By: Aidan Aciukewicz and Alexander Lehr
Our gracious leaders allowed us to sleep in until 7am, when we ate our delicious banana pancakes and fresh fruit. We split up into two groups; one went for a nature hike, while the other rode horseback on a tour around the ranch. For the nature hike, we were led by Francisco, who has a broad knowledge of the indigenous birds of Costa Rica. He set up his huge monoscope so that we could catch a detailed view of the incredible birds. We hiked along the beach for about an hour under the hot sun before finding relief among the mangroves. We learned about some of the thousands of species of plants and even tried live termites, which taste a bit minty. We stopped for water at the Ranger Station and also ate some delicious gorp before returning to the beach for a short walk back to the base camp.
The horseback riders were loaded into the open back of a pickup truck for a short ride to the equestrian center. We headed out after loading up. The horses pretty much knew what they were doing, giving us only the illusion of control. We went along roads, trails through the jungle, the beach, and made 2 river crossings. Annette stopped at certain view sheds so that we could take pictures and revel in the glory, as well as stopping near indigenous species and interesting landmarks. She explained the history of the ranch and native flora and fauna that we saw. Halfway through we stopped at a store for cold sodas, before this we also saw the new, under-construction CIRENAS campus, as well as the new coconut palm plantation. We made our way back along the beach and after about 3-and-a-half hours on horseback we dismounted back where we started. Lunch was leftovers from last night and salads, and we recharged in the shade, some taking a dip in the Pacific. After our rest we learned about the infrastructure and goals of the ranch and a bit about sustainable agriculture and ecotourism. After the lecture, the group split again, some kayaking in the mangrove and others returning to the beach to swim and collect driftwood for art. We watched the sunset as we painted the driftwood pieces and convened inside the hall for a lecture from Francisco about deforestation and processes to combat climate change. Dinner was pasta with a chorizo (a type of sausage) sauce. Today was tiring but we look forward for what tomorrow has to bring