A Travellerspoint blog

Becoming Chandler Bing in Peru ….

overcast 17 °C

Hi all !

Well, it’s been a while since my last entry but that is mainly due to a distinct lack of news ! I have spent the last 6 weeks scouring thousands of photographs of dolphin fins trying to find duplicates and once that fascinating task was completed I’ve been entering fin data on excel sheets – to summarise, if dolphin number 321 was seen in sector 21 on a certain date in the last 6 years I put a 1 in the relevant column……. For some reason Chandler Bing from Friends has kept coming into my mind over these weeks – I seem to remember that his job was entering numbers onto spreadsheets !!

We finished yesterday and, although a tad tedious, it’s a really good feeling to know that all of the data is finally input and Stefan can now start writing papers to publish. Some really interesting (for me anyway) patterns started to emerge over the weeks with the effect of a pier construction down in Melchorita in 2008 influencing the dolphins’ behaviour, the location and distribution of the female dolphins and also signs of increased aggression when the distribution changes.

Dolphins bowriding !

Dolphins bowriding !

So, what other news ?? Well, I’ve changed rooms in the house – I’ve moved into the garage which isn’t as bad as it sounds !! After a slightly uncomfortable weekend in my old room which involved my 2 French neighbours, their “conquests” from a random meeting the week before and paper thin walls I decided to move into the newly converted garage room – which gives me more space and more “sound insulation” !!! The residents of the house change quite often and I am now living with a Chilean, a Colombian, a Peruvian and 4 bloody French students !

We took some Germans ……. Sorry, we took some bloody miserable Germans ….. out on a whale watching trip last Sunday, we aren’t guaranteed to see whales in this area of the Pacific, it’s not a breeding area but we know they are around. Unfortunately we didn’t find any, saw loads of dusky dolphins off-shore though. Couldn’t believe when we found that a Southern Right Whale was spotted on Monday just off the coast of Chorillos, a suburb of Lima about 1.5 miles from where I sit now !

So, I hope you all enjoyed the Olympics – it appears that it was a fantastic couple of weeks …. Unfortunately I could only enjoy it by reading the BBC website. But, I did manage to watch the opening ceremony – the British Embassy put on a bit of a “British themed tea in the park” event nearby with a big screen, I can’t explain why but I was so nervous ! Sitting there amongst all these Peruvians watching, what was quite frankly, a bizarre and difficult to explain show, listening to the Argentinian commentators trying to make sense of it all ! It was a great event though, union jacks decked out the park. Interestingly the crowd all stood up for God Save the Queen, very respectful and nearly brought a tear to my eye ! Also, the way in which the Peruvians cheered every single Latin American country when the teams came out was great.

I've tried to upload some photos but it's taking forever so I may try again a little later.

That’s it for my news – this time next month I’ll be back in England ….. feels weird ! Not sure what the future holds for me after doing what I’ve got to do back home ….. I suppose I should start to make some decisions, unfortunately finances will undoubtedly be a key factor …. !

Posted by cbr600 25.08.2012 12:29 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Adventures with percentages up a mountain

overcast 20 °C

Hi all – time for my slightly delayed June update.

The research trips for dolphin I.D. have now completely finished so we are now on the homeward straight with all the fin analysis. Stefan has been very busy with other issues this last month (he’s had a book published) and Diana has been working on publicity for the “fight against Chepeconde beach closure” so Clara and I have been ploughing on.

Stefan also teaches future bird guides as an additional job and he had arranged to take some of his students up to the Bosque de Zarate (about 2 hours inland from Lima) for a trek and some training. I thought I may as well invite myself to get out of Lima for the day. Diana and Clara also joined us so at 4:30am (ugh) the 4 of us found ourselves in the jeep, driving out of Lima to meet the students in the village of San Bartolome before our trek. I’d met some of the students before on a research trip.

