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Costa Rica Venture : 2 • July 1-July 14, 2016

Rio Pacuare adventures

July 14, 2016

Hello from Alajuela! We have just finished our last adventure- rafting the Pacuare!

It was an epic two-day trip and the perfect finale to an awesome two weeks.  Yesterday morning, we departed our hotel in Turialba (complete with picturesque erupting volcano in the background), and made our way to the river. At the put-in, we separated into raft groups. Boat one was Ranny, Will, Lucie K., Peyton, and Katie. Boat two was Tess, Bennett, Doug, Lucy F., and Vivi. Boat three was Alex, Brannon, Morgan, Caroline, and Hollis.  We started our morning off with a quick hike to a very beautiful waterfall and swimming hole. Alex, Will and Doug were the only ones brave enough to swim in the cold but the rest of us just enjoyed relaxing for a few minutes with our feet in the water. Back on the river, right away we hit a class 3 rapid…it was quite the welcome! We all held on and practiced our new rafting techniques. After a short morning, we arrived at our camp for the night. The Pacuare River Lodge, where we stayed, is a collection of bungalows arranged overlooking the river. The Spanish red roof tiles and the maze of paths make for quite the entry.

After changing into dry clothes, we met back at the kitchen lodge and enjoyed yet another fabulous lunch- this time tacos! After lunch, Tess, Alex, Morgan, Vivi, Bennett, Doug, Brannon, Will, Caroline, Lucie K., Lucy F., and Peyton all headed off for another waterfall hike. Once there, we swam in the pools and basked in the sunlight. Brannon and Bennett attempted to climb up the waterfall for some jumps, but they didn’t make it too far and instead jumped a short distance into the green water. Once back at camp, we all enjoyed a relaxing afternoon. Katie, Brannon, Doug and Hollis had a heated game of Monopoly- the true winner is still TBD. Alex and Ranny walked down to the river with two of the guides and fished for Machaca. The rest of us played cards, read and napped. For dinner, the guides cooked up a fantastic dinner of fajita-style chicken, potato salad, bread, and vegetables. Afterwards, we held Moonup by candlelight, soaking in our second-to-last nightly meeting. These Moonups have really allowed everyone to grow closer, and afterwards we all stuck around to hang out and chat until we eventually retired to our bungalows.

After a good night’s rest, the group rose to the rushing sounds of the Pacuare. We fueled up with French toast, homemade bacon, eggs and fruit courtesy of our guide Steve, and then we hit the rapids again! All three boats were moving with great chemistry and enthusiasm, as we cruised down the Level Threes and eventually Fours. Once we were comfortable in the water, our guides let the kids who wanted to go “bull riding”. In the raft, that meant that the kids could sit on the bow through a rapid. Doug, Bennett, Lucie K., Will, and Ranny immediately hopped up there and had a blast- lots of laughter and smiles ensued! Soon enough we got to a breaking point and had lunch. Everyone was very happy to have American-style cold cuts and lots of mango, watermelon and pineapple. After we’d eaten our fill, we jumped back into our rafts for the final stretch of rapids. We completed the last of the Rapids with ease and all too soon we were jumping into the river in a beautiful canyon for our last swim in the Pacuare. Our guide Steve pointed out a perfectly clean freshwater stream trickling down the canyon, and Tess, Doug and Bennett scrambled to taste it. Better than any bottled water we’ve had, we can assure you! After an awesome morning on the river, we got to our put out in Guanicinto and then departed for Alajuela.

We are prepping for our final banquet and are enjoying our last hours together. We can’t believe these two weeks have flown by so quickly. All three of us love these twelve kids so much and we know we all have hard goodbyes ahead. But until then we are enjoying our final laughs and good times!

Pura Vida and lots of love!

Tess, Alex and Ranny

Surfing, paddleboarding, kayaking and snorkeling!

July 12, 2016


On Thursday, we woke up early and headed to Uvita– the beach, finally!

Once at our hotel, we all relaxed for a while, swam in the pool and caught up on our books. Bennett, Doug, Vivi, Katie, Morgan and Brannon were the first to discover the game room where they played monopoly during the afternoon rain. After a couple more hours of chill time, Ranny and Alex walked with Doug, Bennett, Hollis, Lucy F., Vivi, Peyton, Brannon, Caroline, Lucie and Will down to the beach for a sunset swim. The timing was impeccable; everyone waded out into the Pacific while the sun sank below the horizon. As it got darker, we all headed back to hotel for dinner and Moonup. The next morning, everyone walked down to the beach for our first day of beach activities. The weather and the wind favored us this session as we were able to SUP and kayak out to the Uvita whale’s tail, a natural sand bar and rock formation that looks exactly like a whales tail from above. Out on the sandbar, everyone strapped on goggles and snorkels and snorkeled out along the coral and rock formations. It was pretty amazing to see the amount of marine life that thrived just below the surface. Brannon had a good eye and had some incredible finds– he saw an eel and several puffer fish! After snorkeling, everyone alternated kayaking and SUPing and headed back towards the beach and onwards to lunch.

