A Travellerspoint blog

Machu Picchu, at long last!

all seasons in one day

They limit the number of tickets per day to Machu Picchu and you have to purchase them in advance, plus arrange transport in and out, so if you’re not feeling great or the weather’s not perfect you just have to roll with it.

So when we woke up at 4am and headed out the door shortly afterwards we were a little less than impressed with the drizzle! This was our long anticipated big day and it was raining. It was a 20 minute walk to the bridge out of Aguas Caliente (this opened at 5am) and an hour’s walk straight up to the gate (this opened at 6am). Most people get a bus to the gate, and we were definitely tempted, cold wet and dark as it was, but decided as we were up anyway why not walk up as planned?

The magical sunrise we had anticipated was really just a general lightening of the greyness, a slight easing of the rain. The climb up to the gate was hard, really hard: totally pitch dark to begin with, the steps uneven and steep. When I imagined myself at Machu Picchu I would always have sunlight and blue sky in the vision so I spent that first hour, slogging uphill and getting wetter by the minute, readjusting the dream. The weather didn’t matter; all that mattered was being there in person. One of the new 7 wonders of the world, and a true “must visit” place if ever there was one.

The first sight of Machu Picchu was pretty special; even if it was shrouded in mist and fog. Quite dramatic really! We mooched around for a bit getting our bearings (the man in front of us at the gate got the last map) and in the process stumbled quite by accident on the path up to Machu Picchu Montana. When we had purchased our tickets a few days back we had optimistically and very ambitiously brought additional tickets to climb the mountain directly behind the ruins. It’s a pretty tough climb and we weren’t feeling that energetic but seeing as how we were at the entrance decided not to think about it too much and headed on up. We knew the view would be pretty rubbish but ever so slowly we made it to the top anyway. We had been the 11th and 12th people to register for the mountain climb that day, all of us huddled in the hut at the top, laughing at how shit the weather was, but weren’t the ruins splendid?

We were going to wait at the top for 20 minutes, then 30 minutes, then just a bit longer, then just a tiny bit more. The clouds were swirling around the mountain tops at incredible speed. Every time we thought we would get an opening more cloud would come from no-where to obscure the view once again. Eventually we got the opening we had been waiting for. Still plenty of mist to be sure, but the ruins and bright green grass of the terraces clearly visible amongst it all as well. Well worth the hour and a bit we were up there.

1. Can's see a thing up here

1. Can's see a thing up here

2. Could be waiting a while

2. Could be waiting a while

3. Starting to get a little bit cold

3. Starting to get a little bit cold

4. Are the clouds even moving...

4. Are the clouds even moving...

5. Wait I think I can see some green

5. Wait I think I can see some green

6. Nope, still too cloudy

6. Nope, still too cloudy

7. Hold it, it's definitely getting better

7. Hold it, it's definitely getting better

8. Better still

8. Better still

9. Even better

9. Even better

10. And that's the view we were waiting for.

10. And that's the view we were waiting for.

After we got back from the Montana, we turned right up to the sun gate, instead of left back to the ruins. We thought it was close but it took the best part of half an hour to get there. By that stage though the sun had made an appearance (yay), the clouds were rapidly disappearing (big yay) and we were able to get the ‘classic’ photo we were after (massive yay). After that we went crazy with the camera, taking hundreds of essentially THE SAME PHOTO. The angle may have changed slightly but the composition didn’t. Couldn’t help it really: one of our all-time favourite views!

It wasn’t until the early afternoon that we started looking at the ruins close up. We had been at the site over 6 hours and not gone into a single room! That was quickly rectified over the next few hours as we made our way through all the districts and temples, strategically going from top to bottom so as to limit the number of ‘up’ steps lol!

Machu Picchu is so cool because so much of it still remains. The ‘city’ is thought to be unfinished and abandoned in a hurry but no one really knows why? Was it left on purpose to preserve it, or were the inhabitants driven out by war or famine? Fewer than 250 bodies were found at the site, despite there being capacity for between 750-1000 people. Was this deliberate: only the ‘chosen’ royalty, nobility or priestesses living there? Even the general Inca population didn’t know it was up there so it’s no wonder the Spaniards never found it. Machu Picchu has the only intact Intihuatana stone; all others across the ancient Incan empire are badly damaged and/or totally destroyed, no thanks to the Spaniards. The Intihuatana at Machu Pichhu has suffered some damage but the Spaniards this time are not guilty: believe it or not but a crane fell on it during the filming of a beer commercial in 2000. Sad but true. Only recently have the Peruvian government come to realise what an important treasure Machu Picchu is and what needs/not needs to be done to protect it. A cable car proposal was refused as was a heli-pad and multiple hotels.

Half of the beauty of the place, half of its magic, is the pristine and remote location. The Spaniards didn’t find it because it’s hard to find. I think it should remain so. Hidden on a cliff top, in the middle of now-where, surrounded by only nature, precisely how it was way back when. Not cluttered with ‘tourist’ extras, mod cons of the present age. Totally not necessary in my opinion; awesome just the way it is.

Some of our other favourites:

11_.jpg12_.jpg13_.jpg14_.jpg15_.jpg16_.jpg17_.jpg18_.jpg

Keely

Posted by Mike.Keely 12:53 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

Love ruins, don’t love Cusco

Ruins, ruins and more ruins: Sacsayhuaman, Pisac and Ollantaytambo

We thought Cusco would be one of our favourite places but you know what, it somehow failed to live up to expectations. And we’re still trying to figure out why? It definitely has charm: the main square is lovely, there’s cobbled streets, colourful markets and people constantly in party mood. Every Sunday (and we saw two of them) the locals dress up in costumes to parade around town having a ‘dance off’. It will also be remembered fondly for a display by the canine police – all the dogs walking on hind legs in unison in time with the police band. And local girls wearing gorgeous outfits with baby lambs tucked under their arms ready to pose for photographs. We liked the choice of restaurants and our hostel having the best hot showers ever. We liked that Machu Picchu was just around the corner and that every day some part of town was having a festival with food and games. So what’s the problem I hear you ask? No idea really, hard to pinpoint. What we didn’t like was the constant noise or countless people trying to sell us tours, train tickets or massages. We didn’t like how tired we were, or the fact that Mike was still really suffering from altitude sickness (dammit – the holy sweets hadn’t worked, lol). And we made the agonisingly hard decision not to go hiking after thinking we would be for the best part of 8 months. Right decision though – I’ll tell you why in a minute.

Enough of the bad though, on with the good.

