During the month of May, 7 students, including myself, departed for Costa Rica to participate in the Heart of Gold Project. Taking place in the beautiful country side of the Los Santos region, we hiked a 50km eco trail over 10 days from the fertile mountains down to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way we stopped in a number of different villages for wonderfully authentic homestays where we partook in local activities and traditions, visited coffee and fruit farms, and immersed ourselves in Costa Rican culture. Outlined below is a highlight of my experience, accompanied with a village feature to further enhance the experience that was the Los Santos Eco Tour.
I have travelled to Costa Rica before so I was familiar with the country and what to expect upon departing for my field school. I expected sweaty sunny days, humid monsoon-like rains, Imperial beer, and friendly smiling locals living the pura vida lifestyle; but by the end of the 10 day eco tour, my outlook on what I thought I knew to be Costa Rica was forever changed, in the best way possible.
Yes, there were sweaty sunny days, monsoon rains, many Imperials and friendly locals, but there was also so much more than that. Without an understatement, these families opened up their hearts and homes (literally) and invited the 7 students participating on the trip into their lives as if we were family. Speaking no Spanish, other than your basic hola and gracias, it was truly incredible how we were still all able to connect, communicate and have a mutual understanding. The individuals involved with the set up and delivery of the tour are what make it memorable and is the driving force behind what makes you want to go back again and again. The overall feeling of the tour is that of deep pride, care and love. Every moment of the tour, from the home cooked food to the activities planned were always authentic.
The people of Costa Rica were the obvious highlight for me, but another honorable mention would have to be the scenery and natural beauty of the landscape. We hiked through lush, wet ‘jungle’ and more sparse dry forest. There were always different wild flowers and odd looking mushrooms to be found and we even saw a plant that was said to be from prehistoric time. The sounds in the forests were incredibly beautiful. Our guides were very knowledgeable about the local wildlife and, to say the very least, knew a lot about birds.
I truly believe that I never really appreciate an experience until I am removed from the situation and have time to reflect; such was the case with this trip. I felt honored and humbled at how the families were proud to not only share with us what they had made their life doing, but completely immerse ourselves in the farm culture. With all that in mind, I’m going to highlight one of these farming villages that we were fortunate enough to stay in along our eco tour trek: Copey.
Located about an 1.5 hours from the capital city of San Jose, and our 3rd stop in our journey, Copey instantly became one of my favourite villages we visited.
Local Talent Show
As soon as we arrived in Copey we went ‘into town’ and much to our delighted surprise walked right into a community wide local talent show with singers and bands of all ages! After finishing the show, we headed back to our homestay and spent the evening singing and dancing to the infamous DJ Manny Loco and his mix of Latin music infused with the mega hits from 2009. Copey was home to the most beautiful and the most, how do I put this in a nice way… utterly disgusting beetles and bugs I witnessed the entire trip. Lets start with the most beautiful.. fireflies! At night we would set up our blankets right outside our cabina and watch both fireflies dance above us and lightening roar over the distance mountains. It was one of those surreal moments where you almost need to pinch yourself. On the exact opposite side of that coin were these big flying beetles that seemed to zone in on your hair, face and clothing and literally chase you. Around dinner time everynight in Copey hundreds (I swear!) rhinoceros sized beetles seemed to all plan an attack to fly into our eating quarters and aim straight for hair (where they would get stuck). I may be over exaggerating a little, but these were moments I definitely won’t forget! The real star highlights of Copey were the different fruit and coffee farms we were able to visit.
One farm we were so, so fortunate to visit was the Chinchilla family farm. Greeted with delicious juice and treats we were first given a tour of their farm and then gathered to hear the history of both the Chinchilla family and of the village of Copey.
The other farm we were fortunate enough to was a beautiful fruit farm. Hosting two types of apples, one for eating and one better fit for apple sauce or juice, there were also a wide variety of other fruits produced on their farm including: granadilla (passion fruit), and plums. Working closely with the local government and university, the farm was in their first year of testing a new innovative process to create natural fertilizer.
Beginning with 1 Kilo of cooked rice, they were able to extract and cultivate micro-organisms and place them all around the farm to act as a natural fertilizer and compost. Micro-organisms have the potential to replace the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. What was amazing about this process was the fact that they only needed to extract these micro-organisms one time, yet were able to duplicate this process, and ensure a life-time amount of sustainable fertilizer for the entire farm. The farm currently uses a 90 % natural and 10% chemical fertilizing process and is hoping to move toward totalmente orgánico.
watching the process
participating in the process
I always find I can never truly appreciate an experience (especially travel) while I’m actually living it; it’s always weeks or months later when you take the time to look at pictures or recall memories from that trip where you get to reflect and see the real beauty behind the moments; such was the case with my journey on the Los Santos Eco Tour. The intimate connections made with the families involved with the tour are what make this tour memorable, unforgettable and different than any experience I’ve ever had before. To say the least, this was a beautiful journey both in scenery and spirit and for anyone wanting to partake on an authentic experience and be a part of something bigger than yourself; this is the tour for you.