Eager to spend as much time on the beach as possible, we all headed to Playa Hermosa in the afternoon. The boys quickly picked up a variation of hacky sack on the beach and played almost nonstop for the next few hours. The girls enjoyed some leisure time and reading. After a long day in the sun we all made a quick stop for some ice cream before calling it a day and heading back to the hotel. The next morning we were back at the beach, this time for our first session of surfing. Bennett, already an experienced surfer helped out as everyone went through a quick tutorial on how to handle the waves on a surfboard. Then we divided into groups and headed out into the ocean. Everyone got the hang of it really quickly. Will got up on his first try and was soon heading back out to catch the waves on his own. It was a full morning of surfing before a much needed lunch off the beach. In the afternoon we all headed to Dominical to do a little shopping at the beachside markets. Everyone picked some awesome things for themselves as well as to bring back home to friends and family. After an exhausting day of shopping and surfing, we needed a little more ice cream so we made another quick stop before heading back. After a quick rest at the hotel everyone was ready to be back on the beach. This time everyone made it for another sunset swim. After dinner and Moonup we decided to make it a full beach day and walked out to enjoy a clear night full of stars and a crescent moon. It was a memorable sight for all to see the moonlight reflecting off the waves surrounded by a field of stars.

The following morning, we walked out to Uvita for another great day of surfing. Many of the kids had improved and were constantly catching waves. Afterwards, we relaxed on the beach for a little longer until lunch. In the afternoon, we drove out to meet our Osa Canopy Tour guides. To reach the beginning of our zip-lining tour, we took an open truck up into the mountains, which offered us amazing views. The tour was an absolute hit, with everybody having a great time. All of the kids even dared to go upside-down for one section! At the end of the tour was a “Tarzan” swing in front of a beautiful scene of mountains, fields, and ocean. It was a perfect finale to an even better afternoon.

We spent our evening swimming some more before going to bed early to prepare for a very early morning. This morning we woke up for our final Uvita activity- paddle boarding and kayaking, once again, but this time in a mangrove forest. We spent the morning leisurely paddling down the Terraba River, soaking in the last few hours of our time in Uvita. After we had had our fill of the activities, we hit the road for Turrialba- white water rafting here we come!

Pura Vida and all our love!!
Tess, Alex and Ranny


Doug: hey mom and dad! I’m having a great time! See y’all in a few days!

Will: hey mom and dad I’m having a blast here in Costa Rica! I miss you all a lot!

Peyton: hey mom and dad! Having the best time in Costa Rica! Can’t wait to see y’all in a few days! Pura Vida!

Lucy: hey fam! Having so much fun! I miss y’all and can’t wait to see y’all!

Vivi: hi mom and dad, I’m having so much fun, can’t wait to see you and Chloe! Love you!

Katie: Hey mom, dad, Dave, Tom & Cella etc…Miss you all so much! Costa Rica is super fun! Pura Vida

Hollis: Hey fam! Miss you guys, I’m having fun, can’t wait to see y’all. Love you!

Morgan: ¡Hola Padres! I’m having so much fun. Really enjoying all the rice and beans!! Can’t wait to see y’all.

Bennett: having fun! See you soon!

Caroline: Hey family! I’m having the best time ever! Can’t wait to tell y’all all about it. Love y’all!

Lucie: Hola fam jam! Costa Rica is great. I can’t wait to see y’all. It’s less than a week. Love y’all!

Brannon: hey mom and dad having fun!

Successful Service Section

July 8, 2016

Hola from sunny Costa Rica!