Diana and Clara on arrival in San Bartolome

Diana and Clara on arrival in San Bartolome

I had already decided that I had no intention of taking any interest in any birding training that would be happening – nope, that day I would be a tourist and just enjoy the scenery. So, we met up with the 5 students who had stayed over in San Bartolome the night before, paid some random woman our 5 soles each who accosted us as we drove into the village – she was probably the mayor, as we drove into the village she sniffed us out and issued us with our entry tickets for the trek and told us to leave the jeep in the plaza central ….. this plaza central was basically the size of our jeep. So, leaving San B on foot, the village with a new “installation” for the local kids to play on for the day in the plaza ….

The Nissan installation in the Plaza Central

The Nissan installation in the Plaza Central

At the beginning of the path that marked the start of the trek there was a sign explaining it should take about 5 or 6 hours to reach the forest (dear god) and about 3 hours to come back down again. We were leaving at 7:00am but it looked like it was going to be a long day ! I headed off ahead on my own, wanting to go my own pace ….. the path was a fairly wide track twisting back and forth up the mountain …. Uphill …. All the time ….. not even a smidge of levelling out for respite. God it was tough. I left the others behind me as they kept stopping for bird training and I prefer not to feel as though I’ve got to catch people up. Mind you, the views were pretty spectacular. After about an hour I passed a sign saying I’d completed 10% of the trek – 10 bloody % I gasped !! An hour later, with no further signs passed I reached a sort of plateau area and I collapsed onto a rock with my wobbly legs and waited for the others – oh my god it was hard work ! The rest followed in dribs and drabs, they had now become 3 groups – Stefan with Diana and Clara and Carlos, then couple A and couple B as I’ve called them. Whilst we rested for a bit at the plateau I pondered where the route went next, I could see the continuation of the wide path we’d been walking on go into the distance and it seemed a bit more levelled out, after all, we were bloody high up – maybe we’d be at about 40% by now ??

At the Plateau

At the Plateau

But no, we found a sign pointing upwards towards, what can best be described as a vague line in the mountain side, going up, and up, and up ….. you get the idea ….
So, off we headed again, me striking out ahead – this was worse, it was steep, continuous, a very thin path (one person wide), with a drop down the mountain side on the right hand side. It just went on and on ….. ahead I saw a sign – “ooh, what percentage now ?” I thought ? 30%, great.
About 40 minutes more of agony I stopped at the 40% sign for a break. By now I was not far off 3000 metres. Another 40 minutes or so I see the next sign ahead – has to be 50% doesn’t it ??? …….Nope, 40% again !! After confirming with myself I hadn’t gone round in circles and contemplating doing serious damage to the sign I took a deep breath and continued …..
A particularly steep, strenuous and soul destroying 30 minutes later I came across the next sign ….. 40 BLOODY PERCENT !! SERIOUSLY ????!!!!! At this point I sat down to ponder whether my mental faculties had been diminished by the effort. I had been walking for about 5 hours now and was knackered but also I started to think about getting back down (which is always tougher for me). So, sitting there, waiting for the others I decided, I’m an adult and I’m done, there is no way I’m going further, I’ve enjoyed the views and I don’t want to get stuck up here and walking down in the dark. So, when, 20 minutes later Stefan and his group of 3 arrived I told them my decision, wished them luck and started to head downhill. I passed couple A about 20 minutes after that, wished them luck and continued on, waiting to pass couple B on the way up. However, on rounding a corner I saw couple B ahead of me heading down as well ! I shouted out to them and they had given up on the second 40% ! So, I joined up with couple B and we descended together …. About an hour later they received a text from couple A saying they’d made it to 55% !! We were glad we’d made our decision !

View down to the Plateau and San Bartolome

View down to the Plateau and San Bartolome

At the end of the 40% tek

At the end of the 40% trek

We got back down to San Bartolome at about 2:30pm, had some lunch and sat around the Nissan installation in the Plaza Central. By about 4:00pm couple B decided to wait no more and get a bus back to Lima. At about 6pm couple A turned up – they had turned back after 55% so it was just Stefan, Diana, Clara and Carlos left up the mountain …. With 2 hours of daylight left. Once couple A had jumped on a bus I was left in the plaza on my own, forming part of the new installation.

