The first three weeks at LPAC
After two plane rides, a loud tuk tuk and a car ride over a dusty jungle road, I arrive at LPAC. This biological research center lies in the middle of the forest, surrounded by trees on two sides, a small stream on one and the Rio Las Piedras (The River of Stones) on the other. You’d think being surrounded by nature means peace and quite at all times, but you couldn’t be further away from the truth. Screaming birds and buzzing insects dominate the air around me. After settling on my wooden platform and eating the first delicious lunch -many more would follow it- I am eager to explore the wall of green around me. I set out with Corrie Rushford, mammal coordinator, on a transect. And I’ll be honest: that big machete she’s holding looks quite intimidating. But after just a few minutes, I see monkeys in the wild for the first time in my life. Spider monkeys, brown capuchin monkeys and their foraging companions: squirrel monkeys. A few minutes later, we all jump into the river that’s fed by a set of refreshingly cold waterfalls (after scaring away the potential sting rays). It seems like a dream, but it sets the tone for the many weeks to come.
During the first three weeks I quickly got used to this new environment. All the trails were quickly explored by going on mammal transects, checking herpetofauna pitfall traps and going on relaxing walks with other volunteers. With herp team coordinator Alberto we ventured out at night to find snakes, frogs and lizards. My hands were shaking during my first encounter with a caiman, when I was given a youngster to hold on to while Alberto dealt with its much bigger mom. I became comfortable with the lack of warm water, the constant noise and the daily bites from mosquitos, wasps and ticks. I discovered that a mosquito net does a very bad job at protecting you from mouse opossums seeking warmth in the night, as one woke me up as it crawled over my stomach. Other guests could be found in the bathroom, where a deadly wandering spider and a tailless whip scorpion (google it) liked to reside. I saw snakes in the wild for the first time and discovered a fascination for them that I did not have before.