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Living the Dream

Adventures in Brazils Atlantic Rainforest

Chulimani and it’s Dark Past

Death Road Bolivia

At first glance Chulimani is just another beautiful mountain town in the sub-tropical Yungas, however its past marks it out as something different. In 1943 the Germans sent a group of scientists here to establish cocaine production for the military hospitals in Europe. The cocaine from Chulimani was moved to Paraguay where it was picked up by U-boats and shipped to Europe.

Klaus Barbie , known as the ‘Butcher of Lyon’ was the SS officer in charge and his house in Chulumani was the site of the ‘Hotel Hamburg’ – a facade for this secret operation. After the war he and several other top nazi’s stayed in Chulimani to avoid the Nuremburg trials. Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon, changed his name to Klaus Altmann and made himself helpful to drug lords and dictators alike. He even had his own team of assassins called the Grooms of Death. American intelligence officials actually helped Barbie to become established in Bolivia as part of their crusade against communism. During his time in Bolivia he was made a Colonel in the Bolivian Army, helped to set up Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel and was involved in the tracking down of Che Guevara.

Klaus Barbie Identity

When Bolivia finally returned to democracy in 1982 Barbie’s luck ran out and he was extradited to France where he died in prison in 1991.

Teaching in La Paz

El Alto

Whilst in Bolivia I taught at a primary school in a relatively poor area of La Paz called Max Parades. The school had never had a volunteer before as the area was deemed too dangerous for outsiders – clearly I was seen as expendable!! However both pupils and teachers made me very welcome and my rendition of the Hokey Kokey quickly became a firm favourite!

However the highlight of my week was always the day spent at a school housed in the slums of El Alto. This school had never had an English teacher before and most barely spoke Spanish (Ayamara being the local dialect). This effectively meant that I became a one man English department – I taught the entire school (including teachers), had absolutely no resources except what I took with me and had total freedom over what I taught – ‘I support Bradford City’ being the first sentence taught, closely followed by ‘Leeds, just a small town in Bradford.’!!!!

La Paz teaching

 

2.3 Billion People Don’t Have a Loo!

Sanitation Crisis

Around a third of the world’s population don’t have access to a toilet and so have to use fields, streams, rivers, railway lines, roadsides, plastic bags or disease-breeding buckets!

Bad sanitation is one of the world’s biggest killers: it hits women, children, old and sick people hardest. Every minute, a child under the age of five dies because of dirty water and poor sanitation. Around half the people in the world have an illness caused by bad sanitation.47 countries toilets

In Africa, half of young girls who drop out of school do so because they need to collect water – often from many miles away – or because the school hasn’t got separate toilets for boys and girls. Not having a loo puts people at risk of being bitten by snakes as they squat in the grass and makes women and girls a target for sexual assault as they go to the toilet in the open.

The charity Toilet Twinning    is working to make a difference by providing people with clean water and basic sanitation.  Their community led approach works with local communities to educate on hygiene practices and then to support families to build their own toilet. It has been found that people having built their own latrine are much more likely to continue to use it, and maintain it – ensuring the project is sustainable.Toilet Twinning

Pousada Serra Verde  believes and supports this worthwhile project and it’s toilets are twinned with toilets in Kasongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

If you would like to support Toilet Twinning go to Toilet Twinning.Org. and twin your toilet!

No safe toilet

Global Code of Ethics Moves Forwards

View from Serra Verde

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) have finally made the important step of transforming the Code of Ethics for Tourism into an international convention. The conversion of the Code represents a significant step towards ensuring that the global tourism industry embraces the principles of sustainable tourism.

The Convention covers the responsibilities of all stakeholders in the development of sustainable tourism, providing an ethical framework within which to work.

Ethical Tourism

“In an interconnected world where the business volume of tourism equals or even surpasses that of oil exports, ‎food products or automobiles, it is important to set out a legal framework to ensure that growth is dealt with responsibly and that it can be sustained over time. Tourism is a power that must be harnessed for the benefit of all,” said the Chairman of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics (WCTE), Pascal Lamy.

The Code’s 10 principles cover the economic, social, cultural and environmental components of travel and tourism including:

  • Tourism should contribute to mutual understanding and respect between peoples and societies;
  • Tourism should be a key factor of sustainable development;
  • The right to tourism and freedom of movement to tourists;
  • The rights of the workers and entrepreneurs in the tourism industry;
  • Implementation of the principles of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism;

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The Vine of Death

Ayahuasca

In an attempt at being one with the jungle I agreed to take part in an ceremony with a local village shaman. Rod (a fellow Englishman from the lake district) and I were ushered into a hut deep in the Peruvian Amazon. Once inside we were instructed to sit on grotty mattresses barefoot in a scene which was reminiscent of trainspotting. The shaman poured the ayahuasca (the name means vine of death) into wooden bowls which we told to knock back; it really was the foulest brew I’ve ever tasted – it looked like swamp water complete with twigs and to make it worse he spat in it before blowing smoke over it!

After downing the witches brew the shaman passed round a carved pipe containing strong tobacco which was supposed to make you chunder – Rod duly obliged but I found it quite pleasant and not too dissimilar to smoking a Marlboro red! Did I mention that we were barely clad and in total darkness? The shaman chanted, hummed & whistled as he summoned the spirits whilst shaking his branch of chacapa; at intervals he would pass the pipe around again and then hit us with the branch. After what seemed like an eternity Rod started being violently sick and emptying his bowels whilst I just felt incredibly chilled an zoned out.

Amazon Lodge

More time passed and I started to feel dizzy so laid down on my mattress which to my surprise had turned into a magic carpet and had levitated to 4 feet off the ground whilst gently rocking me from side to side – most relaxing! Vivid moving images of the jungle, frogs, snakes and fireflies all flashed before me – what could it all mean???

