From arriving in a school bus of croatian kids, with the bus driver speeding along the windy roads with the door wide open and having the kid’s English homework book shoved under my nose to fill in the gaps, I knew that my 2 and a half weeks at the Kuterevo Bear Refuge was going to be a completely different experience. Finally reaching Postaja, my new home, I was greeted by Guaci, Lukas, Loïc, Sebastien, Teo, Stefan and Pierre the volunteers i will be working with from all around the world! I was impeccable with my timing and got to sit straight down for lunch where they discussed the busy day they had had.
For my first week, the sun was shining and it was perfect to sit outside and watch over Marko whilst making honey label after honey label. We have been working hard on souvenirs now that the number of visitors is starting to increase thanks to the weather being amazing (compared to England anyway!). We made sure we had enough necklaces, bottled up and labeled homemade rakia and put logos on EVERYTHING! The number of school groups has also grown over the past few weeks, with all ages coming to enjoy the bears and its been great to see them all leave with a smile one their face and a new viewpoint about bears!
Grass has also been a main priorty this week. Collecting grass for the bears and sitting on the back of a filled trailor driving along with the view of the valley was beautiful. Some villagers also came to help us cut all the grass around the refuge, and then we had to collect and pile it all up. But a long day of raking and sneezing was definitely worth while because we got to watch the bears roll around and play in it afterwards!
The bears have also been able to enjoy lots of ice cream that Loic kindly prepared for them. With the days being so hot I can imagine that going for a dip in their pool followed by smashing up an ice block would be perfect. They have really been very lucky these past few weeks with also a lorry stuffed full of bread and corn arrived from Zagreb, which we spent foreverrr sorting and bagging up ready to be given to the bears (other than the chocolate squares and muffins which were way too tempting for Teo and Lukas).
Towards the end of my stay we have started to build what will be new compost toilets and a shelter. So my arms have majorly increased in size thanks to pushing back and forth wheelbarrows of concrete! We have also started preparing the Refuge for the work camp that will start next week. Lukas has been working hard to organise what the group will be doing during there stay here and cleaning the whole of the hayloft where they will sleep is a seriously major ongoing task!
I can not thank Ivan and everyone here enough for giving me such an incredible time here. Everyday has been different and brought something new. It has been great to meet such incredible people that work hard to keep this place going. Sadly my totem is made and tomorrow it will be time for me to get back on the crazy bus, but I will never forget this place and look forward to coming back sooner rather than later!
Chloe, from UK