|Spectacular view from the work site|
After a nine hour coach drive through the beautiful Costa Rican landscape with sandy beaches, smiley children and spider monkeys, just to name a few of the wonderful sights, we arrived at Punto Banco. Acres of beach, overhanging palm trees and not a person in sight. Many of us agreed it was one of the most beautiful places we had seen- parents get jealous! An early night was needed for the walk to La Corona where our community was based.
“A walk in the park" they said, "20 minutes more" they said, "it's not too uphill" they said. Here, the phrase "take everything with a pinch of salt" was applicable. Having acquired our new canine friend Rupert we set off for a stroll along the beach in the 3am moonlight. The sun rose beautifully along the beach as we steadily made our way across two of the world's most stunning beaches, following our horse and guide Patricio. The sun was high but as rapidly as the heat was soaring, the tide was rising, our sweat was dripping and our smiles were fading. With the tide coming in, every second counted and we realised that navigating boulders with 20kg is not as easy as you would think. With the help of our guides we were able to time the waves and reach half way with dry feet. After a three hour walk and with tummies grumbling we stopped for lunch at 9am and a foot clinic was set up while the tide ebbed away.
Bags back on, we were ready to go and for the first 10 minutes everything was fine. That was when we realised that we were not on the beach but actually on the surface of the sun. Sun-cream made little difference and sweated off but we were still determined with the reassurance of only three hours left to go. Three hours soon turned into four as blisters burst and we venturers found the going challenging. By the ninth hour we reached the base of the cliff or “that slight uphill part” the guides referred to. Scrambling up by hands and feet, Ben Nevis quickly turned into Everest but in our darkest hour the team pulled together and persevered. With our last ounce of determination and digging into the depths of both mental and physical stamina we reached the village collapsing in a huge pile. After 14 hours of trekking, 20km of beach and cliff and around ten metres of zinc oxide tape we made it. Now time to build a health centre.
The next day we turned our attention to the community project. Over the next three weeks eleven venturers and three project managers were to begin construction of a health care post to help not only the 300 indigenous people living in La Corona but also the majority of surrounding community. Ronaldo, a former HCV with Raleigh and one of the main builders, gave us a brief on the project and we all came to realise how much of a necessity the healthcare centre is. Previously there was only one health post in La Peña, over 7 hours away. This post cared for four different communities as well as immigrants from Panama. Ronaldo explained that many people took the journey to La Peña only to find there was no space available. With the head of the tribe, Khanaki, training to be a health outreach worker the healthcare centre will aim to increase the healthcare availability to all the indigenous people in the area.
As with all of alpha nine’s tasks, two days of simple log collection turned into Caber tossing/a "World’s strongest man" challenge. A 2 km uphill scramble followed by another 2 km along uncertain paths with 15kg posts on our shoulders which were to become the foundations of the building tested our endurance again, but with the help of cunning carrying techniques and awe inspiring views we trudged on knowing that this was the first of four journey’s we would have to make. Reaching camp in time for dinner comparison of bruises and blisters were once again the main topic of conversation.
We’ve now just started construction on the main site and so far everything’s going well. It’s crazy to think that in such a small space of time a group of people who’d only properly known each other for two days before departing could complete so much, survive various difficult situations and manage to get through it together. It’s definitely true to say that even on a community project Raleigh pushes you to both your physical and mental limits. But it is the sense of achievement and closeness within our groups at the end of each day that is second to none. Boulders, bruises and blisters? So worth it.
|Laying the foundations of the healthcare centre|