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Home > Costa Rica > Destination Costa Rica > Jungle Journey

Jungle Journey


There have been times when ISLS has been called upon to perform tasks above and beyond the normal call of duty. Such was the case in August of 1996 when Hurricane Caesar hit the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Many of the roads and bridges had been wiped out and one of our schools was totally cut off from the rest of the country.

The school had come through the storm with barely a scratch and all of the students were fine. The problem was that there were new students starting new programs the following Monday. on top of that,. the school had just purchased a brand new computer that they needed to have delivered.

As the flew students began to arrive (two of whom coming all the way from Italy) the ISLS reps tried to find a way to get the new students and the computer down to the school. Not the simplest task to complete even in the best of times. Add to this the fact that the phones were down in the affected area and the only way to communicate with the school was through the lone cellular phone in town.

Finally. they were able to coordinate with the school only to find that two additional students were arriving in the country that Saturday and would it be all right if they joined in with the four ISLS students. So. that made six students. two ISLS reps, a surfboard and one computer, all needing to get through to the school.

"No problem!"

By Saturday some of the roads had come back on line which then made it possible for them to get within fifty miles of the school by bus. So. early Sunday morning they left San Jose hoping to get through. The first leg of the trip was very easy and they saw little damage to speak of. When the bus finally dropped them off. they asked around town and found a taxi driver, Jose, who had a big enough 4x4 jeep to fit than all and was willing to take them the rest of the way. Ike said that he had heard of a guy who had made it there and back and that it was, "no problem".

They packed everybody and everything into the jeep and continued on their way. It only took five minutes for them to see the first real signs of the disaster that had hit the area when the highway they were traveling on ceased to exist. No warnings. no signs just a bunch of people standing around looking at the washed out road. Everybody got out of the jeep to look for them- selves, thinking that this was the end of the line but, again Jose said, "no problem".

They all got back in and Jose took the jeep up and over the end of the road and into the mud beyond. They made slow but steady progress for the better part of an hour, the whole time looking at the devastation around them. When the jeep stopped moving they again thought the jig was up.

After trying unsuccessfully to get them unstuck, Jose jumped out of the jeep and disappeared into a nearby palm plantation. Ten minutes went by with everybody wondering, "what is going on?" Then they heard the sound of a diesel engine and saw Jose riding on the top of a tractor coming out of the Palms. Upon reaching them Jose hopped off smiled and said, "no problem".

They traveled on for another 40 minutes through more plantations and washed out rivers until they reached Rio Hatio. They came to a stop and all piled out to take a look at what used to be a bridge that no longer spanned the river. It was then that Jose said,

"We have a problem".

At that point in the trip they were nearly to the school with only 7 kilometers to go. No matter how much they pleaded, Jose refused to try and drive across the river. Finally, they took a vote and decided that they would keep on going. with or without Jose, rather than turn back. Of course that meant they had to somehow get to the other side of the river with all their bags., the surfboard and the computer.

While they were standing at the river trying to decide how to proceed a couple of locals waded across without much apparent difficulty. Upon seeing this one of the reps walked out into the middle of the river to see how deep and fast it was. The water came up to his waist and was moving fairly quickly but they decided to go for it anyway.

For matters of safety and time it was decided that they would all go across together in one trip. The river was over a 100 meters wide and it had started to rain. One of the reps, being the far thinking and prepared ISLS rep that he was, had brought a rope and they used it to connect themselves together. They then put all their luggage on top of the surfboard to be carried by the two biggest students. The computer was divided up between the two reps.

During their preparation quite a few locals had gathered on both sides of the river in order to see the crazy gringos attempt to cross. With grim determination and no small amount of angst the group set out. Making good progress and having only a few minor mishaps they arrived safely on the other side to the enthusiastic cheers of their audience. And not a moment to soon as the rain began to fall in earnest and the level of the river was noticeably higher.

Trying to keep their stuff as dry as possible they scrambled under the remains of the bridge and took shelter. With the major obstacle behind them it was then necessary to find transport to the school. By talking to some of the locals it was learned that there was a town half a kilometer down the road. So, one of the reps took off in that direction to find a vehicle.

After walking for about 10 minutes the rep entered the "town", all two buildings of it. One building was a market and the other was a bar. The Rep made straight for the bar and ordered a beer. Inquiring among the patrons he found that the only vehicle in town was owned by the man at the market. After finishing his beer he crossed the road and found the owner. Five minutes later they had struck a deal, he would transport all of them the rest of the way for a case of beer.

The rep walked back to the bar and purchased the agreed upon beverages plus one for each of the students back at the river. Hearing the honk of the horn, he picked up the beer and returned to the road. The truck he found was a milk truck, climbing in they returned to the bridge.

They packed the computer into the front seat and piled into the back of the truck. The road was bumpy and the beer foamy but their spirits were high. The last seven kilometers took them twenty-five minutes. When they at last made it to the school, everybody in town congregated around the truck. You see, they were the first people into the town since the hurricane a week before.

Six very wet students, two very wet and tired ISLS reps, one surfboard and one intact and working computer.

"No problem!"

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