Thursday, December 23, 2010

The final goodbyes

Left Fieldbase Sunday for Cahuita on the Caribbean coast - a nice drive down with a bunch of people that I've spent the last 3 months with. We arrived to slightly grim weather - I was not sold. We dumped our bags, got changed and headed for the beach regardless. It was absolutely covered in debris - massive amounts of driftwood making it hard to even get into the water, but once you got passed that it was amazing - brilliant waves and one of my favourite swims ever.

A handful of people left on Saturday afternoon - sad, as it was two of my best friends here (though really, as everyone has left I've realised that so many are...)

Since then it's been a lot of relaxing, mixed in with Saturday night where we all had a few and had the most amazing night making our way about Cahuita central (after some impromptu spa pool action). My night culminated in learning to dance from a very, very stoned Caribbean man, lying in a muddy puddle in the road to watch the lunar eclipse while having deep and meaningfuls and finally a quick (...impromptu) dip in the pool before getting to bed around 2:30ish.

Up at 6 - off to the national park. It was lovely, but after everything I've seen (and being _quite_ tired) it was pretty boring so I made by way back and lazed about the rest of the morning by the pool. A bunch few more people left that afternoon, more sad goodbyes, more doubts about people getting home for Christmas.

We planned a quiet night, but we picked the world's worst restaurant - suffice to say I just about fell asleep waiting for my (bad) food (after having to change my order because they didn't have bugger all food) and once we did eat and head off I had totally lost interest pretty much anything, so headed off for an early (ish.. 11pm, we arrived for dinner at about 7:30pm, so slow...) night with a couple of other deserters. It turns out everyone else headed back not terribly soon after.

This morning was really hard, with 10 people heading off to Panama for Christmas. A lot of people there I'm really going to miss.

So now I'm sitting, just waiting for my bus back to San Jose. I will be heading up with 5 other people, then continuing all the way up to the airport town by myself for the night, then off first thing tomorrow.

It's been amazing, done and seen so much, met so many amazing people, going to miss it so much. Bring on Christmas, family and friends.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

This morning in Turrialba

Leaf cutter ants, seconds away from my desk. They are everywhere, but I finally was near a tripod.

Monday, December 13, 2010

This is the end (just about)

This will most likely be my last big expedition/roadtrip blog post - from here on I'm going to be glued to my desk with much to do then I'm off to the Caribbean to laze on the beach for three days. I'm sure I will have more to say between now and then, but for now, thanks for reading and I hope it was entertaining for you!


We arrived at Rincon Lodge on Wednesday evening - a rather nice spot, especially if you've just been trekking for weeks. We met up with Zulu 3 at about 5:30, said our hellos, set up camp, did dinner and got to bed for a sleep in (5am wake up! luxury!).

Rincon is an active volcano in the North West (Guanacaste) region of Costa Rica, topping out at roughly 1800m above sea level. For reference, Rincon Lodge is at about 600m, so we had 1200m to climb.

We started on our way just after 6, reaching the ranger's station just before 7am. After a bit of faffing (40 minutes worth...) we were once again on our way, this time through a pleasant jungle walk, climbing about 800m before reaching the ridge line to the summit.

The weather up top was... windy. I was glad to have my poncho to break the icy wind because without it I suspect I would not have been able to continue. The views from the top were initially disappointing... in that there weren't any.

But then the wind would blow some more...

We carried on climbing...


The volcano was quite impressive...

More climbing... The terrain become less and less vegetated as the wind become stronger and stronger...

Dramatic recreation:

We had to pass a narrow ridge - normally no problem, but with the wind blowing at a constant gale, with gusts enough to knock you off your feet...

Climbing around the crater toward the summit...

The alien landscape

Once we climbed some more we reached a flat area. At that point we split roughly in half - a brave few decided to climb the last 200m (vertical, 700m horizontal). I didn't take any photos on the way up because of the driving moisture in the air, but it was spectacular - unlike anything I can describe or could ever hope to see again. At one point I found myself about 20m up from everyone else and I sat, crouching behind a rock, looking back down the hill watching the other 9 clinging to the rocks in the driving wind and cloud. Just epic.

But we finally reached the top! My camera braved the elements for a couple of victory photos

The summit:

After topping out we made our way back down to a sheltered side of the mountain for our lunch rations which were, as always, eaten gladly.

Further down we were greeted by some even better views of the mountain and surrounds

Back in the safety of the forest we warmed up slowly - I didn't realise how numb my hands and arms were until I tried to fiddle with my camera and was completely powerless to do anything.

The forest:

We were back at camp by 4pm, a good effort considering what we had achieved, and the fact that I was actually horribly ill.

Interesting tree at the camp site:

It was a hard, long day, and I really didn't feel up to it, but I'm beyond glad that I did. I know I said Cassita was one of the best moments of my life, but this topped it, easily.

That night was incredibly windy at the camp site - the tent would just about fold flat every time there was a big gust (every 30 seconds or so) and the wind was slowly folding the corners of the tent in on itself, meaning that it got smaller and smaller throughout the night and I had a face-ful of tent every time the wind blew at all (every 1.5 seconds). Not a great nights sleep, especially after the porch tent pole snapped and half the tent (the non sleeping half, fortunately) collapsed.

The next morning the hardy trekkers left at 4:45am. We swanned about for a few hours - packed up our battered and broken tents and loaded up the car.

We then headed to Playa Junquillal on the coast where Zulu 3 will finish their trek - it's a beautiful beach.

We made our own breakfast - scrambled eggs on the trangier.

It's a hard job, but somebody has to do it.

We headed South after that that, to Camaronal. We stopped at the place where I'd previously seen all the parrots and toucans (which you would remember if you've been paying attention!)

Behold: The Amazing, Jumping toucan (Greatest creature in existence)

We arrived at Camaronal later on that afternoon and settled in for the night.

The next morning was Saturday - their day off from working on the path and miradors up on the hill at the end of the beach.

They decided to head to the next beach north - Playa Carillo (Ca-ree-yo) for a day of R&R.

It was a 7km walk. Keeping in mind that I was ill and rather tired, this seemed an unnecessary thing to do, but I went along anyway.

Large, but shallow river to cross.

Wet boots.

Playa Carillo - marvelous.

(Soon to be) Dry boots

We (The PMs and fieldbase) headed back via a cafe for some snacks - a (very disappointing) Pinya con leche ("pineapple and milk") and some semi sweet potato fries (which were lovely). Got back at about 4 - decided to take my boots off and take the river like a man. Only hurt a little.

The sunset was lovely that night, but the sand-flies were not (The fires are burning driftwood)

A great nights sleep followed.

Onto this morning - we decided to head out around 5:30 to see the miradors and to be up the top for some nice views and light (and miss the heat).

I was completely knackered - no energy in my legs at all and it was by far the longest beach in the world (ignoring the amount of dodging waves that was needed) - no doubt in my mind.

It was pretty though...

The view from the top:

By now it was pretty hot - the slog back took a thousand years and aged me greatly, but I got there in the end, where I waited ages for a delicious rice pudding for breakfast and then we were on our way!

The drive back was uneventful, though I did have a delicious ice cream and coke for lunch.

It was a bit sad thinking how I would never see these places again, drive on these roads - my last real road trip. But at the same time really exciting that I will be home soon, and just thinking about all I have seen, done and achieved was quite gratifying. It really has been amazing.

Looking forward to seeing everyone, but for now - to Cahuita!