In Grade 11, my high school posted that there would be a school trip to Costa Rica in March with my favourite teacher. Fresh from my recent monthlong unexpected trip to Japan, I had the “travel bug” and was excited at the idea of continuing to experience different cultures. I also figured being somewhere tropical during the winter couldn’t hurt. I had this picture in my mind of what the trip would look like; relaxing on a beach, swimming in the ocean with my friends from school.
There were 4 classes to prepare us for the trip, which I later learned would be also count towards a grade 12 environmental sciences high school credit. However, as I would learn throughout these preparation classes the trip was going to be different from how I imagined…
Instead of kicking my feet up on a beach with a cold drink for the two weeks I would be away, we would be spending the majority of our stay high up in the mountains at called Durika, a private reserve that protects approximately 8500 hectares localized in the top of the Talamanca Mountain Range. 0 bars for any cell phones.
All 20-something of us on the trip stood in the back of these pickup trucks that drove through a very crude road up to the reserve for an hour, where we would be doing farm duties all day, be eating vegetarian only meals, which to me at the time was blasphemous and for the duration of our stay there would only be cold water for showers. Not even warm. “Pura Vida” our guide Eugenio would say to me, which translates to “pure life”.
To my surprise, I found the next week and a half under the tutelage of Eugenio and the other residents of Durika to be thoroughly fascinating and engaging. I realized that this trip was a unique opportunity to get to know and appreciate a part of Costa Rica very few have had the opportunity to appreciate and enjoy before so high in the mountains.
The Durika Biological Reserve offered a variety of activities and a number of trails that pass through different types of forests. Eugenio had a varied knowledge including birds, and nature will accompanied us on the walks and offered information about the ecology in the area.
I remember our overnight out-trip into the jungle hearing a “moo” sound that sounded like a cow, but was told by Eugenio that it was actually a jaguar. He told me not to worry as the cat would not attack a group as large as ours, but I stayed worrying.
The most lasting lesson Eugenio taught me was different breathing techniques, as he said that many people from North America he had met were not taught how to breathe properly. This made the hiking much more manageable. Another memory of the trip I had was our way back down from the trip into the jungle, stopping at a gigantic waterfall by a hydroelectriual system the residents of Durika had created.
Pictured above is Eugenio and a sight of the beautiful mountain range. My time not eating meat, farming and doing duties to keep the reserve functional, preserving the natural resources of the area, allowed me to experience what “pura vida” is all about. I’d encourage anyone wanting to experience the same to pay a visit to Durika, as the reserve is open to all nationalities and cultures.