The world slowly grew lighter and the camp began to awaken. Nobody wanted to move out of their warm, dry sleeping bags to put on their wet clothes for the days hike. We all curled up in our bags as long as we could. One-by-one each found the will to leave their bags. Upon exiting, individuals noticed their muscles hurting from the previous hike. This is typical for the first day or two of backpacking, but not everyone in the group had done this sort of thing before and therefore had not expected to be quite so sore.
As we packed up camp, members of the group would disappear one at a time to use the bathroom. We had a trowel to dig holes with, but the rocky ground made finding a suitable spot for a hole quite a challenge. Shortly into the bathroom queue, one of the group members broke the handle off the trowel. All future digging was done with the scoop part of the trowel or with sticks. We soon found out, however, that digging would not be required much longer as we would be staying in a rural house that evening.
We soon hit the trail to begin another day of discoveries. Our first discovery was a horse-spider that greatly resembled a tarantula. It was large, hairy, and moved rather quickly. We were told we could get close but to keep our limbs away from it as a bite would leave us aching for days.
As we continued down the path, everyone was amazed by the variety of views and landscapes in the jungle. One moment we would be standing on a grassy clearing overlooking vast countryside and the next moment we would be trudging through a deep, muddy corridor unable to even see the sky through the dense vegetation.
It rained on and off while we walked. This rain made the path exceedingly muddy in parts. I often found myself nearly knee-deep in mud even though I was avoiding the “deep” parts. The path was very slippery from the mud as well. Many people fell back onto their packs. When this would happen, everyone would yell, “Tortuga!” which means turtle. We yelled this because it looked like a turtle that had flipped over onto their shell . The group enjoyed this and made a running joke out of it for the rest of the trip.
I hiked in the back of the group and spoke Spanish with Santiago, one of our leaders. Both him and I preferred a much faster hiking pace than what the group was doing, so we hung back and joked around in Spanish until the group was about a hundred yards ahead of us. At that time, we would hike again and quickly catch up to the group before taking another stop to talk. This was a great experience for me as I was able to practice my Spanish (which I always enjoyed, but was never fluent in), and it allowed Santiago and I to hike at the pace we preferred.
Eventually we made it to the house. It was a pleasant site. Chickens, dogs, horses, and other animals roamed the yard freely. The house was wooden and sat on silts of about 18 inches tall. The roof was tin and the boards that made the floor and walls had spaces in between them. Insects could freely come in-and-out as they pleased. The porch was part concrete with a sink and walled in shower and bathroom. The rest of the porch was dirt and had a long bench where we placed out dirty packs.
A family came out to greet us. There were more people than we had expected because Santiago’s wife and kids had come on horseback to surprise him (his family misses him and wants to see him whenever they can). We were greeted with juice (made form water, brown sugar, and lime) and introduced to the family. They were very friendly.
We were instructed to clean our gear and shower before we walked into the house. This process took hours and I was near the end of it. I showered in the dark with the cold water from the stream-fed pipes. It felt frigid but I didn’t care, I was clean and in Costa Rica.
While waiting for my shower, I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. The sun fell between two mountain peaks and stained the sky with fiery oranges that faded into the deepest of purples. The sunset was cast over the mountain peaks and the clouds that lay in the valleys below. It was sublime. I fumbled for my camera, but a dead battery made me miss the opportunity for a once in a lifetime photo, so instead I sat back and enjoyed the simple beauty we so often take for granted.
Following the last of the showers, we ate dinner as a large group and prepared our beds for the evening. I opted to string up my hammock and sleep in that for the night. After journaling about the day’s events, I fell asleep to the lullaby of the animals in the yard and the insects singing from the jungle. Another day had been well spent in the rain forests of Costa Rica.