Nestled into the massive banana plantations of the Limón province in Costa Rica is the Hitoy Cerere Biological Reserve. Not often visited due to a very, very rainy climate and relatively unknown, Hitoy Cerere is a pretty pristine piece of land.
This week (Tuesday to Thursday) I joined another staff member and a group of 15 students to do some volunteer work in the HItoy Cerere Reserve. We arrived late in the evening (around 8pm) after leaving San José by public bus at 3pm (about $10 each) and entered our bunk house. Three bedrooms, a converted living room, two toilets and two showers for 17 people. You can bet I was freaking out a little bit!! Luckily, there were two more showers and four more toilets nearby (which I found out the next day).
On Tuesday, our first working day, we spent the morning working on the main road to the Reserve’s lodge/visitor center. Here the job was to clear some recently cut plants that were hanging over the road, dig out a water drainage ditch, and add some rocks to reinforce the road. We also discovered lots of spiders, centipedes, ants and two grasshoppers. (However, I was not happy to find my mattress crawling with ants when I returned from lunch that day!)
After our work there was a hike and a visit to a waterfall. I didn’t go to the waterfall because I only had one pair of shoes and the hike there required walking through knee deep water. But, the students had a great time visiting the falls and I enjoyed a peaceful hour reading next to the babbling brook.
On day two and three we hiked up behind the cabin to clear the trail so that the main worker at the reserve could get his ATV up and down the hill for easier trail maintenance. We were in a lot of mud doing these jobs, raking, digging up rocks and clearing out debris. We saw some frogs, a jumping tarantula, a snake and many, many ants. Including the infamous “bullet ant”.
This job took up most of both days, but we still had a chance to take a dip in the river and spend some quality time getting to know each other, reading our books and enjoying the nature all around us.
I was pretty skeptical about this trip because I knew very little about where we were going, what we would be doing and what kind of weather we would encounter. But as each day went on, things got better and the rustic cabin of 17 people didn’t seem as bad as the first day. And since I was able to get the ants out of my bed I was happy. The students all worked well together and there were no fights! I’d say it was a successful week!