Showering with a (dead) tarantula

Summary of 3 months in Ecuador;
No. potatoes eaten: 10,000,000 (approximate figure)
No. Scottish people met: 0
No. mosquito bites: (I lost count at 53 – on my left arm alone!)
No. tarantulas: 5

My last month in Ecuador was filled with wonderful things like food, boobies, biodigestors and tarantulas: I’ll attempt to express my experiences, but I fear that a mere blog is not enough give an accurate account.

I thought that returning home would be tricky – coming back to a life of expensive buses and cold weather; would my body react badly to the lack of potatoes in my diet? Or maybe I would die in a horrible car crash not wearing my seatbelt. I can’t say I miss the food: every meal would consist of potatoes with rice or bananas (I’ve developed a new appreciation for the versatility of bananas. Fried, baked, grilled, with cheese or chocolate or sugar; sliced thinly and fried to make chifles; you can do so much with them!

However settling back in has actually been as easy as pie. Yes, it feels weird wearing a seatbelt, the weather is so cold I’m wearing layer upon layer, the bus fare has risen (£1.50?! It’s an outrage!) yet it’s good to be home. While I do miss the Ecuadorian music, the fruit and the hot chocolate, I’ve missed Scotland – home – equally. I flew from Quito to Amsterdam, and from there to Edinburgh: arriving in Amsterdam was so comforting hearing all those Scottish accents arguing and bickering in the transfer gate. The highlight was when someone skipped the queue to get through security; I think it went something like this:

“Hey, what’re ye daein’? There’s a queue y’ken!”

“Aye, ah ken, but ah’m a flyin’ silver member sae ah hae a reit tae be at th’ front.”

“Nah, don’t gimme that, ga tae the back o th’ queue!”

“Nach ach oooch aye it’s awful och aye aaach.”

Ah. The joys of Scotland. The only daunting moment of the journey home was when everyone had boarded the plane after a long delay – we were told that they had lost the proper plane and the one we were on had been borrowed from a totally different company. The captain went on to say that the pilot had to be replaced because the usual one had run away.

So I’ve just realised that most of this post consists of potatoes and Scottish people. But it’s a pretty accurate summary I think – too many potatoes and too few Scottish people! But I’ll shut up and start talking about important things like my final project in Ecuador, La Hesperia (this is where the tarantulas come in).

My time in La Hesperia was probably the most memorable out of my 3 months in Ecuador. The work was rewarding, the atmosphere friendly and the food incredible. What more could you ask for?! Every day was really varied – work ranged from weeding plants to painting rooms, reforestation to cleaning the biodigestor (I´ll explain later…) The aim of La Hesperia was to become a self sustainable community solely reliant on their own crops to feed the workers and the volunteers. I always I felt like the work I was doing benefited not just the environment but the community as well.


La Hesperia


The varied work meant that every day was a surprise. One day we were set the task to clean the biodigestor: a biodigestor is an eco-thing to produce fertiliser and usable gases, using cow manure. The machine was blocked by the manure and our task was to fix it by, well, unblocking it. Sound gross, but we were reassured that the manure would be dry: the machine was in a greenhouse so the logic goes that the manure was being baked under the sun. This makes sense. So why was it wet?!

At first we tried buckets. Yes. Bucketing wet cow manure outside. If you saw the size of the thing you’d realise it was a lost cause, but we were fuelled by a grim determination to do our task, and do it right. After 15 minutes of sloshing buckets of cow shit in the sweltering heat we gave up and were forced to try numerous different angles.

Eventually we came to the conclusion that the best way to save the biodigestor was to dig under the greenhouse to create a tunnel, so the manure could flow out. Eurgh, it sounds horrible! One of the workers described it as a ”río de caca” – I’ll let your imagination work out what that means. Surprisingly our hard work paid off and we came away from the morning’s work satisfied. In truth, once you forgot what you were dealing with the work was actually fun!

The biodigestor


We were pushed mentally and physically in La Hesperia. While our lodgings were idyllic, there was the problem of the bugs, mosquitos and tarantulas that had decided to make our home their permanent residence, too. One tarantula we named Harry, who lived in the common room. He was really sweet in a way once you got used to his presence; every evening when we came down to play cards or lay in the hammocks, Harry would emerge from his hole and watch us. I think he was a bit like an annoying sibling: you were able to live with his presence so long as he was quiet, and you realised just how attached you were when he wasn’t around.

Not so sweet were the tarantulas that moved. After a hard day’s work I was really looking forward to showering and winding down for the day. However it wasn’t until I was in the shower that I realised I wasn’t alone: I looked down and saw in the shadow a humongous dark, pointy, spidery thing that was in fact a tarantula. It was dead thank god – another poor volunteer had the awful experience of seeing it move while she was showering. She and her friend killed it with a broom.

There really is so much more to write, but I think I’ve left updating my blog too long to carry on writing (which is probably a good thing – this post hasn’t exactly been on the nicest of topics). I’ll write a few more posts over the next weeks about trips we made to the amazon rainforest and the Galápagos islands, so keep an eye out for them! And once again thank you all so much for your incredible support. I know that without all the donations and even just words of encouragement, this unforgettable experience would not have been possible. Thank you, everyone.