'For Adventures of a lifetime'

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Creatures of Costa Rica

During our stay in Costa Rica we were exposed to some of the cutest and stranges creatures to be found anywhere in the world.  Below are a few photos of said creatures, enjoy!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Final Blog From Costa Rica

We’re ready for home – Final Blog

Hi everyone,

It’s getting close to the 11th (the date not the hour) now folks! We’re expecting tears of joy as well as high-pitched screams as we file off the bus one by one (Ed. and that’s just from Mr Taggart ) and we hope you don’t mind our smell. We hope that you have all missed us as much as we have missed you!

Parents please note:

Our expected time of arrival in Middlesbrough is 20.50 on Saturday 11th August. Please note you may need to check with Megabus that we are actually on time. It is also worth mentioning/reminding you that the bus station in Middlesbrough is temporarily closed and the temporary stop is now in the car park next to Sainsburys and opposite Nevisport.

Everyone has prepared a list of things (demands) they would like upon their return to home/UK...Enjoy the appreciation you get while it lasts :-)...

1. Holly Laing

To the whole Laing clang; Stu, Sheila, Ben, Jess, Amy, Brian, Madge and Norman, Miss you lots and I can’t wait to see you all again. I know I won’t see all of you straight away but I will defo’s give you a ring! Please don’t be late picking me up from the megabus stop in Middlesbrough, unless you’re buying Indian or a London pizza for me to eat then I will understand,(Shalimar all the way like !) hint hint! ;) keep stocked up on co-co pops and milk and be prepared for your smelly child. Love you all lots and lots, hope you’ll enjoy my gifts for you all. I expect the slow run and then the big embrace when we meet halfway mam! Mwah. Xxxxxx

P.S Jess Marie Johnson if I come back and my room is a mess you have to empty and clean my rucksack full of foisty mud filled clothing! :-) Love you, miss you all loads chick (spec you ;) – jokes other siblings, I love you all the same!)

2. Alice Hurren

To all my family, I hope you are all doing well and I can’t wait to see you all, but it won’t be long now! It seems like ages since I’ve seen you all and I’m looking forward to tell you about everything I’ve done. For tea when I get home a Indian or a Chinese would be perfect. And if you have time one of your massive Victoria sponge cakes would be amazing (Ed. apparently double mix is required for this??? :-)). Make sure we have some McCoy’s cheese and onion crisps in and can you try and get some strawberry cheesecake Ben and Jerry’s (I’ve been craving it for weeks!).

Finally make sure you pack a pedicure set for Spain because my feet are gross! I miss you all and can’t wait to see you on Sunday! Love you loads, Alice xxxxxx

3. Beth Roberts

To the fam, I hope you have been able to cope without me, but not too well, I am looking forward to hearing about what you have been up to. I am also excited to tell you about what I’ve been doing. I am sad to be leaving Costa Rica I wish you could be here instead of me having to come home :-). I have a few requests, I have been craving unexpected things such as vegetables (shock!) so would really like to have Megs thai green curry with naan’s and rice or Meg’s chicken tika massala please, I know it will be late when I get in but I will be hungry! I would also really like it if Archie could pick me up from the station because I miss him so so so much! I miss you all too but there’s been dogs here (Ed. I had to tear her away from each one!) that remind me of him and they’re just not the same! I Can’t wait to see you! Please don’t be late! I love you all, kisses for arch! Mwah Joycey and Daddy!! Xxxxxxxxxxx

4. Ellie Bourner

Hi everyone, well it’s almost time for me to come home and see you all. I must say I am very excited to be coming back and to be able to show you all the places I have been and the things I have seen. I just have a few things to say now, as I’d rather save the rest for face to face, but anything food related simply cannot wait. Please make sure that there is plenty of Lurpak in the fridge for me and tasty bread to have toast when I get in. I would also like Special K with milk (there has been no cereal or fresh milk here!) and I also look forward to any home baking which may be on offer :-) plus, I have been having massive cravings for fruit while over here, such as crunchy apples, grapes, peaches and bananas and although I have found the Costa Rican fruit delicious, it really doesn’t compare to what I am used to back home. That’s about it really, I’m excited for English food in general! Just a few more days now and you get to have me back, (Ed. I’ve done my stint ;-) lol) I hope you haven’t missed me too much. I have lots of nice souvenirs for you and really can’t wait to sleep in my own bed. See you soon!