The first couple of days in Cusco were spent organising and planning our Inca activities. Machu Pichhu was top of the list obviously but also one place in Cusco (Sacsayhuaman) and two places in the sacred valley (Pisac and Ollantaytambo). We declined all the organised and overpriced tours to these places, preferring to go at our own slow and chilled pace. Seriously we were in no shape, Mike especially, to go tearing off into the distance exploring.

1. CUSCO The coloured flag is sacred to the Inca's, nothing to do with gay pride

1. CUSCO The coloured flag is sacred to the Inca's, nothing to do with gay pride

2. CUSCO One of many dancing groups on Sunday

2. CUSCO One of many dancing groups on Sunday

4.  CUSCO Checking out the view of Cusco at Sacsayhuaman

4. CUSCO Checking out the view of Cusco at Sacsayhuaman

5. CUSCO  Colourful clothes everywhere

5. CUSCO Colourful clothes everywhere

6. CUSCO Typical street, old town

6. CUSCO Typical street, old town

7. CUSCO Main square

7. CUSCO Main square

3.  CUSCO Canine police show

3. CUSCO Canine police show

Our first activity was to check out the ruins of Sacsayhuaman, which turned out to be really really interesting. Sacsayhuaman which is pronounced something close to “sexy woman” actually means ‘house of the sun’ and at an elevation of 3,555m (which is higher than Machu Picchu) it’s actually pretty close to the sun all things considered. No-one knows for sure who built the fortress. The Inca people told the invading Spaniards that giants built it; according to their mythology the Cusco giants would have been the only ones capable of moving such huge stones. Fair enough the Spaniards said - that’s actually quite plausible. Giants, fairy’s and other mystical beasts feature heavily in Inca mythology. With stones weighing between 50 and 120 tonnes no-one has yet been able to convincingly theorize how the fortress was built – the stones are cut and fitted together perfectly without a single imperfection. How did they do that? The Inca’s somehow figured out a way without the use of the wheel, and without writing either. Machu Picchu is often adored for its incredible location and surrounding views rather than its actual construction, but Sacsayhuaman “can be admired mostly for the remarkable architectural engineering skills that were needed for its creation”. A famous Quechuan-Spanish chronicle writer, Garcilaso de la Vega had this to say about it:

“This fortress surpasses the constructions known as the seven wonders of the world. For in the case of a long broad wall like that of Babylon, or the colossus of Rhodes, or the pyramids of Egypt, or the other monuments, one can see clearly how they were executed. They did it by summoning an immense body of workers and accumulating more and more material day by day and year by year. They overcame all difficulties by employing human effort over a long period. But it is indeed beyond the power of imagination to understand how these Indians, unacquainted with devices, engines, and implements, could have cut, dressed, raised, and lowered great rocks, more like lumps of hills than building stones, and set them so exactly in their places. For this reason, and because the Indians were so familiar with demons, the work is attributed to enchantment”

For those who know the Nazca lines nearby: who made them, how, and why are top of the list of unanswered questions? I’m not so sure about the enchantment aspect at Sacsayhuaman, but it’s certainly more feasible than aliens. And if the Inca’s didn’t have help then it’s all the more impressive. Archeologists reckon that only about 20% of Sacsayhuaman remains, and unfortunately we only saw about 50% of that 20%. As we were strolling about finding stone formations that particularly pleased us, Mother Nature decided to throw hail stones at us, so we made a hasty retreat back to town.

In another interesting bit of trivia: Cusco is shaped like a puma, with Sascayhuaman being the head. So go figure: more puma love.

8. SACSAYHUAMAN

8. SACSAYHUAMAN

9. SACSAYHUAMAN

9. SACSAYHUAMAN

10. SACSAYHUAMAN

10. SACSAYHUAMAN

11. SACSAYHUAMAN

11. SACSAYHUAMAN

12. SACSAYHUAMAN

12. SACSAYHUAMAN

13. SACSAYHUAMAN

13. SACSAYHUAMAN

14. SACSAYHUAMAN

14. SACSAYHUAMAN

The next day, after sorting out tickets, trains and transport to Machu Picchu (OMG, so excited) we caught a local bus to the sacred valley to check out the ruins at Pisac. Mike usually gets “ruined out” rather quickly, same as “templed out” or “churched out” so I had to choose our ruins carefully. Pisac though is awesome, perched on a hill overlooking the valley and Urabamba River below. Getting to the ruins involved a 2 hour climb straight up thousands of stairs. After climbing perhaps 25 stairs (no joke) we made the unusual decision for us to get a taxi to the top. If we were in any doubt about not doing a hike this was our proof. Mike and altitude: not working. The taxi driver however dropped us off in the middle of the road, seemingly half way up the mountain. In our limited Spanish we tried to figure out why he hadn’t taken us to the top. What was the point of a taxi to the top if it wasn’t to the top etc. etc. etc.? Turns out a land-slide had taken out the road, so we got dropped off as near as possible to the ruins. Still walking up stairs for about 20 minutes was more than we had bargained for. We timed our visit to Pisac to coincide with a market day, so after walking down the mountain through dark rock tunnels, across narrow bridges and down steep stone steps we had a few minutes for look around the stalls before catching the bus back to Cusco.

15__PISAC.jpg16__PISAC.jpg17__PISAC.jpg18__PISAC.jpg

Ollantaytambo we actually did after Machu Picchu but it makes more sense to add it in here so that Machu Picchu can have its own blog entry next. We got the train from Aguas Caliente back to the sacred valley then two buses from there back to Cusco. The train had surround windows so we could marvel at the scenery while enjoying the complementary beverages and snacks (luxury by our usual standards).

Ollaytantambo is much like Pisac. Inca ruins: hill top, destroyed by Spaniards, pretty good condition. I won’t go into too much detail other than to say we had a great tour guide and almost adopted her: a dog we called Pear. She happily trotted up and down all the stairs showing us the way around; other people even thought she was our dog. Facing the ruins is a huge cliff face where the Inca people carved the likeness of a grumpy man into the side. Not sure why? Has a striking resemblance to Mike don’t you think? Ollaytamtambo town will also be remembered for a massive salad at a café where 100% of the profits go to local women and children. Good fresh food with a good feel factor too.

19__OLLAYTANTAMBO.jpg20__OLLAYTANTAMBO.jpg21__OLLAYTANTAMBO.jpg22__OLLAYTANTAMBO.jpg

Back in Cusco once more we had time to check out one more Inca ruin: Qoricancha. Can’t actually tell you much about it other than it was a temple/monastery way back when, it has the same perfectly positioned and aligned stones and the Spaniards raided it for its gold painted walls. Qoricanha means “golden courtyard” in the traditional language. No gold anymore though. We visited it because it looked cool illuminated at night and once inside spent ages taking black and white photos: our favorite few included here.