On Friday, the whole group met and assembled at the San Jose airport before we headed back to our hotel in Alajuela. After an early dinner and our first Moonup, we were all exhausted and ready for bed. The next morning, we awoke to sunshine and a delicious breakfast, and then hopped on our bus to depart for El Brujo, our home for the next five days. Michael, our amazing bus driver, drove us down the Pan-American Highway to San Isidro. We then hopped in 4×4 taxis, similar to safari vehicles, which took us to our home outside El Brujo. The hour long drive was absolutely beautiful, as we weaved through the lush, green mountainside. We eventually arrived at Buenaventura, an oasis by the Savegre River. For lunch, we walked across the river to Three Seeds, a sustainable living farm, run by our hosts, Harlow and Tamara. We enjoyed a classic casado meal prepared using all fresh ingredients taken from the surrounding land. After the meal we got a tour of the entire farm, tasting cacao seeds, coconuts, passionfruit, and pica peppers along the way. Brannon, Doug and Bennet were determined to eat the hottest pepper they could find (they would turn it into a competition for the remainder of our stay). After our tour, we settled into our jungle homes, enjoyed another hearty meal and then called it a day.

The next morning marked our first of three days of community service in El Brujo. After some fresh fruit smoothies and eggs, we struck out for El Brujo. Our projects would be centered on the villages’ elementary school.  We started by depositing new soil in the school garden, building a new planter, and painting the bathrooms and entryway. Costa Rican students are currently on a two week holiday break so they had plenty of time to come in and help a little with the work and hang out. Doug immediately bonded with Kami, an eager 4 year old with a passion for all things soccer. It was great watching all the kids interact with each other. We capped off the morning with a competitive soccer game with locals of all ages. Will let his soccer skills shine, leading his team to victory!  It’s been one of the coolest parts of the trip thus far being able to play and hang out with the local kids– they rock!  Having worked up a strong appetite, we headed back to Three Seeds for lunch and our chocolate making lesson. Tamara showed us the traditional way of making chocolate, where we roasted the cacao beans, peeled them and then ground them into powder. Resident baker Katie took the lead, mixing the fresh cacao into delicious brownies that we all enjoyed after dinner!  After another great Moonup, we hit the sack before another long day.

On day two of community service, we continued to paint and garden at the El Brujo elementary school. On our way back home for lunch, a huge rainstorm started. Peyton, Caroline and Margaret seized the moment and ran through the downpour back to Three Seeds, leading the pack in for another delicious lunch. After a lazy afternoon of book reading and naps, we finished the day with yet another awesome meal at Three Seeds and a fun Moonup. But that’s not all– we knew that we had to celebrate The Fourth of July in some way and after Moonup we surprised the kids with a piñata filled with sweet treats! Brannon had the final hit on the piñata, breaking it and letting all the candy fall to the ground before we devoured it. It was a great ending to the day!

The next morning, we awoke early for our last day of community service. During our morning of fun work, more and more kids from the community came and joined in on the fun. After a few hours, we stopped for the day for some more playtime with the kids. Our group also decided that it was a good time to give their gifts to the kids as well. It was so special watching these interactions, especially seeing our new friends faces light up when they received a gift. One boy in particular lit up as Will gave him a soccer jersey and ball! After more futbol and many hugs, we departed El Brujo for the last time. Many of the local children followed us back, as it was on their way home as well. In front of three of the young girls’ house, Lucie K. stopped to say goodbye to her new friend, July. July surprised us all by asking us to sign her shirt and also giving Lucie K. her bracelet and a card.  Lucie then really warmed all of our hearts by taking off her own necklace and putting it around July’s neck. It was so special for us leaders to witness how loving and generous our group became with the people of El Brujo, and this moment in particular really touched us all.

After another great lunch at Three Seeds, Harlow gave us a taste test of a chocolate bar coming from his own cacao trees, and proceeded to enlighten us on the vast world of chocolate. We then hiked about an hour up to Harlow’s campsite, which offered incredible views of the mountains and the Savegre River. On the way up, Morgan, Peyton, Hollis, Ranny, and Tess spotted two toucans playing in the trees! We relaxed at our campsite for the afternoon, built a fire, and enjoyed each other’s company. At night, we roasted marshmallows by the fire and made s’mores with tasty chocolate courtesy of Harlow. Soon after, we crawled into our tents (all boys in one and girls in the other!) and quickly fell asleep. The next morning, we awoke early and got ready for our morning hike. We headed to a nearby waterfall where we swam for a bit before covering ourselves in the healing blue clay. Vivi in particular loved the clay, covering herself and her hair in it, making her look like an avatar! After a bit more swimming, we headed back down to Buenaventura for an afternoon of napping and reading. That evening, we headed up to Three Seeds for our last dinner (pizza) at the farm oasis. Before we dined, Lucy F. led the group in covering their hand prints on a wall, marking that we had been there! After dinner, we headed back down for bed and to prepare for our next section of the trip, the sunny and scenic beaches of Uvita!!

Til next time, Pura Vida!

Tess, Alex and Ranny