By the time darkness came I was starting to wonder if they were ok, I had a mobile phone with no signal so I couldn’t contact them, I was thinking of that bloody narrow path in the dark and I couldn’t really do anything. I walked out of the village up to the beginning of the path of the trek to see if I could see any sign of torch lights coming down the mountain, nothing but darkness to see so I headed back into the village again. I repeated this action about 20 bloody times that night ! In the end I decided to find the mayor woman and ask her if I should be worried, she said she’d had a call a few minutes ago, they were fine, they’d got lost but they were on their way down now. So, I drove the jeep from its installation point in the plaza down to the bridge near the trek entrance and waited there and stared at the mountain side for about 3 hours hoping nothing happened to them on the way down in the darkness. At long last I saw the tiny spots of light coming down the path and eventually Diana and Clara appeared followed by Stefan and Carlos, all knackered and very thirsty but luckily no worse. I felt like a mother hen welcoming back my lost chicks !
So, at midnight with everyone in the jeep and me driving (no way I was letting Stefan drive after all that) we headed back on the journey to Lima. The drive wasn’t without incident as we got pulled over at a police checkpoint, I was looking forward to seeing how the locals dealt with my international driving licence but, typical Peru, the officer looked in the jeep, asked me where I was from and promptly asked for the I.D. documents from Stefan and Carlos – nothing from the women in the jeep !!

Anyone ever thinking of doing the trek up to Zarate – give yourself 2 days and take some camping equipment !!

Less strenuous news – we had a client query for a birding tour of Pantanos de Villa, they wanted to go on a Saturday morning. Stefan asked me to contact them as he was conducting an exam in the morning so he wouldn’t be able to take them until early afternoon, either that or I guide them !! So, I gave them 2 choices, wording my email that if they come with me they are getting someone who has nearly no experience or if they go later they get Stefan the expert ….. I signed off and sent the email fairly confident that my email would convince them to choose Stefan ….. 10 minutes later, they want to go early in the morning with me as their guide – Aaaaggghhhh !!

So, with Clara helping me (for that read, blind leading the blind) I have conducted my first bird tour flying solo !! It went ok actually, I identified 33 birds and I think the clients had a good time !!

More news next month !

Posted by cbr600 08.07.2012 12:50 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Moving out, moving in and decisions !

overcast 23 °C

So, after a slightly fraught month things have changed a bit. After having lived in a room downstairs from the office in Jose’s back garden for nearly 8 months, I have made the decision to find somewhere a bit more comfortable. A difficult decision as I wasn’t paying anything at Jose’s so my finances will take a bit of a hit but I think it’s the right thing to do. I’ve moved into a shared house literally 3 minutes’ walk from Jose’s but it feels better to be away from the work environment and have a bit more privacy …. And access to a kitchen !

So, my new housemates include Ben (French / Italian), Elisa (Argentinian), Alec (Peruvian), Dara (Canadian) and Titiana (French). We had a goodbye party for a German housemate last night and it was a good chance for me to get to know everyone a bit better.
Workwise, things have been a bit “difficult” as I have found a lot of things frustrating this last month and I have been pondering my future plans – I know I have a flight booked back to England in mid-September as I need to sort a few bits and pieces out, so I have decided to see if I can make things move forward here by September. If I don’t feel, by then, that I am making headway then I suppose I will have to consider whether or not to return to Peru. Decisions …. Decisions !!

P6010153.jpg

So, moving on from that slightly negative note, what else have I been up to ?

Well, at the beginning of last month we took a Peruvian TV crew out on the Ocean Spirit so they could record some interviews with Stefan about the dolphins and get some good footage. I have to say that most Peruvians who we have taken out on the boat seem to suffer from seasickness …. Must be a national affliction ! Anyway, the reporter was no exception but by god was she a professional; she had been suffering for a good hour during the trip, hanging over the side, doing a bit of involuntary fish feeding …. So, when we anchored up at Isla Asia and she went up to the front to record an interview with Stefan I was thinking “god knows how many takes she’ll have to do” … but no, she conducted a 20 minute interview, at the end turned to the camera to do her sign off, all smiles, camera stops recording and she promptly leaned over the side of the boat to continue vomiting – great timing !