Lots of love Ellie xxxxxxxxx

5. Sophia Bennett

Hey Mum, Dad, Tommy and Holly! Can’t believe there’s only two days left, it’s gone really quick! Hope you don’t mind giving up your three weeks of luxury without me messing the house up mum, I seriously appreciate everything you do so much more now that I’ve had to cook, clean and organise (Ed. yeah she did well on the day she did it ;-).... Joking lol) everything on my own without you being here. It’s been the most amazing experience of my life I wish you could have seen everything I’ve seen, it has been worth every penny! But I can’t wait to be home to the modern world with my phone and more importantly milk. THEY DON’T SELL IT HERE. Please have the fridge full when I’m home, I’m having withdrawal! I am so excited to see you all on Saturday night, with a Chinese take away (Hint) and to have a good night’s sleep in my own bed. I love you all so much, and I’ll see you soon! Love Sophia xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

6. Leah Samuels

Hello mam, dad, Jordan, Beth and Luke! It’s almost the time where I get to see you now :-) I’ve got to say I have had the best experience of my life here. But I’m ready to come home to see you and tell you everything I’ve been up to and the fears I have conquered! I’ve missed having all of my luxury items so so much, I need my big fluffy comfortable bed! Oh, and I have a few requests for you to have in the house for when I get home. They are to have some Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream and Chicago town pizzas in the freezer, and some mini marshmallows for a well needed whittards white hot chocolate! And for my drink I would like a chocolate fudge brownie frij milkshake (you know the one I like) I really can’t wait to see you’s at the bus stop! I’m so excited to see you. I love you all so much! See you soon. Leah :-) xx

7. Alex Grange

Hi guys I was wondering if we could go to the Hamilton Russell and maybe talk about the expedition over a pub meal (Ed. I doubt it will be open for food after 2100hrs Alex)? If we do don’t forget to invite over Gran & Granddad for the meal as well so I’m not telling my tales twice. Also I’m sorry but there’s not much of the money you wired left thanks to souvenirs and a good hammock for the garden, so maybe a bit of DIY for dad there? Also I’ve took plenty of pictures and kept my journal up to date so plenty of stuff there. But also some stuff was wrecked by the jungle and is impractical to bring back so I binned it which also makes room for the souvenirs. I’ll be thinking of home and try not to hate me too much for losing my original money; at least I’m coming back in one piece and I am extremely grateful for the wired money.

8. Jenny Gibson

Hi Everyone!!

Well I have had an incredible time and I totally can’t wait to tell you all of the stories I have. I would really love to go to TGI’s to tell the tales and eat a proper veggie meal, however when I get home top of the list has to be regular none UHT or powdered milk and real digestive biscuits, maybe Yorkshire puddings? Have some pretty cool gifts for you all too providing I can get them through US customs... Hahaha :-) (Ed. if she’s not on the bus at Middlesbrough you know where she’ll be lol) I did take my trek clothes to the laundrette to save you a bit of hassle but you can still really smell the jungle and ermm hard work in them, trust me they are a vast improvement but I will still say sorry now in advance. Can’t wait to get back to our lovely home and back into the pool too. Also a warm shower will be a great novelty to have back, not a stinky bath because it will just be too gross :-)I miss you all tonnes and love you loads and will see you soon!! :D

LOVE YOU ALL!! xoxoxoxoxoxoxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

9. Emily Allen

To all the Allen’s, I hope you’ve been reading this blog so that you know how much of an amazing time I’ve had! I know it was so much work, time, effort and money to get me here but trust me when I say it’s been so worth it. I have so much to tell you guys about and my camera actually managed to survive the jungle so I have a ton of photos to show you too. I hope you are all well and have had a good start to the summer holidays; I look forward to hearing about everything you’ve been up to. Just a heads up, my clothes and I don’t exactly smell too great so just be wary when meeting me for the first time in Middlesbrough and I promise to help wash the smell out of everything when I get home. On another note everyone seems to be requesting foods in their messages home but I’m not really too fussed on what I get because I literally feel like I have been starved for the majority of the 3 weeks (Ed. even after her 3 helpings to EVERY meal! kidding!), however some sausages might be nice? But if you had another food planned I’m happy with that too . (Ed. I think she’s a hungry girl) I’ve really missed you guys and just being in our mad house but even more than wanting to be home I’ve wanted you all to be here with me so that you could experience the same things as me because you would have all loved different aspects of the expedition. Anyway I will see you all soon, Love you all, say Hi to Nanna and Eric for me too xxxxxxxxxxxxx

P.s Expect a bit of sun burn...

