Student Adventures Around The World

Ben and John, Costa Rica

Ben, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, served as trip supervisor on Outdoor Adventures' Winter Break trip to Costa Rica. His blog follows. Photos from the trip were taken by John, a Hunt Scholar and past photo editor of SMU's student newspaper. John is majoring in marketing and minoring in photography.

Map of Costa Rica

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John's photos (Click an image to see a larger version and the complete set of photos.)

December 2006

The Winter Break Costa Rica trip was amazing! We had a total of 11 students on the trip, including SMU OA trip supervisors Georgia Maxey and me.

The trip started out with an early morning (which would not be our last), as the group met at the airport at 5:30 a.m. Two flights and a few failed attempts of sleep later, we landed in San Jose, Costa Rica, where we met Outward Bound staff and experienced the first of many scary car rides through the streets of Costa Rica. We spent our first sleepless night at the OB base camp on the outskirts of San Jose after preparing for our five-day hike through the rainforest and being forced to listen to a movie which could only have been titled "The Loudest Plane Rides Ever," not to be mistaken by the classic documentary "The Loudest Playwrights Ever."

Early Morning Start
We awoke before the sun the next morning to finish packing and drive five hours into the mountains and rainforest with much anticipation. That afternoon, as we hiked, we began to understand why they call it the rainforest, as it would continue to rain steadily every afternoon during our time in the rainforest. About 5 miles and a few waterfalls later, we reached our campsite, set up tarps, cooked and ate macaroni and cheese in the dark, and tried to sleep in our not-so-comfy bed of mud. Luckily, this would be our only night actually sleeping on the ground.

We spent the next three days hiking (about 4-6 miles a day) to the homes of local families, where we enjoyed their hospitality, food, floors for sleeping and toilets. We learned about their daily chores, how they grow and prepare almost all of their food, and bonded with them by playing games and trying to speak Spanish. The first family was our guide, Orlando's. The second was the Casa de Lopez, who had 18 children! Our last family was the Shaman's, where we had the pleasure of cleansing our minds, bodies, and souls in his homemade sauna and the river that ran directly next to his beautiful house.

A Game of Soccer
By this time, we had eaten rice and beans for every meal for four straight days and had tasted some of the best fresh juice, jam, tea, and salsa. The coffee was amazing too! We had also stopped by the local school to attend the graduation ceremony of one of the children and play the most fun game of soccer (without shoes) ever! Thankfully no one cut their foot as it would have been a hellish hike or donkey ride. Luckily we split teams evenly with us and the children, because we would have lost miserably had we not.

On our fifth day we hiked to the river, where we traded our backpacks for paddles, PFD's, and helmets and rafted down a gorgeous river with quite a few Class III rapids. I even got to guide through most of them, which frightened the rest of the people in my boat less and less as we paddled down.

Catching a Few Waves
After our river trip, we drove a few frightful hours towards the West coast, where we spent our last day on the beach trying to surf. Some of us were more successful than others, but we all enjoyed the sand and waves.

We returned to the States the next day with a few souvenirs and a new-found appreciation for the outdoors, each other, Costa Rica, family values, language, friendship, and all of the luxuries we take for granted in our daily lives. It truly was the trip of a lifetime.

Luckily, we all escaped without giardia (nasty intestinal parasite that can wreak havoc) and the like.