¡Hola! So I flew out to Costa Rica on the 6th February to start my volunteering expedition with Raleigh International and here I am on my return from the first of three phases of my expedition. So what have I been up to???
After arriving at San Jose airport on the 6/02/16 I met lots of the Raleigh ventures as we were bused to a nearby school where we slept on the floor of their sports hall for a night, before getting up super early the next morning to travel to Raleigh’s Costa Rican fieldbase in time for breakfast! The fieldbase is located in Turialba which is a city east of San Jose. After enjoying our first meal, of many, in our mess tins we were then flung into a full-on 5 day induction programme. Over the next few days we had basic medical training, comms training (communication), tools training, swimming assessments and numerous other talks and training as well as completing a practice trek and overnight camp. This “jungle camp,” was made an interesting experience as the heavens opened releasing more rain than I have ever seen before which didn’t stop once for 4 days! However, despite the weather it was a great few days at fieldbase and I met so many awesome people from all over the world. Then came the much awaited initiation ceremony as we found out our Alpha groups for our first 3 week phase of the expedition. I was in Alpha 5, a team of 16 volunteers, including 3 project managers, with whom I travelled to Las Piedras Blancas National Park to work on a Natural Resource Management Project.
After leaving fieldbase at a ridiculous time in the morning (3am – they like their early starts here!) we set off on an 8hr bus journey south to the Rangers Station at Las Piedras Blancas NP; our camp for the next few weeks. It was very remote but so beautiful with so much wildlife Sally around us in the trees. We soon got to know the Rangers well and set to work clearing a sustainable trail through the rainforest. This trail will be used not only for tourists to increase the tourist industry in the area, therefore bringing economic advantages to the local community, but also as an emergency escape route for the local “La Nueva Zealandia” School in case of a forest fire etc.
Each day we woke up at 5am for breakfast – porridge cooked on a trangia – and then headed off to work from 6-11am. It was so hot and humid that it isn’t possible to work after 11am. Our first stage of working was to battle through the undergrowth with machetes to clear a vague trail through the rainforest. We then removed any roots, leaves, rocks and excess earthbound increase the accessibility of the trail, picking out roots was a long and laborious process but so worth it as we started to see our trail taking shape. We then set about digging drainage system trenches, river crossing and multiple sets of steps. In total we have completed the first 1020m of the new trail which will be carried on by the next Alpha During the second phase of the Raleigh Expedition.
After work each day we returned back to the Rangers station for our lunch of bean paste and crackers before completing our afternoon activities. Due to the multicultural nature of our group, lots of our time was spent learning, Malay, Mandarin, Spanish, and Dutch. Some afternoons we spent preparing for two local schools visits. The first school we visited was La Gamba School in Golfito (2.5hr walk away) where we split into two groups to present two topics to a group of 30 students, aged 8. My group talked to the students about the use of water in personal hygiene and we played games with the students in Spanish to convey our messages in a clear way for them to understand. The other group studied the recycling of plastic. A week later we visited La Nueva Zealandia school which is a very small school with only 3 students, one teacher and a cook/cleaner. Once again we did our presentations with the children and we then played games with them for a few hours and were treated to a delicious lunch of pinto with chicken and plantain – a treat compared to our crackers and bean paste!
Unfortunately we had a few injuries in our group during phase 1 including three hospital visits; for knee injuries, epilepsy and a dislocated shoulder! However, we stayed positive and had a fantastic phase with an awesome team!
What made this trip so special was the Costa Rican culture that we were able to experience in the Las Piedras Blancas National Park. On our day off we trekked for 3 hours to San Josecito beach, Golfito. The hard trek in the hot humidity was totally worth it when we Rachel the gorgeous beach and were greeted by a friendly local who topped up our bottles with ice cold water – a luxury we have only been dreaming off since we first arrived here! We then walked along the beach collecting coconuts which we opened with a machete and drank as we swam in the sea – a dream come true!
Back at the Rangers station there is a natural spring that we turned into a natural shower which provided a great way of coping with the humidity and heat – on one day I had 12 showers! We were very lucky to be able to pick fresh guava and coconut as from the trees after work each day – a proper Costa Rican experience!
As for the wildlife we have seen so far…last week we saw white faced monkeys!!!!! They were happily swinging through the trees just outside our accommodation which was amazing!! At the beach we saw red macaws and Pelicans and during our working hours we have come across iguanas, massive toads, sharangas, horses, lizards, snakes, humming birds, toucans, wild pigs, insects, and billions of ants which have left our feet bitten to shreds, not to mention the mosquitoes!
All in all it’s been an amazing phase and expedition so far and I am very excited to travel to Nicaragua for my next phase on Thursday!
¡Adiós amigos! ¡Pura Vida!