As you know, I am currently traipsing around Costa Rica enjoying the pura vida and the sea turtles. Volunteering here has been an amazing experience, we really get to know the locals, brush up on our Spanish and embrace the culture of the area. Here the concerns are very ltitle as people just want to eat, beach and save turtles.
So a few days ago we were doing hatchery work, which you can read about here, and as I am knee deep into a hole of wet sand a lot of sand flies a lady approaches me. The tide was slowly but surely coming up and the sun setting perfectly in the background, decorating the skies with pink and orange hues, when this lady reveals that the buried her car keys in the sand and can no longer find them… I was baffled to say the least. Many questions sprung to my mind straight away. First of all who buries their car keys in the sand for safe keeping? This beach only has around 10 punters a day and they only come out when they see the turtles being released. Secondly, if you’re going to bury something in the sand make sure you mark it so that you know where you put it.
So it turns out that as the tide started coming in the woman moved her chair first, which was the marker for the location of keys INSTEAD of the keys. Narurally, with sea water coming in an out at a rapid speed and dragging sand with it, she lost its location. She approached me and asked for some shovels we were using so we decided to be good samaritans and go help. We spent nearly 40 minutes digging hopelessly as the ocean dragged our feet, sand and potentially these disappeared keys to its depths. We did everything humanly possible to find them within the limited time and trying to trace the angle and original position of the chair through a selfie the lady had taken earlier on. The situation was awful but laughable. I honestly did not know whether to cry or laugh as the ocean continued to eat at the beach and the light was disappearing.
By the time we left the beach the whole family was still there, hopelessly searching but also celebrating in glee the hilarity and ridiculousness of the whole scenario. They now plunged into the water aimlessly continuimg their search if anything just to try their best to recover their treasure and head home.
I do not know if they ever found them. I don’t know how they even left the beach that evening, but they suffered, searched, thrived and laughed through it together, never stressing and taking it on their stride. I genuinely think they took it home as a great story to tell the kids.
For those of you who know me incredibly well or have read my rant about my love for animals (click here), then you would know that the very first thing I would like to invest on doing while abroad is volunteering. So here I am in Costa Rica’s gorgeous Pacific Coast saving the turtles.
Playa Junquilall is a very secluded place with a small population of 300 people. The whole community has a deep respect and love for the sea turtles that come here every year to lay their eggs and start new turtle families. So in general there is a huge focus on the area to help rescue these creatures. I will share more information on all of this and how my volunteering program came to be on a later post, today I want to talk to you specifically about hatchery work.
So most turtle eggs are rescued by us and nested in a hatchery to minimise the risk of them being eaten by any birds, crabs or getting bugs all over them.
Yesterday was my first time working at the hatchery. We replaced a nest for a new and bigger one for leatherback turtles, cleaned out all the sand, replaced it with new wet sand which is preferable so that the nests do not collapse. Afterwards we had to replace some poles to secure the fence and freshen up all the hatchery by putting a new fresh layer of wet sand. Controlling the temperature is key for the turtles to develop well. Finally we put another roof up to provide extra shade.
The hatchery duty and its maintenance lasts 3 hours in the afternoon and it can be very tiring as the sun scorching hot. However, contrary to many friends of mine that have done humanitarian volunteering felt at times that they were not contributing, I know for a fact that all my hard work here is helping in the maintenance of thsee animals, the local environment and their protection.
This morning, for example, we got to release a baby Olive Ridley turtle (Lora) and it was great to see the beautiful little thing head off after our hard work to protect and help it. I will post videos of her release some other day and also about our patrol work and what it is like. For now I leave you with this and a few photos of some of the most rewarding work I have ever done.
I cannot believe that after years in the making, months of payments and preparation it has all actually come to fruition. I am backpacking across south and central America.
Latin America has always held huge fascination for me, and it was honestly a dream come true when I realised it was all going to happen. The last few weeks leading up to my departure have been a mix of sadness, excitement and stress. My blood pressure definitely went through the roof trying to get everything organised for my replacement at work, printing documents, packing and buying last minute things. All added to the crazy period that is Christmas every year, lots of people to see and a lot of food and booze to consume. Now all of that is done all that rests is to enjoy the start of my adventure.
The entire trip to the airport I thought to myself “I am so going to mess this up! I am not cut out for this.” Doubt filled my head as I did not have a clue. I have never backpacked in my life and I was certain that 3 months living off a giant rucksack was nothing like doing short 5 day city breaks in Europe. It couldn’t be the same. I considered all the things that could go wrong in that hour and 15 minute drive. From me being robbed, attacked, killed to simple things like not having enough insect repellent, not making friends, never having clean clothes. I thought about how I would be missing 3 months of my work, work that I am so in love with and passionate about. I thought about not being able to speak to my parents every day, ask my mom for advice on everything and listen to my dad sing any Stevie Wonder song to me at the most inappropriate time. I thought about my boyfriend, how could I leave him to fend for the winter months without a cuddle and extra heat in bed? Who was going to tell him everyday how amazing he is and how he deserves the world? I thought about everything and then some. However, I feel the nerves are a natural thing. I want it so badly to be an amazing experience that I was obsessing over it.
Nerves are healthy. I boarded that flight after crying on the phone to my man, but I got on and went back in time to a different continent where my haphazard Spanish will have to see me through until I refamiliarise myself with the language.
So as I post this my dear readers, I am on a coach to Junquilall where I will embark on my first adventure and save the turtles. Filled with excitement, nerves, a desire to work and save the world and the traditional breakfast of Gallo Pinto I am off. Embrace the fear and you will go far, goodness only knows this the furthest I have ever been.
Until next time.