A week in the jungle

Villa Tunari Travel Blog

 › entry 14 of 18 › view all entries

So I have a confession to make, I knew from when I arrived in South America that my ultimate aim was to get to somewhere called Villa Tunari to work at the childrens foundation, until I got here, other than knowing it was somewhere east of Cochabamba, I didn´t actually have a clue where it was.  After the dryness of the south it was a really nice surprise as we headed away from Cochabamba to find the bus going over hills covered in cloud and dense forest.  Not knowing what I was heading towards (the only guide book I bought with me being for Chile......I´d just presumed that I´d be able to pick up ones for other countries on every street corner like you could in Asia, not so!) I just had to hope that it would either be obvious when I got here or that the bus driver would remember to let me off.  I was told the journey would take abut 3 hours (although I have learned to be very skeptical about times given!) I started to watch nervously as we passed small village settlements and wondered if I´d gone to far.  I needn´t have worried when we arrived in Villa Tunari I discovered it was actually a fairly big town (relatively speaking), and the bus conductor came and got me.  I´d arrived at the edge of the jungle.


I watched the bus pull away as I heaved my backpack on......I really need to loose some stuff, and looked around for a taxi, my instructions had made it sound so easy to get one.  After about ten mins of aimless wandering unsuccessfully to find one I asked the security guard outside of the bank.  "No, no, moto" he said, now I´ve been looking forward to getting back on one ever since I left Asia but, I hadn´t bargained on it being with a +20kg backpack and big hand bag!  So sat on the moto we head off through town and up the hill, me clinging on for dear life as my pack, hanging off the end of the seat, threatens to pull me off the back of the bike. 


Arrived at the foundation and was welcomed in by Sofia, the volunteer coordinator, who directed me straight into the dining room for dinner.  First night was a bit of a strange one.  There were around ten Bolivian members of staff and one other volunteer there.  The staff were straight into a meeting after dinner and the other volunteer had disappeared into his room not to be seen again till morning.  Not really knowing what to do with myself I sat and read hoping that every night wouldn´t be the same!

Friday morning, my first day of school I was introduced to all of the teachers and then Sofia told me that it had been decided in the meeting the previous night that the following week would be a holiday, so no children and all of the teachers would be going home - hmmm.  I was told I could stay anyway as there would still be things I could do.  To this I pointed out that with nobody else at the project I would probably be very lonely and would rather leave and come back when there was people there.  Think they were that worried I´d leave and not come back that I was told I could stay that week for free, and with the state of my bank balance I couldn´t really argue!   


So, Friday daytime was spent with the kids and to be honest it was enough to get me hooked.  They´re aged between 2 and five and basically the foundation seems to provide day care from Monday to Friday providing breakfast and lunch and teaching things from personal hygiene to writing letters of the alphabet.  There is also a doctor, nurse and dentist on site looking after the kids and providing a free service to the local community.  All pretty impressive really.  Think I spent most of the morning as a human climbing frame and roundabout!!  Loved it.


After taking the kids home, a three hour bus journey for some, I about fell into my dinner!  Got chatting to Maria, the dentist, about what she did for entertainment after the kids had gone and was pleased to hear that she sometimes went out in town.  Most of the teachers disappeared home straight after dinner and everyone else vanished, back to my book it was.  Got a knock at 9 from Maria saying did I want to go to town - hell yeah!  She took me to a Latino club and I had such a good giggle.  We´d only just ordered our drinks when a guy came over and pulled me up to dance - the advantage of being the only gringo in the place!  Dancing sober isn´t something I normally do so it was quite a new experience.  These guys could really dance, I got spun around in so many circles I was dizzy salsas so much more fun than the bouncing around western moves!


Come Sunday afternoon I was at the foundation on my own, I thought, until at least Wednesday.  But the cook arrived with her children on Sunday evening, a really nice couple of kids that I´d guess are about 4 and 7.  Found some balloons in my bag and spent hours with them playing keep it up, and then when the balloons had burst discovered that a few blobs of face cream can somehow provide hours of entertainment!


Think this weeks actually doing me the world of good, much as I´m sure I´ll get slated for saying it, I really needed a holiday!!  Been on the move constantly for about eight weeks now and just needed to stop and not feel like I have to be doing or seeing something new all the time.  Have spent most of the week going for walks, reading and sleeping and its been great.


Decided today though that I really wanted to talk to someone and actually understand the whole conversation so I took myself off to the ecological park down the road knowing that there are lots of gringos working there.  The park basically rescues animals that have been sold on the black-market as pets, performers and in the case of monkeys trained thieves!  Got chatting to a couple of the girls there, think they might have thought I was slightly crazy talking 19 to the dozen...but as the advert says - its good to talk!  Took myself off then up the hill and came to a really nice view point that overlooks Villa Tunari, the river basin and the hills behind.  At the view point was a cheeky (evil) monkey that was going through the pockets of a guy.  Was actually really quite funny so took a few pictures from a distance having been told that they steal cameras given the chance.  The monkey then sat ontop of a girls head and started grooming her using its hands, feet and tongue......had to get a picture of that.....got a bit to close.  Managed to keep my camera but the evil little sod took a big bite of my finger!  Started to wonder at that point how sensible it was to have decided against the rabies jab before I left home but then figured the park would check the animals for that type of thing before they released them.  Impressed myself, normally feel some what sick at the sight of blood and jeeze there seemed to be a lot pouring off the end of my finger but I just wrapped it in tissue and carried on my walk.  I was all good until I went and found one of the girls I´d been talking to earlier about an hour later to ask if she had any antibacterial stuff for it and went slightly to pieces when I was telling her what happened.......one day I´ll stop being such a wimp!  She was very nice about it though and took me to the camp doctor who rinsed it, iodened it and then put some purple stuff on it that stung like mad.....I reckon if it stings it must kill any nasties!!  Kinda glad I´m working somewhere theres a doctor and nurse on sight though, easy access to getting it sorted if it starts to look a bit wrong!! 


Needless to say I don't like monkeys anymore!!  But I do like it here, at the moment I can see me staying until its time to leave for home.

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Villa Tunari
photo by: RainyDayToast