So we’ve now been in Costa Rica for more than a month and it’s just been super busy. It’s true we had some town days during which we could’ve written blog posts and whatnot but we’ve had laundry, rations, packing and unpacking and trip planning that needed doing. And of course a lot of eating.
So to conclude: after arrival we did 12 days of basic jungle training – everything from fires, hygiene, water filtration to fishing, machete use, water collection, jungle craft and spear making. All that in a wonderful riverside jungle with a big nice rocky beach. Back then jungle felt foreign, new, exciting and a bit scary. Getting out of the hammock to pee in the middle of the night (literally happens every night, must be a hammock thing) was very scary.
When walking you’d expect there to be a snake or a tarantula at every step. The scariest it gets, however, is a poison dart frog.
After the basic training we do e straight into a 5 day jungle trek between the jungles of Costa Rica and Panama. From hundreds of river crossings to sliding on mud; from heavy rainfall to walking past jaguar dens; from having to turn around because of a destroyed campsite to having a snake slither over my foot during wash time…it was a wonderful experience. We were led by a local bribri called Keysh, who taught us all about the jungle plants, snacks, animals and cocoa! We got to lead the different days of the hike and gain a bit of experience. The real cherry on top was the second to last day of the hike – due to dark clouds we had to cut the lunch short and do a lot of river crossings as fast as we could before the water level rose. This ended in a twisted ankle for one of us, so we turned uphill to hike in the forest instead. This was brutally hard and very slippery, not helped by the massive downpour that sent us for hours. So after a total of 10 hours of hiking we crossed a river to do the final up&downhill of the day but because of it nearly being dark already, the leaders decided to do something else: we would instead repack our backpacks as watertight as possible and leave extra air in ghe drybags to make them float. We dove in off a rock and floated a couple of hundred meters through this dark and mysterious rock outcrop to get behind the bend, where the camp was. What an end to this day!
After the trek we went to another jungle camp, called the swamp camp – it got soooo muddy there and additionally we discovered a total of 4 caiman crocodiles from our small river there (our water source and wash spot). During this time we also got to teach our first lessons to the Marine Conservationists, which was super fun. And I spotted a Fer de Lance (super dangerous!) snake during the navigation day. And, last but not least, we worked for a couple of days at the Ara Great Green Macaw conservation project (just lifting mud from point A to point B for 2 days). Saw a snake here too 🙂
During this period 2 of our group members had to leave the jungle because of illness and many others developed a painful foot condition called foot rock. In that sort of an environment it’s impossible to keep anything dry or clean.
After this section we had a day of kayaking (loved it!) and then dove right into our first aid medical training, which was 4 days in the city of Puerto Viejo. This was followed by an 6 day Wilderness First Aid medical course in another jungle camp. Brightest memories from this period are the fake blood, Mike getting lost and dying a lot, incessant rain and horrible mud, running out of personal snacks and troubles with group food rations. Oh and a snake slithering over my arm while I was sitting and reading a book. During this time we also got to test our leader skills under a lot of pressure and really hone in on all the medical stuff we had learned.
This section of the course was then closely followed by a 5 day course of river crossings and water safety at the great Doug’s land camp. It was a true blessing to spend sunny days by an actual river (full body wash!), some rain was not a problem because there was no mud. It felt like a holiday even though the river crossings were very hard work. Here we all got a chance to lead a river crossing, practice rescuing by a throwbag and doing different rescue swims. On the way out I spotted another Fer de Lance right on the trail. I am now called Snake Eyes.
So here we are – just out of camp, had a Christmas dinner yesterday and did lots of tour recce homework today. Tomorrow we head back to the camp where we did the medical training – this time we will do a 2-night solo survival. It’ll be just a person, a batch of land, water source, a lighter for the first 7 hours, a machete and a knife, a headtorch and a little bit of food. The idea is to find/build a shelter for yourself, get a fire going and keep it going for 2 days (the lighter will be taken away). I guess we’ll see how it goes 😉