And now to the 2nd half of my Nica trip with Tina. . .
|At the spider monkey sanctuary|
After spending two nights in my site in Pantasma, we headed to the Paso Pacifico office in Managua to meet with the staff at the office there to plan the volunteering part of our trip. The staff was very nice and helpful, they picked us up from the bus station and drove us to their office (soooo nice having a chofeur!) and allowed us to stay in an extra bedroom at the office for the night. The next morning we travelled with them way down south to the community of Cardenas, which is in the very south of Nicaragua about 2 km from the border of Costa Rica. There we spent time at a spider monkey sanctuary that Paso Pacifico cares for and we worked with the caretaker there to show him some new monkey enrichment ideas. Tina and I were very pleasantly surprised at how well the place was kept up and how much enrichment he was already giving them. The caretaker lives there with his wife and son and his sole job is to care for the spider monkeys 24/7, so he has lots of time to make them enrichment and prepare their diets, which is all bought by Paso Pacifico. These 4 spider monkeys live pretty well, so Tina and I basically just brainstormed some more ideas for him and typed up a list of other types of enrichment he could make for them. In preparation for this trip I had already collected up a large bag of toilet paper rolls, cereal boxes, plastic bottles, and various other paper goods to bring to make enrichment for the monkeys.
|Me and Tina ready to give their AM diet|
|The 4 spider monkeys|
Since we arrived at the sanctuary in the afternoon, Paso Pacifico put us up in a nearby cabin where the staff usually stays when they’re there, which was this large one-room cabin right on the south end of Lake Nicaragua. It was so beautiful, we could see the two volcanoes of Ometepe Island from there when it wasn’t overcast, and it was super hot and muggy but that spot was really windy so it felt great. We bought meals from the owner of the house who lived nearby and enjoyed a nice relaxing evening. The next morning we returned to the sanctuary and helped the caretaker with the cleaning of the exhibit, refreshing water jugs (they had 3 water jugs in each of the 3 rooms of the exhibit! Talk about covering all bases) and making the AM diets. It was like being a zookeeper all over again, but just for one morning.
|A Paso Pacifico boat on El Ostional beach|
|The protected sea turtle egg nursery at El Ostional|
After our spider monkey time, Tina and I headed to San Juan del Sur for lunch. We took an afternoon bus to a community called El Ostional, where Paso Pacifico has a sea turtle egg nursery and conservation project. We met up with three of the local turtle rangers and spend a few nighttime hours on the beach with them looking for turtles and seeing the egg nursery, which is basically a fenced off area up higher on the beach away from the water where the turtle rangers move the eggs to after the females lay their nests. That way the nest have up to 100% chance hatch rate, and the rangers then help the baby turtles enter the ocean without the fear of predators. The beach (and the country of Nicaragua in general) has a problem with egg poachers, since turtle eggs are eaten by the locals and are worth a lot of money. So every single night there are egg hunters out patrolling the beach with flashlights searching for turtles basically right next to the turtle conservation workers themselves, and whoever finds a turtle first gets first dibs on her eggs. The turtle rangers often have funds as an incentive to pay off the poachers for the eggs, and most of the time the poachers take the incentive instead of taking the eggs, and will even help the turtle ranger move the nest to the egg nursery. It’s totally crazy and backwards and unbelievable that there are no regulations monitoring this turtle egg poaching in this country! It’s technically illegal to take the eggs since most all sea turtle species are endangered, but there’s just no enforcement of the laws, so the poachers very simply and easily get away with it. And these poor turtle rangers have to deal with them each and every night, literally running in the dark to get to a turtle first before the poachers spot her on the beach, which is often difficult. Tina and I were totally flabbergasted at this nightly activity and struggle, and although we were disappointed to not have seen any turtles, it was definitely an eye-opening learning experience. I’m hoping to go back to that beach in the next few months and spend a couple nights helping out the turtle rangers.
|Me and Tina at the beach in El Ostional|
After our night in El Ostional, we decided to head back to San Juan del Sur, a very touristy beach spot, and spend the afternoon and one night there. We took a dip in the ocean, which was way colder than we thought it would be, and almost immediately Tina got stung by a jellyfish! It didn’t really attack her, but lightly grazed her hand as we were slowly inching our way in deeper into the unexpectedly cold water. That was it for her, she got out of the water immediately and left me there worrying that some jellyfish was going to drift by me next. I got out a few minutes later and we just stood on the beach for a while drying off in the sun since we only brought out our katenges (Tanzanian wrap fabrics) and not any beach towels. At least we can say we experienced the Central American Pacific Ocean, even if it was only a few moments.
|San Juan del Sur sunset|
The next morning we made our way up to Granada and spent the last night there, enjoying a nice Italian meal and buying some last minute souvenirs. Basically this second half of the trip we spent only one night in each place, so it was a lot of traveling on Nica school buses and having to wait at various bus stations and bus stops for our buses to leave to the next place, and needless to say it got old and annoying. I was ready to stop travelling so often at that point, but the vacation was still fun and I of course was super happy to see Tina again! The next time we see each other will be when I’m done with my service and head back to the States in August or September. Until then I’ll be trying to continue building stoves in my community and working with the youth group. And I’m also in the process of researching job opportunities with various organizations in the U.S. that work in wildlife conservation to get an idea of what I should start applying for when my service comes closer to an end. Hopefully I won’t be jobless for too long!
|Tina's last day in Nicaragua. Oh how Peace Corps brings us together!|
Check out my shutterfly page to see lots more photos of our trip. . .