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The Westcoast Connection Blog

Life Changing Experiences

A Handy Horseback Ride – Costa Rica Combination

handy

Hola desde Heredia, Costa Rica, in the Central Valley. We are now on day 10 of our trip, with a few days of classes, service and activities to go! In the next couple of days, we will visit the Poas Volcano, enjoy an evening of Karaoke, learn to do some Tico Cooking, and finish up our trip with a day of white water rafting.

On our last day in the Playa Flamingo area, we enjoyed surf lessons on Tamarindo Beach, where the waves were great and the sun was out. Jack impressed all of us by being a strong surfer who could handle the waves, and Krista, Divy, Ally, and Eitan picked up surfing quickly and were fully up after a few early splash downs. All the trip members were exhilarated by the experience, and it is a skill that we can always hold on to and practice in the future. Afterwards, the crew strolled through town and explored some of the beach shops.

On Saturday, we left the Playa for the “Hacienda” in Rincon de La Vieja. The Hacienda is a country-style ecolodge in the mountains of the Guanacaste Province, at the foot of a volcano. It’s a place of relaxation, to take hikes, visit mud baths and hot springs, and go horseback riding in the hills. We watched the end of the Costa Rica soccer game (Costa Rica lost in penalties!) and headed to the mud baths not far from the hotel. The mud bath experience started with 10 minutes in a sauna, followed by a walk to a “cauldron” where a hot spring was warming the mud that was to be used to cover our skin! Ethan and Sam were very thorough and made sure to cover every inch of skin, after which we all dried off in the sun and washed off in the natural spring pools. Caroline, Maddie, and all the others were excited by the softness of their skin after the bath, and we all felt a sense of relaxation.

That night we ate a huge dinner and played charades with the group. In the morning, we had a horseback riding excursion through the mountains to a beautiful waterfall. Caroline shared some of her horseback riding expertise, and the members worked as a team to get to the waterfall, which was across a mountain stream. That afternoon, we all hiked to another waterfall and all the TM’s went right into the clear pool below the waterfall. Allie, Victoria and Krista ventured a bit down the river to get a view of the waterfall, and we even got our Costa Rican guide, Christina, into the water!
Costa Rica Combination
Monday was our most exciting day yet! We ziplined 600 feet over Arenal National Park. Melissa and Eitan were fearless and excited to get started. Katie and Sophie were super nervous at first, but after the first long one, they were right in with the rest of the group. The ziplines brought us over the beautiful valleys of rainforest, with Lake Arenal in the distance, and you could see for miles. After our adrenaline was nearly through the roof, we headed to the Baldi Hot Springs Resort to relax in the natural pools of thermal waters. The water comes from up on the mountain, where it is heated as it makes its way to the surface. The higher the pools, the hotter the water, and the trip members strolled lazily from pool to pool. Temperatures ranged from 115 degrees down to 70 degrees, and the resort was gorgeous. It had amazing stones and waterfalls of heated water, as well as water slides. Caroline, Ally, Jack, and Ethan went right for the slides, while Victoria, Emily, Melissa, Lane, and Christina lounged in the warm baths after the intense day.

After our day at the Volcano Arenal, we hopped back on the bus and headed to Heredia, where we checked in at the luxurious La Condesa Hotel, and then headed to CPI to begin four days of classes. That night, we met Gail, the director of the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation, which is the organization that will host our two days of community service in Heredia. Gail told us all about her history, as well as the neighborhood, La Carpio, where we will be working. Gail came to Costa Rica in the 70’s as a Peace Corps volunteer and stayed to continue her work. She explained that La Carpio is a slum-like region of Heredia that has many Nicaraguan immigrants and refugees in serious need of help. Her foundation has a day care, a camp, a community center, a school, and a small library, and it is a hub of service for the area.

In the morning of day 10, we boarded the bus and headed into La Carpio. We were instructed on our tasks, and headed to work. Sam, Krista, Emily, Jack, Ally, and Melissa manned the library, which was quickly flooded with young children and mothers from the neighborhood. The group sat and played games and read with the children, and gave out the things they had brought (school supplies, dental supplies, toys, etc.). Ethan, Ashley, Caroline, Victoria, and Lane headed to the home of Dona Ester, an elderly lady whose home was under extreme hardship. She told them her harrowing story of leaving Nicaragua, and the trip members worked hard to fully renovate her house, which will be a long-term project. Ethan developed a bond with Dona Ester, and would not leave the house when we rotated. He wanted to stay and finish as much as he could. Ethan, Lane, and Jack tore apart the walls (to be rebuilt) and they even lugged refrigerators and washing machines out of the house. Ashley and the others painted the walls. The third group of Eitan, Maddie, Katie, Christina, Divy, and Sophie set to painting her outside walls in bright colors and in the end had painted the exteriors of 3 houses! (They were not huge but the impact was immediately noticable).

All three groups rotated throughout the day, and in the end, we were filled with awe at the way people lived in the La Carpio, and we were filled with desire to do more and to help. Fortunately, we will work with the children again tomorrow.

The service part of the trip seems to really be opening our eyes and bringing us together. We can’t wait to get back at it again, and after that, head into our last activities in the following days. Go catorce!

Regards,

The Westcoast Blogger

If a Westcoast Connection adventure sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, explore our 14-day Costa Rica student travel tour!