After the recent dolphin and pelican deaths in the north of Peru there has been some frustration with the government who have seemed to drag their feet in identifying the problem (still not very clear now – conflicting views). So a protest march was organised by various organisations including Sergio Bambaren’s ”Delfinus” NGO. Sergio is the vice president of Mundo Azul and a friend of Stefan’s. Diana, Clara and I attended the march in San Isidro, I have to say, the turnout was a bit disappointing and it was a very polite march …. Nothing like the student protest marches back home !

Slow news day ....

Slow news day ....

Sergio Bambaren gives an interview to the press

Sergio Bambaren gives an interview to the press

Protest march in Lima

Protest march in Lima

Sergio has a campsite on a beach a bit further south from Isla Asia and he is encountering problems with access. In theory the public has legal access to all beaches in Peru (the first 50 metres from the ocean). The campsite beach is only accessible via a neighbouring, larger beach which is currently being developed into a “private beach club” and they have blocked access to Sergio’s campsite. I said “in theory” the public has legal access because, of course, this is Peru – corruption and backhanders are rife so the access has been blocked and trying to fight the powers that be will be a challenge. However, Sergio has found out that the company doing the developing is predominantly Chilean owned so …. With Stefan’s help, cue preparations for a publicity stunt (bear in mind the relations between Chile and Peru aren’t the best since the Peruvians believe Chile stole some of their southern land). The plan is to get a massive Peruvian flag on the beach, get as many people camping on the beach as possible, the only way to supply provisions to the beach will be via the sea so, get the fishermen on board to bring supplies and have some sort of slogan “Chile shouldn’t be allowed to steal any more of our land” ….. could be interesting ! Watch this space !

Last weekend we had a contract with a cruise ship (Semester at Sea) which was coming into Callao to take some students on either a dolphin watching trip or swimming with sea lions. Stefan was to take charge of the dolphin watching, I was to take charge of the sea lion swimming (with Clara helping me). Having only done it once before a fair amount of blagging would have to take place, but, after a few days of studying about the South American Sea Lion I felt prepared ! So, I’ve got my 19 students on the boat we hired from Callao, heading towards the Palominos Islands, there I am, pointing out San Lorenzo Island, regaling them stories of Charles Darwin visiting the islands, explaining the Sir Francis Drake connection and why the Peruvians call him a pirate (outrageous !) …. when the time comes to get them into their wetsuits. Getting into wetsuits whilst on a boat should be an Olympic sport. For getting 19 people into wetsuits in a very small cabin, on a boat, Clara and I should get the gold medal !

Clara and I pretend to be professional tour guides !

Clara and I pretend to be professional tour guides !

As we approached the Palominos islands I start to look to see whether I can see any sea lions in the water. The words from Stefan ringing in my ears “it’s never happened to me before but, if you don’t see any sea lions in the water, if they are all on land, then it’s likely there’s a predator around (for that, read - shark) so don’t swim” ………. Oh great, I can see 3000 bloody sea lions sitting on the island and not one, solitary, bloody animal in the water !! I’ve got 19 paying tourists all trussed up in wetsuits and the sea lions aren’t playing ball ….. what to do ?? Well, I monitored the situation for about 15 minutes then saw a few sea lions jump into the water, took a calculated risk and in I jumped, followed by my tourists all a tad nervous due to the bloody huge jelly fish loitering in the vicinity. Didn’t particularly cherish the idea myself of cuddling up to a jelly fish, especially not one the same size as me but I couldn’t let that show. So, I had us all swimming on our backs with our hands out of the water – we looked a sight ! Unfortunately we weren’t very lucky with the sea lions and they didn’t come very close but I think the students had a good time – when I pointed out to them that they were swimming in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Peru, within 20 or 30 metres of a massive sea lion colony I got loads of U.S. style “woops” and “awesome” !!
So, that’s my May update complete ….. tomorrow we are on a research trip on the dreaded zodiac so it’s unlikely Stefan will be able to get any decent photos if my past driving experience on that boat is anything to go by …..