23__QORICANCHA.jpg24__QORICANCHA.jpg25__QORICANCHA.jpg26__QORICANCHA.jpg

Our last night in Cusco we treated ourselves to a nice meal, the first meal in something like 10 days that Mike was actually looking forward to. He had the biggest burger known to man, while I tried Llama meatballs with a passion-fruit and mint sauce with asparagus, mushroom and tomato salad. We shared a plate of Yucca’s which I think is a type of potato/vegetable with a blue cheese dipping sauce and parmesan shavings. It was 100% delicious.

27__CUSCO.jpg28. CUSCO Biggest burger, tastiest meatballs and most interesting Yucca fries

28. CUSCO Biggest burger, tastiest meatballs and most interesting Yucca fries

So although we did have a great time in and around Cusco, there’s still something we can’t put our finger on about the place that didn’t quite live up to our (admittedly very high) expectations. Never mind - the good outweighed the bad. Next stop: Machu Picchu! But first we had to get to Aguas Caliente the town below the ruins. Aguas Caliente basically only exists to serve as a tourist pit-stop for Machu Picchu. Our guide book doesn’t hold anything back saying things like “it’s hordes of tourist trap restaurants and firelit bars are vaguely tolerable for an evening” or it “is ruined by its dependence on tourism, which has turned a scenic location into a gringo nightmare”. Ouch! Don’t hold anything back Lonely Planet. We actually really liked it. Yes - it’s touristy but no one hassled us, the locals were really friendly and everyone wanted to know how much we liked Machu Picchu. It’s got a good vibe of people either excited about their upcoming visit, or totally exhausted but content after their visit. As I said, we really liked it.

Getting there though was a real bitch. We absolutely refused to get the ‘tourist’ train from Cusco at extortionist ‘tourist’ prices. We flat out refused to do a tour of any kind, preferring to do our own thing. Which left two choices. One: get 2 local buses, 1 taxi, and then walk the rest of the way from a hydroelectric dam along the railway tracks. Or Two: take an organized transfer to the dam but still do the walking bit. Mike wanted to do option one, I wanted option two. Had we had more time to research the local buses and found out what time they left we probably would have gone for option one, but in the end tiredness and uncertainty won and we got the transfer to the dam. Got a free lunch out of it too. We were told to be ready at 7am, so we were. Got picked up at around 7.45am. But didn’t leave Cusco until 9.15am. So annoying - first we had to wait for other passengers to get out of bed, shower and take their lazy selfish time about getting ready, then we had to wait while the driver popped back home because he forget to come to work with his driver’s license. Truly annoying! The drive though was at times specular and just as the guide book described: “unpaved, narrow, bordered by deep precipices, with over a hundred dangerous curves”. Not to be attempted in the wet season. But as a result of the delay we got to the dam rather behind schedule meaning we had to do the 10km/2 ½ hour walk mostly in the dark. Rant over! The ONLY thing that made it OK was seeing otters in the wild (for me a first), and the fact that Mike had packed his head-torch and a new set of batteries for just this eventuality. Clever man! The photo is a bit rubbish as the light was fading fast and they were quite far away but hopefully you can still tell they are otters?

29. CUSCO TO AGUAS CALIENTES

29. CUSCO TO AGUAS CALIENTES

30. CUSCO TO AGUAS CALIENTES

30. CUSCO TO AGUAS CALIENTES

31. CUSCO TO AGUAS CALIENTES

31. CUSCO TO AGUAS CALIENTES

32.CUSCO TO AGUAS CALIENTES two otters in the wild, sweet.

32.CUSCO TO AGUAS CALIENTES two otters in the wild, sweet.

33. CUSCO TO AGUAS CALIENTES The sun sets and we still have a long way to walk

33. CUSCO TO AGUAS CALIENTES The sun sets and we still have a long way to walk

So we had made it to Aguas Caliente. One more sleep and Machu Picchu time. But wait, hang on a minute. What’s happening? Rain? It can’t rain! We’re off up the mountain tomorrow. Rain is bad, very bad. Noooooooooooooooooo. Please don’t rain!

Keely

Posted by Mike.Keely 17:51 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

Miracles, floating islands and altitude sickness

Flying visits to Puno and Arequipa

sunny 20 °C

Crossing the border into Peru was easy enough; destination Puno. We didn’t really know what we were doing there, other than objective number one which was to find a replacement camera battery charger. We searched high and low, went into every electronics store, market and even a place they call “the contrabanda” but to no avail. All hopes would have to rest on either Arequipa or Cusco for that one. Fingers crossed.

The only reason one visits Puno is to access Lake Titicaca from the Peruvian side. We had seen a bit form the Bolivian side and after a bit of research decided on a ½ day tour of Uros, the floating islands. As far as we could gather most people do a two day, one night excursion, staying overnight with a local host family on one of the islands, but Mike was in no shape for that , so a ½ day it was. We reckon Mike was suffering from a touch of altitude sickness, despite him being fine all the other times we have been at altitude. Maybe a combination of post jungle recovery and slow altitude acclimatisation?

1 Puno

1 Puno

2 Puno

2 Puno

Uros though turned out to be much better than expected. We surprised ourselves with how much we enjoyed the visit – the people of the islands friendly, engaging and extremely welcoming. We had been a bit worried about how ‘touristy’ such a visit could be, the local people exploited and gaining little from the arrival of boat loads of tourists It didn’t feel anything like that. And we learnt quite a bit about their way of life and culture. Firstly that each island only lasts about 30 years, each hut/house 1 ½ years, women are equal to men and can fulfil the role of ‘president’, a position whose sole responsibility is to ensure the island stays afloat. Probably THE most important thing to these people! If there is a family conflict of some sort the huts can be rotated so that the doors don’t face the same way, and if the conflict turns out to be unsolvable the entire island can be spilt in two. Last year there were about 50 floating islands, this year just over 60.

Initially we thought the Uros people would be similar to the Masai Mara people in Kenya, but they could not be more different. The Uros embrace advancement: the first island we visited had solar panels to power their TV (I kid you not) and they are knowledgeable about the need for family planning and modern medicine. Living on the islands can still be pretty tough though. There’s no heating for one thing and as it’s bitterly cold at night child mortality is high. There’s also no fresh water supply so bathing is on a once a week basis kind of thing. And as the islands are relatively small no-one does any exercise so as our guide puts it, they all tend to be rather ‘stout’.

