Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Staff on Course: Rafting, Backpacking and Adventure Galore!

Recently, marketing staff member Courtney Black went on course with this summer’s last 15-Day Multi-Element course! One of the perks of working for OB Costa Rica is the opportunity to enjoy some of the adventures that our students get to enjoy as staff! This particular course is renowned as our “adventure sampler pack” and includes everything from rafting and hiking to waterfall rappelling and surfing.

Not exactly a seasoned outdoor enthusiast, Courtney was mildly apprehensive about the hiking portion of the course, but was still eager to break in her backpack for a trek that so many of her colleagues had raved about.

The course began with a trip down the Class III Rio Sarapiquí. Both staff and students were pleased to have gorgeous weather and great whitewater. Students, Olivia and Andrew, manned the front of the raft and steered us effortlessly down the river (with help from Whitewater Coordinator Jody).

The next day, the hiking portion of course began. One of the more challenging hikes of the course, the group left base camp to arrive at Brujo. From there, they hiked an impressive 15 km across streams and up mountains to arrive at the Lopez house in Piedras Blancas for a homestay. They made sugar from homegrown sugar cane, ground corn for tortillas and rappelled down the face of a waterfall. While the hike had its ups and downs (both literally and figuratively) it was well worth the trek.

After two days at the Lopez house, the group migrated to instructor Orlando’s home another 5 km up the hill. A word the group quickly learned was “arriba” or “up.”

Orlando’s house is beautiful and overlooks a beautiful valley in Piedras Blancas. It is here the students had their “solos”, which is a time for students to reflect on their experience away from the group, where they spend their time camping under a tarp, with only pen and paper and their thoughts. For Courtney, this time meant avoiding the rain, as she missed an important lecture in knot tying and tarp securing.

Next stop: Hernand’s home, which overlooks the banks of the Rio Savegre. There we baked homemade bread and learned about “Tico” culture. Interesting fact: The Rio Savegre is one of the top two cleanest rivers in Central America.

Exactly a week in on course, the group hiked Rancho Tinamú (6 km). It was a steep hike, but the view along the way was beyond incredible. Upon arrival, the group took a swim in La Olla de Bruja, or “the witch’s pot” which is a swimming hole underneath a waterfall about 1 km from the lodge.

The afternoon was spent procuring our dinner in the form of a ceremonial chicken kill. This exercise is intended to encourage students to consider where their food comes from. A former vegetarian of ten years, Courtney was less than enthused to wield the machete, but did appreciate the lesson taught (and will now reconsider her omnivore practices).

On the final day, the group hiked 18 km from San Isidro de Dota to Londres de Quepos. It was a doozie, but the group survived and handled it like champs! Promises of ice cream at the destination is always good incentive!

Total miles hiked: 30. Weight of packs: 30-40 lbs. Confidence boosts: Immeasurable.

At this point, Courtney returned to base to go back to the “real world” and her job in the marketing office, but the rest of the group went on to do a service project at Manuel Antonio, surf, and have one more go at rafting, this time on the Rio Pacuare.

Despite some challenges, scrapes, and some tests of will, Courtney had a blast. She reflected on her time stating that, “Coming in to this experience I thought I knew exactly what to expect. I had heard a lot about the courses from instructors and students, I knew about the activities, and felt prepared. In the end, however, I felt like I learned as the students did and left with a sense of awe and accomplishment for having embarked (and completed) such a unique expedition.”

The group takes a moment to give a thumbs up

Frequent breaks are always important

Donna always with a smile!

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