'For Adventures of a lifetime'

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Main Trek Osa Peninsula - Puerto Jimenez to Carate

Thursday 2nd August

Day one of our main trek! We had an early start to say the least, half past four for the breakfast team, to set off walking at half past six. This was pretty stressful and if I said it went swimmingly I would be lying. But half an hour late wasn’t too bad for our first day.

We set off from the hostel in Puerto Jimenez onto a track to be quickly confronted with our first river crossing, but the water wasn’t fast flowing and only came up to our knees which put my mind at rest expecting to have to swim with my backpack weighing me down. Seven more river crossings followed and we quickly got the knack for them. Along the way we saw many new and interesting plants and animals, and took lots of pictures to prove it!

When we reached our secluded lodges deep in the rainforest we had a well earned lunch as this was the first time most of the team had trekked with everything they needed for more than a few nights. The guides had collected some red spiky fruit similar to lychees that only grow in this part of Costa Rica called Mamon Chinos but it was an extreme luck of the draw to whether you got a lovely sweet one or something just too bitter to bear. When we cleared up and settled into our cabins some of the team where somewhat underwhelmed, however most embraced the rural environment and warmed to being in such an amazing atmosphere. Some of the team later went down to the river to try out the volcanic exfoliating rock that it possessed - this was a real treat and after a day of intense heat and sweat was a well earned reward. The river also treated us to a natural jacuzzi, when we eventually managed to pull ourselves away from this mini river spa we returned to have another meal of bean feast for tea, yuuuuumm, but this time the team were glad to not have to cook on our own stoves as we were allowed to use the lodge’s kitchen facilities helping the process immensely.

Before bed we had an insightful team review giving everyone chance to tell the rest of the team how they were feeling about the days ahead and how today had gone. This showed where some of the group needed help and others could provide it. When going to bed it was almost impossible to forget where you were with the racket of the incredible wildlife. Not a place for light sleepers. Overall it has been an amazing day, some of the team are now feeling more confident whilst others a little more apprehensive for the next few days, let’s hope it puts us in good stead for the rest of the trek!

Wish us luck! :-)

P.s Miss everyone loads, wish you were here you would love it! :-) love you lots xxx

Jenny Gibson

Friday 3rd August

Hello from the middle of the jungle! Today’s been a really packed day, so sorry if I go on a bit. Today I woke up at around 4, to the sound of frogs and crickets. We didn’t need to be up until around 7, so I just lay there soaking it all in. The stars soon faded as the fast tropical sunrise took over our sheltered paradise. After taking out anything not essential for our day’s short trek, I put on my wet set of clothes. The wet set is a very important thing for those spending time in the rainforest. During the day, while you sweat like a pig from humidity and get soaked by the heavy showers, you wear one set of clothes, which become your wet set. This obviously starts to smell a bit, so you can wash them on a night, but this leaves them even more soaked for the next day. To avoid growing mushrooms under our armpits though, there is your dry set. You change into this on an evening after washing, and it is such a relief to get the clinging clammy clothes off and replace them with nice dry ones. Sadly, this is very much reversed in the mornings; putting on wet clothes is one of the worst things imaginable. So bad that even another breakfast of porridge seemed better!

We brought down our lighter packs to the communal area, and were ready to get going at 10:20. First we had to ascend several slopes through the jungle thicket, passing many golden orb web spiders on the way. Now, I may suffer slightly from arachnophobia, but even I can’t call these creatures ugly. Their long slender legs radiate out from the middle of a perfect golden silk web, and you can even see the eyes of these magnificent creatures if you dare to look closely.

Finally slipping to the top of the final muddy bank, we were met with a great view. Looking over the mountains covered in a thousand shades of green, we could make out the Gulfo Dulce from whence we came the previous day. Whilst taking a break here, eating trail mix, I spotted some leaves shaking in a nearby tree. After watching for a few moments, I gave the shout we all wanted; “monkeys!”. A squirrel monkey had appeared from behind some of the leaves, and this meant as a team we had now seen all four of Costa Rica’s primates. They were as pesky as pixies though; as soon as you had trained your camera onto them, they were off. Just as we were about to set off again, there was another close encounter. A cone headed katydid (identified later on) had jumped onto Jenny’s camera, so of course Cliff just had to pick it up. It stayed pretty still, and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like this, so I volunteered to hold it. But as soon as it was on my hand, it scurried up my arm and onto my backpack, and finally my hat.

