A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about animals

Elephant Nature Park Volunteering

The Mostly Messy Jobs that Keep us Busy

sunny 90 °F

P1070692.jpg DSC04297.jpg
We have been living in an elephant sanctuary. We wake to their trumpeting, feed them bananas. play with them in the river, and watch them behave like elephants. Our two weeks at the Elephant Nature Park have been packed with once in a lifetime experiences and plenty of hard work.
Turns out - it takes a great deal of effort by many people EVERY day to feed and nurture 35 elephants!

What have we been DOING during our time at the Elephant Nature Park?

Volunteers are divided into work teams and assigned morning and afternoon jobs for each day. An ENP Volunteer Coordinator (VC) is "in charge" of each group. Some jobs, such as cutting corn and picking lychee are off site and lunch is brought along.
Here is a somewhat abbreviated description of some of those jobs.

Elephant Kitchen

The Elephant Kitchen job starts with gathering many baskets of pumpkins and watermelon from the shelves, washing them in a big basin of water magnesium permanganate, and chopping them into quarters.
There are also a few baskets of watermelon that need to be peeled for the older elephants as well as bananas that need to be sorted into very ripe, ripe, almost ripe, and green. A great job for sensory relaxation is the peeling and mashing of bananas by hand for "banana balls", a special elephant treat. We also spent time extricating the seeds from tamarinds. Overall, a pretty light assignment and a great way to chat with fellow volunteers.

ALEX- Elephant Kitchen was my favorite job because it is cool to chop melons and pumpkins with a machete. It was hard unloading the watermelon truck but felt really good when the truck was empty. Mom says I can't play with my food so squishing bananas with my hands was awesome!

Cutting Corn

Elephants eat lots of corn! Every day, volunteers and staff harvest 300 bundles (stalks and all), load them in a truck, and deliver to the always hungry ENP residents. IMG_5259.jpgIMG_5252.jpgIMG_5247.jpgIMG_5245.jpgIMG_5254.jpgIMG_5265.jpgIMG_5251.jpgIMG_5238.jpgIMG_5153.jpgIMG_5143.jpgDSC04004.jpgDSC04005.jpg

Corn cutting was definitely our most physically demanding day. Our group left the park and were driven in the back of a truck about 45 minutes to a farm. We were all decked out in long sleeves and long pants as instructed. By 9am it was sweltering and there was no shade to be found.

We were handed machetes and set to work chopping down the stalks and making bundles. After about an hour we were told to gather up the bundles and bring them to the truck. The hardest part was carrying the bundles over 400 yards along a narrow strip of land in the middle of an irrigation ditch.
Fifteen trips back and forth gave me a brand new appreciation for folks who do this every day!

After loading the bundles in the truck we drove to yet another field, and after a break for lunch, started all over again.
The truck was filled to the brim with corn stalks and we all climbed on top for the journey home. Along the way we had to duck low branches and hold on tight over bumps but we made it back.

After we had showered off the grime, it was satisfying to watch the truck go around delivering corn to the elephants. I think they appreciated our efforts.

Poop Patrol

Well, what goes in must come out - so elephants poop quite a bit. Fortunately, their vegetarian diet means it is not nearly as smelly as one might think. It does, however require an army of shovel and wheelbarrow wielding volunteers to keep the place clean.
A bonus of this job is that while on poop patrol opportunities abound for elephant encounters.

Collecting Lychee

Lychee are in season here and a big favorite of the elephants. Our job - collect them by the basket full and return to ENP. This was another adventure in the truck day and we had a grand time climbing trees and pulling down the fruit. We had lunch with a local family and played with an assortment of dogs. Overall, aside from dodging some wasps, it was a lovely day.

We also got to see a very unusual rainbow. IMG_5356.jpg

LEAH - It was really fun because I got to go up a ladder and climb into trees and drop the fruit into the basket. The lychee is delicious. I just wish the insects didn't like them too.

Mud Pit

Elephants LOVE the mud! They use the mud pit as a way to cool down and as a natural sunscreen. Once a week, volunteers help maintain the water/mud level by getting in there with hoes and buckets. Our group heard the call of the mud and ended up in an all out extravaganza! Needless to say, Alex and Leah were part of the first wave of mud slingers!

We also planted banana trees, gathered rocks for making stone walls, cut bamboo poles, and an assortment of other odd jobs around the park.

Our Optional Jobs

The Elephant Nature Park is also home to 450 rescued dogs and about 200 cats. We especially loved playing with the kittens and puppies! There was always need for extra help with the dogs and cats so we tried to pitch in when we could.

An old residence is in the process of being turned into a home for some of the cats and we were told we could make whatever improvements we wanted. Other volunteers had already made great progress and we were inspired by some of their ideas. Noah took the ceiling down and we cleared away some of existing debris. Foraging through the scrap pile, we put together some cat friendly surfaces and activities. It feels good to have left something of ourselves behind.

