Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Base Camp or bust!

Day 8, Tuesday, July 18 In the morning I pack and am headed for Base Camp. A whole busload will be transferring to new camps, including Bruce the birder, a University of Massachusetts ornithologist I have enjoyed talking with. Bruce and I shared the dryer last night, which felt a little risque to me since we’ve only known each other for a week…possibly the shortest amount of time I’ve known someone before jumping into a drier together. We knew there’d be no more washing machines or driers, though and there was quite a laundry queue, so it was more about having clean dry clothes than who’s underwear was tumbling with who’s. Sarah and Henry, a young blond herp volunteer, were bound for base camp as well. We said our goodbyes and headed to the San Pedro Sula airport. The school group sings as the bus pulls away. Eighties tunes are playing on the radio, and it feels good to be moving on. At the airport, we wait around for a couple hours, unsure of what is actually happening. No one seems to know if we will be heading out soon or if we are meant to wait for a while. And why are we at the airport. There are about a hundred mud splattered unkept, dirty nappy white 20 somethings milling about, I guess they are OpWall students or volunteers. We are finally instructed to board another bus that has arrived and are finally on our way to the OpWall office in the town of Cofradia. There we wait again, again uncertain what we are waiting for, or how long we might wait. Sarah is keen on getting to ride inside the truck, already aware of how uncomfortable the ride up the mountain in the back of a small pickup will be. She is very intune with the real and potential camp discomforts, travel discomforts, and all other discomforts in general. In fact she is quite tuned in to what is making her uncomfortable on this expedition, and is in the habit of telling everyone just how bad everything is.
There are eight of us that pile into the back when the pickup arrives, and our bags will follow on the next truck. I don’t know them at the time, but will know their names later, once we have lived for a little while up the mountain at base camp. The New Mexico herper (xxxx) whose husband is also out here as camp manager are on a sort of belated and long honeymoon and dropped their dog off in California with in-laws before coming out. Once out, she learned that her two cats disappeared. She went out bat netting with Sergio and I one night, frustrated that the herp group had been split and she was out on her own. Dr. Olwen Williams, a head medic who loves to sing in her choir back home, and evidently also enjoys doing sudoku puzzles. Stein was also there, as was the tall skinny girl who wanted to spend her last week at El Paraiso. Henry, the young herp volunteer and another girl on staff and working mostly at Buenos Aires, who had evidently spent an extended time in Cofradia with her host family. The drive up the mountain to base camp was long and bumpy. Our driver drove fast, twice through large muddy pools that splashed Olwen in the face. I thought I might get sick, and had to concentrate really hard on not thinking about it, taking deep breaths through my nose out the mouth. Base Camp arrival was a flurry. Fortunately Sarah was keen on the extreme discomfort that having a leaky tent or having one of the larger tents that would then have to be shared with 4 or 5 other people. Our top priority was to find a smallish tent that didn’t leak and persuade the camp manager to let us have it. We set out immediately on our search. We found one, not perfect by Sarah’s standards, but no major leaks during the previous night’s rainshower. We did have to share with one other person, a girl from Washington who has lived for the last 7 years in Ireland. I am tired from traveling and I’m still feeling uncertain and queasy. Sergio finds me and introduces himself and Timm, the other bat scientists. We talk a little bit in the science room, but I am tired from my all day travels and retire early to the tent.

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