Eventually we had to leave, so after placing the katydid down, we headed off down a steep muddy track. Never has mud been more treacherous since World War One, with nearly everyone slipping, sliding or flopping over. Due to the different paces within the team here, we broke up into groups, with Shaun, Holly, Jairo (our guide) and I at the back, out of sight and hearing of the rest. This provided another opportunity for close wildlife encounters. A clambering shape emerged through the braches towards us, just a few feet above our heads. Another troop of Squirrel monkeys had found us, and this one was a lot more inquisitive. They sat there staring, as transfixed with us as we were with them. Eventually they moved off, so we continued down the path to meet the rest of the team, looking up at more squirrel monkeys. It was by far the best mammal encounter I’ve ever had.

After picking some lemons for juice and coconuts to drink, we arrived back at the lodge via the “Indiana Jones” bridge. We put our bags back in our lodges and headed down to the river. There was a man panning for gold, so we watched him for a while. He had dug out a channel, and panned out a shovel of gravel and silt at a time. Shaking, stirring and spinning the pan, he removed all the rocks, letting the heavy gold sink to an indentation in the bottom of the pan. A few tiny grains at a time, he collects between 1 and 2g of gold per day, fetching $40 per gram. But some days he finds nothing. Still, the hope of finding another 16g nugget drives people on the carry out this backbreaking work all day.

While the rest of the team went to exfoliate with natural mud in a pool downstream, I stayed and had a go of Gold Panning myself. I wasn’t very efficient, taking around 20 minutes to do one pan, but it was worth it, for me at least. I found a grain of gold; so miniscule that I couldn’t pick it up, but the rich glint was unmistakably gold.

After a tea of pasta, Alice, Beth, Shaun and I stayed up to prepare lunch for the following day. We stayed up so late that even the people in the team playing cards had gone to bed, requiring us to do some hasty packing, ready for moving on again the following day.

It really has been an amazing time, full of wonderful spectacles, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

By Jack Beckwith

Saturday 4th August

Today I awoke as leader! My time to rule  (Ed. Steady Shaun...we dont want people thinking the power has gone to your head lol). After some last minute packing by some members of the group at 4:30 it was porridge for breakfast (surprise, surprise). We aimed to leave at 6 but due to many issues (Ed. That would be the grand opening of the Jungle Foot Clinic where my customers (arriving late!) had their feet trussed up in numerous sticking tapes and plasters ready for the LONG day ahead...well worth the time me thinks :-)) we left at 7!

We left our little “Garden of Eden” and set out on the hardest day of the trek. We headed down a gradual slope to be immediately met by a large slope up! After a good few hours of ‘steep up’ on muddy slopes that no one could get a good foothold in we reached a place to stop. It was here our spirits were lifted by the guides giving us some sugary energy boosters of chocolate! After eating our snacks we heard the distinctive call of the Howler Monkey! Cliff thought it cleaver to try and communicate with them using an unusual growl but all he seemed to know was “Fight me!” (Ed. I am from Sunderland ;-)) this attracted the alpha male to above where we were sitting. It was here our spirits were raised even more as only 30 seconds after Jairo warned us about the monkey’s excrement it bombarded Alex with poo splashing on his and Danny`s bags.

After this amusement we carried on upwards before a steep downhill with more mud and a few slips here and there! We stopped on the way down for a much needed lunch of pasta cooked by Jack, Beth, Alice and yours truly until 9:20 the previous night. After this we swiftly moved on to avoid any more monkey incidents. We soon arrived at a waterfall and stopped to clean our boots and trousers. We moved on after a extended break and this is when most people started to struggle. Those at the back with Jairo at this point were treated to some occasional trial mix to keep us going (Ed. Huh!!! Didn’t know about that!! ). After many ups and downs we arrived at the camp site where some of us washed in the river whilst Jairo and Fernando set up a cooking shelter. It was rice and bean feast on the menu again all nice and cosy under the shelter. I don’t think anyone is not proud of their achievement today as it is a great one! (Ed. Everyone did outstandingly well today and I for one was very proud!)

