Welcome to the Jungle

Puyo Travel Blog

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I arrived in Ecuador having just finished volunteering in the Dominican Republic working in the National Aquarium. It had been 3 years since I had last been in South America and there was a nice feeling of returning to something familiar. This was my first time in Ecuador but the similarities with other South American countries (especially Peru) were evident. After seeing the sites of Quito I made my way down the Andes to Puyo. I had booked a volunteer project with an animal rescue centre whilst I was in the Dominican and didn’t really know what to expect.

I was met at the bus station by Gloudina and was taken to into the jungle (the bus broke down twice along the way and I thought to myself “I remember this!”) Walking up the path to the volunteer house through the trees, past monkey and parrot cages was like nothing I had experienced before. I think the main difference was that it was living with nature rather than on it. There was no concrete or tarmac to be seen and everything seemed to fit in with its surroundings. The remoteness was apparent, especially after living in Santo Domingo and Sheffield before that.

The project itself was unlike the other volunteering I had done before. Granted I was working with jungle animals in their natural habitat rather than fish in an aquarium of teaching children, but it was the way the project was run. The co-ordinator actually led the project, rather than just ensuring I knew my way to the placement and that I had a bed to sleep in and food to eat. This organisation meant that I could see where my work was going and I could look back on what we had done over the week and see a real difference.

There were never more than 10 of us and we all lived in the same house and worked together, the great expanse of the rainforest meant that we didn’t feel like we were on top of each other, but the weekend trips to Banos were definitely needed! Most of the time there was a good group feeling, and as we split into groups for most of the work, I there was anyone you wanted to avoid it was easily done. On the whole I like travelling people, they (we) seem to be a different type of person to other people, maybe it’s just that people act differently when they are away from home. Everyone seems to be a lot calmer and less egotistical, although there are always the people who think they are special because they are travelling.

The problem with this kind of Santa Martha is that you don’t want to leave. You know what the next project is and you want to help make it. Different things are at different stages, and you want to see the thing you help started through to completion. You also become very attached to the animals, and I try and get regular updates of where they are now, and if they have been released yet. This was the first time that I had worked with a non-profit, and I had always said that I would like to get involved with overseas volunteer work a bit more heavily. Whilst working with the project I decided to set up my own volunteer project, the Arajuno Road Project, working in a similar way to this one. Hopefully this will be the best of both worlds, getting to travel and get to know other places whilst being able to use home as a base. As much as I like seeing other places and doing new things, home will always be home.

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Puyo
photo by: Biedjee