In early July, 54 pupils from the Fifth Form and the Lower Sixth departed for Costa Rica on what was the most anticipated World Challenge expedition in the recent history of the College. The participants took full responsibility for every aspect of their expedition; from managing their finance and sticking to a strict budget, to booking transport and accommodation, keeping the group on schedule, paying tax, and ensuring sufficient standards of health and hygiene were maintained.
The groups were accompanied and supervised by Miss Morris, Miss Bubbear, Mrs Elsbury, Mrs Lines-Scrase, Miss Traynor, Mr Reeve and Mr March as well as by expedition leaders, who made sure that safety was always maintained, comforted participants when things got tough, and turned every mistake into a learning opportunity for the group.
It was for everyone an amazing experience, not just in terms of the skills we developed and how much we learnt, but also because Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse countries in the planet; indeed, our neighbours were monkeys, sloths, wild pigs, colourful parrots, loud frogs, the odd snake and millions of butterflies.
The expedition was made up of various phases; acclimatisation treks got us all acquainted with the challenges of trekking in the warm and humid Costa Rican weather. Groups brushed up their tent pitching and stove cooking skills, and they learnt how to cross fast-flowing rivers safely. We also got the first jaw-dropping views and unforgettable experiences, such as swimming in thermal springs or waterfalls surrounded by primary rainforests, camping on deserted beaches of white sand, seeing mud-pots and just admiring the vastness of the jungle from the top of a mountain.
The project phase is where we engaged with the local communities, and most of our groups built houses for the poor or worked on derelict buildings for the benefit of the community. The projects were as challenging as they were rewarding to us all. We learnt about the lives and culture of the people we were living with, used our Spanish skills to share stories with the locals, we sat at their table, and we tried their homemade food. Some of the communities even showed their appreciation by showcasing their traditional dances to us. We all departed feeling a great sense of achievement and knowing that, with our work, we made a difference to the lives of so many.
The big trek was a challenge in capitals. We walked for days, sometimes following steep canyons with water up to our waist, carrying all our kit and food, and the terrain wasn’t always on our side. However, we learnt to soldier on regardless of how muddy the path or how steep the mountain, and when one of us fell, the rest were always there to help them up. Huge waterfalls, breathtaking views from the top of dormant volcanos, the singing of a million crickets at night, waterfall showers and crazy amounts of pitta bread dotted our journey through the some of lushest rainforests on Earth.
Finally, rest and relaxation provided downtime that balanced out the great challenges we ploughed through. Whitewater rafting, zip wiring, snorkelling and kayaking were but a few of the activities that we completed, and the anecdotes and the memories we made, we will be sharing for a very long time, certainly, with a big smile on our faces.
Mr Jordi March, Head of Spanish