Friday, February 26, 2010

OB USA's Costa Rica River Rush

Outward Bound USA students are exhausted, and with good reasons. The rivers have been quite the strong competitors lately.

After they finished their 8-day WFR course last week, they were finally set free into the rainforest to test their river skills. Their first stop was the beautiful Río Pejibaye where they practiced their Whitewater Rescue Tech (WRT). Primary OB USA instructors Liz McNeil, Brian Aheart, and Casey Montandon accompanied our Costa Rica Outward Bound veteran River Technicians Diego Lopez Salazar, Joe Ewing, Danny Jimenez, and Alex White for the training.

Each day, for four days, they ran the same stretch of river where they could learn such skills and lessons as:
• how to use throw bags: bags filled with a long rope that can rescue someone going downstream
• how to swim in rapids
• escaping a strainer (an opening where water can flow through, but a larger solid object cannot)
• currents and hydrology
• rope and rescue systems

The students did really well, and even swam in Class II rapids by the end of the WRT course! Their instructors told us that rescuing one another from the rushing water was their favorite part.

But this wasn’t all that exhausted them. WRT training preceded three days of learning kayaking basics. As Diego, Danny, Joe and Alex helped them perfect their kayak rolls and rapids, the water got more intense – and exciting – as unseasonable downpours continued all week long. By yesterday, they had to cut their lunch short to race the rising river to the takeout point. They arrived at base today tired and liberated.

With all of this river exhaustion, the OB USA students were still able to enjoy some of Costa Rica’s unique atmosphere. They saw rainforest wildlife – including dart frogs, toucans, and mica snakes – and experienced the Tico culture firsthand at homestays where they practiced Spanish while eating beans & rice.

We wish we could tell you they are getting about a week of rest after exhausting themselves these past seven days, but tomorrow at 5am they head back out to face the jungle.

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