Pilpintuwasi – With And For Nature
A guest post by Carsten
Hi, my name is Carsten. I’m from Germany. This is my report what I experienced in Pilpintuwasi. In October 2008 I saw documentation about the butterflies of the Peruvian Amazon on TV. Part of the documentation was Gudrun Sperrer and her project for the conservation of the butterflies in Peru – Pilpintuwasi. As I’m very interested in nature and what nature creates I was exceedingly impressed by what Gudrun Sperrer built up in the Peruvian Amazon. I decided to get in contact with her so I searched the web for her homepage. Through brisk email communication with her I intended to spend my annual holidays at Pilpintuwasi to volunteer. But I don’t want to tell you how I got there, I want to tell you what Pilpintuwasi is, what it offers and what it gives – and, of course, what you need to bring along.
The first thing to say is that you will rarely find another place like that! Pilpintuwasi is feeling nature with all what belongs to it. Because Pilpintuwasi is not only caring for the conservation of the butterflies but also sheltering many other types of animals, such as different species of monkeys, a manatee, a tapir, a jaguar, an anteater, caiman, turtles and others. Alongside the animals Gudrun is sheltering, there are wild animals crossing her piece of land, such as birds, little mammals and huge masses of diverse insects (especially butterflies and dragonflies) and reptiles. And those give the right impression of what the jungle allocates of life surrounded by a great variety of tropical flora.
As I spent time to volunteer in Pilpintuwasi there is a lot things to do: I helped covering the muddy tracks with sandbags (because of the rainy season), I helped harvesting the Aguaje fruit (food for the vegetarian animals of the farm), I cleaned the pond for the manatee and the alligators from the molding water-hyacinths and water-grasses (really funny, paddling the canoe!), I helped planting new food plants for the various butterflies, I helped roofing and fixing the roofs of the huts, I helped pulling down the volunteer-hut (which was too rotten to live in). I also helped to guide the tourists that come to visit Pilpintuwasi.
But the most interesting work to do (at least for me) was caring for the monkeys in between all other works. I hadn’t had such a great experience with monkeys ever in my life! I just love the monkeys, Ali, Chavo, Toni, Junior, Nico, Pauli, Angie & Princessa, Argus & Igor, Luigi, Florian, Ingles…all of them, even if some of them don’t have as lovable characters as others. The assumption is how you deal with them! But even if there are some troublemakers along the monkeys, it is very interesting to get to know what kind of life they are living with and at the farm it is fun playing with them, it is wonderful cuddling and caressing them, and their addiction to curiosity is always amazing! Also important to say is that most of the animals, especially the monkeys, are free and in case of that they are used to do what they want. They are not like cats or dogs which you have in your house and with what you can do what and when you want. Respect what THEY want and pay attention on them, and they will be your friends.
Of course, Pedro Bello, the jaguar, needs to be held in a cage even though he is used to humans, the manatee has its pond, and Lukas, the tapir, has its own fenced terrain of around one and a half acres, but Gudrun is minding the animals to have enough space and wildlife-like living conditions. I visited other places where to show the tourists the jungle wildlife, but none of these were comparable to Gudrun’s farm concerning the living conditions. Even zoos in Europe or anywhere in the world don’t have comparable conditions!
Pilpintuwasi is located near Iquitos next to a small village called Padre Cocha and easy reachable by water boat taxi. In terms of accommodation there is a small and lovely hostel in Padre Cocha where I stayed during my visit (the volunteer-hut at Pilpintuwasi was too old as I described above). It is called Tambo and the owners, the siblings Antonio and Laura, are really hospitable and caring for their guests. I quartered for two weeks (which is the minimum time for a volunteer) and I was treated like a family member. They invited me for dinner almost every evening and for a cup of tea all times. I also celebrated a birthday with them and got medication from them when I had diarrhea. Even all other inhabitants of Padre Cocha, and of course the workers from Pilpintuwasi, were friendly and interested in getting to know you.
But life is very simple over there. Don’t expect luxury! Electricity is running from 6 – 10 pm, no fridges, and cooking devices are very simple as well. But living with the people, getting to know them, feeling the atmosphere of their community is definitely worth it. More than staying in a three or four star luxury hotel with no regard to culture and heaps of tourists!
To work with Gudrun you should not fear any kind of the work that is to be done. You are in the jungle, getting dirty is part of it. Meetings with snakes, spiders or any other kind of animals are the orders of the day. And yes, work is work, but working in the nature with nice people and animals is worth it. Also besides the work, Gudrun is a very friendly person, not stressing (if you do good!), funny, always there for you and your concerns. I had many interesting, funny and relaxing conversations with her (and the monkeys!) regarding anything in the world.
Even if many people say this can’t be vacation (for most of the people holidays means relaxing on a beach in the sun and letting the mind wonder – but where?), you just need to have the right attitude and it will be your best holiday ever. That and much more is what I experienced and I wouldn’t want to miss it! I spent the most interesting, informative and real holiday at Pilpintuwasi.
You want to know what it feels like? Don’t hesitate, go to Pilpintuwasi to volunteer, you won’t regret it – trust me!
Pilpintuwasi – With And For Nature
To learn more about Pilpintuwasi read these articles by Bill Grimes;