Valle de Anton

Here is when things started to go wrong.

I have already mentioned that we had a nightmare time trying to get to our next workaway. We got there about seven at night and they had waited to eat tea with us, which was very nice of them as we were starving. There were quite a few new people to meet, which was a little stressful, especially after the day we had had.

I had got more accustomed to talking to new people in Jamaica, and before that at university, so coped well enough. The difference here is that I couldn’t speak the language. England is notoriously bad at teaching second languages. In primary I had one year of German, and in secondary, five years of very broken French, so Spanish was going to be impossible for me.

The people were nice, as far as we could tell as neither of us spoke Spanish. Jake got talking to an American guy that lived there, he was in his 60s or there about. The first thing he spoke about was his love of weed and Coke and rum, Jake could relate to the rum part.

There are two of the girls, one didn’t really speak, and one from Chile, she spoke really good English and she spent a few hours trying to teach me a few basic words in Spanish.

That night we were put in a dorm, even though they said we could be in a private room. It was okay as no one else was in it, and they said that it was just a volunteer room. Bad thing was that there was nowhere to keep your stuff safe.

We were told we would work from 8 to 5, confused we asked about this, because in workaway you only do 4/5 hours a day.  Our host then said I would be working 8 till 12, and Jake 12 till 5. This meant that we wouldn’t be seeing each other, or be able to do any activities while we were there, which kind of defeated our point of traveling.


Our first day we got off as it was a Sunday. I need it as I didn’t manage to sleep until three because it was so noisy, they had music blaring till 2AM, people running about and dogs barking. It was a cacophony of noise that was almost painful, like a puffer fish going off inside my brain.

We met another guy that day, his name is Art. He was Russian/American and him and Jake on really well, they chatted most of the night, we were going to do one of the hikes up the mountains, but it started pouring. Everything here has a metal roof, so the sound of the thunderstorm and torrential rain on the corrugated ceiling was even louder than the night before, even if it was a bit more pleasant.


Started work on the Monday at eight, and our host was nowhere to be found, he hadn’t actually said what I was meant to be doing either. He didn’t show till about 10, where he told me – as I was a female, my job was to clean, do the laundry, make beds, mop and sweep and clean toilets then cook for when the men-folk got home! I have no issue doing those jobs, but the fact it was solely to do with my gender really pi**ed me off.

The ‘menfolk’ – including Jacob went to work on a building site, so didn’t see him for most the day. I was also meant to tend reception with the other girls, but seeing as my Spanish was lacking I could not do it very well. As for the cleaning, this place looked like it hadn’t  been cleaned in 10 years.

There is a level of dirt that I can deal with, then the level of that Jake can deal with, and then this place, it was grim.

Mould grew everywhere, flies surrounded uncovered food, the dirt was an inch thick and things growing in the fridge. I was told that it was only cleaning, so easy work. It was easy, yes, (our host made a point that it was easy work, because women can only do easy work) but it was disgusting. There wasn’t anything for us to clean with either, no soap or chemicals, so I had to use a ripped up piece of clothing that somebody in that stayed there had left.

When Jacob back he said he’s been hammering nails out of bits of wood for five hours and was bored out of his mind. We went out with Art and climbed up Mount Carigauna and watch the sunset which was lovely, although it was very hot and sticky, so afterwards I had to brave the shower and the cockroaches in it, also looks like there were leeches living in the sink, ugh.


The next day wasn’t too much better. I asked if I could go to the construction site, they were very reluctant and tried to get Jake to control his woman – and not allow me to go. Jake basically told him to F-himself and I was allowed to go.

When I was there I was told I was scraping paint off the wall, (I can see where they saw the danger). They did not give me a chisel because that was far too dangerous, instead they gave me a cheese grater because it wasn’t sharp and I could not hurt myself. Afterwards I was allowed to do sweeping.

At one point I did manage to get away and help Jake pull out nails, this was scandalous in the eyes of the men working, so much so that they stopped, open-mouthed to watch me to see if I could do it, and seemed rather shocked when I realise I could use a hammer. I did enjoy watching it put all the men’s teeth on edge.

Jake was also allowed to use the spray paint gun, again, not me because it is too… complicated, I believe is the term they is used, at the end we moved planks of wood, they were amazing I was able to do so because the surprise, surprise wood can be heavy, and women can’t pick up stuff.


Day three of work, I was cleaning again, I was exhausted because they were tattooing and playing music till 2 AM in the room next door. The upside was I was able to catch a frog that had decided to make a home in our dorm thanks to the damp and the rain leaking through the roof onto Jake’s bed. I also got to play with the dogs and the two kittens, which almost made me to forget about the rest of the stuff going on.

Day four, we didn’t want to wait around for our host to get up and tell us what we going to do, as he usually didn’t rise till about 11:30, so me and Jake went to the Butterfly Valle, not too expensive, and the guide spoke excellent English and very informative, I really liked all the butterflies, Jake put up with it. I think he found the practical information about them more interesting than seeing them, apparently only 3 to 4% of them survive in the wild.


Once back, we found our host had gone into the city, so both me and Jake did the cleaning, if that is what you call it, you would need to blitz the place to show any difference at this point. We then went to the Victoria Lorenzo Museum, which was free because it was their 40th anniversary I think.

The last few nights we had other people in our dorm. These were guests, not volunteers, so we had to put up with them wandering in and out, and tried to look after our belongings. It seemed our host was not telling the truth when he said this was a volunteer only dorm.


The next day we climbed up with one of the other mountains without with Art. There was a good view from the top, but blisteringly hot, we tried to follow a path down and got lost in the woods, and nearly got caught on barbwire fence and attacked by a guard dog.

That night I was asked to cook, the cleaning of the kitchen took longer than cooking, I cooked for the whole family but some refused to eat it because I had cooked it.


After this week of ups and downs, the dorms, the noise, the work, the stress and lack of communication and basically complete disdain towards me over my vagina, we decided to leave. They didn’t seem very happy about it, as we were supposed to be staying over a month, but neither were we, and at that time we did not care. We had our last night there and I got bitten by fleas, what a lovely way to end the week.

We missed Art, but kept in touch. He was very different from people we usually talk to or meet, especially when it came to talking about his religion and beliefs – I disagreed with quite a bit, but actually really like him. He and Jake had a good hours chatting over rum about politics and history.

Couldn’t wait to return to the city, and thankfully had found another work away on the last-minute page…

But it was out of the frying pan and into the fire.