Jhon and me at the end of the expedition At around 7 a.m., the rain finally stopped.
Jhon, who was one of a number of very dear friends working for the local wildlife rescue centre that was set to manage the proposed release site, went off to search for some dry wood to start a fire so we could get some hot coffee into us before we started walking again. Within just minutes, he came dashing back with a look of sheer delight on his face. With the biggest smile, he said just one word: "Churucos!" This magical word is the local name for my adored woolly monkeys.
We all forgot about coffee, dragged our sodden boots on as fast as we could and followed closely behind Jhon; a motley crew dressed in a bizarre combination of sleeping gear and wellingtons.
Incredibly, just 20 meters from where we had spent our miserable night, a troop of around 20 woolly monkeys had also taken shelter and were just waking for the day. As the area of forest we were exploring was little-used by people and the monkeys therefore not hunted, the woollies did not startle when they saw us and, instead, peered curiously down from the trees. I locked eyes with a huge, beautiful female who carried a baby on her back. We observed each other quietly -- her in somewhat curious indifference, me in absolute awe. I cried, much to the amusement of Simon, one of my companions from the indigenous community, for whom woolly monkeys were simply a vaguely interesting part of his world. I will never, for the rest of my life, forget that moment. It lasted no more than ten minutes before the troop went on its way and we had to head back to camp to set out for the day. It remains one of the most treasured experiences of my life.