10. Ella Bloomfield

Hello to all the family!

I’ll keep this short and sweet because I know you’ll be dying to hear everything when I get home! I’ve had such a wonderful experience in Costa Rica and sad to be leaving such an amazing and beautiful country! But I can’t wait to see you all on Saturday, I’ve missed everyone so much (mostly millsie though)! Obviously, I’ve missed the luxuries Billingham has to offer so PPPPPLLLLLLLEEEEEAAASSSSEEEEEEEEEEE could you hold out a bit on tea and wait to have a nice family Chinese with me? Hint..

Ooooh and mum, could you buy me some nice smellies for the bath because I stink and I’m missing my tub. In return, I’ll give you my foisty, damp rainforest trek clothes to wash, you lucky things!

Counting down the hours until I see you in sunny Middlesbrough! LOADS OF LOVE ELLA xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (lysyldy)

11. Steffi Stough

To everyone at home, I know you have all been reading this because you have been missing me so much I bet you can’t wait to have me home. I can’t wait to show you all my pictures and tell you about everything, by the end you will probably be sick of listening to me or something! Please make me something amazing for tea, but no rice or beans please. I also better have a fridge full of vanilla milk because I’ve been wanting some the whole holiday!

I’ve left some nice foisty clothes for you to wash mam, so prepare yourself!

I’d say you better be early but I know you will be cause dad will be picking me up too

See you very soon, love you all!

(Ed. she’s coming home a different girl ...The girl done good!)

From Steffi xxxxxxxxxx

12. Danny Marshall

Hi to everyone at home! Just wanted to say that we’ve had an amazing time and can’t wait to get home to tell you all about it. Please make sure that there is something great waiting for me to get home (Chinese takeaway) and a freezer full of nice ice cream! Looking forward to seeing you all soon.


13. Shaun Laing

Hello home. It’s been a great trip but there’s nothing left to do and I’m ready to be at home in a nice warm bed! There’s not much food wise I want but some fish fingers for a simple tea and the biggest stottie from food for thought and plenty of sausages and bacon. I’m saving the stories till Sunday to tell everyone to save my breath. Make sure there’s an air freshener in the car (it will be needed).


14. Jack Beckwith

Hello to everyone at home. Hope you’ve been having as good a time in Wales as I have here (doubt it). I can now say the word, so Katie won’t be happy! Lots of amazing stories to tell, make sure King Col comes to Boro with you’s (don’t bring Ollie, don’t want him (or me) making a scene!) I would like a roast dinner on Sunday, but if you could have some chocolate cake in the house ready, that would be fab. I’m also bringing back some bean feast for you to try, just try to hold back the enthusiasm for it!

See you all soon, Jack

15. Miss B

It’s been an amazing adventure, there are some not-so-amazing smells and it will be amazing to be back home. Hope there’s a G&T at BC and maybe some home baking at YSH! Sending you lots of love and see you soon xx

16. Mr T

Not a bad trip at all. Have Newcastle signed anyone yet? Can the landlord of The Red Lion pub, Norton please re-open my tab. Egg Ell – pick the towels off the bathroom floor, empty the bin and stop taping BBQ University. Muth & Fatha – remember to get Coco... See you all soon.

17. Cliff Lowther

My usual please! :-) Indian, Granddaughter, Dog, Ben & Jerry’s Caramel chew chew and please have a starbucks Vanilla Frappachino ready to go ....Thank you and see you soon x

Thats it folks...see you in a few hours.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Sailing and jungle night walks

8th August

The first day of R&R started off well, we woke up to Ellie, Ella, Sophia, Leah and Jenny cooking pancakes and there was enough for us all to have three each. I usually can only manage two at most but I got a bit carried away and had three. It probably wasn’t the best idea considering that today’s R&R activity was a boat trip.

