Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Initiation to a Puma

Sunday morning: the toughest day of my life. It´s a big call, everyone has one toughest day of their life..... first day in a new job, break up, there are many tough days but my one, beyond any measure of doubt was last sunday.
Currently volunteering at an animal refuge in the jungle of Bolivia (This was Kate´s idea I might add) and I have been assigned to walk the most dangerous puma in the park. His name is Roy.
So off I walk on sunday morning, with Richard , a tough english lad from Birmingham and Cameron, a young american guy who had half his ear chewed off by a homicidal monkey last week. As we clamour thru the mud up to Roy´s cage, they inform me that every new volunteer must undertake an initiation test with Roy the Puma. "You will get attacked and probably quite badly but everyone has to do it... It´s Roys way of getting used to you"
Great I´m thinking to myself. "Whatever you do don´t run, don´t turn your back and don´t show any fear. He likes to test out the new volunteers and if you show any fear it will only make it worse for you later on" remarked a chirpy Richard.
So we let roy out of his cage tied to a rope which he could roam around on close to his cage. Then I was informed I had to move into his area, between 2 rocks, so that he could attack me. So there I am standing there as human bait and sure enough along comes Roy. He jumps up and basically digs his teeth into my chest and I pick him up by the collar saying "No Roy no". then he comes again, this time getting my leg... again, No Roy, no.... but what I am I thinking, this puma don´t speak English man..... he just wants to dig his big teeth he´d been sharpening on that log a few minutes ago into my chest which he does a third and 4th time, on the 5th time he has completely ripped the side of my new army strength shirt and made another rip in the middle. Finally after 8 attacks and about 3 minutes he gets bored and wanders off and I have survived a Roy attack. " He got you good, he must really like you " announced chirpy Richard. I lift up my shirt to reveal about 5 bite marks across my chest and stomach.... At least I know what to expect when he attacks when we go walking in the jungle, which I have been assured will never be as bad as the initiation.... I just hope so.
After my initiation we put Roy on a lead and headed into the jungle for his 10 km walk(run) thru the wet muddy jungle. Sprinting down wet steep pathways with only sharp spikey branches to grab hold of as the puma you´re holding sprints off aint walking a dog on Bondi Beach. At any moment he can attack you... if you fall over he will turn around and instinctively attack you, if you hold him up, step on his tail or look him in the eye too long he will attack you. I was trying to clamour over a very steep rock holding the reins of Roy and slipped and the next thing I see is Roy flying thru the air in my direction towards my head. Lucky he was slightly off target and I threw him off the hill. The three words Good boy Roy and No Roy No are now amongst the most used in the English language.
After sprinting about 12 kms thru the wet trails we finshed our day and got Roy back to his cage. I have never been so utterly physically, emotionally and mentally challenged in my entire life .... and the cheery fact was that was day 1 of 30 .... oh but it was all worth it when Roy offered up his cute little face for a pat at the end..... followed by a growl of course

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