A Hike Through the Costa Rican Rainforest, Day Two
The day begins at 6:30 a.m. and though I have spent a considerable number of hours sleeping in this bed at a farmhouse in the village of Naranjo, I do not want to get up.
I am not Jungle Jane.
I am not Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen
Nor am I Laura Ingalls Wilder, Jane Goodall or Stacy Allison (the first American woman to climb Mount Everest).
I don’t even know who I am at this moment, at an early hour when I’d rather be sleeping in a farm on the edge of an expansive rainforest. I only know that my adventures usually take place in cities rather than the rainforest and involve train transportation instead of my feet.
My mood is low as we begin the day’s hike. Yesterday I lagged behind the rest of the group, exerting all my energy to stay within a few paces of the rear. This morning I push my self to remain toward the front of the pack and talk to the hikers around me as much as possible.
Now that I am on day two of the hike I am more receptive to the lessons of the trail, and the first lesson sinks in: walking is easier when the energy of a group can help carry you along, and the time passes much more quickly when you are talking with someone at least remotely interesting.
I also made an adaption to my hiking wardrobe based on feedback from my fellow hikers, wearing a more appropriate pair of quick-dry running shorts and a quick dry shirt instead of a cotton tank top and yoga pants. This leads to the second lesson of the trail: appropriate attire can make a hike much more enjoyable.
The terrain fills with more green and variety of plant life as we ascend.
There’s more wildlife too as we pass centipedes, colorful caterpillars and…
a heard of cattle, lost on the trail.
Today’s path is steep and full of ascensions. The hike proves to be more physically challenging and I groan as we round a series of corners only to find the path becomes even more steep and treacherous ahead.
I cannot sustain my position in the gront of the pack and I slip behind the group, hugging and puffing sa the conversation around me fades away and I focus all energy on the simple yet strenuous task of place one foot ahead of the other, slowly, steadily closing the distance between me and the top of the hill.
The last 45 minutes of the hike are sheer downhill, terrain which proves to be more difficult to conquer than uphill.
My knees creek and groan under the pressure of my body and pack. A river sits at the bottom of the hill. We cross the river, long ago having abandoned any trepidation at getting our feet wet, and reach a clearing – our camp site for the night.
I am so overjoyed to have finished the day’s hike that all the pain from the day fades away and is replaced only with sheer elation at the fact that I am done hiking for the day and mostly dry.
There are no facilities here, only clear space to set up tarps. We are lucky that the day has brought no rain and we are able to stay dry while we set up our temporary sleeping quarters. This brings me to another lesson: it is much easier to keep spirits high when there is no rain and you are dry.
After lunch I curl up on my sleeping pad under our tarp and nap, too tired to think about the spiders that are surely lurking in the dirt and rocks around us.
After a discussion about the day’s hike and a look at what’s ahead tomorrow, we cook chili as the sunsets. There is no where to sit at our primitive camp site, so we huddle around the gas stoves and eat out of Tupperware that we’ll later wash in the river.
After dinner everyone is so exhausted that we head straight to bed.
At this point I have not showered in two full days. there will not be an opportunity to shower for another day and a half. i do not smell as bad as some of the others in the group, but still I can’t stand it.
I may not know exactly who I am these days on the trek, but I do know this much; I am a woman of daily showers, fresh clothing, deodorant and perfume.
In the pitch blackness of the night I make my way to the river where I’ll brush my teeth and wash my hands before removing my contacts.
The churning water begs me to enter.
Alone in the dark I remove my dirt-stained clothes and wade in – not bothered by the cool temperature of the water or of the night air.
The feeling of bathing in fresh water is heavenly. I feel much cleaner than I know I am, and climb out, dressing before heading back up to the tarp where I crawl into my sleeping bag and fall asleep in the middle of the rainforest.
Before I drift off I am informed that it is the ungodly hour of 6:30 p.m.
Actual time spent hiking: 3 hours, 45 minutes.
*Note: This post is the second in a series of an account of my experiences during a ten-day hike with Outward Bound Costa Rica, leading through varied landscapes and small pueblos in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. During the trek we camped under tarps and stayed with local families for a culture exchange. I hiked with seven students and two instructors, however, out of respect for my fellow participants will not mention their names or stories in this series, but rather focus on my own journey of self-discovery along the trail. Read the rest of the posts in this series here.
Recommended Equipment for Hiking in Costa Rica