After breakfast we got on our bus to take us to Quepos, it was a short journey and we were soon walking to the port. While walking someone spotted a sloth hanging from a telephone wire over the road, it was just sleeping while hanging from the wire (Ed. as you can see from the photo it looks like a child’s soft toy...we were reassured when we saw its lips moving...a very strange sight which caught us off guard at that time of the morning)

We got to the port on time and had a while to sit and enjoy the sun (Ed. there was a reason why some had time to sit and enjoy the sun as the person who was responsible for the cash ($700.00) had left it on her bed back at the three of us took a taxi back and collected the funds) until we could set off. Most people were actually sat in the toilet because it was air conditioned and it was too hot outside. We set off at half eight and it didn’t take long until we were out in the pacific looking at the stunning coast line. It was great on the boat there was free drinks, we had music playing and the sun was shining. It was absolutely perfect. However a few people did find it more nauseating than others.

After a while of sailing and sunbathing the crew spotted something in the water ahead. After moving closer we realised it was two dolphins, we managed to see them really close as they started swimming around the boat. After the dolphins had swum away we sailed closer to the coast again so that we could do some snorkelling. I got a bit panicked by the fish at first as there were loads swimming around us, but after while I calmed down and started to enjoy it with everyone else.

We then moved closer to the boat and we were allowed to dive off the boat into the sea. There were some pretty good jumps, Holly did a back flip, Danny did a racing dive and Alex attempted to do a somersault but failed miserably and ended up doing a belly flop. (Ed. We’ll not mention who won the underwater swimming competition :-))

After swimming we had our lunch on the boat, it was rice, vegetables and chicken or fish, I had the chicken and it was really nice. We then had another twenty minutes sailing back to the port. Overall it was a really good morning and it was a great R&R activity.

We then walked back to Quepos and had time to go shopping! We found a really nice market and there were some great souvenirs in the shops.

We had a while to chill out when we got back to Manuel Antonio so people had time to have showers, pack their bags or play cards. At half five we went to a little restaurant down the road where we sat on a balcony overlooking the tropical forest. The food was really nice and we all left with happy bellies!

That night we had a choice of whether we went on a wildlife night tour or if we wanted to have an early night. Eleven people decided to come out on the walk and it was defiantly the right decision. (Ed. Agreed!) We saw gladiator frogs, bull frogs, red eye tree frogs, glass frogs, Caymens, crocodiles, a boa constrictor and loads of different types of fresh water turtles (Ed. you forgot to mention the snake eating the frog...distressing but fascinating). The highlight for me though was at the end when Emilio (the guide) showed us some baby crocodiles and turtles. They were really cute and we were even allowed to stoke their backs. (Ed. one of the highlights of this trip for me)

I would say we made the most out of our day of R&R and now we’re all preparing for the journey home!

We’ve had a great time and can’t wait to see you all soon!

Alice Hurren x

San Isidro - Manuel Antonio

7th August

Yet another early start for yet another travel day. However today we travelled to our rest and relaxation destination, Manuel Antonio. It is totally wonderful here and we (the girls) have our own private bungalow! We got onto an average bus and made a breakfast of peanut butter and jam sandwiches, easier said than done when 17 people are spread over a sea of random passengers and their bags. Five hours later we arrived in Quepos for a lunch of subway :-)

After we had devoured this amazing treat we shopped a little for souvenirs which I’m sure everyone looks forward to receiving! Then went to our hostel to find out about the fortunate room arrangements and cooked our last ever meal of Costa Rican bean feast and rice in our own kitchen  Me and my food team then went out to buy pancakes for breakfast the next morning purely because we have the facilities here to make them. To improve the evening even more we later booked our rest and relaxation activity, a boat trip around the coast of the local area and snorkelling with the fish in the coral reef. Later tomorrow we have the option of a night walk to see the wildlife of the surrounding area’s national park which I can’t wait for, it will be incredible I’m sure. As everyone was leaving to settle down for the night we saw the most amazing thunder storm which lit up the entire pitch black sky today light and deafened us with the sounds of the thunder and the crack of lightening. It carried on into the night but no one seemed to have trouble sleeping in such good spirits. It’s has been a tiring day but with so much to look forward to tomorrow I doubt people will mind even more early start.

