An old, rattling school bus filled with giggling and shouting young kids, climbing over the chairs and staring at the stranger that is suddenly travelling along with them on the daily ride from Limeira to their farms in the hills: the contrast with the research centre in the peaceful forest might seem big, but either way, the Iracambi adventure has begun.
I’ve been staying here at the research centre for the last 3 weeks as a start of my 6 months travel through South-America. Living and working at Iracambi with the Brazilian staff has provided a whole different experience than just travelling through the region and a good way to learn something about conservation and the Brazilian people and culture. My work here comprised a list of small tasks in and around the centre. In the first week I’ve been working with Fagner in the tree nursery, helping him to collect new seeds, fill the small container bags with the right soil composition and grow the baby trees. Meanwhile, we tried to have a basic conservation. Really basic (about sports, the Dutch/Brazilian weather and our siblings), since Fagner does not speak English and I spoke, well, muitopoucoPortuguês.
Another thing that I’ve been working on is the vegetable garden, which was (and still is, for 80%) an overgrown field in need of a rebirth. Also, I´ve painted a sign showing Iracambis membership of the Pacto Mata Atlântica, a national movement to promote collaboration between the different initiatives throughout Brazil to restore the Atlantic rainforest.
Being a great excuse to explore the different trails, I’ve placed several camera traps in the forest that they use to monitor the wildlife in the reserve. This time, the catch was limited to one racoon, but earlier traps showed a lot of interesting animals, such as thejaguatirica(an ocelot).
This week, we squeezed 5 people in a truck together with around 100 seedlings to deliver to farmers in the area. Iracambi donates these trees to the farmers to be planted on their land as part of the ‘Forests for water’ project.
In the weekends, I’ve been on a couple of nice trips to explore the surroundings. Together with two friends of the staff I went rock climbingnear Muriaé, which is about an hour away of Limeira on a motorcycle, and I’ve hiked up to the Graminha peak via an adventurous steep trail where a machete would have come in handy because of all the ferns and lianas.
This last week, I was joined by two other volunteers, Tom and Emily from the UK. It has been really nice to work together with them on the projects and to talk and get to know each other. Before their arrival, my stay had been an educational immersion into Portuguese, which was quite challenging at times, especially during the first week when the staff was still struggling with their English and I was trying to hear what they were saying to each other in Portuguese, let alone understand what it meant. Although for me, even without a language barrier, it always takes some time to open up and feel at home with new people, everyone here has been very enthusiastic and welcoming from the start, making it feel as if I have been around them for way longer than just 3 weeks. I really enjoyed the opportunity to exchange languages and to not only have a Portuguese speed course myself, but also to be able to help them with practising English.
For me it is now time to move on and discover more of what Brazil and other countries have to offer, but I will certainly not forget the nice stay that I had at Iracambi: the funny and warm people that I met here, the sounds of all the birds and insects around the centre, the delicious rain and the annoying, but sweet dog Thor that keeps crying at the door if I will now please finish writing and give him some attention before I leave.