The first day started with someone’s alarm going off at 2am (8am in England), but we all returned to sleep after it stopped going off. Due to the mosquito nets it was not easy to quickly hop in and out of bed. The day started properly at 6.30am, when we decided to go and have a shower. The showers were located in a block about 10 metres from the house. However the water was cold so we decided to go in the evening instead. We then changed and had breakfast. I had a brioche-like bread roll with homemade jam. Then we drank coffee made from beans on the Reserve, with milk from their cows. In all the whole of our breakfast was made here. I even had homemade blackberry juice.
After breakfast we changed into our wellies (rubber boots) and collected our machetes for the day. It seemed a bit odd to be trusted with these coming from such a safety conscious country as England. Then we started our epic trip up the hill to where we would be working. The walk took about 30 minutes and when we got to the top we discovered a really lovely little camp. The views were spectacular out over the valleys with only a giant electricity pylon in the way. We could even see the buildings where we had been staying below. We then divided into two groups of five, with one group working on clearing and hoeing land for a raised bed patch. I was in the second group where the plan was to cut down trees, which were either non-native, or not useful to the Reserve, in order to plant others. The area was about one hectare in size. This was some of the best fun I have had in my life! I was labelled ‘the machine’ as my enthusiasm showed through as aggression to chop trees swiftly with the machete. We discovered some wonderful wildlife while doing this. One bush had masses of fascinating bugs, including one which looked as if it was shedding its skin to become bright red.
We all knew vaguely how to use the machetes, or ‘ma-chet-ez’ as Miguel says. Walter had showed us how to use them earlier. Walter had only been there two weeks and was a gardener. We also met someone called Raoul, who looked like Charlie Chaplin, that would be helping us. He was a pro at chopping things with a machete, cutting a really thick trunked tree in a few well-placed blows.
For lunch we went back to the camp to eat. The food was yummy but starchy as always. After lunch we continued to work until 3.30, the area we had covered at the end was amazing. We avoided repetitiveness by playing ‘Shoot, Shag, Marry’. For the walk back it started to rain which is the usual in the cloud forest.
Us girls tried to have a shower again, but it was still cold. I decided that this was ‘refreshing’ though. Then we trekked to the football field to watch an Ultimate Frisbee match: the boys from our school versus the other volunteers. One of the girls played for a bit as well. We won! The guys shouted at one of the American volunteers, ‘Have you got a licence for your guns?’ when he took his top off. The Frisbee game was funny as it kept going into the hedge and down the slope next to the pitch.
At dinner we are rice, chicken and then chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce. Sitting down we saw some lights floating around, and realised that they were fireflies! They really do look beautiful! The evening was somewhat eventful. Firstly we found a girl locked in the bathroom. She’d been in there banging for 15 minutes. I would have been scared if it was me. We then found four cockroaches in our room, and five more in the communal area upstairs. We then decided it was a good idea to clean up our room and put the food in bags to hang it up out of the way.
After that excitement we went to bed, but not for long. One of the girls let out a scream that she had found a bug in her bed. As a generic response we all screamed and scrambled out of bed as fast as possible. Our screams had woken two of the boys in the room below, and they came to investigate. One of them climbed up the side of the bunk beds, and then let out a sound of surprise and quickly came back down. We were worried about what he may have found, but it transpired he had only had cramp. The one thing I can really say from today is that I love active conservation, and the other volunteers are lovely.
Next time: The conservation continues.