Jenny Gibson :-)

P.s Really can’t wait to see everyone now! Not long left, love you all :-) xoxoxoxox

Carate - San Isidro

6th August 2012-08-08

Yet another travel day...

Hi everybody or as they say in Costa Rica “Hola a todos”. Its Holly again , here to tell you all about the 6th and what we got up to on our travels that day! :-) So let’s start from the very beginning, a very good place to start. A sound of music song quote there folks.... a popular song choice that has been sung many times on this trip!

We got up bright and early at 5am today and awoke to the sounds of the sea right at the foot of our tents, quite literally in fact with some team members having to dig trenches to stop their tents from flooding!! (Ed. the tide was on the way out folks...honest!) We had a filling breakfast of porridge (if you couldn’t have guessed already) with jam and condensed milk and then got packed away.

A short 5 minute walk led us to where our “collectivo” or minibus was picking us up. We waited for the “collectivo” which was 10 minutes late and as soon as the “collectivo” came around the corner, the group was in utter shock. It was definitely not a minibus. We had seen and heard rumours yesterday as to what this “collectivo” was going to be like so it’s pretty fair to say we weren’t expecting the best bus in the world but we were at least expecting a bus! It was a ram-shackled cattle truck with benches that offered no support from the bumps in the road and absolutely no handles whatsoever to hold onto for dear life. I’m being generous with my choice of words there but believe me when I say we were not expecting that! (Ed. World Challenge style risk assessment carried out :-)) We all piled on with our gigantic rucksacks filled with foisty, mud filled clothing and we squashed up to make room for the other 3 people getting on the collectivo at the same time. (Ed. the smell was rather intense and we were happy we all shared the same smells )

The actual ride itself was only 2 and a half hours which is one of the shortest bus journeys that we’ve had to take in the whole 3 weeks of being here but it felt like forever. The road we were travelling on was called “The Punisher” by the lonely planet guide and it is the second worst road in Costa Rica so it’s fair to say we felt it! The bumps and lumps in the road were felt by every single person and the ups and downs in the hills made it feel like we were on a rollercoaster which on reflection was thrilling but at the time you just wanted to get off. The journey was bearable until we started to stop and more people piled on! There was barely enough room to fit the 20 already in there without an extra 10 people getting on! I’m still pretty astonished as to how some people, not mentioning names (STEPHIE, CLIFF AND JACK)   managed to fall asleep on this death trap!(Ed. tiz easy :-)). To finish the journey off it started to rain pretty bad just as we arrived in Puerto Jimenez but we only had to travel 2 minutes to where we wanted to be. I felt a bit sorry for the group because my role throughout the expedition has been travel and this was not an enjoyable experience as such but an experience none the less.

We got back to the accommodation that we had been staying at before the trek (cabinas the corner) and picked up our day sacks. Our next bus from Puerto Jimenez to San Iisidro wasn’t till 1pm so as a group we divided off to go to either the supermarket or to look for souvenirs. My cooking team (Alex, Emily,Taggart and myself) then had to do lunch which is always a strenuous task but nevertheless we pulled through. It was a fairly simple lunch of strange tasting wraps with the fillings of ham, cheese or jam. The group then headed over to the bus station whilst Beth and I ran to the supermarket to get a drink and then ran back as well. It sounds harder than you think to run in the heat!

We managed to get onto the bus safely and quickly (were getting good at getting on and off the buses with our bags!) and then the next 6 hours were spent talking amongst ourselves. We did however find a deeper side to Alex’s personality.

We arrived in San Isidro at 7pm and had a short 10 minute walk to Hotel Amaneli. That’s right, a hotel! It was very basic but each room had its own toilet, shower, bed, fan and mirror. Some rooms even had the luxury of a chair and TV! We then set out for tea at MacDonald’s just down the road. I don’t think we would of went if we had a choice but we were all tired and hungry and it was close. The portions were bigger and better than the other MacDonald’s we had in San José and everyone enjoyed it. We then returned to the hotel and went to bed. Ella and I were sharing a room and we had a very random view out of our window... a scary, pointless room filled with things you find in a shed. We had a lovely shower, one of the best because we felt so clean and refreshed afterwards and then went to sleep in our lovely SpongeBob duvet beds.

