girl was pulled up out of the audience. Her job was to help him squeeze his sweaty head into this giant whoopee cushion…well, down and over his nose stopping just above his top lip.

To music, he blew so hard out of his nose until the cushion gradually blew up like a balloon! What a weird act haha…he was trying to get it to balloon out to the biggest, roundest ball he could. Very odd but kinda funny at the same time (thank goodness for happy hour at the bar hehe).

Finally, after a gruelling hour and a half of this oddly funny and peculiar show, the music came on, hooray!

The band were sooo worth the wait! It was pure Andean Spirit music 😀 The room was filled with bongos, drums, flutes and Andean voices, they were just amazing! The crowd were loving them and they got everyone up on their feet dancing the night away.

In fact, seeing this band became my new favourite Sunday night haunt (but I timed it well enough to catch the start but miss the freaky clown show hah!)

Chilling with new friends

So you know what? I really haven’t been doing much else apart from hanging out with fab new friends, seeing great bands, eating quality fresh food at cheap restaurants, mediating and sharing funny stories, going to house parties, costume parties, recharging my batteries, attending sound healing sessions, bartering at the local markets and trying to avoid buying more colourful Peruvian jumpers haha.

Yep, it’s time to move on. I feel I have been getting stale here. My need for exploration has called long enough. So Saturday 14th October I will be checking out and heading back for Pisac for a week and then….I will be going it along and flying out to Iquitos to get my jungle hit! I can NOT wait! But don’t worry, I will be back in Cusco in a few weeks to tick of Machu Picchu and also the Rainbow Mountains!

But for now, this is what I am looking for…a true Amazonian jungle experience. I will be staying in my own lodge and going on a few tours too. AND I will be visiting tribes, oh…my…god! I think I will take some sweets or toys with me for the children as I know they love gifts plus it’s only polite as I’ll be in their village hey!

So I promise to update you once I’m back from my ‘Readders’ jungle journey with lots of pics of bugs, more bugs, probably a few more bugs again oh and some tribes hehe.

Until then my lovely jubblies,

Hels Bels xx

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Review of Peru

Hey, so I’ve only been in Peru for a week but I already feel inspired to write!

After 6 hours of air time, (3hrs to Colombia and 3 to Peru) I landed at Cusco airport late Sunday morning, 3rd September. Coming in to land at Cusco was breath taking! Even from my aisle seat I could see a blanket of jaggerdy mountains below. My imagination started chattering away in its usual fashion, ‘Cor, imagine if the plane got too low to them mountains? They’d slice this jet open like a tin can’….Shhh Helen!!

Cusco’s a very small airport, it almost reminded me of the airport at the Red Centre in Australia (Alice Springs). I think Cusco’s airport has recently opened up to cater for more international flights whereas it used to be just for domestic (hence the small size).

I headed straight for the security check in and the immigration so I could hurry up and gather my invisible man who also seems to have put on a few pounds hah – my invisible man seems to weigh more than when I left the UK! Strange, as I’m rapidly using up the heavier items, oh well, all good for the muscles!

“Have you been to Peru before?” The immigration officer was thumbing through my passport and my landing card, his eyes throwing me a stern but brief glance every now and then. “Nope, never, first time” I excitedly responded. “And how long you stay?” “Oh 3mths” I replied. “3 months!!” The Officer almost stopped what he was doing and gave me a more intense and a ‘you have my full attention’ kinda look. I could almost hear myself swallow at this point thinking there’d be an issue? “3 months” The officer repeated as though he’d misheard me! “Yep!” “And you can afford it?” I was afraid the officer was now going to ask me to produce my bank statement to prove it (which of course I bloody forgot to print and bring with me didn’t I hah!). “Yep, I sure can. Been saving for this trip specially” I shone back my biggest and best smile as if to quickly cover up any doubt that seemed to be accumulating. “Hmm. Ok. I will give you 150 days. Bring this slip back when you leave the country”. I was quickly trying to work out if that was indeed enough time to cover me until December! ‘150 days!’ I thought to myself, the cheeky so and so…Brits get 180 days! Oh well, I was just happy to have finally arrived to the place I’ve been drawn to for so long.

The exit doors of the airport seemed to open in slow motion like something out of a movie and as I glanced up and outwards (also in slow motion), I was blown away by the sight of the stunning mountains. The sunlight beamed down and lit up their peaks with glorious golden orange hues making them all stand out even more like someone ‘up there’ had been at them with some kind of highlighter pen hah! They are everywhere, surrounding and almost ‘hugging’ the snoozing city slap bang in the middle of it. Just wow! My wonder was soon interrupted by….”Hello lady”, “Excuse me miss”, “Cab senorita?” and then hoards of people waving their tatty cards with hand-written names on them. None of them had my name on, so I waited a little when….”Helen?” I looked round to see a fair haired guy wearing spectacles, a beanie hat, a beige leather jacket, ripped jeans and trainers. I walked over and recognised it was Zamir, my Airbnb host (how I recognised him from a thumbnail sized photo on the Airbnb site I don’t know haha!). “Hey! Nice to meet you!” I held out my hand and shook Zamirs hand. “Let me take your backpack” Zamir immediately ushered to carry mr invisible. “I’ll warn you, it’s heavy haha” I laughed out loud but let him carry on. Zamir and I then got a cab back to his apartment.

We chatted for a bit in the cab ride and did the ‘getting to know you’ bit. Zamir is only young, he’s a 28 yr old Russian native who came travelling to Peru 4 yrs ago. Zamir fell in love with the country and also his lovely wife Lays who is of course a Peruvian so hence he never left.

My eyes couldn’t stop looking out the cab window so I just let my mouth get on with chatting to Zamir while I took in the views haha. I could see small, tanned and leathery skinned Peruvian women sitting on steps by the roadside. They were wearing what I can only imagine is their traditional attire and they looked to be selling knitwear of all kinds, jumpers, scarves, hats and gloves, toy alpacas and colourfully stitched handbags. Cars were everywhere too, it seems that’s one consistent commodity no matter where you go? And I could see street food carts being wheeled from one place to the next, oh and dogs….dogs were everywhere. “Are the street dogs dangerous out here?” I asked, hoping Zamir would give me the answer I was looking for. “Oh yes, they are fine. Very happy dogs here”. “PHEWIE”. That made me feel so much better, I didn’t want a flash back of Thailand haha!