The reeds have many uses though, aside from the foundation of the islands. You can eat the inner bit: tastes kinda like cucumber. And it can be used as a poultice for headaches and such like; Mike gave it a go but he’s not sure how effective it was on him. What we were most interested to learn was how significant the puma is to the Peruvians, pumas obviously being very close to our hearts now. Lake Titicaca is actually shaped like a running puma chasing a rabbit. Our Uros hosts jokingly reckon you need a few pisco sours to really identify it but we got it anyway. “Titi” means puma in one of the indigenous languages (Amaya we think) and “caca” means brown, like a puma's coat. So go figure: pumas are everywhere. We love that.

3a.jpg3b.jpg3c.jpg3d.jpg3e.jpg3f.jpg3g.jpg3h.jpg3i.jpg3j.jpg3k.jpg3l.jpg3m.jpg3n.jpg

After Puno it was Arequipa and we decided that one day would be enough time for us. Walking through the streets with countless gorgeous buildings, churches and mansion houses we thought for a second we had been transported to some European country; so developed and modern it is. A testament to its past Hispanic influence. We liked Arequipa immediately and not just because we purchased a new camera charger for our big camera within seconds of the shops opening. I’m pretty sure we got fleeced with the price but never-mind, hakuna matata! Arequipa felt like luxury after weeks of being in Bolivia and the jungle so a pity we only had one day to enjoy it.

5 Arequipa

5 Arequipa

While Mike went to get his monstrous facial hair professionally removed, I went to the convent of Santa Catalina for a look around. No-one lives these anymore, but visitors are free to roam around, marvelling at the architectural and artistic beauty of the place. The convent had no contact with the outside world for hundreds of years, shrouding it and its inhabitants in mystery. Of particular interest is one nun: Sister Ana. She’s well known for preforming 3 miracles, the most amazing of which is curing cancer. The pope has allegedly confirmed or acknowledged this miracle so people reckon it must be true. (?) I only wish she hadn’t stopped at just the one patient so that I wouldn’t have to go back to work shortly. I bought some coca lollies at the gift store for Mike. Perhaps being from a holy place they might be blessed and work a charm on his altitude sickness?

6a.jpg6b.jpg6c.jpg6d.jpg6e.jpg6f.jpg6g.jpg6h.jpg6i.jpg6j.jpg

For a bit of culture we checked out one of Arequipa’s mansion houses: Del Moran which was nice although we spent more time photographing angles out the back than checking out the rest of the house. Oddly they had an exhibition on Peruvian coins through history in one of the rooms so we had a look at that too. Had we had more time in Arequipa we may have been tempted to climb of the three imposing peaks that tower over the city or rise at 3am for a day trip to the nearby colca canyon. Not this time though.

4_Arequipa.jpg

So Peru is off to a flying start with visits to Puno and Arequipa. Puno was pretty average, except for the floating islands and we liked Arequipa. Next up Cusco and Aguas Caliente where again we would really like one and not so much the other.

Ciao, Keely

Posted by Mike.Keely 12:24 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Back to Bolivia: the final few days.

sunny 25 °C

We were pretty excited after we left the jungle. Being back in civilisation seemed like being on holiday again, everything was awesome. Hot showers, comfortable real beds, electricity at our fingertips, really good food, beers with dinner, fruit. Yes – it was good to be back. We couldn’t keep the smiles off our faces.

1. Gitte, Stig, Mike, Me and Richard.  The night we left the jungle.  Dinner, drinks and shisha in a 'real' restaurant.

1. Gitte, Stig, Mike, Me and Richard. The night we left the jungle. Dinner, drinks and shisha in a 'real' restaurant.

After only one night in Santa Cruz, we decided to push on and make some ground north. The 18 hour overnight bus to La Paz just seemed to fly by – a combination of being dead tired, and buying the most expensive but (almost) fully reclining seats: nothing but the best for us. We were travelling with Gitte and Stig, who were going in the same direction as us so instead of having a night in La Paz as originally planned we decided at the last minute to again push on so that we could continue travelling with them. La Paz has a reputation of sucking you into its charms (of which it has many), and we didn’t want to end up spending another week there like last time. Best to move on quickly me thinks. We ended up having just enough time for a proper coffee (none of this instant with powdered milk crap), a couple of speed purchases at the market, and a visit back to the immigration office. This time to sort Gitte and Stig out who hadn’t realised their visa was for 30 days instead of 60 days so had overstayed by a couple of weeks. Whoops! Potential disaster at the border avoided with a bit of paperwork shuffling and passport stamping by the immigration officials.

So in three days we passed through three towns, ending up in Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Our last day in Bolivia was spent on Isla de Sol checking out the Inca ruins there. As Inca ruins go they can’t compare to some of the things we would be seeing in Peru shortly, but it was a nice little introduction all the same. In Inca mythology the island is the birthplace of the sun, so a place with huge significance. For us it was a great day-trip with our friends, the sun was shining, the scenery was stunning and walking across the island at altitude wasn’t even too taxing.

The only downside to it all was a rather large mal-function of our camera battery charger. Somewhere along the way this vital bit of technology decided to stop functioning, leaving us with 4 completely flat batteries. BOLLOCKS! All we could really think about was Machu Picchu was coming up and we didn’t have a camera. DISASTER! Gitte and Stig came to our rescue by giving us a canon camera charger they no longer needed (yay) because someone stole their old camera (boo). So at least we had one working camera. Just needed to figure out how to charge the proper camera? That problem would have to wait though, as we had a boat to catch.

On arriving at the island, we ditched the Spanish speaking guide who was trying to recruit people to his group and ventured off on our own. We stuck around only long enough to find out which was the right way to go then went exploring.

32_.jpg43_.jpg4_.jpg

As we walked up to the northern part of the island where the best ruins are, we couldn’t help but stop and play with the donkeys along the way…

5_.jpg

We found the ruins we were looking for…

6_.jpg7_.jpg

Performed a sacrifice…

8_.jpg

But it was these two boys who were the highlight of the trip…

9_.jpg

As entrepreneurs go, these brothers have the right idea. Standing right in the middle of the path preventing all tourists from passing they wanted 2B’s for a photo with their pet Llama. 2B’s is pretty expensive as far as photo opportunities go but Stig really wanted the Llama photo so we decided to pay. But as we got the money ready the price suddenly went up to 2B’s each. Absolute extortion, but they were so funny with their matching outfits. Good on them for trying their luck. We gave them 2B’s each for what we thought would be a photo of US with the llama but what was really a photo of THEM trying to hide their llama from the camera. Best part of the day for us by far.

