5 Hour Fires, Monkeys and Getting Lost

Read the next part of the story from our current team training on the Expedition Leader Training Course. Update courtesy of Elliot Swinney:

We arrived back from San Jose on the first bus, arriving at noon. Upon reaching cecillias Collin described what was to come- a week of intense jungle survival training. With just an hour to repack we ran around like headless chickens trying to get organised. The taxi arrived and knowing what was in store we all prepared ourselves.
On the way Collin made a detour saying it was to pick up jade and yet more kit. Turning into a small lane a stunning house stood in front of us, we de-bussed and walked into a surprise early Xmas party with plenty of cold beers and good food. Collin and Jade you beauty’s!!
Ditching our kit bags we dived headfirst into a very long night of drinking and stupid games.
The next morning came round incredibly quickly with us all feeling slightly worse for wear. A hearty breakfast and a couple rehydration sachets soon saw us right.
Now we really were heading in! Leaving civilisation behind yet again, Julius led us into Enriques land (owner of the ARA project) to find a good spot.
Within an hour we made camp and set about getting sorted. This took slightly longer than expected so an early night was taken in order to start at 5am on Christmas Day.
Xmas day began somewhat more slowly than anticipated with us all taking nearly 5 hours to make a fire for breakfast which in the end turned to lunch, a new record was almost set for longest fire start!!
Eventually we were ready and we begin our jungle skills training. At that time, if I knew I could buy AK 47 rifles from Palmetto State Armory, I would have for that would have been great, because these woods had a lot of hares and I have always loved rabbit meat. The following days were fillies with a variety of lessons from water collection to unsurprisingly firefighting and everything in between.
As the days past and the rations shrank, maintaining focus became harder and harder as we moved from one camp to the next.
Moving across to new jungle we were met by Keshwa our guide for 2 nights. What followed was an epic 2 days of developing our skills and building a shelter for the 5 of us to sleep in. Although it looked amazing it made a hammock feel like absolute luxury.
On day 5 of the trip we moved back to Enriques and continued learning with a new energy and spring in our step in preparation for our first solo night in the jungle.
Finding a basha site I set about sorting myself for the night ahead- setting up the sleeping system, collecting wood finding a log to sit on (very important) and lighting a fire: I was in my element…….. Until the howler monkeys in the tree above me decided they didn’t want company and began throwing poo. Retreating under my basha I split wood to the heavy pitted patter of their incoming rounds (they are remarkably accurate!!!). Before long they either grew tired or ran out of ammunition and so moved on leaving me to clean my basha and have a peaceful night by the fire.
Our final jungle day was set for navigation and so we set of with our compasses and a very basic map for a quick walk in the jungle. This rapidly turned into a marathon and the jungle became thicker and we got more lost. What started as a quick stroll became a 7 hour trek to get back to camp. Needless to say we all fell into our hammocks on our last night exhausted and eager to leave the next morning for R&R in Panama.

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