Zamirs placeTheir apartment was perfect. I had my own room WITH telly!! OMG and MOVIE channels in both Spanish and English (sad what you miss sometimes), oh and yet another amazing view out the window. You just can’t hide from the mountains here, they are everywhere, watching your every move haha.

Zamir and Lays were the perfect hosts to me. They made me a yummy avocado salad when I arrived and then let me sleep for a few hours because by then the altitude had started kicking in. It’s weird, I felt fine straight off the jet but a few hours in and I felt so dizzy, I couldn’t wait for a lye down. I actually heard later on that Cusco has 40% LESS oxygen in the air! That’s a pretty alarming stat.

After a few hours kip, Lays and Zamir walked me around the main square, they showed me what buses to catch (and also which ones to avoid), and Zamir even showed me where to buy good, cheap food oh and REALLY cheap cakes from a church in town. I bought a round coconut biscuit with jam in the middle for 23 pence!! We also had dinner and lunches out together so I was taking visual notes as to where to remember to go.

As for the weather (incase you were wondering)! It is nice and warm in the day, not too hot but just right. But the evenings are SO cold! Temperatures really plummet at night so my backpack will be full of jumpers for the journey home me thinks haha.

Main Square, Cusco

The main square is amazing. My senses have come alive again! They’ve been dusted off and reborn almost like an old book that’s been rested too long on its shelf but its now got a brand new cover! GOD I’ve missed travelling. Everything’s all brand new again and it feels amazing to be seeing things for the first time once more. And oh boy, the colours…Peruvians love their colour! It’s as though the city has been drenched by a rainbow! Art work, embroidery, and clothing…

Keep calm AlpacaAlpaca clothing is BIG news out here but you can get ripped off. If you want real alpaca, you have to make sure the label says ‘baby alpaca’ and oh my word, it’s SO soft and warm to the touch.

The streets here are very up and down, very narrow and cobbled. You find yourself battling to keep on your little bit of path without being nudged off by a tourist. It’s amazing how cars get by too…the roads are like…well, think one-car-width country lanes like the ones in Cornwall, England haha. And there are people everywhere, locals and tourists but you know what, I kinda like this hustle and bustle. I can sometimes feel like I’m the only one standing there when I’m taking in all the wonderful sights and smells. That’s the beauty of being a traveller too, no one knows you or your story, you can be whoever you want to be!

I love the intricate maze of alley ways that seem to lead to another opening of shops and stalls, and passing a local playing his wooden flute for spare change (which I now know is called a Quena), and seeing the masses of chocolate and coffee shops to hearing cars constantly beeping each other to move out the way or the “Excuse me miss, massage miss?” or “Hola Senorita, you like paintings?” With that, a man will walk over to you and open a ‘briefcase’ full of brightly coloured paintings to try entice you to buy.

I see local Peruvian women carrying huge amounts on their backs too. Short women with short legs wearing gorgeous, brightly coloured embroided cloths that seem to swoop around the whole top half of their bodies and tie at the front. They appear to carry everything in these wraps from rice, corn, fruit oh and even their babies! Yep, a little round face would pop out as if like a baby kangaroo checking out the world outside of its pouch! I’ve also noticed these women aren’t afraid to breast feed wherever they are too, not that it bothers me but it kinda highlights to me just how different views, opinions and ways of life are out there in the world…

And the smells! It’s a mix of car fumes to old drains to sweet sickly smells (probably all the chocolate they’re making haha) to grilled food aromas. Oh and urine! I guess you get that everywhere. But what is odd, I sometimes see men peeing in the streets but in broad daylight and they don’t care if you see them! Cusco so far to me, has this wonderful balance of old, traditional city meets new, slightly more upmarket touristy town (in parts). I like that the people have tried to preserve the city the way the Inca’s would have left it but they’ve modernised enough to meet the needs of the blooming tourist trade if that all makes sense.

The churches and buildings look almost gothic like too and they stand with such a strength and power to them. Some walls and buildings still have the original rocks used by the Incas all them years ago (hence my old vs new quote above) :)

Eat one before you meet one

“What do you fancy for dinner tonight?” Zamir asked me what type of food I wanted to try one night. “Something local” I curiously replied. “Ok, how about alpaca?” “Alpaca?!! Omg, they eat them here?” I had no idea but curiousity got the better of me. “Sure, why not”. So off we went.

Zamir took me to a nice place in town that was obviously very popular as there were tourists waiting outside for tables. Once inside, we got ordering. I had a coca and mint tea (helps with altitude sickness) and then this alpaca with veg and mash. I have to say it’s very tasty meat. It’s almost like a small beef steak, a bit chewy and slightly salty.

“So it’s better that you eat one now before you meet one because they are very cute!” Zamir then scoffed a piece of chicken into his mouth and stared at me as if waiting for a response. “I can take you to see one tomorrow if you like?”. “Yeh sure. I have a feeling it’ll put me off eating them again hah!” We paid our bill and then headed back.

The next day came and I had a banging headache (altitude not alcohol before you ask haha!). I popped some paracetamols and we then headed out to meet the alpaca’s! Eeek, I was so excited.

We walked through the main square, up an alley way and then veered off through a stony doorway reaching a large, open squared patch of green. In the centre were a small herd of alpacas! I could see white, fluffy curly haired ones with thick wool on them to golden, beige ones with more finer, flatter looking hair. “Hola miss. Come, come. Take pictures. Have besos with alpaca” A middle-aged woman ushered me over. As I approached her, she pulled me over and took my hand and stuffed it with some kind of long grass. “Feed, feed”. “She said it’s ok for you to feed them and I can take your photos” Zamir was fluent in Spanish and immediately offered to take my coat and started taking photos for me. I totally agreed with Zamir…they are so cute and I don’t think I want to eat one again hah! A woolly alpaca jumper will do me just fine.

