We are only three days into this 10 day journey and this CALUE Service Break (CSB) has been an outstanding experience. Everything from our immediate stop in San Jose (Costa Rica’s heart and capitol city) for some American fast food on day 1, to the a second day filled with more Costa Rican history, perspective-expanding, sea turtle interaction anxiousness building, and hip-shaking salsa lessons than you can imagine has successfully deepen this experience. I now feel a connection with not only the potential sea turtles that I may encounter; but this country, its intriguing people and the importance of environmental conservation.
Today, day 3, our main objective was to travel to our ultimate destination, Juquillal.
For the second day in a row I was awakened at 6:00 a.m. by the faint sound of various species of birds and the soft glow of the sun peaking around my poorly drawn curtains. It reminded me a lot of the alarm with which my cellphone disturbs my slumber. However, it was a welcomed symphony because this time it was the real birds in the real place – paradise.
After floating though my morning grooming routine, accompanied by the symphony, I headed down to our group’s meeting place to eat breakfast. That was followed by a couple hours of free time for the group before our departure. Most of us sat by the pool and chatted about things like the previous day’s events or the symphony that was, in fact, not just a performance for my personal enjoyment.
During all of the small talk it did cross my mind that we would now be heading to do what we came here for, serve. All of the beauty, intrigue, and exoticism would now be accompanied by uncomfortableness, hard work, and hopefully the reward of seeing a sea turtle. Fortunately, yesterday’s orientation made me feel at ease with whatever was to come – especially the reward.
Following pool time, we ate lunch as a group. We even got to eat with our tour guide, German, and awesome driver, Oldemar. Bellies full with a meal that included chicken, rice and beans (the Costa Rican staple), and yucca (a vegetable that was new to most of us), we hit the road.
After a brief reroute due to road construction, the 6 hour drive to Junquillal went by in a flash. I was able see more of the beautifully lush scenery of the San Jose area. I even had my first (yes first ever) glimpse at the ocean through the still lush, but slightly more spread out, foliage of the areas closer to the coast. During this transition in scenery, we made two pit stops. The first was two hours in at a small place called Cafeteria Mi Finca. We all got smoothies and caught a few snapshots of their most beautiful customers, two Scarlet macaws. The second stop was in Santa Cruz, which is about 45 minutes from our destination so we could pick up a few last minute supplies such as insect repellent, sunscreen, and good socks – all of which we were promised would be vital.
We arrived at Guacamaya lodge (our sleeping quarters) on time at 6:00 p.m., put our bags in our rooms, and then walked down the road to Verdiazul. whilewalking, it quickly sank in that the humidity near San Jose couldn’t hold a candle to the aqueuos substance that we were being forced to breathe in Junquillal. When we reached Verdiazul we were welcomed by 6 of their “long-term” volunteers. These are young adults who have agreed to volunteer with Verdiazul for a time-frame of 6 or more months. Hearing them exchange witty banter in their wildly different accents led me to believe that they had become a pretty tight-knit group at this point. I hoped that something proportionately similar would happen with our group in the short 10 days we will spend together. Things are trending as if it will.
After dinner, which was provided by the Verdiazul staff and volunteers, we were given a brief orientation by Valerie Guthrie. Valerie is a tropical biologist and naturalist guide who has been working as an environmental educator for the Junquillal sea turtle project since 2005. After orientation we were given the details of the the next day’s schedule and then given recommendations about what we should wear on our first night patrol that would start 3 1/2 hours later at 11:30 p.m. I was glad to know that she was scheduled to lead the first one. We were also told that the sea turtle hatching season had only recently started and there had been activity almost every night. The groups excitement continued to grow. Check back to get updates on this and other Summer 2017 CSB activities!