After 9 weeks in Bolivia it was finally time to say good-bye. Needless to say Bolivia has become our favourite country by far on this trip, so Peru has a lot to live up to. If anything can beat it we're thinking Machu Picch can though. Stay tuned.

Keely

Posted by Mike.Keely 06:13 Archived in Bolivia Comments (2)

Jungle. Part 4. Roy

If you are reading this, then I’m guessing/hoping you may well have read Keely’s other blogs about the highs and low of jungle life in general, as this blog is just going to be allllll about Roy. And a word of warning - this blog is loooooooooooooooooong. So in the assumption that most of you won’t want to read all of it, I’ve listed the contents below so you can just skip to the sections you want to read. The first piece is about my first day with Roy, but also acts as a general day in the life kind of thing, whilst the rest of the articles are some of my more memorable moments shared with Roy throughout the month. There are some pics along the way too.

CONTENTS:
1. My first day with Roy (a general day in the life kind of piece)
2. My first handfeed
3. Roy swimming
4. The snake encounter!
5. Humming
6. Tree climb
7. The first jump
8. The river jump
9. Reaction to new meds
10. Increased affection
11. Summary

1. MY FIRST DAY WITH ROY:

Roy was the puma I was assigned to on our second day in camp. The first day and a half was an anxious wait as 5 other volunteers arrived the same day as us, and we were all absolutely desperate to work with a cat. The breed didn’t matter (pumas, jaguars, ocelots and Brazilian Wildcat being the options), just as long as we were working with a cat was all that mattered.

Before we found out which cats we had been assigned to, we spoke to people in camp about which cat they were working with etc. One of the other volunteers heard our discussion and said something along the lines of “Well if you like to do nothing all day and stare at a cat lying down all day / sleeping, and you want a really unaffectionate cat then you are more than welcome to have my cat Roy”. Anyway after a few more discussions with other volunteers as we killed time around camp and did jobs, we were eventually summoned to the admin office to hear our fates. I entered the room thinking “OK any cat but Roy and I’ll be over the moon”. So of course when it came time to receive a cat assignment, the news I was so hoping to avoid was upon me…”Mike, you’ll be working with a male puma called Roy”……………BOLLOCKS!

I tried not to let my disappointment show, and the cat coordinators went to great lengths to explain what an awesome cat he was, and that although he wasn’t quite the walking machine he used to be, he was definitely one of the best cats to work with. However I had my doubts, and upon reading the “Roy information file”, my suspicions were confirmed by testimonies of past Roy carers which described his slide from marauding walking machine (6-7 hours walking a day), to a cat clearly in too much pain from arthritis to want to walk much at all.

I don’t actually know too much about Roy’s past, but he definitely arrived at Ambue Ari from Macchia, one of the other IWY parks. At 12 years old, Roy is getting on a bit, and in the wild he probably wouldn’t be expected to live much longer than that, however in the captivity they can live as long as 20 years so the fact that he was suffering from arthritis wasn’t all that surprising. Anyway I brushed off the disappointment, and thought well I’ll give this as good as I can, and who knows maybe I’ll be lucky and he’ll be more active with me.

So anyway, the next day arrived, and with it my first chance to meet and walk with Roy. Like Koru (Keely’s cat), Roy was an early morning and full day cat, which meant we left camp before the official breakfast, and returned at anywhere between 3.30 and 5.30pm depending on the events of the day. This of course meant we missed lunch every day, but the kitchen ladies would save a plate for us to eat upon our return. Unfortunately Roy’s was one of the cages furthest away from the camp, and it consisted of a boring 15 minute walk along the road, followed by another 10 – 15 minutes through the jungle, depending on conditions. Now this was not 10 – 15 minutes of nice jungle, oh no, the jungle section of the trail commenced with a huge log with ropes/branches attached that acted as a bridge over thigh deep standing water. The bridge actually worked ok for the first two weeks which were mostly dry, but during one of many storms, it effectively broke and the rope system was almost entirely useless. Then upon successful navigation of the bridge, we had to walk through a second pond of standing water. I definitely saw splashes caused by something in this particular water, and something tried to bite Cedric on his boots (my crazy walking partner from Quebec) so every day we just tried to plough through not thinking about what was in the water. During the first two weeks, a successful assault on the bridge and a careful measured walk through the second pond meant you had dry feet for the entire day! However for the last 10 days on which it rained every day, often torrential, the water was above boot level anyway so it was wet feet & boots for the best part of 8 hours. That got reallllllllllllllllly old, realllllllllllllly quick, and was the main reason many volunteers suffered from fungal infections on their feet. Luckily I managed to avoid any problems with my feet, as feet problems w ere just terrible when you consider your main responsibility was walking the cat!

Anyway eventually we arrived at the cage and by this point I was super excited to meet Roy. We always announced our arrival a little way from the cage with a “Hola Roy” so that he would know it was us making the noise and wouldn’t get stressed out. Roy would answer back with these lovely yelps which were his way of saying hello back. I was then instructed to put my hand through the cage so that Roy could come and sniff my hand and start to recognise my scent. That first little sniff was definitely a special moment, and my first up and personal encounter with Roy, even though it only lasted a few seconds. I realised quickly he was a very good looking cat, although he had sadly recently suffered from a fungal infection on his nose. By the time of my arrival the infection had gone, but it had left some lines around his nose where the fur looked different. We then set about releasing Roy from his cage onto the runner system, which was a series of two wires/ropes between the cage and trees, which we would attach his lead to by carabineer. He was then free to roam around outside his cage without having to be attached to one of us. To get Roy on the lead, we would release him from the main section of his pathetically small cage, into what was called the management cage. This was effectively a small corridor, not much longer than Roy himself, with doors at either end leading either back into the main cage or outside. Once Roy was safely in the management cage, he would approach the front door, and would wait to have the lead attached to his collar. At this point you would normally get a great big lick on your forearm which was a great sensation, and was usually accompanied by some pretty loud purring. His tongue was really just like a domestic cat, rough when it licks you, but certainly not unpleasant!

So eventually after Roy had amused himself for long enough on his runner system, it was time to hit his proper jungle trails. To communicate to us that he was ready to walk on his trials, Roy would walk to the start of his trails, to the extent of his runner slack, and stand there looking back at us as if to say “Hurry up you slackers, I want to walk now!”. The person on first rope (explained below) would disconnect Roy from the runner, and onto a harness wrapped around his waist, and then it would be off on the trails.