Posted by cbr600 02.06.2012 14:48 Archived in Peru Comments (4)

Kayaks and Birds

sunny 24 °C

Hi all,

Well, this blog entry was written about a week ago but for some very frustrating reason it didn’t save so here I go again !!

A couple of weeks ago we had a booking for a 5 day Kayak trip with 2 clients from Alaska, Tim and Karen, both very experienced Kayakers. I was to be “land support” during the trip whilst Stefan went out on the Kayaks with them.

Day one, Stefan and I collected them from their hotel and we set off for San Bartolo. We were due to be spending our first night in Hostal 800 so it was great to be seeing my friends there again ! On arrival in San Bartolo both Stefan and I could see that something was “odd” – the waves were huge and spread right across the bay. Being something of an expert of monitoring the waves from the balconies of Hostal 800 I knew something was amiss. It turns out there had been an off shore earthquake the day before hence the state of the ocean. So, we headed down to Pucusana to see what it was like there, the plan had been to take the kayaks on the boat and go out to find some dolphins and let Karen and Tim do some kayaking alongside them. However, we all agreed that wasn’t a good option so they restricted themselves to a little “bimble” around the harbour whilst I went to refuel the boat ready for our next trip out.

Puerto Viejo on the way to Bujama

Puerto Viejo on the way to Bujama

Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo

Day two was to be an excursion from Bujama beach (about 20k’s south of Pucusana) round to Isla Asia but, once again the ocean conditions were still a tad dramatic so we rearranged the itinerary and headed south to Paracas National Reserve, about a 3 hour drive. Once inside the reserve we drove off road to Lagunillas bay and I was pleased to get them into their kayaks and off paddling in fairly calm waters !

Some calm waters for Kayaking

Some calm waters for Kayaking

Lagunillas bay

Lagunillas bay

Fisherman's boat stranded in the desert

Fisherman's boat stranded in the desert

We were staying in a nice house (or a “mom and pop” place as Tim and Karen called it) in the residential area of Paracas.

Day three and we were heading over to the other side of the reserve to Mendieta beach. Whilst we were securing the kayaks to the jeep Stefan mentioned to me that, as Mendieta is very isolated and I would be left on my own whilst they were off kayaking I needed to be aware of my safety. Occasionally, in the past, there had been instances of tourists being attacked there by gangs of passing ne’er do wells. So, he then proceeded to tell me that if anything happened I was to use his gun on them. Hmmmmm. On the drive over there I was a tad preoccupied as you can imagine.
Mendieta is beautiful, the desert comes right up to the ocean and it really is very isolated. Once I’d got them into the kayaks I pondered what to do, a few hours alone, in the desert, with Stefan’s words ringing in my ears and all the while his bloody gun in the jeep with, what seemed like, big flashing neons over it. I sat down and leaned against the jeep and surveyed all possible areas of attack, thinking, “if anyone comes they can’t exactly sneak up on me, I’ll see anyone coming for ages before they get here” ….. then after more thought I accepted the fact that I don’t think I could ever use the gun so I came up with a plan of action. One, be vigilant. Two, enjoy where you are. Three if anyone comes and I feel at all in danger I’ll just bloody walk into the sea and swim to one of the fishing boats !
So, I then proceeded to pass the time by making my own little Nazca line in the desert – hopefully leaving my mark for years to come …… OK, maybe not, but at least for a couple of weeks ! Then I decided to go for a meander up on the rocks, locked the jeep (with gun inside) and off I trotted. Mid-trot I had a thought ….. “hmmmmm, although I can still see the jeep and anyone approaching it, what if they think there’s no one here, they break into the jeep, find the gun and steal it ….” Not quite sure I could live with myself if that happened and the gun ending up in the wrong hands, sighing, I about turned and trotted back to, in effect, guard the jeep and the bloody gun. After a few more minutes of gun guarding I “had a word with myself” took the bloody gun out of the jeep (looking as if I was holding something that had spent a considerable amount of time in a sewer), put the gun in my bag, locked the jeep and off I went again !! Had the fishermen been watching my to-ing and fro-ing I’m pretty certain they would have considered me some sort of mad gringa !
In the end of course, nothing happened, Stefan, Tim and Karen had a lovely time out on the ocean and (not withstanding my paranoia) I enjoyed the solitude of Mendieta beach.