Several hours later the ceremony was finished by Jorge (the shaman) blowing away the evil spirits and thanking the good ones for protecting us. Rather strangely he then blessed us in the name of the father, son and holy ghost!!

Amazon Vine

Thinking that the experience was over I stumbled to my bed in a very relaxed state only to find that my bed had morphed into a hammock and that the whole jungle lodge was inexplicably sailing don the amazon. This was most enjoyable until we hit rapids, everything was thrown about and was violently sick for an hour – I guess now I was purged and that my encounter with ayahuasca was at an end!

Taken from my travel journal ‘Uma Cerveja Mas; Travels in Latin America.’

 

Serra Do Mar

Marumbi Mountains

The stunning Serra Do Mar (mountains of the sea) range stretches from the state of Espirito Santo above Morretes down to beautiful Santa Catarina beneath us. This coastal mountain range sits in the middle of the Atlantic Rainforest.

The Marumbi State Park was founded in 1990 and covers over 370 hectares, it’s aim being to preserve this endangered habitat. The Pico Marumbi looms as a symbolic sentinel for the town of Morretes below it. The 19th-century local poet Frederico Lange de Morretes was so inspired by the mountain’s beauty that after his death he was buried upright to face the mountain.413

The Serra Do Mar is home for countless species of endangered animals, such as sloths, ocelots and even puma’s. These mountain  slopes give birth to numerous streams which cascade down the mountainside and open out into tranquil rivers such as the Rio Marumbi which flows through Serra Verde. The diverse Floresta Atlantica spreads from the banks of such rivers and opens out into a land of many natural resources: sugarcane, bananas, citrus fruits, coffee and cacao plants, jackfruit trees, and a wide variety of tropical fruits and flowers.

It is here that you will find the Serra Verde Project. This ambitious scheme plans to create a rural eco-lodge and education centre in the foothills of the Picos do Marumbi. Our aim is to become self sufficient in energy production and organic food by 2025 as well as playing an active part in the local community.

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Friends of Serra Verde

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The Floresta Atlântica is Brazil’s ‘other’ rainforest; however it is one of the most important eco-regions in the world and a biodiversity hotspot. Sadly it is one of the most threatened habitats on the planet with only around 8.5% of the original forest remaining. What is left is becoming increasingly fragmented and deforested.

The Reserva Serra Verde was created in 2010 and is a 4,200sqm area of pristine, rare Atlantic Rainforest.

The Friends of Serra Verde is a charitable trust established to help preserve this endangered environment through preservation, education and replanting.

atlantic-forest

As a friend of Serra Verde you will help us achieve our aims:

■ To protect the existing rainforest.

■ To increase the size of the reserve by buying up neighbouring areas of rainforest.

■ To make a small part of the reserve accessible to wheelchair users and local children.

■ To engage the local community in the importance of preserving the local habitat

The Pousada Serra Verde is committed to this project and more information can be found at http://www.serra-verde.com

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Climbing El Misti

Arequipa

‘Set in the south of Peru, Arequipa sits on the edge of the Altiplano and is ringed by volcanoes. The most famous being El Misti (5,825m – for scale Mont Blanc the highest point in the Alps is 4,810m). After labouring up a 4000m mountain a few days earlier I had decided that I wouldn’t attempt El Misti. It was therefore with some surprise that I found myself laden down like a mule (carrying a tent, 8 litres of water, crampons and so on…) attempting the climb two days later. I ended up carrying far too much as the climbing agency I chose turned out to be the Peruvian branch of Trotters Independent Traders. It quickly became apparent why they were cheap as several corners were clearly cut – no working zips on the tent and the lack of porters to name but two of them! We climbed from Arequipa (2,500m) up to the base camp at 4,600m on the first day in baking sun. For those of you who don’t know, El Misi looks like a Volcano that has been drawn by a 7 year old – a near perfect cone with a snowcap – which means that the only way to climb is straight up!

El Misti Crater

Our guide woke us at 2:30am for our summit climb – cheerfully telling us that out of his last group only 2 out of 8 managed the summit! The plod to the summit became ever more painful. Every few steps left me gasping for breathe and feeling decidedly light headed. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity and more through sheer bloody mindedness than mountaineering prowess I collapsed on the summit! The air was so thin that I couldn’t actually talk to anyone and more to the point I couldn’t even manage to eat my celebratory bar of chocolate – 100% effort just to breathe. I couldn’t even take a drink as all my water had frozen solid. It was however spectacular and I found myself peering into the belly of a sulphur belching, smouldering volcano.El Misti Volcanic Sand

The climb up had taken a day and a half scrambling up a rocky ridge whilst the descent took just 3 hours. We hurtled down the steep sides of the volcano at break neck speeds, half running, half surfing through the thick black volcanic sand.’

Taken from my travel journal ‘Uma Cerveja Mas; Travels in Latin America.’

Earthships – Sustainable Living

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So far we have looked at building and powering an Earthship. In our final Earthship post we are going to look at food production and waste management.

Greywater (taken from the shower, sinks and washing machine) is used to feed plants grown inside the Earthship. Plants are grown in the sunny part of the house and are fed on the greywater. The plants roots naturally filter the water, their leaves clean the air and you can eat the end product – what’s not to like!

In most houses clean drinking water is used to flush the toilet. It then becomes ‘blackwater’ or sewage which is drained away and treated to be made safe. Usable greywater is mixed with the blackwater which further increases the amount of water that requires cleaning four times!

Earthships make use of both greywater and blackwater and are designed to use the same water four times!

Earthship Black water

We are looking forward to using the Earthship techniques and principles when we start building at Serra Verde later this year!

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