June 12: Hiking in Rincon de la Vieja

From Dylan ‘16

Having breakfast at 7:00 a.m. the day after you arrive in a foreign country is not the easiest task, especially when you know you’re getting up to go hiking for four hours immediately afterwards.  Once we were fed and ready to go, we headed out on the first journey of our second day.  It began with a quick 10-15 minute bus ride to the entrance to the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, one of the few pristine tracks of tropical dry forest left in the world. Thanks to our guide Mario, we learned many things about the weather fluctuations in Costa Rica due to current El Niño year and how the dry season has ended later than usual, thus throwing the biome out of its usual balance.   The little rain has meant that many trees are still dormant and are blooming later than usual.  Its rivers, too, were rather low.

Hiking in a World Heritage Site is quite the experience. This designation gives it the highest level of ecological protection. We were offered the opportunity to experience some rare creatures found nowhere else in the world.  In addition to rare fauna and flora, throw in the mix gaseous vents, hot springs, and “mud pots” (mud volcanoes) that are found throughout this 35,000-acre park. In fact, a geothermal energy station has recently been completed outside the park to make use of this renewable energy, which helps supply 30 percent of Costa Rica’s electricity.  The hike offered so many new and exciting pieces of information and physical challenges to everyone. One of those being: to always stay aware of your footing or else you will fall. Two people had some troubles remembering that fact and fell but thankfully no one was hurt. As we continued, we were able to come into contact with several different types of birds as well as countless insects. We were hoping to see some monkeys and other large animals but they proved elusive.  One of the key stops on the hike was at a seasonal waterfall. A seasonal waterfall is only active during the wet season, which Costa Rica is currently in, but because of the late start to the season we were unsure if the waterfall would be active. Luckily we did get to see activity, even if the water was only trickling down.

We ended our adventures for the day with an exciting horseback ride to a waterfall. Some of us, having never ridden on a horse before, struggled to make it through the 45-minute ride. Once the horse ride was over, the trip was not complete, we still needed to endure a small hike to get there. Upon arrival we were immediately awestruck by the beauty of the waterfall and could not get in the water fast enough. Maneuvering barefoot on wet slippery rocks can be a challenge, but after a long day of walking and riding you find the strength to continue on and get into the refreshing water. Everyone got their turn to jump off the ledge of rocks into the water and Pacho took many artistic pictures of us jumping in. When all was done and we had ridden back everyone was glad to finally rest and relax. We can not wait to see what tomorrow holds for us!

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