Now Roy is always a two person cat, which means there must always be two people walking with him when he is on trail. This is a safety precaution in case he decides to get grumpy and take out his frustration on “first rope”. The person on first rope is the person actually walking Roy, and is attached (by carabineer) to Roy’s collar by a 3-4 metre rope, so that if Roy decides to sprint off, he can’t get more than a few metres away before he reaches the end of the slack and is reined in by the rope. The person on “second rope” walks behind first, and has an additional hand held rope only, which gets tagged onto his collar when he is misbehaving etc. If he does get grumpy, second rope tags him, and then both walkers move in opposite directions to split, effectively locking Roy in the middle and giving him nowhere to go.

I was really stoked to get on trail with Roy on my first morning because I had expected him to lay around the cage all day and not going walking at all! So there we were walking along Roys trails, just being happy to be out at all, when out of nowhere Roy jumps over a little puddle (quite normal) and then haired off down the trail and what felt like a million miles an hour. I was so taken by surprise it took me a few seconds to catch up to Crispin (volunteer who left shortly after I arrived) once Roy had decided to stop. Still buzzing from the sensation of crashing through the jungle behind a sprinting puma, Roy was off again! That morning he sprinted 4 times, which I think was the most sprints Crispin had experienced in one day – and this happened on my first day! At this point, I was thinking well maybe all those previous volunteers were wrong, and Roy was going to be a rampaging machine again!

The rest of the day was spent walking, and enjoying a bit of time out down by the river. The river was his favourite place to chill out, as the river bank was often bathed in sunlight (during the first two weeks only of course), and he would often spend hours down there, alternating between sunlight and the shade provided by the jungle canopy. In fact he liked the river bank so much, that on day 3 or 4, he walked straight to the river from the cage, and spent 6 hours straight down there! The fact that Roy spent 6 hours by the river meant we also spent 6 hours by the river! At this point there were three of us, as Cedric, my partner for most of my month at the park, had arrived. Cedric was less than impressed, and I too felt my initial optimism from day one melt away with each hour spent on the bank. We would kill time by reading, playing cards or just lying down in the sanctuary provided by the mosquito net!

Anyway back to the completion of my first day. Once Roy had decided he had relaxed enough by the river, he walked himself back to the cage which meant it was feeding time! As it was my first day, and I was on second rope that day, my responsibilities during feeding were cleaning/disinfecting Roy’s feeding table and water bowl, and then refilling his water bowl. Meanwhile first rope crushed Roy’s arthritis medication, adding it to his mince balls, and put the remaining chicken and red meat on the feeding table (Roy received 700g of red meat, and 1kg of chicken per day, apart from the two starvation days a week where he only got 1kg of liver and a big bone). We then left the cage, and Crispin wafted the mince balls in front of Roy’s face which acted as an incentive for him to go back into the cage. Once safely in the management section of the cage, Crispin detached the lead from Roy’s collar and proceeded to hand feed Roy his mince balls! At this point I’m watching a fully grown puma eat mince balls out of someone’s hand, thinking I can’t wait to do this! After Roy demolished his meat balls in no time at all, we let him into his main cage, where he proceeded to absolutely devour a full plucked chicken (dead of course) and the remaining red meat. I stood outside the cage to watch him eat the rest of his meal, and watching him eat the chicken, neck, head, feat and all, whilst hearing the cracking of the bones as he chomped his way through it was pretty awesome. Upon completion of feeding time, our day was finished, and it was back to the camp to eat a late lunch and reflect upon my first day with Roy.

- That's my boy!

- That's my boy!

- Chilling out by the river

- Chilling out by the river

- Walking on trail

- Walking on trail

- Walking on trail 2

- Walking on trail 2

2. MY FIRST HAND FEED

It was on day 3 that I finally got to hand feed Roy (I think Roy was the only cat that was allowed to be hand fed). I was super excited whilst on preparation duties and it was certainly an awesome experience to watch and feel him eating mince balls right out of your hand, especially given the eating was accompanied by some very loud purring. He was actually very gentle whilst doing it, using his tongue to lick bits off your palm, but every so often he would get a little bit of your hand when closing his teeth around the mince, although it wasn’t painful at all. Even by the end of the month, the hand feeding never got old 

-Hand feeding time!

-Hand feeding time!

- Hand feeding time 2

- Hand feeding time 2

- The rest of dinner (can't hand feed this bit!)

- The rest of dinner (can't hand feed this bit!)

3. ROY SWIMMING

In my short time with Crispin, he mentioned how much Roy liked to swim when down at the river. I couldn’t wait to see him do it, but for some reason it took him 10 days before he finally went for a dip. Prior to that he would often look at the river, but would only stand on the edge of the bank, rather than descending it to the water’s edge. One day he went down and I thought “This is it!”, only for Roy to put one paw in the water, and proceed to turn around and walk back up the bank. Anyway he eventually went in on day 10, much to Cedric and I’s delight! He didn’t splash and jump around though as I thought he might, he just went out into the middle of the river (on his river runner of course) and swam against the strong current in a straight line for about 5 minutes. He then came back up the bank and gave himself a good shake off, usually right in my vicinity! Sometimes he would go into the water as often as 5-6 times a day, despite very high water levels, so I don’t know why he didn’t swim in those first days.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AA8biJLYokg&feature=g-upl

4. THE SNAKE ENCOUNTER!

Being the Bolivian Amazon, we of course knew there were lots of nasties around in the way of spiders and snakes, but thankfully we had only one hair-raising encounter. This happened half way through my month with Roy, and up until that point I had only seen one snake, and it was such a brief sighting that I wasn’t even positive it was a snake at the time. If it was, it was only a very small one. Anyway said encounter happened on a day when I was on first rope, meaning Roy was connected to me. He was merrily making his way along his trail, and had turned a corner when I caught something out of the bottom of my eye. I stopped to look down, and noticed a huge snake lying right across the path. Roy, of course, hadn’t stopped, meaning he had somehow managed to walk right over the top of the snake without even realising it was there. We reckon it was about 3 metres long, although quite slim, and was black with yellow rings. At first I thought it must just be a skin, as at the time its head was concealed by a tree leaf, but when I bent down to get a better look, to my horror I saw its head moving around, and its tongue flashing out. At this point I said something in a fairly loud voice that is completely unsuitable for inclusion here, to which Cedric replied “What?”. I said again “Look!!!”, to which he replied again “What”. So rather than beating around the bush I pointed down saying “There’s a great big (censored) snake right here”!!! Much like myself, Cedric exclaimed something unrepeatable, but promptly got out his camera so we could capture the moment (sadly I don’t have the picture yet!). Now as I mentioned Roy had walked over the snake, but I hadn’t, meaning he would eventually get to the end of the slack while I was rooted to the spot about 2 feet before the snake – the worst possible scenario as it meant Roy may well turn around and come back to me when realising he couldn’t walk any further. I told myself “Don’t panic, this will be fine as long as Roy doesn’t turn around and come back”. So what does Roy do? He turns around and comes back, except this time he obviously notices the snake. He isn’t spooked at all, more curious than anything, and being curious he lowers his head to get a better look at the snake. At this point the snake isn’t particularly happy, and when Roy sticks his head in to get a good look, I’m thinking he is either going to get a bite on that cute little nose of his, or the snake is going to turn around and bite me instead! It all happened in slow motion, but the snake reared up, hissed at Roy and then just when I thought it was going to lash out and bite, it sped off through the bush to our right… “Pheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeweeeeeee, that was a close call buddy” I say trying to act all cool, but in reality my heart is beating a squillion miles an hour. I don’t think Roy realised there was ever any danger in the situation, and turned around and plodded on without a care in the world. When we got back to camp that night we relayed the event to quite a few volunteers, but no one could confirm whether the snake was actually poisonous or not. For every no, we got a yes, so we of course prefer to think it was poisonous for drama purposes!

