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Patricia Stanton’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 12 Jun 2005

Location: Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Mapwell hello amigos! such a long time huh?
well what have i been up to?

First up we left Potosi as soon as the baracades opened and headed straight to Sucre. A lovely town which is the constitutional capital of Bolivia and has been built on the wealth of the mines in Potosi. As such it is clean and warm and magestic and not at 4070m above sea level so breathing is easy!

We stayed there a little longer than planned due to the abundance of good restaurants and bars (and warmth and breathable air... such luxuries) At the museum of The Constitution of Bolivia, we were advised not to head into La Paz, as there was going to be more protests... which turned out to be some of the best advice i have ever received (that could be a lie, maybe the best advice i have ever folowed)

So instead of La Paz we got on a bus and headed to Villa Tunari in order to work at an animal refuge for 2 weeks. The refuge takes in animals that have been abused or orphaned and gives them a lovely home amongst the mozzies in the bolivian tropical rainforest.

We arrived late in the afternoon and Dorney was lured by the dream of working with a Puma and promptly signed us up for 3 weeks. I was assigned Gato (spanish for pussy cat) an 8 year old puma who was rescued with two broken legs, from a circus that was passing through town. He was the first puma to the park, and as such is the favorite and the lovliest.

Gato and i got off to a rocky start, I resented being dragged up and down jungle trails and cliff faces and he resented dragging me. Everymorning at 8 am i would tie a rope around my waist and off we would trek, 10kms of beautiful flora and fauna... which I was able to appreciate after two weeks. It took me at least that long to stop seeing the cliff faces, terrential rain, mozzies, sand flies and the 8 stone puma that was tied to my waist. By the end of three weeks Gato and I were well and truly friends...ahhh.

Some highlights of my time walking in the jungle include daily afternoon naps (cats really do have cat naps!) being mugged by a monkey (i just thought it was being friendly not stealing from my back pack) and building a rain shelter one day during a down pour, only to be pushed to one side by a puma who was getting wet (my little 'life of pi' moment)

With up to 60 volunteers it was a pretty social place. Some good friends were made and some good parties were had. I finally found a use for the 5 litre colapsable bucket i have been carrying - it was my hat at the mad hatters party... I looked just like a smurf- and the next day found a use for all the panadol I have been carrying.

As predicited by the lovely man in Sucre protesting did begin in La Paz (lasting three weeks), and spread across the country. No buses anywhere, no food in or out and no gas in some places. Soon our lovely peaceful village was blockaded. Hundreds of Bolivians arrived at the village one sunday night and the next morning there were boulders and trees blocking the road every 30m. No one was going in or out. This meant we stayed for a few extra days.

This worked out well for everyone. Matt had hurt his knee and had moved from puma tamer to construction worker, where he was showing the Bolivians a thing or two with the welder, so he was able to finish welding up the new cage for Gato. I should have been able to help carry rocks/sand/wood up the hill for Gato's new cage, but sprained my ankle, so proved to be a better motivator of the carriers rather than actual carrier. I also became very good at playing with the monkeys in the monkey park... although I still have not recovered from the trauma of my mugging.

The blockades finished as quickly as they started. The roads were very politely cleared by the protesters (so very polite) so we were free to leave!!!! Tears were shed, not by us but by those who wanted the welder and welder motivator to stay longer to finsh of some more odd jobs (and of course by Gato... well he didn't cry but did pull out some hair and make a bald spot on his rump - it was either greif or fleas) we jumped in a cab and have made our way to Santa Cruz where I am currently living the high life. A hotel room WITH a bathroom AND a TV!!! so flash, i don't think i have ever felt so clean, next off to argentina where hopefully I may master the Tango!

Love to all, hope all is well
ps photos of my darling Gato (aka the most beauiful puma in the WHOLE WORLD) soon