So my final phase of my Raleigh International Expedition began….trek….
As a member of the Alpha 1 team, I was tasked with the goal of trekking 250km with a 25kg rucksack from the Carribean coast near Pacharito, in the north east of Costa Rica, through jungle, rivers and mountain ranges, all the way to Playa Palo Seco on the Pacific coast in the south west of the country.
As a team of 12 we had ten venturers between the ages of 17 and 22 and two venturer managers, Debbie (27) and David (63). When planning and packing at fieldbase, the next three weeks seemed a little daunting to say the least; putting one foot in front of the other may seem easy in day to day life, but when you have 250km to complete in 18 days in the scorching sun with your world packed in a bag on your back, it’s not as simple as one may think!
After a steep first couple of days through a National Park we then sought out our indigenous guide, Alberto, for our following three days of trekking through the jungle. This was by far the muddiest of my experiences in life so far as we plodded our way through thick mud and amazing wildlife for three days, crossing many beautiful rivers, scrambling up many mudslides for hours on end, before staying in some very remote indigenous villages with the indigenous populations there.
After leaving the jungle via a long swinging bridge to awesome views over the river … we hiked up to the village of San Jaoquin back to civilisation and our first Pulperia visit with a welcome ice cream after an extremely sweaty few days! From here we spent over a week walking up many hills along dusty tracks and highways (including the pan American highway – busiest road in Costa Rica – for 11km) as we climbed up towards the dragon mountain range. There was hardly a day without a mountain to climb up, and then down the other side, before we reached the two biggest peaks of the trek on days 14 & 15; The Dragon and Alto Arana. From here we were on the home straight down from the mountains to the beach. After an early start walking in the dark on day 18 we reached the beach in the scorching sun for two days of recovery and tanning with frequent dips in the warm salty surf before a delicious fish restaurant for our last supper together – an awesome chilled couple of days after 3 weeks on your feet!
Trek was an amazing experience but one with many mental and physical challenges from which we all learnt a lot. However, what struck us the most was the extreme generosity of the Costa Ricans whom we met along the way. Wherever we went locals offered us fresh juice, ice cold homemade drinks, food, fresh fruit from their gardens and even their houses for us to stay the night! We could not have completed trek without this generosity. Each night we stayed in community centres, people’s porches and backyards, haunted houses, family homes, schools and only actually put up our tents 3 times which was a relief as sleeping in tents here is so hot and unbearable! Our campsites varied too with the varying terrain including one night when we slept directly underneath an electricity pylon (apparently safe with 240000v of electricity running above your head) although this night came with welcome cold temperatures that came hand in hand with the high altitude.
All in all trek was a fantastic success for our team and we all returned to fieldbase in one piece despite a couple of blisters and sores here and there. Developing our leadership skills through the role of a Day leader each day, and discovering our physical and mental limits were only some of the things we learnt from this amazing and rewarding experience.
As a farewell to end our Raleigh experience we were treated to a BBQ and awards presentation evening along with a night of dancing, music and laughter. It gave us a chance to don some real clothes that you might actually wear on the street back home as opposed to our ever so attractive jungle attire that we’ve based our style on for the last 3 months!
After being waved off by all the project managers to San Jose airport, I now sit waiting for my flight to travel on to the next stage of my gap year experience, I can reflect on what an amazing time I have had on this Raleigh Expedition in Costa Rica and Nicargua and the strong friendships I have made with people of all ages from a range of backgrounds across the globe.