Holly Laing

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Main Trek Osa Peninsula - Puerto Jimenez to Carate

Thursday 2nd August

Day one of our main trek! We had an early start to say the least, half past four for the breakfast team, to set off walking at half past six. This was pretty stressful and if I said it went swimmingly I would be lying. But half an hour late wasn’t too bad for our first day.

We set off from the hostel in Puerto Jimenez onto a track to be quickly confronted with our first river crossing, but the water wasn’t fast flowing and only came up to our knees which put my mind at rest expecting to have to swim with my backpack weighing me down. Seven more river crossings followed and we quickly got the knack for them. Along the way we saw many new and interesting plants and animals, and took lots of pictures to prove it!

When we reached our secluded lodges deep in the rainforest we had a well earned lunch as this was the first time most of the team had trekked with everything they needed for more than a few nights. The guides had collected some red spiky fruit similar to lychees that only grow in this part of Costa Rica called Mamon Chinos but it was an extreme luck of the draw to whether you got a lovely sweet one or something just too bitter to bear. When we cleared up and settled into our cabins some of the team where somewhat underwhelmed, however most embraced the rural environment and warmed to being in such an amazing atmosphere. Some of the team later went down to the river to try out the volcanic exfoliating rock that it possessed - this was a real treat and after a day of intense heat and sweat was a well earned reward. The river also treated us to a natural jacuzzi, when we eventually managed to pull ourselves away from this mini river spa we returned to have another meal of bean feast for tea, yuuuuumm, but this time the team were glad to not have to cook on our own stoves as we were allowed to use the lodge’s kitchen facilities helping the process immensely.

Before bed we had an insightful team review giving everyone chance to tell the rest of the team how they were feeling about the days ahead and how today had gone. This showed where some of the group needed help and others could provide it. When going to bed it was almost impossible to forget where you were with the racket of the incredible wildlife. Not a place for light sleepers. Overall it has been an amazing day, some of the team are now feeling more confident whilst others a little more apprehensive for the next few days, let’s hope it puts us in good stead for the rest of the trek!

Wish us luck! :-)

P.s Miss everyone loads, wish you were here you would love it! :-) love you lots xxx

Jenny Gibson

Friday 3rd August

Hello from the middle of the jungle! Today’s been a really packed day, so sorry if I go on a bit. Today I woke up at around 4, to the sound of frogs and crickets. We didn’t need to be up until around 7, so I just lay there soaking it all in. The stars soon faded as the fast tropical sunrise took over our sheltered paradise. After taking out anything not essential for our day’s short trek, I put on my wet set of clothes. The wet set is a very important thing for those spending time in the rainforest. During the day, while you sweat like a pig from humidity and get soaked by the heavy showers, you wear one set of clothes, which become your wet set. This obviously starts to smell a bit, so you can wash them on a night, but this leaves them even more soaked for the next day. To avoid growing mushrooms under our armpits though, there is your dry set. You change into this on an evening after washing, and it is such a relief to get the clinging clammy clothes off and replace them with nice dry ones. Sadly, this is very much reversed in the mornings; putting on wet clothes is one of the worst things imaginable. So bad that even another breakfast of porridge seemed better!

We brought down our lighter packs to the communal area, and were ready to get going at 10:20. First we had to ascend several slopes through the jungle thicket, passing many golden orb web spiders on the way. Now, I may suffer slightly from arachnophobia, but even I can’t call these creatures ugly. Their long slender legs radiate out from the middle of a perfect golden silk web, and you can even see the eyes of these magnificent creatures if you dare to look closely.

Finally slipping to the top of the final muddy bank, we were met with a great view. Looking over the mountains covered in a thousand shades of green, we could make out the Gulfo Dulce from whence we came the previous day. Whilst taking a break here, eating trail mix, I spotted some leaves shaking in a nearby tree. After watching for a few moments, I gave the shout we all wanted; “monkeys!”. A squirrel monkey had appeared from behind some of the leaves, and this meant as a team we had now seen all four of Costa Rica’s primates. They were as pesky as pixies though; as soon as you had trained your camera onto them, they were off. Just as we were about to set off again, there was another close encounter. A cone headed katydid (identified later on) had jumped onto Jenny’s camera, so of course Cliff just had to pick it up. It stayed pretty still, and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like this, so I volunteered to hold it. But as soon as it was on my hand, it scurried up my arm and onto my backpack, and finally my hat.

