Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Silver practice expedition pioneers new route in Perquin

The ABC silver international award team took to the far corner of the country again for an expedition in the area of Perquin. This time the objective included pioneering a new route from the slopes of Cerro Crucita down to the Rio Sapo, following the ridge down to the beautiful twin waterfalls of Olombita.

Saturday began with a dawn assemblage of sleepy award candidates, parents and teachers in the top ABC car park. Everyone had spent their Friday evening packing, and it was a difficult 6am start time but the excitement was running high as a new adventure awaited the team as always. One group member almost got left behind, but no names will be mentioned!

The long drive was carried out by the teachers in suitable convoy style, although they did miss the turning to Perquin the first time around and almost ended up in Honduras - which would have been embarassing!

A quick coffee was drunk at the lodge before the team took to the trails for their first navigational experience alone. Communicating with the teachers by phones and being watched through binoculars, the group attempted to navigate through the complex maze of pointed hills at the base of Llanos de Muerto. In the end teachers and students ended up on two separate hills facing each other across empty air and if only their had been a bridge it would have been a lot easier; but the silver team took their mistake in good spirits and remained together and in good humour as they trekked down and up an equal distance to re-join the lead trail. The new campsite was called Joya Verde, and it was a real treat with freshly constructed bathrooms and a cold shower. In the evening the stars shone clear and the night was warm and still, the team went to bed early determined to do better with their navigation on the following day.

In the night a nest of leaf cutter ants emerged from out of the ground, cut multiple holes in one of the teacher's tents with their razor sharp teeth and disappeared from whence they had came, leaving the whole tent ruined and looking like a swiss cheese.

The second day contained the real challenge, finding a new route to the Rio Sapo across uncharted territory and many grunts and groans were heard as the group shouldered their packs and set off up a steep hill. The group was surprised to come across a new road which has been constructed in what was only recently untouched woodland, showing that development may be coming fast to that region. The team soon left this new landmark into the forest, and were challenged with the task of finding a way down the trackless ridge on the slopes of Lomo de San Marco. They walked cross-country through the forest in a line , no sign of human habitation for hours as the cicadas filled the air with their shrill whining and the heat built up in the dusty air. Eventually the river was spotted and the group slithered down to the bank and took a welcome rest. The river channel was deep and full of wonderful rock pools but the real prize was the twin water falls of Olombita and the team kept descending. One student decided that they just couldn't wait and slipped in with rucksack, clothes and shoes on. Eventually the waterfalls were found, and spectacular they were containing pristine, fresh, cascading  cool water. Unfortunately the campsite was still 2 hours downstream, and the group had to give the pools one last longing glance before plunging into the forest again. As the mid-afternoon sun hung in the sky the tired team crossed the Rio Sapo, accomplishing their mission and earning a well-earned swim. Swimming parties in the Rio Sapo took place for the next two hours, amidst  noisy celebrating and washing. There was time for a nap before the evening fire, which the students made themselves and a quiet look at the stars before bedtime. Dress sense around the fire was definitely festive, especially in the case of the boys whose fire-making while wearing colourful boxer shorts, flip-flops and socks will never be forgotten.

The short walk to the pick-up point on Monday felt quite hot at only 7:30am and the waking pickup was cheered by the group as they piled in. A triumphant coffee was drunk at the Perquin lodge before the long drive home. The silver team slid into place in the line of cars at 1:50pm, looking considerably more tired and dirty than the average ABC student leaving for home but with a triumphant look that only comes after  true adventure. Once more the staff team handled the drive home with suitable aplomb and must be thanked for their dedication and experienced support. One more expedition to go for the silver team on the 31st of May!

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