I had a few more photos with these cute, woolly mammals and even got an alpaca kiss on the cheek :)

Healing House

When it was time to move on, Zamir was kind enough to take the cab with me to my next place (Healing House in San Blas) so he could help carry mr invisible for me (We’d passed Healing House on one of our walks and there were sooo many steps up to it haha) What a lovely, lovely couple! I feel I’ve had a good start here in Cusco. Zamir and Lays have given me a good grounding so I’m very grateful to them both for all their hospitality.

Approaching the doors to Healing House, Zamir helped me inside and then dropped my invisible man at the reception for me. “Well, thanks so much for looking after me. You guys have been amazing!” I shook Zamirs hand and forced a tip into his hand which of course he was reluctant to take but I felt he should. “Hey, keep in touch. If you need anything, just message us”. What a sweetheart! I then turned to check into the start of my next project!

“Welcome to Healing House. I’m Katherine”. Katherine is lovely. She must only be a little younger than me and is from Tunbridge Wells, UK so it was refreshing to hear a fellow Brit. “So what brings you here to Healing House?” She asked. “I’m going to be helping the poorer communities here with whatever they need help with”. “Oh lovely. And you’re here a while too I see?” Katherine was then tapping away at the receptions computer and scrolling through menus as if to verify what she’d just said. “Yep, 3 months!” I replied. “Oh wow! We need more long term people like you here. Ok, let’s get you settled in”. With that Katherine showed me around and then helped me up to my room.

This place looks fab! A brightly coloured place with all sorts of positive affirmations all over the place. The one outside my room says “Don’t dream your life, live your dreams!” I love that. Here they offer holistic therapies such as Reiki, yoga, massage, sound therapy, acupuncture and also meditation classes! I will definitely be trying the meditation as I still suck at that! There is a communal kitchen, a small library full of all sorts of reading, a studio and also a ‘silence’ room where you can meditate quietly whenever you like. One program they offer here is free holistic therapies to the poorer community here so that’s one thing I am signing up for…to offer Reiki 😉

So I’m sharing with 2 other girlies whom so far, I am yet to bond with. It’s been a few days now and they don’t seem to want to talk to me for whatever reason. I think they have both been here a while now and probably bonded with each other so I understand it’s hard when a new person comes in but the longer it goes on for, the more I am kind of thinking ‘where’s the effort?’ If it was the other way around, I’d hate for someone to feel left out or alone but hey, I’m a big girl and we’re all on our own personal journeys here so there! What will be will be I guess.

Roofus

My word it’s so cold at night in the room! I have been taking 2 showers a day just to warm myself up! I tell you what though, I have made one friend here so far…and I met him on the roof!

Whenever I take a shower, I will open the windows to de-steam the room and one morning I pulled open the old style wooden windows to see a beige, tanned and white mottled fluffy kitty! I think we both kinda jumped at the sight of each other haha. But there he was, just sitting on the tiles of the roof, staring at me with his green curious eyes. “Hola!” I guessed he only understands spanish haha but my attempts to lure him over failed and he then gracefully trotted off over the tiles and onto the next roof until I could no longer see him. Maybe he’ll be back tomorrow?

Day 2 and he DID! Kitty came back! In fact, he’s been visiting me everyday now and each time he gets a little more confident. He’s either a little pervy kitty or he’s looking for a friend like me awww. I can tell he wants to sniff my extended finger that I offer him through the window each time too haha. I think I will name him ‘Roofus’ :)

TBC….

Lonesome explorer

So to avoid my roomies (which probably doesn’t really help the situation), I have been off out and exploring on my own everyday, all day! I sure do love being on my own sometimes, it’s a wonderfully satisfying feeling to know you can do something alone, to fulfil all your curiousities without the need of another, to rely on oneself, it’s quite riveting actually.

And guess what I found? Markets…3 of them! Yep, I ventured round all the various stalls of fruit and veg, homeware, knitware and meat stalls..yeuch! The meat stalls stink and you’re constantly wafting the flies from your face. Oh boy, a pig…a WHOLE pig, testes included!! Jeez some people just eat anything and everything! Or you could buy just the pigs head, tongue included! Even the chickens come as the whole package…head and feet included, wow! It sure is an eye opener.

Hey, what’s that? I headed over to a veg stall and saw various things from lettace to avocados to corn and wait…purple corn ha! I’ve heard purple corn is a big thing here and there it was in the basket. A purple cob of corn. Amazing.

I bought myself some tomatoes, avocados and a lettace for a little over a few quid! I didn’t feel I needed to barter for it as it was so dam cheap. I did however, barter for a couple of jumpers! I needed some more for the early mornings and also for my room in the evenings. First stall, I bartered for a black jumper with a hood. I got the market seller down from 60 soles to 40 soles (£9.50). Next stall, I bartered for a red jumper. I got this lady down from 35 to 30 (£7 odd quid), she drove a hard bargin and wouldn’t go any lower but I was happy with the jumper so shook on it.

I still had no map and no wifi on my phone (unless I nipped into a cafe) but I actually liked it that way. I got so lost one day and at one point was almost thinking ‘What the hell am I doing walking around without a map you idiot Hels!’ But, I actually loved it. I found it has been the best way to become familiar with the roads and streets so I can build up my own google maps in my head haha. I have literally walked miles each day just pottering about and soaking up as much of the atmosphere as I can.

Oh and I found a chocolate museum too! Free entry plus you get to try all sorts of local choccy, yummy. My favourite choccy bar here is called ‘Milky’ and dare I say it, I think it’s better than Dairy Milk! Think I will have to smuggle a few bars back hehe.

