Where it all started!

Natalie Gosher on 16 September 2020
Costa Rica is where it all started for me- my travel obsession. My love for exploring and need to see as much of the world as I can!

I was a young 17 year old given an opportunity at school with a charity to travel to Costa Rica for 4 weeks of adventure, community work and hard slogs. I certainly came back a different person to the one who left Brackley… and with a new love for coffee!

We started in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. To be honest this was fairly unremarkable as a 17 year old with a group of friends, we used the time to acclimatise and to make plans for the first adventure- Monteverde Cloud Forest. Monteverde Cloud Forest is just one of Costa Rica’s gems. A protected jungle paradise, situated at a high altitude that it literally feels like you are in the clouds with the ‘haze’ that settles all around you. Here we trekked trails and enjoyed the nature around us. Constantly surrounded by the tweats and shrieks from rare birds and the calls of the howler monkeys. I will never forget a guide showing me an unassuming hole in the side of a mud wall on a night trek only for a tarantula to pop out!.. that had me squirming for the rest of the night! The cloud forest not only had some ground treks but you could also explore from the canopy with some very high bridges and for the more daring; zip wires.

The next leg of our trip, involved a long and very muddy hike towards Volcan Arenal, thank goodness for the guides who not only made sure we took the correct route but also took care of our bags- honestly, I have never seen mud like it! We were exhausted by the time we reached the boat that took us over lake Arenal where we caught our first sight of the majestic volcano. This was a huge highlight for me and a big bucket list tick! Volcan Arenal is a live volcano and at night you can catch a glimpse of lava bursting out of the top. The sound of the volcano was a constant low rumble and I was in awe! That night, we spent the evening in the hot springs, perfect end to a long day!

After the volcano, we made our way to a small village where we supported a local charity with some community work at a new school. Staying with local families, it really made me realise how lucky we are in the UK to have all that we have. The villagers were so friendly and I loved getting a glimpse of their lives. Surrounded by coffee plantations this is where my love for coffee started to emerge!

After making lots of new friends and enjoying some rest, we embarked on our biggest challenge! To climb Mount Chirripo! Mount Chirripo is the highest mountain in Costa Rica standing at 3821m and I can tell you that I felt every cm of that mountain! The trek up took a couple of days with a night camping and a night in a hostel before the final ascent at the crack of dawn. On a clear day, you can see both the Pacific and the Caribbean from the peak and I am thankful that on the morning that we reached the peak- we caught a glimpse of both. Thank God for that as it was freezing!! I trained for the climb but I was not expecting the journey back down to be as hard as it was- my poor legs used muscles that they didn’t know existed.

Our Costa Rican adventure was sadly coming to an end but not before we caught a bus to Cahuita on the Caribbean coast. You know when you picture a Caribbean paradise with the palm trees and golden sands- this is it! Such a beautiful beach and the R&R was just what I needed. Another highlight here was spotting a sloth in one of the trees by the beach, how can an animal be so ugly and cute all at once?!?

Looking back on my photos of my first adventure without the comfort of Mum and Dad, I am reminded about how much I fell in love with Costa Rica and I will definitely be taking my kids there so that I can fall in love with it all over again!