5. HUMMING:

Unlike most of the other cats in the park, Roy had a bug bear which we could exploit to get him moving when he was being too lazy - he hated having people hum in his ear. I’ll never know why this irked him so much, but it provided peace of mind to us as we knew we could always get him up and get him moving if we needed to, although we only used this technique when we absolutely had to. I remember bursting into laugher the first time we did it as it all felt so strange – “Here I am in the middle of the jungle in Bolivia humming into the ear of a lazy puma…” Sometimes it took a while to get him going, especially if he was down at the river and was happily lying in the sun. Sometimes he would even pull a fake, meaning he would get up, tricking us into thinking he was ready to walk, only to move 3 feet and lie down again. He was definitely a crafty old bugger sometimes. Often he would reluctantly start walking, but every so often would try to sit down – as long as we were quick enough with the humming i.e. between him going from seated to lying down”, he would get straight back up, but we had to be quick! Although the humming was obviously not to his liking, he thankfully never got aggressive with us when we did it. I would definitely have felt less comfortable sticking my face an inch away from his head if was he prone to retaliating…

6. TREE CLIMB:

Unlike Keely’s cat Koru, Roy was in absolutely no way a tree climber, with sprinting being the extent of his acrobatic activities. Anyway one day he was walking along a trail when he looked up and noticed a howler monkey in the canopy some 15-20m above us. This monkey was doing absolutely nothing to encourage Roy aside from being alive, and Roy mostly couldn’t care less about monkeys as we encountered them almost every day, but for some reason this time Roy was completely infatuated with this monkey. Having sat at the bottom of the tree boring holes through this monkey with his eyes for a few minutes, he jumped on the tree and scrambled up. He only got a few metres up before deciding he was probably too old for this and jumped back down before we had the chance to whip out the cameras. That was the one and only time he jumped on a tree during my stay, but other volunteers at the park who had worked with Roy in the past had never seen him do it so I definitely feel lucky having the opportunity to witness it.

7. THE FIRST “JUMP”

Pumas like to jump, and are incredibly good at it – from a standing start they can jump between 6 – 12 metres horizontally! They often jump on people as a way of playing. Every other previous Roy volunteer had said that Roy will jump you at some point, normally at the start of your month – this being his way of testing you out. My first experience came about 7 days in, just when I was thinking he wasn’t going to do it. At this point Crispin had left, meaning it was two inexperienced guys, Cedric and myself, looking after Roy. It happened first thing in the morning when Roy was on his runner system prior to going out on trail. He sauntered over to the start of his trails, which was his way of telling us he was ready to walk. So we left the cage, and I walked over to unclip him from his runner. When I was about half way there, and in what we later referred to as “No mans land” Roy turned around and came at me. I knew I was in trouble straight away because his eyes dilated, which was a sure sign he was going to get frisky. In no time at all he was on me, and I felt his full weight crash into my body via his front paws. At this point he was still on the runner as he had jumped me before I had the chance to transfer the carabineer to my waist harness. Somehow the runner lead had got caught around my legs and tripped me over, meaning Roy now had me on the ground…not a good place to be in with a mountain cat! About 2 tenths of a second later, as we are rolling around on the ground together, amidst his snarls I feel his jaws clamp around my thigh and squeeze…hard!! I’m thinking right, he is about to puncture my femoral artery and I’m going to bleed out and die here. But no, Cedric arrived in the nick of time to slap the second rope on his collar and pull him off me. I stood up with adrenalin coursing through my veins thinking “Wow, that was intense”, and looked town to see a big rip in the thigh of my trousers. I knew he hadn’t punctured the skin with his jaws, but he had still drawn blood via a couple of scratches from his claws.

As I mentioned before, Pumas often like to jump as a way of playing. To this day I’ll never know for sure whether he was playing or whether he was actually being agressive. When I approached him on the runner a few minutes later, he hissed at me which was the single and only time I ever saw him hiss at anyone or anything. But at the end of the day I guess he must just have been playing because, if he wanted to, he could really have hurt me. It taught me very quickly, that Roy could hurt me, even if he didn’t intend do. Afterwards I was almost relieved that it had happened, because I knew what to expect in the future. As it turned out, he did jump me a few more times over the course of the month, but they were much more playful and didn’t result in bruised muscles and scratches!

8. THE RIVER JUMP

So whilst on the subject of Roy jumping, another rather memorable one happened towards the end of our time in the jungle. By this point, it had rained constantly for about 10 days, so the trails were mostly flooded, and the river had submerged a good portion of the bank. Much to our surprise, Roy actually decided to go for a swim that day as we had been told he doesn’t like to swim when the water level is too high. He didn’t stay in for long, and when he came back up to the path on top of the bank, I gave him his usual post swim affection consisting of lots of pats and scratches under the chin. However, my positioning for this little bout of affection was less than ideal given the path behind me at this point was only about half a metre wide. Roy proceeded to nuzzle my thigh which is normally fine, but unfortunately the nuzzle was followed by Roy jumping on me. Now this jump was certainly only playful, however when I put one foot behind me to try and steady myself, this foot landed not on the path but on the bank. The bank being very slippery due to the rain, was just about the worst place I could have put my foot and sure enough I slipped over, tumbled over backwards down the river bank and SPLOSH!!!!!!!!!! Yup, I ended up fully submerged in the river! I lifted my head out of the water, with the water draining out of the mosquito net, and looked up at Roy. To this very day, I swear Roy had a look on his face that was tantamount to “Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh hohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”, but I’m sure he really enjoyed the fact that he had pushed me into the river. This moment was almost, but sadly not, captured forever on film as Cedric had been filming the prior affection. However as I had said “Roy is going to jump me” just before said jump occurred, Cedric had stopped filming to come to my assistance.