One afternoon, I found my wondering feet were starting to ache and my belly rumbling. ‘Right, food time!’ I didn’t want to go to a place where all the other tourists ended up, I wanted to eat like a local so hunted out the ‘quieter’ alley ways! I wanted to be the only westener in the place and oh boy, I sure did find it lol. I walked into a ‘shabby’ looking restaurant that didn’t even have a name above the door, well, the fact is, most places don’t have a name above the door here (well, some places do but not all). It was a ‘set menu’ place, brill! I’d been in one with Zamir and Lays and they’re great. All the locals know about them and they can get quite packed. You get a lot of food for so little money too! I enjoyed a large bowl of corn soup followed by chicken with rice and veg and a coca tea all for £1.66!! That was even cheaper than the place I was in with my Zamir and Lays actually…with them, I’d had quinoa soup, fish, chips and rice and a small pot of jelly…oh and a sprite all for £1.90! Stewth! Defo would NOT get that in the UK hah.

Friday afternoon, I decided to sit in the square here in San Blas. There was a mini market going on with locals selling their hand-made goods and wares and then suddenly a band started to play so I took a seat on one of the benches for a while and took in the musical vibes. I do love listening to music in other countries. I got goosebumps just sitting there thinking how lucky I am to be hearing and seeing this band playing it’s alluring mix of latin, spanish and mexican ambience all played with acoustic guitars, wooden flutes and panpipes, wow. After the band, I was lucky enough to see a group of locals showing off their traditional Peruvian dance moves which was FAB. Again, it was great to see some of their own traditions and past times being played out before me.

Meditation

So I am rubbish at meditation! When I try it, all I hear, are my internal cogs churning and my brain chatting complete utter nonsense at me trying to distract me. I noticed they do meditation classes here at Healing House so I thought I’d go along and give it a try. All I had to do was show up 5 minutes before the class.

“Am I late?” I heard a girl ask the Receptionist. “No, not at all. Just walk on through and Vento will come and greet you”. I had already signed in and was waiting to be called into the ‘silence room’. “Hey! Are you doing the meditation too?” I asked the tall, skinny girl who was now approaching me. “Yeh! I sure am. I’m Emma, nice to meet you”. Emma must only be in her mid 20s and I could tell she was from Australia. Before she shook my hand, she tucked a dark curly lock of her hair behind her left ear. “Ah cool. Nice to meet you. I think it’s just you and me for now”. My eyes then ushered hers around the garden as if to prove we were the only ones attending.

After a short get to know session, Vento walked in. “Hola. How are we? So you would like to learn about meditation?” I looked up to see an older guy with deep expression lines around his eyes and forehead, thinning white hair and a whiskered goatie look. ‘Omg’ I thought to myself…’He is a hybrid of Gandalph from Lord of the Rings and Einstein! Hahah’ I did have a chuckle in my own head but he is defo the spit of them both hah. I’m sure he said he is a mix of Columbia and Chille so he had a rather interesting accent. I shall call him Gandistein.

“So for tonight, I will teach you what meditation is and what we use it for. We’ll then have a practice guided session”. Vento ushered us to all sit down crossed legged on the mat so we could begin.

It was quite interesting to hear where meditation came from and how you can meditate sitting down or even while you’re walking down the street! It actually releases endorphins in our brains so it’s no wonder that it can clear your mind and make you feel good. Our practice session was good too. I did find it hard all the way through though and it was only 20 minutes of actual meditation! I guess you have to start small and then build up to longer sessions. Emma seemed to be doing great which was kinda annoying haha. What did make me laugh, was the annoying eye twitch that I had suddenly developed..concentrating too hard maybe? I couldn’t stop wondering if Gandistein could see it so that was putting me off hah!

“Excellent session tonight ladies. You are both beautiful souls. Shall we meet again tomorrow or Sunday?” Gandistein arranged another session with us both for the morning and with that, we all parted ways.

Saturday morning I popped downstairs at 10am for meditation part 2. The doors to the meditation room were closed so thinking I was late, I bust in through the doors only to find that I’d totally interupted a reiki session, oops! Bit embarrasing haha. Gandistein didn’t look too impressed either but he told me to come back at 11am instead. So I sat in the kitchen and made myself a coca and mint tea.

In walked a larger than life lady with glasses and long dark wavy hair. She was hardly wearing anything so I could pretty much see everything but I loved that she didn’t care. “Hello there. New blood I see. Welcome, welcome. I’m Sheeva Diva”. “Ah nice to meet you, I’m Helen”. With that, we clicked and chatted for a while in the kitchen. Sheeva Diva was oozing with confidence and didn’t care a hoot what people thought of her and I admired her for that.

After a while, I sat outside to get some sun as it was freezing in the kitchen…that’s where I met Georgie. Georgie, an English girl from London (who also seems to have dark curly hair) started chatting to me and again, we clicked too. She was just on her way off on some trip out but we chatted about the things we’d done and wanted to do here. “Hey, have you been to the Rainbow mountains?” She asked. “No but that’s on my list for sure” I replied. I knew what was coming…”Oh, well, we can go together if you like. Here’s my number, we’ll chat when I’m back from my trip”. Exchanging numbers, my spirits were lifted realising that I was finally making friends and plans were starting to form. With that, Georgie grabbed her backpack and left. “See you in a few days” She shouted through the door before it slammed shut. Then on cue, Gandistein’s door opened and he beckoned me in.

Our next meditation session was much of the same. We all sat on the mats and started our meditation session. Gandistein did a guided meditation for us and then at the end of the session, we all started talking about reiki which was cool. Emma then booked herself in for a reiki session with Gandistein and I headed off for my first meeting with the Managers of Healing House to discuss my intentional stay.

Intentional stay

The meeting was down the road in a cafe that Healing House also own. I could smell the insense before I’d even got to the shop so I knew I was in the right place haha. I walked in and saw all sorts of ‘magical’ bits n bobs from crystals to tibetan bowels, oils and insense to books about reiki and spirit guides etc etc.

“Hi! Are you here for the intentional stay meeting?” I looked over my shoulder to see a tall, pretty slim girl with long blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. I noticed how amazingly clear her skin was too, she was almost glowing! “Yeh, I am, hi! I’m Helen”. “I’m Jamie, nice to meet you”. Again, I instantly clicked with Jamie, she had a nice persona about her and it almost felt like I’d known her before. We have a lot in common too and are both into reiki and have also travelled alone a fair bit so it was great exchanging all sorts of stories.