I would like to finish by wishing my eldest nephew a happy birthday tomorrow when he will be seven.

Shaun Laing

Sunday 5th August

Today started out the same as most of the days we’ve spent here- getting up very early. Everyone was up by 4:30am but there were no complaints because we are all used to it by now! Breakfast was porridge, as usual but it gave us the energy we needed for the day ahead of us. (Ed. Yum)

Most of us were still aching from yesterday and worried for today, but the positives of it being the last day of trek, having less steep inclines and a beach waiting for us at the finish definitely outweighed the negatives, so we set off with high spirits. The trek started with 3km walking alongside (but mostly in) a small stony river. It was very easy going and we felt very lucky having so much flat land to walk on. About an hour in the rain started (Ed. for a change ;-)), but it wasn’t drizzle, it was torrential - the type where it drips off your nose and into your mouth but in the end you give up spitting it out because there’s just too much of it! After an hour and a half of walking we reached the end of what the guides had called the “river bit”. We had a well earned rest in the pouring rain eating soggy crisps, nuts and trail mix. But they were still just as tasty! After the break we headed onwards and upwards to the 1 ½ km “steep bit”. It was really difficult, especially with heavy packs filled with wet clothes, and yet we managed to do it within about an hour. We all breathed a sigh of relief once the hard bit was over. But little did we know the downhill bit we had been promised turned out to be perilously steep and we actually had to take out the long ropes for people to hold on to. Some were a little more steady on their feet than others and we had quite a few slips (Taggart). The downhill part seemed to go on forever even though we had been told it was only 1 ½ km. Our feet were beginning to ache a lot and it was becoming very challenging for some people, getting a few tears and angry faces. But it was pretty scary at some points, with the mud made more slippy by our wet boots and the pressure from the weight of our packs- abseiling down a steep drop of mud with only the rope to rely on for support took it to the extreme! But we managed to all get through it, and with aching thighs and feet we ate our lunch at the base of a little waterfall.

It was so refreshing to jump into the pool and put our heads under the rushing water. We had a relatively long lunch break and after some group photos we set off again to more downhill accompanied by a few uphills. We then walked in the river again for about half an hour. It was very rocky and people were beginning to tire but Fernando and Jairo kept our hopes up by ensuring us that the rest of the way was completely flat. We finally trudged over our last hill and reached the flat bit; walking on it for at most an hour was a dream and 2km later we were setting foot onto a beach. It was our campsite. You could touch the waves when they rose up to where we were camping! We said our goodbyes to Fernando and Jairo, (some found it a little harder than others) deciding to give them a considerable tip for their excellent services. We felt that they had been very helpful and good all round as guides.

They left for the bus and we noticed a huge raincloud looming over us and so the tents were erected even quicker than usual! Emily, Jenny, Alice and Beth went up to the shop to buy things for tea and returned with packets of crisps, oreos and cookies. Meanwhile, some of the lads set about finding large pieces of driftwood to try to create a barrier to protect the tents from the sea in case the tide came in any further during the night.

We ate our tea of Beanfeast with nacho crisps, some people (ahem, Emily) had six helpings! I don’t know how she fit it all in! After tea we had a review of the day and really of the whole trek. Everybody said how hard they had found it both physically and emotionally, but we all agreed that it was definitely worth it in the end and if asked we would do it again (well some of us anyway). After the meeting most of us retired to bed for some well earned sleep inside our luxury ocean-view tents, while others actually got the chance to see more turtles (Ed. for me the feeling of being on the beach standing right next to a turtle laying its eggs is a high point and one I’ll remember for a really long time...of what has been an amazing journey) it was the cream on top on this beach. (Some even pretended to be turtles alongside them!) All in all the trek was worth it and hopefully we will be nice and toned when we get back, but we really can’t wait to chuck our tents and get our beds back!!

By the way, I just want to wish my mum a belated happy birthday- I was thinking about you (and made everyone else as well!) Lots of love x

Ellie Bourner

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