Most of the dogs in the dog sanctuary were rescued from the floods a few years ago. There is a clinic on site and full time volunteers to feed and care for them. We were welcomed to go there any time to walk and play with the furry residents.

We have had an amazing experience here!!
If you are interested in learning more you can go to www.saveelephant.org

Posted by annevl 18:55 Archived in Thailand Tagged animals elephant thailand volunteering family_travel enp www.saveelephant.org Comments (4)

"5 and a Half Days on the Ground"

Making the Most of My Friends' Visit - a Mini Vacation Peru Style

DSC_0368.jpgI still can't believe that Melissa and Lisa left their families and flew all this way to visit me in Peru! From the minute I received an email confirming their flight info, I saw the Cusco area in a different light. Putting back on my "North American glasses", I scoped out the really cool cafe's (with clean bathrooms), less crowded markets, and tourist sites.
I wanted them to love this place and to get a taste for our life here. I was giddy with the prospect of spending precious time with them. But how to make the most of their five and a half days??? In the end, I shouldn't have worried. These ladies know how to seize the day! I got to be part of a joyful three amigas celebrate Peru experience. Here is our story.

Day One -- Arrival and Visit to Pisac

Melissa and Lisa had a crazy long layover in Lima and arrived in Cusco at 6:30am. I met them at the airport and immediately whisked them off by taxi to Pisac (lower altitude). They were remarkably lucid, considering, and we managed to check into our hotel (the charming Pisac Inn) and seek out breakfast at "The Blue Llama". We even explored the market!
PISAC MARKET:DSC_0119.jpgDSC00118.jpgDSC00108.jpgDSC00059.jpgP1010007.jpgDSC_0136.jpgDSC_0137.jpgDinner at the Inn was lovely and then we crashed out pretty early.

Day Two -- Pisac, Ollantaymbo, and the Train to Machu Picchu

After enjoying breakfast in the sunshine and watching the vendors set up their booths (they assemble and break down the market EVERY day), we set out to explore the town. Although this was my fourth time in Pisac, I got to experience it (especially shopping) in a whole new light. We talked to local artists, purchased beautiful hand-made textiles (Melissa), found Peru soccer jerseys (for Lisa's boys), saw alpacas and guinea pigs in the local jewelry store . . . all before noon.

The Train!

In the early afternoon we headed to Ollantaytambo (train station for Machu Picchu) and boarded the Peru Rail Vistadome. We lucked out with the weather and got to enjoy the passing scenery and meet some of the other passengers. Melissa and Lisa took lots of photographs and we all enjoyed the ninety minute ride.IMG_1599.jpg9544BEAE2219AC6817B737AF6212249A.jpg
Our arrival at Aguas Calientes was a little hectic as we navigated through the crowds to our hostel, the eclectic and interesting "Gringo Bills" but we soon settled in to our triple room and happily connected to the wi-fi. DSC_0332.jpgDSC00628.jpgFinding a cool place for dinner was challenging because none of the restaurants we walked by really appealed to us. Thanks to Lisa and her handy guidebook, we decided to check out a place called "The Tree House" which was off the beaten track but got excellent reviews. What a find!! We got a table right away and had a delicious meal in a peaceful, lodge-like atmosphere.

Day Three -- Machu Picchu and Return to Cusco

The next morning we were up really early, left our bags at the hostel, and headed off to catch one of the buses up to Machu Picchu. DSC_0340.jpgDSC_0356.jpgDSC_0357.jpgWe arrived just a couple of minutes before the doors opened and got to experience the place "wake up". Here are just a few of the photographs we took in the first part of the morning:
After some exploring and more picture taking, Lisa headed off to "The Inka Bridge" while Melissa and I began our ascent of this "Big" mountain:DSC00438.jpgDSC_0421.jpg
Lisa had a great climb, ran into a pack of llamas, and took some amazing photos.
Melissa and I were glad we started early because we didn't have to contend with anyone coming down while we were going up. They only allow 400 people a day to make the climb and we were in the first group. It was a great hike! There were many stone steps to climb and lots of exploring to do near the top. Here are some photos:
IMG_1636.jpgJumping1.jpg Returning from our treks hot and hungry, we splurged on the buffet lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge Hotel - Pisco sours too! Afterward we hired a guide to give us a tour of the ruins - he was great, and we learned a lot about Peruvian History and Culture. DSC_0613.jpgDSC00568.jpg270_DSC_0634.jpgDSC00492.jpgDSC_0661.jpg

Return to Cusco

Our return train trip was considerably more subdued considering the time spent in the sun and hiking around the ruins. We were thrilled to arrive in Cusco and check Melissa and Lisa into their fancy hotel, the Palacio Nazarenas. I returned to our apartment for the night and arranged to meet up for lunch the next day.