- River covering the bank & path

- River covering the bank & path

9. REACTION TO NEW MEDS:

About half way through our time together, Roy had started to develop a limp which looked to originate from his front left shoulder. We filmed him limping and showed it to the vet later that day when we arrived back in camp. The vet decided that in addition to his daily dose of arthritis medicine, he should also receive daily doses of painkiller and glucosomine in his water bowl. So the next day we gave him his new meds, wondering what state we would find Roy in tomorrow – would he walk for hours on end and jump up trees, or would he just be normal….Boy were we about to find out. We arrived at the cage and let Roy out onto his runner system. At this point he seemed pretty normal but all that was about to change. Cedric was on first rope that day, and when it appeared that Roy was ready to hit the trails, we walked out to unclip him. However this is when things started to go wrong. Roy did his usual fake, and turned around to find Cedric right in the middle of no mans land approaching the runner. Roy jumped him, and jumped him hard. As I was on second rope, it was my job to tag Roy with the second rope and pull him off Cedric. After a few seconds they ended up rolling around on the ground together, but it was proving difficult to get the rope on Roy as he was constantly moving around on the ground while trying to kill Cedric. Well that’s what it looked like, although he obviously wasn’t trying to kill him. Eventually I had to kneel on Roy’s throat to get him stable enough so that I could put the rope onto his collar. I pulled Roy off Cedric and was really quite worried about what state I would find Cedric in underneath him. Luckily the only damage inflicted was some bloody scratches and bruising on his thigh – much like what happened to me. But this jump had definitely appeared to be aggressive, rather than playful, and we were both a bit spooked. We left him to cool off on the runners, and eventually we ended up out walking. But the jump was sadly not the last of his erratic behaviour that day. He behaved like a complete lunatic out on trail – he sprinted more times that morning than he had during the entire first two weeks, and although sprinting is normally something we really encourage, his character seemed really off as he was also giving us nasty looks and a few snarls to accompany then. But the most alarming of his behaviours that morning was his desire to turn around on trail – something he is categorically not allowed to do. He would reach a certain point on his river trail, and then turn around and sprint hell for leather in the opposite direction back towards the river. Whilst Cedric and I would try to prevent him doing so by splitting our leads, Roy was straining so hard against us that we were actually choking him. We eventually let him turn around as we were really quite afraid that he was going to hurt himself badly. This happened about 5 times that morning, with us getting more unnerved each time it happened. At about midday whilst down at the river, Cedric left me with Roy to go back to camp and get his leg checked out – during one of Roy’s sprints earlier that morning, he had pulled Cedric over and Cedric had landed on his already sore thigh. I left Roy tied to his river runner and made sure I was well out of his range. He kept trying to walk back onto his trails and was very grumpy about not being taken for a walk, but there was no way in hell I was going to walk him on my own when he was in that state – we were having a hard time controlling him with two ropes so I was positive I was going to get hurt badly if I tried to walk him back to the cage on my own. He eventually settled down, and I awaited the arrival of someone else to help me get him back to the cage. One of Roy’s previous walkers turned up about an hour later to find Roy nice and peaceful down by the river. We got Roy up and sure enough, he behaved like an absolute angel for me on the way home, demonstrating none of the antics that had characterised the rather stressful morning. Bloody typical I thought. I suppose I could have risked trying to get him home on my own, but his behaviour was just so off that morning I didn’t think it wise to risk it – if I had got hurt everyone would have just said I was stupid and should have waited for help. In terms of what caused this behaviour, we were at first convinced that the new meds were too strong and had almost made him delirious/high. The long termers at camp thought it could have also been a wild puma / jaguar’s scent that had spooked him, but at the end of the day we never were able to fully pin down just exactly what it was. The next day he was much better, and although he did try and turn around on trail, he did so with much less conviction and we were able to prevent him doing so without fear of hurting him, although it took about 5 days before he would successfully complete that trail without becoming visibly distressed or trying to turn around. That eventful day was certainly my least enjoyable with Roy, and served as a big reminder that we were working with a powerful and unpredictable cat.

10. INCREASED AFFECTION:

As I mentioned previously, I was told that Roy just wasn’t an affectionate cat. At first this was devastating news as I had had visions prior to arriving at the camp of lots of pats and cuddles with which ever cat I was assigned to. And this largely proved to be true for the first week while I was with Crispin. But once Crispin left and it was just Cedric and myself, we decided to make a real effort to increase the affection given to Roy, in the hope that the affection would be reciprocated. We basically instigated this at the cage, and down by the river, but not on trail as we didn’t want him getting overly excited during a walk. Slowly but surely Roy became much more affectionate over the course of the month, and although at times it got him a little too excited (see River Jump), it was such a rewarding experience to see Roy becoming so much more comfortable in our presence. By the end of the month he would happily nuzzle our thighs, and let us both pat and scratch him pretty much to our hearts content. And whilst we would like to take the credit for that, we think the new medication may also have helped in this respect, as he was clearly in less pain and perhaps that made him more comfortable with affection. During the first 10 days or so, I was surprised at just how little I felt emotionally attached to Roy, but by the end of the month I felt we had a really strong bond and was really sad to have to say goodbye.

- Affection with Roy

- Affection with Roy

- Affection with Roy 2

- Affection with Roy 2

- Affection with Roy 3

- Affection with Roy 3

11.SUMMARY:

So as I have clearly rabbited on for far too long, it’s time to finish things up. My month with Roy was an incredible adventure, filled with lots of amazing memories that will stay with me forever. And whilst I wasn’t exactly devastated at the prospect of leaving the jungle, leaving Roy behind was a different story altogether. I really miss him, especially hearing his welcoming yelps when we arrived at his cage in the morning, his strange little ways, those huge deep eyes, and of course the pats and cuddles. I think about him all the time, wonder how he is getting on with his new volunteers, and whether he has managed to push them into the river as well! Whilst walking home on my last day and having just said goodbye to Roy for the last time, a certain phrase from a magnet on Keelys’ mum’s fridge popped into my head. It says…

“Cats leave a pawprint on the heart”……..they sure do.

- Tired kitty

- Tired kitty

- Close up

- Close up

- About to growl

- About to growl

- Just doing what cats do

- Just doing what cats do

- On alert

- On alert

- Love this picture of his eyes

- Love this picture of his eyes

Mike

Posted by Mike.Keely 06:12 Archived in Bolivia Comments (3)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 62) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 .. »