The day at last arrived for the new group to come. The weeks of lesson planning and juggling of timetables were finally about to be put to the test. I had been placed in charge of arrival day, simultaneously the hardest day to predict due to Costa Rica’s roads making it close to impossble to guess when they would actually reach us, and the one who’s outcome would set the tone for the coming week of jungle training. Needless to say I was aware of the pressure, but the 4 different timetables I had written up to account for delays was at least a source of some reassurance to me, and some amusement to everyone else.
Finally they came, a minibus load of jet-lagged faces and bulging burgens lumbered into the driveway of the house that was to be our base-camp. After some brief introductions and a short lesson by Jared and Matt on keeping alive and well in the tropics, we made for the beach to relax around a campfire, eat dinner and enjoy a chance to get to know our new companions.
The following days went surprisingly smoothly, often running ahead of schedule and with great positivity and eagerness from the new TELs. Matt’s first lesson on fire lighting was the first real test, with the jungle doing what it does best and unleashing a merciless torrent of rain the night before, which continued on and off throughout the day. Despite the conditions and with Matt’s encouragement, everyone was ultimately successful.
The rest of the week went off virtually without a hitch. The simulated casualty evacuation we set up was impressively well handled. We had planned what we expected to be a challenging route for a rookie stretcher carry, but they blew the first stage out of the water with ease. Elliot and I had to think fast to re-route the team through a deep muddy bog and up a steep slope on the other side, but even this didn’t slow them down for long.
Jared’s machete session saw some good ferocity! A fallen tree became the victim of a half-dozen fresh blades competing to see who could be the first to cut the whole way through! My jungle movement lesson became considerably more interesting with the recent rainfall turning the already steep hill sections into a minefield of mudslides. If this wasn’t torment enough my instructions to load cinder blocks into everyone’s burgen to simulate trekking supplies became a source of wry amusement! But once again the group rose to the challenge and fought on to glory!
By week’s end everyone was ready for a well-earned day off. For us in TEL 1 there was to be no such luxury, the plan for the coming week of project work and cave rescue still needed some final touches, and group provisions and equipment had to be transported and made ready to go. But by the evening everything was set, and we made for town to enjoy a good evening off!