Students are on their way home after an amazing program!
Coming to an End
Since we last blogged we have done so many amazing things which include:
– finishing our fences at Gavilan school and Buenos Aires school
– to the top of the volcano Rincon de la Vieja so we could see into the crater (a highlight for many even though it was difficult)
– visiting family homes and having a cookout with the local Costa Ricans
– playing a huge group soccer game with both communities and giving them our donations
– taking part in horse riding, tubing (*tubbing for those who know), and then a crazy series of zip-lines which were insane!
– For our final dinner we got to put on our nicer clothes and go out for pizza which makes a change from rice and beans
We have chosen a series of pictures to show these experiences, hope you enjoy!
After an amazing week at Horizontes, we all packed up and made our way over to our second home base, Las Bromelias. On Thursday afternoon all 20 students, 3 mentors and all our luggage was loaded into the bus for a three hour drive to the other side of the volcano. Once in Las Bromelias we got to go on a night hike where we saw four different frogs, snakes, and countless other bugs and animals.
After waking up not so bright and early the next morning we headed off to our first day of service at the schools here. Everyone split into two groups, one going to Buenos Aires and the other to Gavilan. We worked all morning painting fence posts, maya (the fence material), and digging holes to for the new fence. The communities working with us at both schools have been amazing, the kids are happy to play soccer and Frisbee with us and the adults are ready to welcome us and help everyone learn about a bit of culture. Finally after finishing up painting all the new fence posts, Heather and Kassie took us all on a hike through the rainforest to go swim in the hot springs. We climbed up a small waterfall, swam and did a meditation with Heather. We’ve worked at the schools for two days now but today we’re taking a break so that we can hike up the volcano and hopefully see some bigger animals.
Here in Horizontes, we are incredibly lucky to be exposed to some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet on a daily basis. From frogs in the toilet, to a tree full of monkeys, we have accumulated an impressive sightings roster of Costa Rica’s inhabitants. To get a taste of the dry rainforest and beautiful beach we have been fortunate enough to call home for the past week, take a look at some of the creatures we have been sharing it with.
• Acacia trees- The tree itself is generally three meters tall and is covered in large copper thorns. We have ran into them countless times this week and found out the hard way that they have a symbiotic relationship with colonies of red ants. In exchange for providing the ants with a safe place to live within the thorns, the tree is provided with a protective service by the ants. They clear out a space surrounding the base of the tree to keep other plants and animals away, and swarm out to attack any prospective threat- in our case a group of kids with machetes. (No one received more than one bite.)
• Leaf Cutter ants- We ran into these guys during our first night hike. They form highways 4-6 inches wide and carry tiny pieces of leaves back their nest to begin a complex digestion process. There are 3-4 million in a nest; all ran by a single queen. Their queen is the size of a cucumber and can live anywhere from seven to ten years!
• Howler monkey- The second loudest land mammal in the world after the lion, the howler monkey has been a favorite companion on our trip. Sightings have included a family of three hanging above our tents at Playa Eguanitas and an entire tree full in the mangroves. These monkeys are distinguished by their black faces and bodies and-of course- their earsplitting howl.
• Bioluminescent plankton- During our beach day, many of us experienced an occasional stinging sensation when we were in the water. Although not very harmful, it was prevalent enough for us to question who the invisible culprit was. Its identity wasn’t revealed until later that night when, under the cover of darkness, these tiny creatures glowed. Additional wildlife spotted in the past week during our myriad of adventures includes:
• The pochote tree and the massive clusters of caterpillars it houses
• Glow in the dark scorpions
• Costa Rica’s equivalent of the Untied State’s Red Wood tree- the 40 meter tall Ceiba tree
• The intricate Strangler Fig tree
• The Mouthless Crab- nicknamed ‘the Jack-o-Lantern Crab’ for its three yellow face markings
• The Ghost Crab
• Variegated squirrels- different from any squirrel in the States due to its black and white coloring
• Spot-breasted oriole: this cheerful yellow bird has often been spotted in the mornings
• The Naked Indian tree (Gumbo Limbo)- sheds its coppery “skin” to prevent any vines or plants
from growing up its trunk. Easily identifiable for its consequently flaky appearance.
• Guapionol tree- “stinking toe”
• Bare-throated tiger heron- a huge enemy for baby crocodiles
• Royal fly catcher bird
• White tailed deer
• Sea stars
• Sting rays (a whole group of them glided by a group of our snorkelers)
• Sea urchins
• Crab Hawks
• Many different types of frogs, lizards and iguanas- too difficult to distinguish their specific breeds to date
• Many of the 800 different kinds of vines found in Costa Rica alone- my personal favorite so far being the Monkey Ladder
• A multitude of butterflies- among them being the beautiful Blue Morph
More wildlife will be added to the list shortly as we set off for our new home deep in the rainforest at Las Bromelias tomorrow 🙂
Busy Days at Horizontes
*Photos to follow
It’s been a busy 5 days since we arrived at Horizontes and we have done a lot of hard work helping out the communities here in the dry forest region of Costa Rica. After orientation in the morning, we got stuck in straight away with some service work. We helped Maynor and Vanessa, packing bags of dirt to plant saplings in and helping to create the greenhouse (which was first created by previous GLA students). Let’s just say it was the start of us getting over our bug and creepers fears, but it was certainly not the end, we all looked so creeped out when we were told to check our beds and shoes for scorpions!
Day 3 brought us a new service project which involved footpath maintenance for one of the larger footpaths in the area. We split into 2 groups and worked our way to the middle of the footpath. We got to use loads of exciting tools including machetes. It took us 2 days of service to complete and was such hard work but it was great to see the immediate results our work had. Also we got to ride back on a trailer attached to a tractor. It was a pretty bumpy ride.
Other than service we got to go to the beach which was a great way for us all to get to know each other better. We played games in the sea such as prisoner, read our books and just generally chilled out before heading off to play soccer (*football!) with the locals. We split up and mixed our teams with some of the locals to play. Everyone who was fit and able got stuck right in and we soon realized most of us were no match for the Costa Ricans. It was a fantastic experience to be able to bring together and communicate with people from such diverse backgrounds in a small field in the middle of nowhere and even with a language barrier issue.
On day 4 we were meant to take a long hike with the resident biologist Freddie but we were all exhausted so we decided to adjust the schedule slightly. Instead we took a tractor ride (which was way too bumpy and slightly painful!) to an area where we could go into the river and relax for a bit. We also got to see some of the wildlife while walking to the pool so all wasn’t lost. In the evening we took a dance class which included learning a typical Costa Rican dancing style. Yet another thing that was exhausting, we all came out dripping in sweat but it was so much fun. We were also excited because we got to have a BBQ cookout and a cake for Luke’s (our mentor) birthday. It’s going great so far, we’re working hard and have made some really cool friends, all while having a really great experience.
Welcome to Costa Rica and our first home base in the tropical dry forest! All students have arrived to the Experimental Reforestation Lab in the Guanacaste Conservation Area. We’re having a great time getting to know each other and today we already started on our first service project: planting seeds in a tree nursery and completing a hydroponics greenhouse to grow food locally!
Get ready for adventure!
All students have arrived safely and are ready for an amazing program! Stay tuned for blog updates and photos!