Hanging out with some monkeys

Trip Start Nov 05, 2009
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Trip End Apr 26, 2010


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Flag of Bolivia  , Cochabamba,
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

From La Paz I travelled on to a city called Cochabamba in the East of Bolivia. As the bus drew into Cochobamba the guy over the aisle from me got blasted square in the face with water through the open window  by some kids  with a high powered mega super shooter water pistol. Strangely everyone, including the victim, seemed to just laugh this off as though it was a normal occurrence. I was yet to discover the water filled joys of carnival time in Bolivia.

Now that I’ve been on the road for a few months I am finally getting to grips with my guidebooks accommodation classification system:
Pleasant = bordering on sh**hole that you wouldn’t normally set foot in at home, has the ubiquitous peeling paint and evidence of a frenzied ball game having being held recently against the walls but it is ´clean´.
Basic = Prison like, no window, unidentifiable stains on the floor, walls and sheets but it is ´clean´.
If there is no description then they have blatantly never set foot in the place and it could be a living hell or actually quite pleasant…..

My ‘pleasant’ hotel was situated on one of the main streets of Cochabamba, which bizarrely only seemed to house a strange combination of funeral homes and bed shops…WARNING…imminent Dad joke….brings a whole new meaning to laid to rest!……sorry couldn’t resist. I think that I have been spending too much time on my own. Hehehehe.
A key selling point for hotels here is having hot water….if it has 24 hours hot water then you really are in the lap of luxury.

My main reason for coming to Cochabamba was so that I could head to a place called Villa Tunari. I spent the 4 hour trip cheek by jowl with a rather overweight Bolivian gentleman in the back of one of the little minibuses that constitute an alternative to the public bus system here. After encountering 2 road blocks on our way out of Cochabamba our ever resourceful driver took us off road (which is pretty much any road in Bolivia off the main drag) through rivers, past overturned cars and then back onto the main road beyond the road blocks. For some bizarre reason they only pave alternating sections of the road. Why they don’t just pave one long section I have no idea.... Our driver once again had a liking for driving on the opposite side of the road and the old rules of not overtaking on a bend or a hill seem to be routinely ignored here, particularly when a large bus or truck are coming the other way. Worryingly there are an incredible number of shrines along the sides of the roads, which I’m assuming mark where people have come to a sticky end…..arghhhhhh.Despite the fear it was a stunning drive through rainforested mountains laced with waterfalls and crystal clear rivers.

My ultimate destination was Parque Machia which is an animal sanctuary for rescued pets and circus animals situated in the rainforest. The majority of the animals are monkeys but there are also Jaguars, Pumas, Tortoises etc  The animals have a huge area to roam around in and it is a  truly wonderful place.

I sat for a long time just watching the various species of monkeys swinging about in the trees in the distance. It was amazing when a family of black spider monkeys came down to some trees close to where I was sat. I had seen them at a distance in the wild in Peru but to see them so close was amazing. It was even more incredible when one of them came hopping down from the trees towards me. I was very aware at this point of the large signs around the park warning you not to touch the monkeys as they can bite. As the monkeys tail gripped around my neck and it started to abseil off the side of the bench I imagined the newspaper headlines at home…Sue Mann, 32, (Ex) Project Manager, strangled to death by spider monkey. An interesting way to die I suppose.  I was finding it a little difficult to breath when it finally relaxed its grip and ran over to a nearby shelter. A very clever monkey indeed because within 2 mins a  torrential rainstorm had begun and 5 or 6 other monkeys had also descended from the trees to take shelter.

One of the aims of the sanctuary is to educate people as to why these animals should not be kept as pets, that they belong in the wild etc etc…..but I WANT one! They are just so adorable. At one point I had a spider monkey as a blanket over my knees whilst I scratched his tummy and a mother and baby sat next to me holding onto my other hand.  The baby Spider monkey was a true little monkey and kept trying to sit on my head, chew my camera and rather embarrassingly pull my top down…it was a male of course! A female Squirrel Money had taken a bit of shine to the german guy sat next to me and much to his embarrassment spent the entire time grooming him and seemingly finding lots of little titbits to eat.

My hotel in Villa Tunari was in a great location overlooking the river and rainforest. It had the best example of the classic Bolivian shower system. Instead of feeding hot water into the shower head they have a contraption on the shower head that heats the water. It means that you have 2 live wires going into the shower head which just can’t be safe and there are many tales of people receiving electric shocks from ones that are not wired so well. This particular example had soot marks all up the back wall of the shower which was reassuring as I stepped into the potentially electrified water. The room also had a sign warning that you should lock the door when you go to sleep because there had been some robberies. This was slightly concerning when the only way to lock the  door was with a padlock from the outside. I tried to communicate this to the hotel owner but he just shrugged and garbled something very fast in Spanish. I spent the night with the bedside table rammed up against the door and my penknife at the ready.



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