Day Four -- Cusco Exploring

We met the ladies at their hotel and got a tour. What an amazing place!! There is a reason the Palacio is a five star establishment! The reconstruction took years and the authentic details mix perfectly with luxury. They even have the only heated pool in Cusco! It was like stepping into a whole different world. This was not the Cusco we were used to - but the escape was awesome.DSC_0745.jpgDSC00756.jpgIMG_1643.jpgIMG_1644.jpgDSC_0709.jpgWe decided to check out the Museo Inka and had a great time exploring the many rooms of artifacts and the historical building itself. DSC_0713.jpgDSC_0754.jpgOf course Alex and Leah speed walked their way through with their sights set on lunch. We decided to head to a cafe near the Plaza de San Blas so Melissa and Lisa could see our apartment afterward.DSC_0776.jpgDSC00661.jpgDSC_0772.jpgDSC_0792.jpg
From there I packed my bag for a two night sleepover!! Leaving Noah and the kids to volunteer without me, I embraced my girlfriends luxury time wholeheartedly!! We decided to visit the cathedral and then enjoyed happy hour and people watching on the balcony of Norton's Pub. 3569C6482219AC6817458976DA9DF58E.jpgDSC00684.jpgDSC_0821.jpgNext thing we knew it was time to get ready for dinner.
We had a nice meal at "Incanto" (recommended by our trusty butler at the Palacio) right near the Plaza de Armas. Lisa was brave enough to order and eat the cuy! Melissa and I stuck with pasta dishes. We went for a post dinner swim in the amazing pool at the hotel and took loooooong baths/hot showers afterwards!!! What a day!

Day Five -- Lisa's Birthday and Carpe Diem

We were served a multi-course poolside breakfast including fresh fruit and fruit juice, coffee, cheese, bread, meat tray, and eggs made to order. The whole staff sang to Lisa and presented her with a special Birthday treat. DSC_0715.jpgDSC_0842.jpg3563297D2219AC681722DFE40412DE84.jpg
As a special treat, we all visited the hotel spa. Lisa and Melissa both had massages and I had a manicure AND pedicure (much needed). The room for massages had authentic Inka waterways running through it. Here is a photo: DSC_0858.jpg
It felt great to be able to chat in Spanish for an hour with my manicurist. 90_DSC_0885.jpg90_DSC_0873.jpgFresh from our relaxing morning, we set off on a shopping mission. We got treated to a local lantern parade, my kids came over for an early evening swim, and we all went out for a Birthday Happy Hour at "Fallen Angel". The table that was a bathtub with real fish in it was awesome!DSC_0893.jpgDSC_0908.jpgP1010083.jpgDSC_0902.jpg. Dinner saw the three of us enjoying a gourmet meal at the hotel restaurant with a bit too much complimentary Birthday champagne. A great day all around!

Day Six -- Fond Farewells

Too soon I had to say goodbye as my friends headed back to their homes. Five and a half days wasn't nearly enough time - but I am grateful for every minute!

Posted by annevl 18:49 Archived in Peru Tagged mountains animals food accommodation peru hotel train shopping museum friends cusco pisac machu_pichhu Comments (1)

Cool Animals!

Leah's Story and Pictures of Animals We have Met in Peru


First of all, this is Leah and I LOVE animals!
One of the best things about being in Peru is that there are animals everywhere! Here are a few of my favorites.

Mr. Gibbs the Bunny

I met Mr. Gibbs at our very first hostal in Cusco. The owner told me that he was named by her daughter for one of the sailors in "Pirates of the Caribbean". My Gibbs was a playful rabbit and totally fine sitting on our laps. There was a garden in the courtyard and Mr. Gibbs liked to go there and eat the plants. I wish I could visit him again.

Socks the Cat

Socks is an interesting cat. She has mysterious patterns on his fur and sometimes knocks things over. Socks lives at a cafe called "The Meeting Place" where she likes to hang out with people and take naps. Socks gets mad when a dog comes inside. I like Socks because whenever she sees us he runs over to welcome us. She likes being curled up on a lap and has a great puuurr.

Mattias the Dalmation

Mattias is a really crazy dog! He belonged to the family we stayed with for a month. He hated fireworks and would do anything to get into our room if he was scared. He liked to jump up on our bed and on people. His hair got on all our clothes! There was a baby gate so that he couldn't get into the kitchen or living room. Zillah is way better behaved but it was nice to have a dog in the house. Mattias was certainly entertaining!
As a thank you and parting gift, we bought Mattias a new ball. I think he liked it a lot! Here is a video.

Federico the Flightless Parrot

On our trek to Machu Picchu we stayed with a family in the Jungle and met Federico. You have to be careful with him since he likes to nibble on your fingers and has a sharp beak. He is also very loud when he squawks. It was fun to hold him. He treated my finger like a tree branch.

Llamas etc.

We have seen lots of llamas and alpacas, sheep, cows, chickens, guinea pigs, and horses as well. Here are a few pictures.

We See Dogs Every Day


Thanks for reading my story about animals!

Posted by annevl 01:17 Archived in Peru Tagged animals peru kids dogs cusco Comments (7)

(Entries 1 - 3 of 3) Page [1]