My version of the Nazca Lines.

My version of the Nazca Lines.

The jeep at Mendieta Beach

The jeep at Mendieta Beach

Paracas National Reserve

Paracas National Reserve

Day four and Stefan decided I should do the guiding as the day was to be a gentle paddle around the bay of Paracas hopefully finding some dolphins. We weren’t particularly hopeful of finding any as, although in the past there had been a resident group there, on the last few occasions Stefan hadn’t encountered any. Reason being, dolphins in general don’t tend to reside in one particular location. A few years ago a dominant male had been injured by one of the boats taking tourists to the Ballestas Islands, in effect, amputating it’s dorsal fin so the dolphin wasn’t very mobile after that and adapted to feeding from the waste fish from the fisherman’s boats in the harbour. As he was dominant he kept a group of dolphins with him. As the dolphin hasn’t been seen recently it is assumed he has died and therefore the remainder of the group are free to extend their home range. Now dolphins are seen in the bay but just passing through. Anyway, the 3 of us had a relaxed couple of hours around the bay, we found a group of sealions in the water and paddled up to them. As they are such inquisitive creatures we just sat there in the kayaks whilst they swam around us and kept staring at us !! Both Karen and Tim later said I was a natural guide, explaining everything, very communicative and very relaxed – how nice of them !!

Our B and B in Paracas

Our B and B in Paracas

We got out of the kayaks at El Chaco beach and met Stefan and he took them on a boat trip to the Ballestas Islands whilst I stayed on the beach with the Kayaks. I got talking to this guy called Luis who was part of a group of singers who tried to earn money from the tourists by singing to them as they disembarked the boats. He was asking me to translate the words of the English songs he was singing into Spanish so he could understand what he was singing and then was asking me for phrases to say to the tourists ……. So, if you are ever disembarking from a boat from the Ballestas Islands and you hear someone shouting to you – “Hey pretty lady, come here and I will sing you a song” …… then I apologise !!!

Day five and we headed back north, hoping to stop off at Bujama for the Asia trip but on arrival at the beach they all agreed the waves were too big to get the Kayaks into the water safely so we headed to Pucusana, loaded up the Ocean Spirit with the kayaks and headed out to find some dolphins. Quite quickly we found a group of about 40 so, with Tim and Karen in the Kayak we watched from the Ocean Spirit as the dolphins were swimming around the kayak and even bowriding ! It was great seeing the big grins on their faces – Karen and Tim that is, not the dolphins !

So, all in all a very successful trip and we headed back to Lima to take them back to their hotel, said our goodbyes and I even got a $40 dollar tip – woohoo !!

Thanks to Karen I have learnt of the existence of "CNN Pyjamas" – one of her friends was moving to Oklahoma and was a bit concerned about moving to an earthquake zone. Whilst on the telephone just before the move her friend told Karen that “all was packed, everything’s ready, I’ve got my CNN pyjamas …….” Karen had to stop her there and ask the obvious question …..apparently, if you live in an earthquake zone you should always have these garments at hand, preferably good design and of high quality silk. In the event of finding yourself standing in the street, in the middle of the night, in the aftermath of a natural disaster you want to look respectable if CNN turn up and want to interview you .......

A few days ago we took an American lady (from New Mexico) on a birding tour of Parque El Olivar and the wetlands of Pantanos de Villa, she was very interesting, an author and playwright who was filling in time whilst her husband was attending a conference on adobe restoration in Lima.

Horses at Pantanos de Villa

Horses at Pantanos de Villa

So, that’s about enough rambling from me for now, tomorrow we’re out on another dolphin research trip with a tv crew who want to film some bits and pieces. There’s been a lot of interest since the discovery of nearly 800 dead dolphins and about 500 dead pelicans up in the north of Peru, probably from some sort of virus.

Couple of interesting facts I’ve learnt –

Latin Americans with any amount of indigenous blood in them don’t go grey. Never occurred to me before that you hardly see any grey haired elderly people here.

