Our first day of volunteering! We walked to work along a nice path past the pink flamingo pond and then a mangrove boardwalk surrounded by the 'manzanillo' trees which are poisonous, although the tortoises can eat them. I was so excited to get to the tortoise breeding centre - and shocked by all the tortoises, there were hundreds! After meeting Fernando and Luis, the two coordinators we split into two groups; the boys with the bigger tortoises (including one with a tumour that was so large it took 5 of them to lift it!) and the girls with the babies. There were about 20 pebs wutg tortoises varying in size from 7 to 30cm. First we had to clean up any leftover food before cleaning and scrubbing the lagoons whilst Jen and Jude fed them leaves and stalks grown nearby. It was quite therapeutic actually, and really funny to work alongside the grunts of the tortoises as they all started mating! A few reminded me of Hector, since they were so keen to escape once the lids had been lifted off.
After cleaning Fernando showed us how to measure them - we have to be really precise measuring the carapace top, bottom and width. We also weighed them, which for the snaller ones involved clipping them upside down - undestandably they got quite nervous and there was a fair bit of s*** flying around the place! I was quite keen to name them all but had to stop after 3...the smallest had to be called minnie!
In the afternoon we went for a refreshing dip in the sea and some snorkelling near the harbour where Olly had seen turtles before. Unfortunately we didn't have so much luck, but still saw some cool red fish and more rainbow fish. More interesting were the rocks - the looked like frozen lava lumps. In the evening we took Natalia and Shaun, the two new volunteers out to Beto's bar. Some girls from our boat journey from Edinburgh were there and I got chatting to them over a strange pink cocktail before heading back in the dark with Angus and Olly - quite tired after such an early start!
Continued cleaning today, basically taking out old food and poo whilst Jen and Liz measured the other tortoises. It's not actually as bad as it sounds, and I still think the tortoises are pretty cute- they're really inquisitive if they think you're bringing food, and I actually ended up trapped between two mating couples in one of the larger corals - apparently they can go for hours....put us to shame really! A few moretour groups passed through the centre today, and were interested in what we were doing. Jude and I started on painting the 3 month old babies - adorable but determined to wriggle around and I ended up having to clamber into thier pens a few times scrabbling around catching them, and probably looking very silly! On the way back to lunch tons of black sea iguanas blocked our path, so we had to pick our way carefully among them to get to the beach since they had no inclination to move from their sunbathing, they're just so incredibly tame it made me feel like David Attenborough!
The rest of the day was pretty chilled out, except late at night Jen got really ill with a tummy bug. Adolfo, our house father, kindly drove us around to the doctor after I helped with the translation - just as well I went coz the doctor never saw Jen and prescribed her a 'painkiller injection' which we managed to change to antibiotics at the last minute!
Jude and I were cleaning the corrals and lagoons in the morning whilst Liz and Natalia fed the babies; poor Jen was still recovering from her tummy upset - although not uncommon for travellers here it really hits you hard! Olly pointed out 'Pepe' (no 14), the tortoise who enjoys being tickled. It was really funny because when you start to stroke the underside of his neck he lifts up onto all fours and extends his neck with his eyes half closed in pleasure and little grin on his face like he's being properly pampered! His skin was quite wrinkly though - definitely in need of some moisturiser.
Fernando continued to brand the tortoises for release, and we got to try but I still feel quite bad for them when he presses the hot pokers into their shells and it gives off a smell of burning hair. All was interrupted however when I had to be a translator again - when Shaun fainted! He was just crossing a wall when I guess the heat etc was too much for him and he twisted his knee and his ankle ; general panic ensued but we managed to get him laid down and all the 'accident' vocab from school came in handy!
Lunch today was spectacular - chicken bones and feet in the soup. we're hoping that tomorrow will be better when we've booked to go to the posh restuarant called 'Casa de la Marida' where you have to order 24 hours in advance - so quaint how rustic things are here!
Olly and I rented surf boards in the afternoon and headed down with the other to 'El Faro'; supposedly an ok spot for beginners but on the smallest hard board EVER it was virtually impossible so I barely got above kneeling! Some of the locals were really impressive though, twisting and turning on the bigger waves and showing how it was really done.. Needless to say we were all in the mood for a cool beer at Beto's on the way back!
The evening was great; after drinks on the balcony we headed out to Beto's again. On the way down we hijacked the back of Luis' truck going down the street arriving at Beto's the busiest I have ever seen it. Liz zipped onto to dancefloor sharpish, getting into some salsa with the locals before Olly,Angus and I gave it a go too. Sufficiently drunkm we headed up to 'Millenium' , the 'discoteca' - one room where the police followed us which was pretty scary! When we arrived the Ecuadorians were trying, and failing wonderfully, to pull off some Kareoke. So I just asked sweetly (in Spanish of course!) and shortly they changed to more salsa - cue Liz picking another Ecuadorian dance partner and the lasers (!) came on. Shortly loads of people packed onto the floor -reminding me of Dirty Dancing with all the smoke and moves. even managed to get Pedro onto the floor!