In then came Keith and Arianna, a couple of best friends from California, both Yogi’s (Yoga folk). They were here to practice their yoga skills and also see if they could offer some kind of coaching sessions to the people here.

Finally, we were called to our meeting. Mike and Julia, the centres organisers introduced themselves and then began exploring what we were all doing here and want we wanted to gain ourselves during our stay.

Jamie and I pretty much both offered the same service – to offer reiki to the poorer communities that really need it. And get this, I have also offered my writing services! I think I will be helping with the websites blog and keeping it up to date so I’ll be excited to get started with that. Jamie is also really into plant medicine and crystals so she is looking into a few more avenues too. Mike and Julia are thinking of teaming Jamie and I up…Jamie can talk about plant med and I can write about it :)

After our meeting, Jamie and I hung about town and I showed her a few of the sites that I had already seen (she’d only flown in the night before). At the end of the day, we swopped numbers and decided that we’d like to plan a few hikes and trips together such as visiting the sacred valley, a very important place in Cusco. I can’t wait!

BrunchActually the next day, the house put on a Sunday Brunch for 10 soles so Jamie and I said we’d go along. I am so glad we went too because we ended up getting chatting to a really nice bunch of people; Blake and his girlfriend, Britney and Guy. We were sitting out on the lawn chatting from 11:30am and actually ended up going for a drink AND dinner together! I don’t think I got home until 9pm but it was sooo nice to be around like-minded, down to earth people that didn’t judge you either…you were accepted for….well, being just you! We’re all going to get together again and perhaps do some walks/trips together too.

I am so happy right now! Feeling very warm and fuzzy aww. The house is a special place. The people you meet all seem to be ‘familiar’, it’s the funniest feeling. I guess we are all drawn here for our own reasons and I love that.

What a wonderful day Sunday was…and a beautiful connection with 5 beautifully ‘familiar’ strangers! :)

From Frags to Riches

So flashback time….*Back to Costa Rica baby!

I have been missing Anna a lot from the bug place but we’ve regularly been keeping in touch and I’m glad to report all is well in Anna land :) But ashamedly, I don’t think I ever mentioned Fraggle the dog?? A silver/blue curly haired pup that was named after the dog from Jim Henson’s ‘Fraggle Rock’. And he really is the spitting image of the dog in the opening scenes too (the one in the lighthouse at the beginning!).

Fraggle used to be a street dog in Costa Rica but the short story is, one intern ‘adopted’ him and vowed to take him home with her back to the UK but…it never happened. Fraggle ended up becoming the Butterfly Gardens dog and always went home with the owners for his bed and board haha bless.

Fraggle’s a very young dog, he must only be around 2 years old. He’ll definitely need some training too but I know Anna will do a great job. One of his favourite things to do at the Gardens was to chase passing speeding motorbikes! “Fraggle! Fraggle! Get back here!” We’d all shout. It certainly made our hearts skip a beat as he’d get super close to the tyres…we thought he’d never make it to the grand age of 3!

When Anna and Fraggle first laid eyes on each other, it was love at first sight! They were almost joined at the hip. I used to laugh because Anna would let Fraggle sleep IN her bed with her awww, they became best budds.

Anna and Fraggle at home in Canada

Anna and Fraggle in Canada

The Managers used to joke “Fraggle will much prefer it in Canada B.C you know!” because they could all see how close Anna and Fraggles bond was. But we all thought they were joking until they brought it up again and again. So, Anna decided to seriously look into it and in the end, with her families backing (and the support of the staff), she made the decision to go for it! Yay, so Fraggle will be a ‘Frags to Riches’ story hah! (thanks for that title Anna). I was SO excited for both Anna and Fraggle!

There was a lot of complications with getting his jabs up to date, documents written up, Fraggle’s own plane ticket had to be bought and also a cage to put him in for the flight. Phew! A lot of phone calls and visits to officials were made and at one point, it nearly didn’t follow through but eventually, it all came together and the plan to transport Fraggle overseas was a go go! :)

I am now VERY happy to report, that Anna and Fraggle are now indeed in Canada B.C, safe and sound! I am over the moon for them both and I know Fraggle will have a very fulfilling and happy life with Anna and her family.

So scooting back to the present….All I can say for now, is that things here in Peru are just getting started.  I’ve already attended a sound healing session with Jamie plus, we are organising trips together (also with Guy, Blake and his lovely girlfriend (whose name I won’t forget next time hehe). Oh AND, my roomies are now talking to me too so it’s ALL coming together and it feels great!

So watch this space, keep following and I will catch up with you all very soon my lovelies.

Much love xx

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Stop Bugging Me

Well…not really haha. I just needed a catchy title and I felt that was rather fitting seeing as I am sitting here typing this right now from Peru!!!

Yep…you read right! I cannot believe that my bug internship is over! My 10 weeks has really flown. Well, in fact, my whole time in Costa Rica has whizzed by…all 3 months of it! And what a ride it’s been so far. I’m kinda sad but also excited to embark on the next adventure too. And to think I almost wanted to quit half way through my internship when in actual fact, I would have been gutted if I did when really, it’s mainly all boiled down to getting along with very different people and realising cultural differences perhaps but altogether, it’s been an experience I needed to have and oh boy, have I learnt a lot!

So what’s been happening here since my last blog? Well, let me fill you in…

I really got into the swing of my tours and my knowledge on bugs and nature has grown tenfold. I even got another 4 5* reviews on TripAdvisor too! How amazing! I have absolutely loved teaching people (and hopefully changed a few perceptions) all about the bugs and butterflies of Costa Rica and ended up confidently presenting to a room full of people about scorpion’s, tarantulas, tarantula hawk wasps, Golden orb weaving spiders, millipedes, centipedes, katydids, stick insects, cockroaches, the 3 and 4 stages of metamorphosis, the machacha bug (or peanut headed bug), assassin bugs, Bess Beetles, Iron Clad Beetles, Dung beetles, the Hercules beetles and various species of butterflies and their lifecycles! I learnt all about the order of insects as well as what families they belong to. I know one thing for sure…I intend to carry on with my studies and keep learning more about Entomology once I am settled back in the UK again.

