One fine day in March in Samaipata, I joined an American and a Dane for a trip to a local animal refuge. And for some unknown reason I brought along a spare top. Smart move.
‘It’s nice to support the refuge’, Olaf at Roadrunners had told me earlier in the week, ‘ten bolivianos goes to maintaining the place’.
The boys were a bit tight for time but when a taxi driver wanted 15Bs. for a 2km journey we decided to set off on foot. A dusty, muddy road with a barely a person in sight or a vehicle passing by, this was an easy little hike out into the countryside.
Before too long we spotted a cage but it was a small set-up and I wasn’t convinced that it was the right place. ‘There’s no sign’, I said, ‘surely they’d have a sign’. But then this is Bolivia so who knows. Anything is possible.
When an angry dog nearly bit my face off through the wire fence, I thought about leaving. Thankfully a woman came out to tell us it was the wrong place in any case. Phew.
And literally fifty yards further along was a big sign and a well-marked entrance through a garden of aviaries and coops, and a wild boar running loose, and dogs (much friendlier this time), and all sorts of rescued monkeys; monkeys that clambered all over you and clung on tightly.
And shat down my back. Oh happy day.
I think I’m going off monkeys. Butterflies are so much nicer. Do butterflies poo?
Entrance to Zoologico el Refugio in Samaipata costs 10Bs. (US$1.46/£0.90) for adults and 5Bs. (US$0.73/£0.45) for children. It is open from 0800-1800 every day. If you want to volunteer at the refuge, you need to contact them at least two months in advance as they only tend to take on two or three volunteers at a time. When I visited, volunteers were Spanish speaking. Volunteering here is free (this might sound like a strange point to raise but much volunteering in South America carries with it a fee).