Holly Parkinson, 2018

I’m back from my World Challenge trip. After a quick change of plan, we ended up going to Costa Rica instead of Nicaragua, this was due to political issues in Nicaragua which made it unsafe for us to go. We had to change all our plans about 2 weeks before we left which was great… However, the trip was amazing and educational.

Holly and a host of fellow explorers assembled on a barren coast of Costa Rica

We started our journey from Heathrow with a 7-hour plane trip to Newark (which was just a stop-over) and 5 hours onto Costa Rica. Once we arrived in Costa Rica, we stayed in our first hostel (we had to book all the accommodation ourselves) and sorted everything out, including what to buy for the 3-day acclimatisation trek. So that involved a supermarket trip to stock up on supplies.

The acclimation trek was amazing! (This was a practise trek to get us ready for our main trek where we would be walking for up to 7 hours each day) We had the best time, and as hard it was, we later found out that is was nothing compared to our main 5-day trek along the Costa Rican peninsula!!

Major road crossing in Rain Forest

It was awkward at first going away for 3 weeks with people you don’t normally spend time with but after the first 3 days we were all getting on really well. On the trek we came across lots of wildlife and amazing views that I could never have imagined. After the first trek we travelled on a public bus all the way back to San Jose and stayed in our first hostel. The next morning however was an early one, I remember getting up at 6am so we could leave the hostel at 6.30, as you can imagine that went down really well with a group of teenagers!

We had to walk through the town with our backpacks and tents all the way to the bus stop, so we could get on a coach for 9 hours… The coach ride was surprisingly enjoyable except for the fact that no one would let us sit down for a good 2 hours. Once we finally did get a seat I’m pretty sure every single person in our group fell asleep.

It was around 6pm that we got to Puerto Jimenez and it was pouring down with rain! As a group we had to find our accommodation in a thunder storm with no teachers to help. Great! After our 3rd guess we finally found where we were staying. Once we arrived, we had to thank the boys that had been in charge of accommodation, they had done pretty well. The little huts we stayed in were literally on the beach front. Considering we only had one night here before camping in the jungle for 5 days we took full advantage. Later that evening everyone decided that we should go out for dinner at a local restaurant. It was all great until I got food poisoning from a dodgy hamburger. Yep, that was probably the worst night of the whole 3 weeks. As you can guess I didn’t eat another hamburger on the whole trip….. The next day was trek day. I was feeling dreadful having been ill throughout the night, but I had to carry on, I didn’t want to let the team down. Me and my friend Helaina were in charge for the day, meaning that we had to organise everyone. We woke up at 7 and packed the bags ready for our 5-day trek that would begin at 10am. Once everything was packed up, we left our lovely little beach huts and walked to meet our trek guide; Randal. Everyone was having a great time until 20 mins into our trek….we hit our first hill, it was awful, the people that thought they would complete this easily were so wrong. All the people that were so confident were now walking very slowly and not talking as much… The first day of the trek was definitely the hardest. Not only was it 100 percent humidity, but once we hit the jungle it began pouring down with rain once again.

Dense and wet forest enviroment.

It didn’t really bother us as it distracted us from the fact that we were sweating unimaginable amounts. Our first campsite was finally in sight after 7 hours of walking. It was okay, but nothing compared to the beach huts we had woken up in that morning. Tents were put up, beds were laid out, food was cooked, quick game of cards and everyone was in bed. It was a short evening. The next four days were a breeze. Not! We pretty much faced the same conditions every day. Wake up, pack away, walk, talk, sing made up songs, eat, drink, get drenched wading through rivers, get even more drenched when the monsoon rains came down, got to campsite, unpacked, cooked pasta, played cards (we did this every single night), had a day review and into bed.

However, the last few minutes on Day 5 had to be the best part… We had visions of us all running onto the beach at the end of the trek in the scorching sunshine, while in fact we had the complete opposite, as we approached the beach everyone was so tired that no one could even do a speed walk. As expected, the sun was nowhere to be seen and the rain-clouds graced us with their presence once again. We were so relieved it was the end of the trek, and although the conditions weren’t great, everyone still had a smile on their face! After all that trekking it was time to put our tents up again, cook more pasta and get some sleep. The next morning, we left for Puerto Jimenez which was where we started our trek from. Once we arrived, after a 2 hour bus drive, we unpacked and got ready for the ‘project’ part of the trip which started the next morning. We had to travel by boat the next morning to get to the nature reserve which was located on a small island.

There we met our leader called Phoebe who took us along the beach and up to the hostel. The project was amazing. We were in the middle of the rainforest in a Nature Reserve, surrounded by wildlife. We saw plenty of howler monkeys and snakes! The majority of the day we were helping to build paths and bridges in the Reserve, building planters so people could grow their own food and digging out ponds. We didn’t have to put up our tents up which was a relief, we slept outdoors under mosquito nets.

The food was all pretty basic.. pasta, rice, burritos and Nutella! We didn’t go hungry. When we left the project, we had one day of relaxation and we’d chosen to go snorkelling and whale watching. We saw hundreds of dolphins, 3 humpback whales with their babies and 2 sea turtles. Aside from everyone being seasick it was amazing to see the animals in their natural habitats.

Holly (that’s me on the right)…. All a bit red eyed as we had all just seen our parents for the first time in many weeks!

We had one day in Puerto Jiménez to do some shopping before we headed home. I was looking forward to coming home, as I’d never been away for such a long time. I had the most amazing time and met some fantastic people, although it was really challenging I learnt so much and would love to do another challenge next year after my GCSE’s. Thank you all so much for your kind donations, I could not have done it without your support, I still can’t believe I raised E3500. Now it’s time to start revising!!

Thank you again, Holly

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