I’ve really loved meeting all sorts of tourists from all over the world and hearing them ask if I am indeed a Biologist and calling me the ‘bug lady from England’ :)

I shall miss coming home to discover a green spiny lizard trapped in the sink, being hit on the head by flying dung beetles while trying to prepare dinner, finding scorpion’s hiding in our clothes and behind our cosmetic bottles, being woken up at the crack of dawn by howler monkies (hmm sort off haha), seeing the cappuchin monkies in the trees playing a game of ‘let’s see who we can knock off the branches first’ to hearing the peculiar sounds that the Keel Billed Toucans make (which sounds like a bunch of ribbitting frogs believe it or not!), to finding cocoons and weird, fat parasitized caterpillars and getting perversely excited when one of the other interns grins and says ‘Let’s cut it open and see what’s inside!’ “Errrrr…..YESSSSS. I’ll get the dissection kit!” I’d screech. I guess this just proves I have the mind-set of a scientist…to have the want to see what happens, ‘why does it do this, what happens if’…It really has been SO refreshing to be around like-minded people, all bug nerd scientists together haha.

Oh and we’ve even had a new intern start during the past 2 weeks – a chap called Nick. Nick is a 25 yr old Zoologist from the UK and coincidently, he lives in the same town I used to in Surrey of all places! What a teenie world hey!

I’ll miss working in the laboratory, collecting caterpillars and their eggs, catching huge gross crickets for our arachnid feeding nights, gardening and weeding, making beautiful bouquets each day for the butterflies and generally doing my bit to help the team with whatever’s been needed.

The bug hunter

Just call me Helen the bug hunter haha! Omg, my eyes have certainly sharpened to spotting things I tell thee! I guess that’s normal in the life of a naturalist 😉

In our training manual, there was a line that read ‘If you find a praying mantis, you win life!’ Of course, it left all us interns scratching our heads but we figured to see a praying mantis here must be a rare thing?

So get this, I was just taking a lovely couple round on a tour. We’d passed through garden 1 and I was just taking them over to garden 2.

Flash HeartAs soon as we walked in, something right next to one of my bouquets caught my eye…Christ knows how but I’d spotted a Praying Mantis of all things!!

“Woah!! Look, there’s a praying mantis! I’ve just won life. I’ve not seen one in Costa Rica yet and there he is!” I screamed the garden down haha, poor people! They didn’t look half as excited as me either haha. “Would you mind if I go and grab a bucket and catch him?” “Um..no, sure. Go for it!” The couple raised an eyebrow and let me carry on hah.

I ran all the way back to Reception and shouted to Anna,”Anna, grab a bucket. I’ve just found a praying mantis and I’m mid tour. Can you come and help me get it?” “Oooh wow! Yeh sure”. Anna came and met me in garden 2 and helped me to grab it so I could carry on touring. What a find!

After my tour, one of the bosses (David) had taken a photo of it and shown Bryna (the other boss). “Bryna’s so pleased, she’s making you a mango and strawberry pie”. “Oh wow, yummy! Thank you” I was so happy! Anna and I named our praying mantis ‘Flash Heart’, a randy character from The Black Adder series!black beauty

strawberry and mango pieA few days later, I took myself off out for a chicken dinner one night and again, something caught my eye. I’d seen a female black bark scorpion! I so wasn’t leaving without it haha.

“Excuse me, do you have a bucket or something I can put this in?” I had asked a nearby shopkeeper for something I could catch and keep my scorpion in. Eventually, through the language barrier, I was handed a small coke bottle. We’d cut the top off so I could scoop my scorpion up and then I turned the top upside down so that it sat in the bottle acting as a lid almost. So yep, I’d added a praying mantis and a female bark scorpion to our displays at work hehe :)

Feed me!

So once a week, all of us interns are tasked with feeding the arachnids, something Anna and I loved doing together. The arachnid feeding nights are so much fun! Once it’s dark, Anna, Nick and I would through each of the gardens and catch gross, plump crickets in our little buckets and nets. But it is fun walking through the gardens at night with our headlamps on. The gardens become a completely different place at night, especially the 4th garden which looks like something straight off the set of one of the Jurassic Park movies.

gross fat cricket“There’s one” Anna would scream “ARGHHH! Helen, it’s HUGE!” Anna and I would team up and help each other to ‘Doink’ the gross beasties into the open net or bucket and you had to be quick or else they’d start climbing up out your bucket with a vengeance eekk!

I remember Devin (the last intern) probably hated hearing Anna and I both screaming like little girls down his lug hole when a humongous cricket missed our net and dived straight for our faces haha “ARRGGHHH!” I don’t know why, but none of us liked the crickets here! They are so creepy looking and get seriously MASSIVE. Although, not as gross as the Jerusalem Cricket…go and google that guy and pray you never encounter one ewwww!

We did also have a moth wall which we could resort to if we were too chicken shit to catch crickets some nights. It’s basically a wall with a bright, powerful orange light that could be left on and in the morning, the wall will be covered in less scary flying critters that we could just pick off and throw into buckets.

The scorpion’s could be rather fussy eaters but they were fun to watch while dining! They would grab the insect with one pincer…almost checking it out before committing to chowing down, they’d then grab another part of the creepy crawly with the other pincer and then up came the tail and ‘POW’, they’d pierce the bug with it’s stinger (and sometimes twice depending on how much the critter is wriggling haha!). Anna and I will imagine the scorpion is whispering to the cricket ‘Sleep….Sleep. Don’t fight it’ hahah.

And the Tarantulas would either eat or not eat a cricket. When they were hungry though, you’d so know about it! They’d pretty much pounce on the prey and immediately bite down with their fangs and pump their victims full of venom ready to drink it all up like a cricket smoothie…nom nom.

