This fortnight has been a crazy one, there's been so many ups and downs that it's been hard to process it all to try and commit it to memory. At least we're writing a few daily bullet points that we can look back on in years to come to try and jog our memories!
Josh had a day that blurred into one with his morning drive and then kiosk, he tried to nap in the hammock area in between his shifts but he soon realised that there simply wasn't enough time. That day I was in a pretty bad mood as I'd suddenly started to miss all our friends and family at home, so I kept snapping at people and trying to spend as much time as possible by myself. My particular highlight of the day was getting to a nest on morning survey where we saw an Italian guy just standing and staring at the nest. When we got to him we saw that there was a hatchling emerging, however it had got its flippers stuck underneath the grid used to protect the nest and couldn't get out by itself. I lifted the grid gently to let it out, and all of a sudden 7 other hatchlings emerged from the same spot! It was an amazing experience, however it was cut short when all the stray dogs on the beach came running over (insert swearwords here). Thankfully I was with a volunteer called Anna who always protects me from dogs and she took them all with her so that I could focus on getting the hatchlings to sea with the help of the Italian tourist. I later had a shopping shift (resting bitch face the whole time) and an evening drive shift which other volunteers came on to try and keep me awake with loud singing and games. That day made me realise how important it is to work as a team, and if you have an off day it's really important to use everyone else's strengths and then pay them back later.
Josh started the day with a morning survey in which he excavated a nest with a live hatchling in it, he watched the hatchling make it to sea then past the wave and onward - he found it a very special moment (This was the first time I'd seen a hatchling beyond the first wave, I stood in the water up to my knees with my shorts getting wet and just watched the little turtle swim out into the big sea – Josh). Meanwhile, I had my first basecamp duty which involved cleaning the camp – I found it very therapeutic and it lifted my bad mood of the previous day. Later in the evening I had IT camp with a German volunteer called Nikola, we spent the evening talking about our Christmas traditions (if you know how much I love Christmas then you will know how much I enjoyed this shift!).
I had yet another basecamp duty, 2 in 2 days – lucky me! I then had a boxing shift, but what I saw was something I'd never seen before! I had heard of mass hatchings but had never experienced one myself, until that boxing shift. When we got to a nest and checked through the wire lid, we found 67 hatchlings all trying to get out! It was the most exciting thing that I'd seen at Archelon (little did I know that I would see something even more exciting later that week), it left me speechless. We split the hatchlings between two buckets and carried them to the darkest area of the beach to release them – I was super scared to move in case I stood on a tiny defenceless hatchling! In between nest checks I slept in the boot of the car which was surprisingly pretty damn comfy.
Tuesday was one of our usual days, with a few challenges thrown in. Josh's first challenge was a morning survey on a beach called Northern Kyparissia – it's a long stretch of beach at 10km and some of the nests were up to 2km apart (10km on sand is really bloody tiring! – Josh).
I had another shopping shift which was a lot calmer as a lot of volunteers had left and then I put beach mats around nests to form a corridor of shading from light pollution - the main problem was that the wind was extremely strong and every inch of me was being covered in sand (including my eyes!). Josh finished his day with a kiosk shift, he also had to deal with the strong wind but he also got to talk to a Greek volunteer and ask her for recommendations for our Athens visit.
Josh was meant to have the morning and afternoon off, however he ended up making new boxes for the boxing shifts – he's our resident handyman on camp. He then left for the posh Costa Navarino hotel which we've mentioned on blogs before, he had a relatively quiet shift but he ended up meeting Giles Coren and played with his children which resulted in two adoptions of baby turtles (yay!). Whilst Josh was at the posh hotel I was cooking for the campsite (a simple meal of tomato and feta pasta but the sauce tasted surprisingly good!), and then I went to Apollo hotel expecting a small audience for the presentation. When we arrived we saw the outdoor restaurant area full – over 80 Italian tourists had arrived and were in time for the presentation! As a teacher who has given assemblies I'm not usually scared by public speaking, but knowing that I would be interrupting some people from eating and perhaps enjoying their holiday scared me more than usual. I went in bold, stood in the middle of all them and gave it my best - it was exhilarating and rewarding all at the same time.
Josh had morning survey with Nikola on O beach with an aggressive brown dog, and then he helped my team out by picking up the grids that we were unable to carry. I was with the monitoring leader Freya on another beach completing 30 grid removals (the nests had finished hatching) and we had a nice chat whilst doing so. Later that day we had been given the night off so we went into Kalo Nero for dinner, waffles and cocktails.
The waffle was huge - YUM. My cocktail was great, Josh ordered a cocktail (Mai Thai) with rum in it but couldn't remember if he liked white or dark rum. When his cocktail turned up he hated it, so we switched, at least we now know that it's the white rum that he hates.
Today was a quiet day which we were very grateful for – I had a kiosk shift followed by another hotel presentation where I met a lovely Belgian lady and German couple. They were super interested in our work, asked lots of questions and made adoptions of turtles. Josh had a boxing shift which he was not happy about.
