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miércoles, 23 de octubre de 2013

We're all going on a summer holiday! By Anna O'Riordan

Clothes, food, water, bedding, money, passports and every piece of scientific equipment in the house….these are just a few things we had to think of in preparation for our first ever Chaco Lodge expedition! Organisation of all things essential was in full swing the day before our departure which was going very smoothly until we came to the point when we actually had to pack the car. It took a couple of goes but we got there in the end, hooray! Fitting all six of us (Karina, Joe, JP, Mike, Becca and I) in to the car was our next hurdle. As this weren’t actually possible, Becca and JP arranged that they would take the more scenic route and journeyed by bus (or should I say buses) while the rest of us would go in the car. So, nearly 11 hours, a number of toilet breaks and food stops later we finally made it to Filadelfia where we picked up our fellow PLT members from the bus stop. From Filadelfia, our final destination (the Chaco Lodge itself) was only an hour and a half to 2 hours away. Unfortunately, due to a number of factors which weren’t in our favour we ended up being a little lost, extending our journey by just 4 hours! Horrible…yes, but once we arrived, we all unpacked the sheets for the beds in the house where the girls slept and the tent for the boys and then we all just collapsed and slept soundly. With a new dawn (and a good night sleep) came a renewed excitement for all the activities that lay ahead of us. After breakfast we all hopped in the car and went on a drive around the reserve to get a good feel of the place. Passing all the different habitats (Salt lakes, shrub land, forest, tajamars – man made watering holes), you could almost hear everyone’s brains whirring with ideas for projects to do throughout our stay…areas for camera traps, Sherman traps (mammal traps), butterfly traps, surveying sites, the possibilities seemed almost endless! Once we reached the salt lake area we all scaled the intimidatingly high Mirador (viewing platform) but when we made it to the top we were all absolutely speechless by the AMAZING 360o view in front of us. This place was stunning. So, the next few days consisted of early morning starts, data collection, trail cutting, digging pitfall lines, bird watching, identification of as many animals as we could find, cooking over an open fire and having so much fun. What more could you ask for?! Just as we were all getting ourselves mentally prepared to leave there was a little bit of a twist…we got to stay for an extra 4 days, woohoo!! What else does a group of scientists do when they have an extended holiday? They collect MORE data – nerdy, but we love it. The only downside to all this extra time was that we ran out of water to shower with so we all smelt a little bit (don’t worry, we still had drinking water!) but more to the point, we ran out of coffee…disaster! Finally it was actually time to leave, so after repacking the car we were off on our delightfully long journey home. Although we were all a little tired by the end of it we had achieved so much. The list of animals we saw was immense: roughly 130 species of birds, 3 species of armadillos, peccary, tamandua, vampire bats, a few different species of medium sized cats, crab eating foxes, caiman, capybara, tapir and so many more. No monkey sightings unfortunately, although, that’s not to say they weren’t there. I guess we will just have to go back again to find them. Bring on round two of the Chaco!! By Anna O'Riordan Para La Tierra Primate Volunteer 2013

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