Special feeding night

So my last feeding night was pretty darn special and one that I certainly won’t forget! I decided to take my GoPro with me for the usual ‘cricket hunt’ through the gardens and we were all pretending to be in a David Attenborough documentary recording the whole thing hahah.

“And here we have, the giant, plumpous cricketous!” I’d say, trying to imitate David Attenborough at work whilst recording and zooming in on a fat cricket with the GoPro. “Anna, our of our expert team is about to demonstrate how we catch this mini beast”. “Thank you David. ARRRGHHHHH!” Anna would scream as she went in with her bucket under the leaf the cricket was sitting on and the lid above it ready to catch him in a claw like fashion haha.

It started to get harder when you had more than one cricket in your bucket cos they’d all try and climb out at the same time, gross!

Once we’d all gone round the gardens collecting as many beasties as we could, we’d then walk back over to the nature centre to feed our hungry exhibits.

We’d use tweezers (but think…extra long ones!), to pick up the crickets and dangle them in front of the scorpions/tarantulas. “Wait, wait. Let me put the theme tune to Jaws on!” I loved putting this music on! It was as though it played out to our suspense (and probably to the poor crickets fear hehe) while we ‘seduced’ the diner to tuck in on our fresh catch.

“Hey guys. I think the scorpions are fighting?!” Nick called us over to check it out. “Do we need to break them up?” Anna and I rushed over to see what was going on. “No way…I think they’re mating, woah!” I excitedly gasped. “Like, no one gets to see this, this is rare as!”. I then grabbed my GoPro and filmed it and of course, this also had to have some kind of background music too so I put on some salsa music for them as we watched hahah. Because if you didn’t know, when the males mate with the females, they have to almost ‘dance’ for them! Males will come face to face with the ladies and clamp down on her pincers and ‘salsa’ with them! It’s truly fascinating to watch. Our male scorpion looked like a pro as he pulled his lady from side to side and back and fourth over the rocks on the floor of their enclosure (or should I say on their dance floor hehe). We eventually got bored as we’d realised this could go on for hours so we left them to it.

Now I’d remembered, a week ago, spotting an orange-kneed tarantula living in a hole in the ground under our reception area! I’d told everyone about it and even tried catching her on my own but she was too quick and immediately retreated back down into her safe haven. I’d said to Anna “We have to catch her tonight, I am so determined!” So…I’d suggested to Anna, ‘let’s go for it and become be the heros’ haha.

Anna and I walked over to reception. “Omg, there she is! Do you see her?” I almost shouted to Anna in which she immediately shhh’d me haha. “Quiet Helen, you’ll scare her back down!” Laughing, I suggested we made a plan. I could see Anna was just as determined as me :)

First attempt, we sucked haha! Crouching down near to the entrance of her man-made burrow, we waited and we waited. Anna dangled some string near the entrance while I had a small bucket poised, ready and waiting above the hole. I guess we were just going to try and entice her out and quickly slam the bucket down on top of her but it didn’t work, our Orange-kneed lady was too fast and too clever for that. We needed bait!

“Let’s entice her out with a katydid or cricket” Anna remarked. “Yes, we can tie string around one and catch her that way” I’d excitedly respond. So off we went. The first katydid managed to wriggle out of the rope and we’d tied it so many times that she was eventually oozing black gunk and was pretty much a gonna. But the concept was working! Each time we dangled the mangled katydid, the tarantula would poke a few legs out letting us know she was clearly hungry.

But it was getting late and we were getting really tired. We both agreed that maybe we should just come back and try again the next night. Sighing and admitting defeat, we headed back to the nature centre. We were gutted.

“Hey Nick, we need to feed the Golden Orbs too remember”. I ushered Nick to look up to where our large orbs were hanging suspended in their nets. “Yeh, of course”. Nick did the honours of lobbing a few fat crickets up to our spider ladies and then, out the corner of my eye, I spotted a MASSIVE cricket just chilling out on top of the cockroach enclosure. “OMG, look at the size of that! We could use that to entice the orange-kneed out. I don’t wanna give up, she’s just hanging out in reception, she’s right there!”. Suddenly, I had a boost of energy and immediately dashed off to get Anna. “Yes, let’s do it!” Annas response just made me more determined.

We both helped each other to tie string around the cricket and almost skipped over to the Reception area with our 6 legged friend dangling, unaware his hours were numbered! We’d decided Anna could do the enticing while I had the responsibility of the catch! ‘Don’t mess this up Helen’ I’d be repeating over and over in my head.

“Ok, here goes”. Take 2…Anna dangled the cricket over the entrance of the burrow and immediately, 3 hairy legs poked out. Our lady was clearly very hungry. It took a few goes of trying to draw the tarantula out far enough for me to have the room to place a bucket over her and far enough that she couldn’t ‘run’ back down the hole. Eventually, we had a clear shot, Anna drew the tarantula out and away from the hole. “Perfect” I’d whispered but then, unexpected, the tarantula’s spidey senses must have kicked in because she turned to run back to her burrow WITH the cricket in her fangs. “Nooooo” We both were realising this could go very wrong and she was too fast for me to trap. “Ughhh dammit!” We were both cussing at this point. The tarantula had run back down the hole with her tasty meal. Anna was pretty much playing a tug of war with her until the cricket detached from the string…we’d lost…again!

For a few moments, we could see a cricket leg poking out from the burrow while the rest of it was being slowly devoured from below. Ugh we were gutted once again until…”Wait, where are the tweezers? I’m gonna try grab the cricket with them and pull her out again!” Anna was sharp! “GREAT idea!” I ran and got the tweezers from the nature centre and passed them to Anna.

Anna didn’t give up and was fighting the orange-kneed for the cricket haha. It was working, the tarantula didn’t want to give it’s free meal back to us and clung on with all its might. Anna was a star and drew her out once again. I saw my shot and I took it…I quickly placed the bucket over the tarantula…we’d trapped her, we DID IT!!! A quick high five was needed, phewie! We slid some card underneath her and scooped her up in the bucket. And guess what? The tarantula was STILL holding on to that cricket hahaha. What a team.

