Monday, 3 August 2015

Tortuga! Run!!

Last night was my first patrol, so although the group expected to see a turtle I didn´t expect to have any hands-on experience with one. I waited outside my homestay at 7:30 waiting for the first shift leaders and the other patrollers. I merge with them, and we continue on our way to the beach.
To get there we must cross a lagoon, either by boat or bridge. There are too many people for the boat this time so we cross the marshy water to get to the bridge. In most places it is only ankle deep, but closer it gets higher and touches my shorts. Our headlights are on the white mode so we can see. They leave big roving spots on the mud.
Crossing the bridge is not unlike what you see in Indiana Jones. It is made of rope and wood, can only be crossed in single-file, and swings with the weight of our group.
We dismount onto the beach, and the group splits into north and south side patrol squads. I am with the north side. We are almost halfway to the end when we see three red lights. This is the signal for a turtle. We all run towards the signal. 
I have never run on the beach before. It was an exhilarating feeling. The ocean to the right crashing in luminous sprays, black glitter above me, the sway of the palms to the left.
We reach the turtle. We can only use red light on the beach, and only when necessary. Aida asks who wants to do the eggs. I say that I can. I´m surprised I was the first to volunteer but happy as well. She hands me the gloves and the relocation bag. I pull the gloves on and open the bag as quick as I can, and then she directs me behind the turtle to lay down and open up the nest-hole a little bit beneath the carapace so I don´t touch her flippers or any sensitive areas. By one or two eggs I fill the relocation bag. reaching beneath her carefully and extracting my hand doubly as carefully. As I do this Tomas tags the turtle. The eggs are soft. The laying rate slows, so that sometimes I have to wait for an egg to plop down and scoop it up. There are 81, a small amount considering the average is around 100. When she´s finished I retreat quickly and let Tomas do what he needs to do with the rest of the relocation process.
Afterwards we watch the turtle complete her nesting process, clean up, and then follow her run back to the ocean sweeping her tracks away with our feet. Afterwards we continue the patrol for around three hours, resting and giving the hello signal (two red lights) at each end of our side of the beach.
We don´t see another turtle, but it was the beginning of the season so it´s bueno. 
I am filled with an accomplishment.
At midnight the patrol is over and the two groups become one again. On our way back across the bridge a huge spider is building his web connected to the hand-rope. I walk through it and choke down a little bit of panic, brushing myself off quickly and choosing to ignore the spider, on me or no. The bridge sways too much for me to pay attention to this now. Not only could I fall but I could pitch others into the lagoon with me. Obviously I do not do that. We make it back down into the marsh and wade back to land, the waterline lowering on my legs steadily. The walk back to the homestay only takes a second because it is on the same road to the beach. 
I tell my comrade everything that happened, lay down, and fall asleep without even a sheet.<3 <3 <3

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