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Belize + Costa Rica : 1 • June 14-June 27, 2016

Goodbye First Session!

June 28, 2016

Buenaventura was an adventure beyond any of our expectations.  Harlow and Tamara welcomed us to their rainforest abode with organic food, a love of nature, and a desire to help the community.  Harlow’s lodge was an incredible ecovillage along the Savegre river.  We slept in hammocks and bunks at his bungalow, and were happy to have a few less bugs than Belize, though Rankin still managed to get quite a few bug bites.

We immediately went to our service site, a community center for the town of El Brujo.  Our work consisted of painting bathrooms, digging rain trenches, and preparing the area for a regional soccer tournament.  Frank and Colin teamed up for an epic ditch digging team and learned a ton about drainage.  Members of the community as far away as San Isidro thanked us for our kind work.

Tamara, owner and founder of Three Seeds restaurant, prepared breakfast (unbelievable fruit smoothies with fresh sugar cane and honey), pizza lunches, and dinners of organic pork and huge salads.  One afternoon she gave us a full tour of her farm- cocoa trees, papayas, yucas, coconuts.  The final part of the tour was pressing sugar cane and drinking the fresh juice, a great refreshment after everyone (Hugh & Jackson) burned their tongues on some spicy habañero peppers.

Immediately after the farm tour we hiked up a mountain for a night of camping. Colin became addicted to miracle fruit on the way up, an adventure  in itself.  Melita had a particularly pleasant hike up the mountain and was very relieved to make it to the summit.  A lightning storm greeted us after a cotton candy sunset, and Harlow had a big fire and smores before we climbed into our tents- Abby had more than her fair share of chocolate!

The next morning was a waterfall hike to a very special place.  We covered ourselves in blue clay and had an exfoliating odyssey- Carson was hesitant at first, but ultimately loved the avatar tour.

Leaving buenaventura, we headed across the continental divide to make it to Turialba, a volcanic hotspot and a beautiful view.  From here we headed out rafting on the Pacuare with our guides Diego, Diego & Sassy.  The river threw class 3 & 4 rapids at us, which was no challenge for Margot’s thrill seeking spirit. We slept in huts along the river for our final night in the wild together.

Our last morning together was 16 kilometers of Costa Ricas finest whitewater.  We ended our last adventure wet, happy, and a little sad.   After a long bus ride, we found ourselves back in Alajuela.  The final night was liked with ice cream (Cate’s cone could have fed a village!), a surprise birthday dinner, and not much sleep.  After sending all the students through security, Addi & Marshall now find themselves very sad in Costa Rice alone.   Please stay in touch, kiddos, and stay MoonDance weird!

Sloths, Surfing, and Sunrises

June 22, 2016

Leaving Alajuela (San Jose) full of fruit and yogurt, we drove southwest to Hacienda Baru, a reclaimed nature preserve.  A walk through the rainforest took us deep into the canopy, where Rankin saw her first sloth and toucan.  8 zipline rides found us zooming back and forth, hearing Frank’s shouts of excitement from far off in the jungle.  Ziplining was a great introduction to Costa Rica, where everyone was finally able to start practicing their Spanish.

20 minutes down the road, we finally arrived at Uvita, a beautiful, protected beach on the Osa Peninsula, known for surfing and whale watching.  It proved to be a magnificent and rewarding area to learn to surf.  Jackson and Melita were two of the fastest learners and were never scared to catch the biggest waves. We all ate a little saltwater, but Abby had some of the most epic wipeouts.

After three hours of intense surfing, we checked in at our hotel, Nida del Halcon, where a swimming pool and a classic spaghetti dinner where awaiting us.  Yet the night had only just begun!- we walked to the beach again for moonup, sharing stories and reveling in the full moon, running around the massive stretch of beach the low tide has laid bare.  Back at the hotel, everyone hung out a little past curfew, and the morning would come sooner than anyone realized!

Wanting to enjoy all of the longest day of the year, Marshall & Addi woke everyone up before sunrise and walked back to the beach – Cate was particularly excited to get out of bed early.  Here we watched a cloudy sunrise and pondered the waves we would soon surf.

After mid morning nap, we ate fresh papaya, pineapple and gallo pinto (rice and beans) before returning to the beach at Uvita.  The low tide waves were bigger and better for surfing, which may have resulted in a few snapped surfboards (whoops Carson & Margot!!).  A quick shower and a few empanadas later, we left the Osa peninsula and headed to Buenaventura to begin our service project.  Along the way, we ran into the Costa Rica venture group; Colin pretended to be British and Hugh played a couple light-hearted pranks on the other group’s leaders.

Now we are off to Buenaventura and El Brujo for community service and an experience in the heart of the forest…

Best Belize We're Having an Awesome Time!

June 20, 2016

  And in the blink of an eye, we were united together in Belize!  12 new faces and friends left the airport and headed straight for the docks.  30 minutes later, we boarded a small ferry under the command of Captain Ed for a two-hour ride out to Long Caye. But before we knew it, we were back on shore – the crew had forgotten to pick up our SCUBA gear!  Nonetheless, a few games passed the time quickly (Margot was 2x champion of “signs”).  