Bosses were so pleased with us the next day. We named our tarantula Dillon, inspired from the film Predator that we’d watched together a few nights before hah! And she was massive. What an absolute beauty.

Serpent strikes back!

So we have a water feature in our gift shop which the bosses recently filled with a bunch of tadpoles. The tadpoles of course rapidly grew into teenie tiny lil frogs. One of them was so small that it only just fit on my little finger!

We’d eagerly gather all the tiny frogs (when we could find them) and let them loose in our gardens. Trouble is, there was more than just us and our tourists trying to find them….yep, other predators lurked!

One morning (annoyingly on my day off), one of the staff spotted a green side striped pit viper in garden 1. It was hunting our little frogs! Those things are highly venomous. There is an anti-dote however, I’ve been told you need to go back to the hospital for more than one jab…inconvenient and painful at the same time hey!

One of the bosses came to the rescue though and managed to get rid of it and placed the snake somewhere else. Thinking the drama was over, a mere week or so later, I was on garden duty. While I was cutting dead leaves, I looked up and saw something that almost looked ‘too’ green if that’s possible? It was like a beautifully, perfect green among the other leaves and vines surrounding it. Another thing…not a single butterfly was sitting on the fruit in that area! ‘Hmm…that’s odd!’ I thought. ‘I’ll take a 2nd look’. As I approached the perfectly green ‘thing’, my senses quickly sharpened to alert me…’STOP right there! Don’t get any closer you idiot, that’s a bloody snake!’ It’s amazing how quickly your instincts kick in…almost like they realise before you do!

Luckily, Anna happened to walk in at that moment. “Hey, um, there appears to be a snake in here!” I pointed in the direction of the snake to show Anna so that she too didn’t get any closer to it. “Omg, ok. I’ll go get Bryna wait here”. Anna hastily headed to reception to get help. Roberto then walked in which felt strangely reassuring that I wasn’t still alone with the deadly beautiful serpent. “Roberto, there’s a snake right there. Is this a pit viper?” I already knew it was but I think my brain just wanted to make doubly sure it knew it was definitely dealing with a potentially dangerous situation. “Oh boy! Yes it is and you are standing far too close to it” Roberto ushered me to move back further. “Those things can detect heat and will strike the distance of their body length and that one looks pretty long!” Jeeez! “It looks like the one we captured from before”. Roberto appeared to be examining it closely (from the distance we were at!) but he seemed to ‘recognise’ it so I just took his word for it! “Isn’t it beautiful?” Still gazing at the snake, I had to agree. It was so still too, just poised there right in front of us on a branch and waiting to strike at the right moment.

green viperAnna came back after trying to find Bryna so Roberto ended up calling Bryna’s mobile to find out where she was. In all the drama, it seemed everyone who worked at the butterfly gardens was now right there with us all trying to take a peek (or showing us their support) Even Hilda, our resident cook was in on the action haha!

Bryna finally appeared in the garden with an extra long stick and a huge round, deep bin to drop the snake into. We all waited and watched with baited breath as Bryna (who is also heavily pregnant I may add!) made a few attempts to ‘pick’ up the snake with the stick and lower it straight into the bucket but she managed it with no problem. As soon as the snake was in the bucket, I could hear a swoop of deep sighs from every mouth present! “Phewie!” I victoriously clapped for Bryna’s bravery. What a relief!

Since then, I have developed an extra cautionary eye whilst making my way through our green-housed jungle habitats!

Red rump

It was my last night at the bugs and Anna and I had just spent a lovely night in reminiscing and chatting and eating chocolate hehe. I needed a pee but I thought I’d cheekily walk over to the ‘normal’ toilets at the reception area so I could also sneak in some wifi time (remember we are meant to use the compost toilet hehe).

So anyways, I walked over and saw something ‘thick’ and black scoot off in front of me right near the entrance of the toilets. ‘What was that?’ I wondered. I shone my headlight down in the direction of where this thing had run. ‘Omg, there it is! Wow, is that a tarantula?’ Right on the marble floor, I could see a spider with 8 long hairy black legs, a flat but wide thorax (centre of the body) and a reddish, brown abdomen. ‘Well, it can’t be a spider…it has the same features as a tarantula. Hmm, maybe it’s a baby one?’ I kept chatting to myself trying to distinguish what it was but I was pretty sure it was a baby tarantula and a male too because I could see 2 small ‘hooks’ at the front which the males use to fertilise the females with.

‘Right, I’m getting a bucket’. After I’d taken my photos, I just knew I had to catch this guy to show the bosses in the morning. He was easy to catch too, I just gently placed the bucket over him and slid the lid right under. So much easier than our orange-kneed earlier in the week. Score!Red rump

Anna was asleep by the time I’d finished faffing about bug hunting haha. I couldn’t wait to show her my catch in the morning.

Morning came and I’d caught up with Bryna. “Ahh wow. A male tarantula. That’s a red rump and they are pretty rare, I’ve only seen 4/5 of them in my time here! Who knew you’d turn into an expert bug hunter. Don’t go touching all the bugs down in Peru, some are highly venomous ok”. “Ok then, spoils sport!” I grinned hehe. Bryna sounded well impressed and I was super happy that she called me an ‘expert bug hunter’ heheh. The male was then released and yummy pastries were bought for everyone for brekkie :)

It was then time for me to say my goodbyes and catch my 5 hour long bus ride back down the mountain to San Jose…

New adventures

So from turtle conservation to working through an Entomology internship…the ups and the downs, the constant smell of mildew on my clothes, the actual mould that started growing its own city on my quick dry towel, from the crapping in the woods, the almost quitting halfway through…it’s all been totally worth it!

I’ve learnt so much and can’t wait to start my new adventures in Peru. I will miss all the special people that I have met along the way so far, especially my friend Anna who fast became my best friend who I have such a wonderful connection with. We are going to stay in touch and visit each other at some point in the future which I’m so happy about. Yay, a trip to Canada B.C 😀

So keep on reading, I feel this next trip is going to be just as special. Much love xx

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