The Peruvian fire service doesn’t get paid – all voluntary.

More news soon I hope, probably with tales of my anguish and incomprehension of Spanish grammar, yes, tomorrow I start Spanish lessons in an attempt to be able to speak in sentences that involve more than the present tense !!

Posted by cbr600 05.05.2012 16:46 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

Fin identification, documentaries and driving !

sunny 23 °C

Hi all -

Hope you have found the new site ok (well, obviously you have if you're reading this) ...... after a few weeks sojourn back in Blighty I'm pleased to say I have returned to Peru.

My arrival at the airport was somewhat fraught as Jose had asked me to bring some accessories for his aquarium from England with me. So, all boxed up and additional baggage charge paid for I find myself at the conveyor belt awaiting my backpack and "box of things for Jose" ...... backpack duly arrives - no sign of the box, baggage hall emptying until me and another frantic looking guy are left. We find an official and try to describe our lost items .... after about a 20 minute wait 2 similar looking boxes are brought "round from the back" much to our relief. I then join the queue for customs, they have this great system here where you press a button, if it flashes green you can proceed unmolested, if it's red it's your turn to get the 3rd degree. Even before I had my turn at the "button of doom" I was approached by an officer and questioned about the contents of my "box for Jose". As my Spanish vocabulary for all things aquarium isn't the best I spluttered something that obviously wasn't satisfactory and was "invited" to have my belongings searched. Great. Box opened, all aquarium accoutrements on display with me thinking "please, for god's sake don't ask me what they are for, even in English I havent a clue". Lots of head scratching ensued and about 45 minutes later I'm told I have to pay a "tax" (yeah right) but only $28 to add to Jose's bill so not too bad. After the inevitable - go to this window to get your invoice, go to another window to pay your invoice, return to first window to prove you've paid, go to another window to get your passport returned I was free !!!

Thank god after all the delay Jose was still waiting for me so we loaded up the jeep and heading back to Miraflores.

So, this first week it's been all dolphin fin identification, we're almost at the end of identifying all of the groups (6 years worth of data). Next stage is to review the approximately 1800 dolphins identified to ensure there are no duplicates - not an easy job and we aren't entirely sure how to approach it at the moment. We have another local volunteer (Clara) helping us which is good.

Yesterday, Stefan and I took a documentary film crew out on the boat, we took them down to Isla Asia. They are making a short film on the fishmeal industry and its effects on marine biodiversity. To summarise, fishmeal is made of small fish (like anchovies), crushed down and used in pet food and used to feed cattle, pigs and chickens etc. being bred for human consumption. Peru supplies a large % of the world's fishmeal. Problem is, anchovies are the key food of many marine birds, cetaceans (dolphins for example) and larger prey fish. With their food source reduced by industrial fismeal manufacturers the negative effects on said species is quite dramatic. There are also health implications for those living near the fishmeal factories (asthma and other lung diseases). So, this film (being made by 2 English guys with WWF - not the wrestling - and Greenpeace associations) is trying to highlight the problems. They've headed up to Chimbote today with Stefan to interview some of those affected up there.

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Anyway, it was really interesting watching them in action and seeing how they go about the process - watching Jim, the producer trying to summarise the film "Happy Feet" to Phil, the presenter for his bit to camera in front of the Humboltd penguins was very amusing.

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When we'd got the boat all closed up I was heading back in the jeep with Jose and, as it was a Sunday, I thought I ought to take the bull by the horns and get some "Peruvian" driving practice under my belt. So, we pulled over on the Panamerican and swapped seats. I've been driving for 24 bloody years but I was still nervous, a knackered old jeep, an automatic, a left hand drive ..... and the bloody vagueries of Peruvian traffic norms, undertaking, driving on hard shoulder (past a police van I add), stopping to give way for no apparent reason ... yes, I did it all and we arrived back in Lima no worse for wear I'm pleased to say !!

That's more or less it for my first week back here, Semana Santa this week so we're only working 3 days !!

More news soon.

Posted by cbr600 02.04.2012 16:23 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

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