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Bruce & Tom Woollard - Costa Rica Trek
Costa Rica Rainforest trek Feb 2013.
On 18th April 2012 my wife Louise suffered a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage. It was torrid time, fraught with anxiety and worry, but we were the lucky ones and she walked out of Wessex Neurological Unit 12 days later having undergone endovascular repair in very good shape indeed and has gone from strength to strength ever since.
During my daily visits to Southampton General Hospital I noticed the little Smile4Wessex Office and one day popped my head around the door and introduced myself to Neil and Caroline. In May I had been due to travel to Peru. I was to be Expedition Medic for a group who would trek the Inca trail. Once Louise had recovered and was back working as a Paediatric Physio we met up with Neil again to discuss how we could arrange some fundraising for Smile4Wessex ourselves. We hatched a plan for Tom, my 18-year-old son, and I to trek through Costa Rica from the Pacific coast to the Caribbean. The trip was again arranged with Discover Adventure and I went as the Doc.
Well, what an amazing place Costa Rica is. I have to admit I knew little about this Central American country previously. It has a huge variety of landscapes, climates and environments and is home to 5% of the world's animal and plant species, more than any other country. As a result it is starting to become a haven for the Ecotourist but luckily visitor numbers are still remarkably small and it remains unspoilt.
We started our trek on the beach near Quepos where the locals like to go swimming at weekends, but there was no rest and relaxation in store for us just yet. The first few days took us across the coastal lowlands climbing gradually and entering the Rainforest on the third day. I was struck by the heat and humidity and combined with the steep rolling hills the going was pretty tough. However the rainforest was magnificent and being higher it was both cooler and less humid. We were ably supported by three local crew who helped prepare our camps, looked after the luggage and also cooked some delicious meals (though scrambled eggs, rice and peas lost its lustre slightly after a week).
We trekked through primary jungle, untouched by civilisation with only a few mules to carry our gear. We discovered waterfalls and giant palms and ferns and beautiful butterflies and hummingbirds. At night the howler monkeys high up in the canopy would cry out, the noise described like an Alsatian barking with a sore throat. One day we climbed to the top of Irazu, their highest volcano and from 3432m up you could see both coasts. The highlight of the trip was however still to come. The last few days were spent trekking to a beautiful river camp called El niro del tigre, the tiger's nest, deep in the forest from where we white-water rafted the next day for 30 km down the Pacuare river towards the Caribbean sea. After 10 days trekking we walked into Cahuita, a small seaside town with Mexican, Spanish and African influence where we collapsed into a swimming pool and celebrated with the local brew.
My medical skills didn’t go without use, but we all got back in one piece (eventually). The rainforest is a beautiful and seductive place but not where you want to either become ill or have an accident and some of the terrain was pretty hairy. However I would go back in a heartbeat and it is a very special country. 'Pura vida' is the country’s motto which means 'full of life' and it certainly lives up to that.