Today was the day where we had a question mark on our rota – we'd heard rumours that we were going to the release of an injured turtle. It was confirmed that we were and we got extremely excited. Costa Navarino had sponsored the care of an injured turtle so the turtle was released on their beach. The turtle was named Haroula and had been intentionally injured (2 wounds – 1 to her head and 1 to her carapace). She was cared for in the Archlelon Athens Rescue Centre by an amazing guy called Pav and his team of volunteers. Pav drove Haroula to the hotel in the boot of his car, he followed our team of volunteers that all had a role to play once we got there. Josh was the photographer for the event and I was helping on the information table.
Another Archelon project also brought volunteers along so we were a rather big group! There were many children at the event who were particularly excited to see Haroula and a big crowd had accumulated to see her release.
She was quite slow moving on the sand but as soon as she got to the sea she swam as fast as she could! The whole event was quite emotional as we knew it was only due to the work of Pav and his team that she was able to make it back to sea.
After the release the Archelon team all went to a taverna for dinner, where our leader Yiannis acted as our waiter. At the end of the meal we were very fortunate to find out that our meal had already been paid for by another volunteer (Thanks Richard! – Josh) – we were massively grateful for free meat and chips.
Josh and I had requested to have a morning survey together, we were both keen to be efficient on the survey so we didn't talk for the first half hour – we were just working our socks off (if only we had socks... mine have all got holes in from the sand).
When we got back to camp we were gifted with a plate of French toast each. The camp had done secret friend, and our secret friends had made us French toast – it was delicious! Later that evening we were driven to our first kiosk shift together. In the car with Freya, Anna and Nikola we had a conversation about the ways people poo in the camp toilets - it seemed absolutely hilarious at the time and we were all struggling to breathe! When we got to the kiosk shift we were lucky enough that the time passed very quickly and we were able to make plans for a potential future camper van (you probably know how much Josh loves to make plans!).
We started our days with solo morning surveys, Josh was on a beach that involved crossing four rivers and I was on the beach with all the stray dogs. I was very apprehensive about being on the beach with the stray dogs alone, but when the brown aggressive dog came running towards me another gentle dog attacked it before it could get to me. PHEW! Later that day we were told the unfortunate news that Pav from the rescue centre had passed away during a dive with a friend – in the evening we took a moment to remember him with all our volunteers standing in a line on the beach looking out to sea and holding hands.
Even though Josh and I had only met him at the release of Haroula, we could tell what a special man he was and understood how the leaders must feel to lose someone who touched the lives of so many people and made a huge difference to the protection of loggerhead turtles.
My morning started with a morning survey with Harriet, we had so many ongoing inundations of nests that we ran out of room in the book to record them all properly! When we got home to camp I filled out the paperwork and then played a homemade version of Ludo with Anna, Nikola and Camille - I won, woohoo! After dinner we were told that a cleaning company called Planet had donated lots of stock to Archelon and we should take photos to say thank you. Josh was the photographer and Freya took on the role as 'artistic director' putting us all into crazy poses for the photos.
At the end of the night Josh had an evening drive whilst I went to Freya's leaving party, the party was toned down slightly due to recent events but we still had fun with glitter and games.
Josh was on morning survey, fortunately the nests had stopped being inundated, however this meant that he had a lot of digging to do to ensure that oxygen could get to the eggs. Anna and I realised that Josh and Nikola would have a tough time on their morning surveys so we cooked them french toast as a surprise for lunch on their return – for our first attempt it tasted pretty good! After we had lunch Michalis offered to take Josh to a nearby town called Zaharo where we believed his new camera lens to be (The UPS website said the address was incomplete; it wasn't. Cue playing phone number bingo while chasing my parcel around Greece – Josh), fortunately they found it in a suspicious looking post 'office'.
After we'd spent some time relaxing at basecamp and experimenting with Josh's new lens we both went to separate hotels for public awareness shifts, mine was a lot further away than Josh's and a lot more quiet than Josh's - unlucky for me!
After going to bed late from the hotel shift I fell straight to sleep, but before I knew it I was being woken up by someone calling my name. I woke up in the dark (not unusual as we wake up in the dark for morning survey) and looked at my watch - it was only 2.30am – what the hell?! At this point I had no idea what was happening and checked that Josh was okay before exiting the tent. Harriet was outside our tent asking to speak to me, unfortunately on her boxing shift there was a car acting very intimidating towards her and the other leader and they needed someone else to help them as backup. I got dressed quickly and went on an impromptu boxing shift. When we got back to camp I slept most of the time and then had a kiosk shift with Josh where he planned out the design of our future camper van even more.
Today was a slow day, thankfully! A day to recuperate after a long fortnight of many mixed emotions. I had yet another kiosk shift where I learnt some more German and Josh went to another hotel to do a presentation.
It's hit us both this week that our time at Archelon is nearly over, we're excited for our Thai adventure ahead of us but we're also trying to make the most of every moment here.