Friday, 10 October 2014

The Animal Refuge, Zoorefugio

On our way to Tarqui, Alex and I had one of our biggest arguments and I was about to walk away, when she said she had lost hope in our relationship. When emotions are high like this, it is very difficult to reach a resolution, or even think clearly. It was wise decision for us to take time off and reflect back before jumping to a conclusion. 

The volunteer work at the Zoorefugio Tarqui gave us the opportunity to reassess our relationship and how we feel towards each other. We were also kept busy with hard work from early morning till late afternoon. We met other volunteers, Thomas, Marian Shelo and Thresa, who helped us to reduce the tension in our relationship. And of course, those beautiful animals with their unconditional love helped us to shift our focus from ongoing problems to compassion and love. This incredible week at this refuge centre was perfect for us to heal our wounds and re-evaluate our relationship.           

Marian feeding tapirs

Zoorefugio Tarqui is a centre that engages in animal welfare and environmental education. Most animals were brought in by the Ministry of Environment for rehabilitation after being rescued from animal traffickers. 

The work at the centre was hard. Days started by preparing meals for animals, cleaning cages and feeding some amazing creatures. There were a wide variety of animals such as monkeys, tapirs, jaguars, pumas, parrots, cuchuchos, turtles and wild pigs. After the feed, we helped to clean the grounds. While we were there, the owners were building a bigger cage for pumas. So, we helped in the construction by mixing cement and carrying sand. It was tough work and we were exhausted at the end of the day.

Amazing puma
The owner of the Zoorefugio wasn’t the nicest person but he provided us with opportunities to grow by setting healthy boundaries in terms of how much work we can do as paying volunteers. However, it was an invaluable experience to be with these incredible animals and meeting great people, especially other volunteers. My favourite animals were pumas, monkeys and jaguars.

One week at the centre had an amazing impact on us and on our relationship. I definitely felt a positive shift and was convinced that we could work out those relationship issues no matter how difficult they were.

Before departing to the capital, Quito, I wanted to try the shamanic medicinal brew called Ayahuasca. Amazonian shamans have been using this sacred wine as a window into the soul for centuries. An interesting article published by Kira Salak of National Geographic provides valuable insights about this Amazonian tradition. 

As stated in the earlier posts, one of my main reasons in this journey was to find out my purpose in life and I was willing to try this shamanic brew to get some insights. We found a local shaman through one of the workers at the zoo. After a strict diet (no sugar, salt, red meat and spices) and fasting for a day, another volunteer and I arrived at the shaman’s house in the evening. We drank the bitter brew half an hour later and started to wait for the effects. I didn’t feel much apart from an upset stomach. 2 hours later, the shaman offered me a second cup which I accepted. Soon after I started purging, which is a common side effect of Ayahuasca. We spent the rest of the night at the shaman’s house. The next day, I felt much lighter. My stomach problems were reduced. However, I had no visions or insights about my purpose, which was disappointing. I will elaborate more about my shamanic experiences in the episodes of Peru.

Our family at the refuge
In the afternoon, we said goodbye to our human and animal friends and made our way towards the capital. The main purpose of our visit to Quito was to learn Spanish. Alex lived in Spain for 2 years and she is fluent in Spanish but I needed more lessons to be able to communicate effectively. One of the volunteers at the zoo, Marian, recommended a good school in Quito, Christobal Colon. We also booked a home stay through them. When we arrived late afternoon, our host Olga welcomed us with open arms. She is a wonderful lady who became our Ecuadorian mother. She and her husband Marcelo have a big apartment in the middle of Quito where they rent rooms, mostly to students. You can contact her at +593 999 811 379 if you would like to experience this wonderful Ecuadorian hospitality.   

Our Ecuadorian mother, Olga