     The boat ride was an incredible & warm welcome to our ocean home.  Passing by mangrove forests, we managed to pass the two hours without any seasickness.  Just as the sun set over a now invisible Belize City, we came into view of Long Caye.  Almost at the exact moment the sun dipped below the horizon, a pod of dolphins began to surf in the wake of our boat, the Ka Hu. Melita’s passion for the ocean was reignited before we ever even made it to shore.

     A warm dinner of plantains, rice, and stewed chicken prepared by our host, Nidia, was served with a side of laughter between new friends.  Colin told story after hilarious story, bringing most of us to side splitting tears. After dinner we headed to the treehouse, a third floor cabana overlooking the island.  During Moonup, we all remembered long hours in the airport and shared nervous excitement for the SCUBA to come!

      The morning began early, with a cup of Belizean coffee at sunrise. Our first full day together began slowly, as we all tossed and turned, restless from the bug bites and excitement. Nevertheless, a hearty breakfast of fryjacks & refried beans were downed before an 8 AM confined dive with our guides Arthur and Anne Marie.  

    Protected on the west side of the caye, we learned the fundamentals of SCUBA in three feet of calm and clear water.  A long morning at the surface tired most of us out, so we were happy to come back to subdues and a relaxing afternoon at Calypso Beach Resort.  Sitting in hammocks, playing hackey sack, and watching rays and sharks near the dock helped us get our energy back for the evening dive.

     Our first true open water dive experience, our guides threw us into an incredible aquatic wonderland.  Just below the boat was a reef full of stag coral, tuna, barracudas, and pipe coral at a maximum depth ~30 feet. Out of a 45-minute dive, which seemed much shorter thanks to our exhilaration, the highlight was the drop off.  Over the course of 10 feet, the ocean floor dropped from 30 feet to over 150, far deeper than we could see. 

     Sunburnt, exhausted, and a little closer with each other, we wolfed down a dinner of fried chicken, split peas, and too much coconut rice.  Rankin, kind as always, shared her dinner with her leaders.  Then, an early night before another big day of scuba.

     After two full days of diving, somehow we were still full of energy.  In the morning we practiced putting our gear on at 15 feet, how to float at the same depth, and how to make a controlled emergency ascent – a skill thankfully unused on our next five at 35 feet.  There we practiced again how to take our mask off and put it back again.  Cate powered through ear problems and learned to equalize by taking her dives slowly, and ended up being one of the best SCUBA divers in the group!

    The culmination of today’s dives was peering over the edge of a drop-off.  As Carson spotted an eel, Jackson pushed the limits and sank all the way to 60 feet!

     That day also marked the opening of lobster season in Belize. To celebrate, we bought 5 lbs from fisherman sharing the dive dock. We had a tail each, and ate them with homemade bread, pork cutlets, and mashed potatoes. A worthy meal after spending over 100 minutes underwater in one day.

Our last full day in Belize was also our most relaxing one.  The night saw a huge storm and loud thunder that welcomed in lots of bugs- some of us managed to sleep…

     The morning was full of card games and walks around the island. We finished up our scuba certification after a 12 minute water treads and learning to use a compass (Abby promises she never used the bottom for help).  Hugh was a huge help bringing our host, Reeves’, boat onto share, during which he had a near miss with a sting ray!

     We finished the day fishing off the beach (Frank hooked a barracuda that somehow escaped!) before a big dinner of stewed chicken, rice and beans of course, and a farewell cake made by Nidia.  Our last Moonup was under a cloudy sky, all bittersweet to finish our Belizean excursion and move on to Costa Rica!

     The early morning boat ride to Belize City was rough and wet, but we made it to the airport with no seasickness.  Everyone is excited to surf and zip line- woo woo.  

“We be livin under da water. We’re not coming home” -Carson 

Abby hasn’t been bit by a shark, yet…. -Melita

Happy Father’s Day to the guy who paid for me to go on moondance. Love you dad -Carson

Feliz dia del padres, papá. Gracias por todo y te amo a la LUNA! P.S. Please give champignon lots of butt scratches for me. Ciao! -Margot

Happy Father’s Day.  You are a great dad. Hope you are having fun without me. Love, Frank

Happy Father’s Day Dad! Love and miss y’all both so much! XOXO Abby 

Happy Father’s Day Temper.  Miss you big man.  Can’t wait to tell you all about it. Love and miss you! -Hugh

Dear father, happy Father’s Day, thank you for providing for me and giving me so many opportunities.  Lots of love, your son, Colin.

Happy Father’s Day big dawg.  This trip is insane.  Thanks for everything.  Love you boss, Jackson.

Hey mom and dad! Love and miss you both. Happy Father’s Day! -Cate

Miss you guys.  Happy Father’s Day Rob, love you, Melita.

Love and miss you so much. Hope you had a great Father’s Day. -Rankin