Eventually we had to leave, so after placing the katydid down, we headed off down a steep muddy track. Never has mud been more treacherous since World War One, with nearly everyone slipping, sliding or flopping over. Due to the different paces within the team here, we broke up into groups, with Shaun, Holly, Jairo (our guide) and I at the back, out of sight and hearing of the rest. This provided another opportunity for close wildlife encounters. A clambering shape emerged through the braches towards us, just a few feet above our heads. Another troop of Squirrel monkeys had found us, and this one was a lot more inquisitive. They sat there staring, as transfixed with us as we were with them. Eventually they moved off, so we continued down the path to meet the rest of the team, looking up at more squirrel monkeys. It was by far the best mammal encounter I’ve ever had.

After picking some lemons for juice and coconuts to drink, we arrived back at the lodge via the “Indiana Jones” bridge. We put our bags back in our lodges and headed down to the river. There was a man panning for gold, so we watched him for a while. He had dug out a channel, and panned out a shovel of gravel and silt at a time. Shaking, stirring and spinning the pan, he removed all the rocks, letting the heavy gold sink to an indentation in the bottom of the pan. A few tiny grains at a time, he collects between 1 and 2g of gold per day, fetching $40 per gram. But some days he finds nothing. Still, the hope of finding another 16g nugget drives people on the carry out this backbreaking work all day.

While the rest of the team went to exfoliate with natural mud in a pool downstream, I stayed and had a go of Gold Panning myself. I wasn’t very efficient, taking around 20 minutes to do one pan, but it was worth it, for me at least. I found a grain of gold; so miniscule that I couldn’t pick it up, but the rich glint was unmistakably gold.

After a tea of pasta, Alice, Beth, Shaun and I stayed up to prepare lunch for the following day. We stayed up so late that even the people in the team playing cards had gone to bed, requiring us to do some hasty packing, ready for moving on again the following day.

It really has been an amazing time, full of wonderful spectacles, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

By Jack Beckwith

Saturday 4th August

Today I awoke as leader! My time to rule  (Ed. Steady Shaun...we dont want people thinking the power has gone to your head lol). After some last minute packing by some members of the group at 4:30 it was porridge for breakfast (surprise, surprise). We aimed to leave at 6 but due to many issues (Ed. That would be the grand opening of the Jungle Foot Clinic where my customers (arriving late!) had their feet trussed up in numerous sticking tapes and plasters ready for the LONG day ahead...well worth the time me thinks :-)) we left at 7!

We left our little “Garden of Eden” and set out on the hardest day of the trek. We headed down a gradual slope to be immediately met by a large slope up! After a good few hours of ‘steep up’ on muddy slopes that no one could get a good foothold in we reached a place to stop. It was here our spirits were lifted by the guides giving us some sugary energy boosters of chocolate! After eating our snacks we heard the distinctive call of the Howler Monkey! Cliff thought it cleaver to try and communicate with them using an unusual growl but all he seemed to know was “Fight me!” (Ed. I am from Sunderland ;-)) this attracted the alpha male to above where we were sitting. It was here our spirits were raised even more as only 30 seconds after Jairo warned us about the monkey’s excrement it bombarded Alex with poo splashing on his and Danny`s bags.

After this amusement we carried on upwards before a steep downhill with more mud and a few slips here and there! We stopped on the way down for a much needed lunch of pasta cooked by Jack, Beth, Alice and yours truly until 9:20 the previous night. After this we swiftly moved on to avoid any more monkey incidents. We soon arrived at a waterfall and stopped to clean our boots and trousers. We moved on after a extended break and this is when most people started to struggle. Those at the back with Jairo at this point were treated to some occasional trial mix to keep us going (Ed. Huh!!! Didn’t know about that!! ). After many ups and downs we arrived at the camp site where some of us washed in the river whilst Jairo and Fernando set up a cooking shelter. It was rice and bean feast on the menu again all nice and cosy under the shelter. I don’t think anyone is not proud of their achievement today as it is a great one! (Ed. Everyone did outstandingly well today and I for one was very proud!)

