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Charity and Concrete in Costa Rica

Arriving in Costa Rica was a dream come true for me, I’d always dreamt of visiting Central America and recent visits to Cambodia where adventure became a daily event were just a preview of the things to come.  I decided to volunteer to help developing communities in Costa Rica with an organisation called Youth Challenge International.  Our volunteer group arrived in Jabillo in May, about an hour north of the Panama border in mountainous farming territory.  Rolling hills in every possible shade of bright green with palm trees dotting the lush landscape made it a scene straight out of Jurassic Park.   I arrived with a group of Canadians and Australians, eager and ready to begin on the completion of a Community Centre, cementing the floor would be the primary objective.

Walking backwards and forwards in gumboots from our little wooden house became routine, playing with the puppies from the Indian family underneath us, and coming home covered in cement was suddenly normal.  On the weekend we trekked through thick rainforest on our new found friends properties, ate rich Costa Rican delicacies, which were mainly variations of beans and rice and went on adventures like visiting Central American Indian reservations, trips to border towns, treks through the National Park   After 4 weeks we finished the centre and with a group of new found best friends, we moved an hour into the mountains to be with their relatives for 5 weeks on the edge of the largest National Park in Costa Rica, Parque Nacional La Amistad, the Friendship Park.  As it covers a huge area stretching into Panama, the park is the friendly highway between the two counties, filled with exotic animals, jaguars, mountain lions, sloth’s, white faced capuchin monkeys and toucans.  We were lucky enough to see toucans and monkeys but none of the other wonderful creatures.

Here we set about creating a trail through the rainforest, and a creative mosaic bus shelter.  Working alongside a renowned artists called Pancho, we created a giant cement oyster shell, complete with the Tree of life and pearl, which we set about covering with tiny mosaic tiles, butterflies and flowers to welcome people to the National Park.  A huge project which would stretch over 3 years, it was a thrill to be involved at the onset and begin a wonderful ecotourism project.

Finishing at Altamira, in the national park was heart breaking, but if you ever get to visit it is truly for adventurers.  A little difficult to get to from the Capital San Jose, the trek there involves buses and trucks, and they are slow and unreliable.  The accommodation consists of the bare essentials, a thick foam mattress on a bunk bed.  But it is well worth the effort.  The remoteness is peaceful in itself, but then you can embark on the trek of a lifetime, called Silencio.  This trek is positively stunning, through fields and thick jungle until there is nothing to hear at all. Even the streams are eerily silent.

Costa Rica is an adventure playground, but if you take a trip off the beaten track make sure you visit the communities of Jabillo and Altamira and see the real Costa Rica.

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