I would like to finish by wishing my eldest nephew a happy birthday tomorrow when he will be seven.

Shaun Laing

Sunday 5th August

Today started out the same as most of the days we’ve spent here- getting up very early. Everyone was up by 4:30am but there were no complaints because we are all used to it by now! Breakfast was porridge, as usual but it gave us the energy we needed for the day ahead of us. (Ed. Yum)

Most of us were still aching from yesterday and worried for today, but the positives of it being the last day of trek, having less steep inclines and a beach waiting for us at the finish definitely outweighed the negatives, so we set off with high spirits. The trek started with 3km walking alongside (but mostly in) a small stony river. It was very easy going and we felt very lucky having so much flat land to walk on. About an hour in the rain started (Ed. for a change ;-)), but it wasn’t drizzle, it was torrential - the type where it drips off your nose and into your mouth but in the end you give up spitting it out because there’s just too much of it! After an hour and a half of walking we reached the end of what the guides had called the “river bit”. We had a well earned rest in the pouring rain eating soggy crisps, nuts and trail mix. But they were still just as tasty! After the break we headed onwards and upwards to the 1 ½ km “steep bit”. It was really difficult, especially with heavy packs filled with wet clothes, and yet we managed to do it within about an hour. We all breathed a sigh of relief once the hard bit was over. But little did we know the downhill bit we had been promised turned out to be perilously steep and we actually had to take out the long ropes for people to hold on to. Some were a little more steady on their feet than others and we had quite a few slips (Taggart). The downhill part seemed to go on forever even though we had been told it was only 1 ½ km. Our feet were beginning to ache a lot and it was becoming very challenging for some people, getting a few tears and angry faces. But it was pretty scary at some points, with the mud made more slippy by our wet boots and the pressure from the weight of our packs- abseiling down a steep drop of mud with only the rope to rely on for support took it to the extreme! But we managed to all get through it, and with aching thighs and feet we ate our lunch at the base of a little waterfall.

It was so refreshing to jump into the pool and put our heads under the rushing water. We had a relatively long lunch break and after some group photos we set off again to more downhill accompanied by a few uphills. We then walked in the river again for about half an hour. It was very rocky and people were beginning to tire but Fernando and Jairo kept our hopes up by ensuring us that the rest of the way was completely flat. We finally trudged over our last hill and reached the flat bit; walking on it for at most an hour was a dream and 2km later we were setting foot onto a beach. It was our campsite. You could touch the waves when they rose up to where we were camping! We said our goodbyes to Fernando and Jairo, (some found it a little harder than others) deciding to give them a considerable tip for their excellent services. We felt that they had been very helpful and good all round as guides.

They left for the bus and we noticed a huge raincloud looming over us and so the tents were erected even quicker than usual! Emily, Jenny, Alice and Beth went up to the shop to buy things for tea and returned with packets of crisps, oreos and cookies. Meanwhile, some of the lads set about finding large pieces of driftwood to try to create a barrier to protect the tents from the sea in case the tide came in any further during the night.

We ate our tea of Beanfeast with nacho crisps, some people (ahem, Emily) had six helpings! I don’t know how she fit it all in! After tea we had a review of the day and really of the whole trek. Everybody said how hard they had found it both physically and emotionally, but we all agreed that it was definitely worth it in the end and if asked we would do it again (well some of us anyway). After the meeting most of us retired to bed for some well earned sleep inside our luxury ocean-view tents, while others actually got the chance to see more turtles (Ed. for me the feeling of being on the beach standing right next to a turtle laying its eggs is a high point and one I’ll remember for a really long time...of what has been an amazing journey) it was the cream on top on this beach. (Some even pretended to be turtles alongside them!) All in all the trek was worth it and hopefully we will be nice and toned when we get back, but we really can’t wait to chuck our tents and get our beds back!!

By the way, I just want to wish my mum a belated happy birthday- I was thinking about you (and made everyone else as well!) Lots of love x

Ellie Bourner