Santiago’s Place

Our week began on Friday October 3rd when we made our way via bus and 4×4 trucks to Ranchos Tinamu in San Isidro, a beautiful ranch set in a mountainous cloud forest and owned by the charismatic and always beloved Santiago. We arrived at the ranch Friday night, just in time for dinner. While some of us were apprehensive about our new, very rural location – with no electricity or much of a town to speak of – after seeing our rooms we all immediately felt at home! We were staying in cabins reminiscent of sleep away camp, complete with bunk beds and incredible mountain views. We also felt extremely welcomed by Santiago and his entire family. On Saturday we had a day of rest and relaxation after our long travel day. We slept in, had breakfast and explored the ranch which included seeing cows, a pig, ducks and chickens and going on a waterfall hike.

On Sunday our work week began. A typical day in our week at Ranchos Tinamu consisted of rising with the sun for breakfast around 6:30, followed by several hours of manual labor in the morning. In San Isidro, work has to be done in the morning because it rains consistently beginning around noon. As a result, our open and rainy afternoons left us with ample time for naps and group bonding! We also helped to prepare dinner in the evenings and cleaned up after meals.

On this first day of work we woke up before breakfast to help with milking the cows – a new and fun experience for many of us! After breakfast we began work on our main project for the week, a pond that would become a habitat for frogs to reproduce. Throughout the week, we removed all the existing vegetation from the pond, lined it with concrete and finally replanted the pond with species of plants that would attract the frogs to their new home.

We also had the opportunity to visit the town of San Isidro several times during the week. San Isidro de Dota is about 3 hilly kilometers from Ranchos Tinamu and basically consists of a phone booth, a two room school, and less than 80 scattered residents. On Sunday we had an adventurous trek through the rain to the local school for a game of bingo. We had a great time playing bingo with the local people and winning prizes that included live ducks! (We even got to help bring the ducks from Santiago’s ranch – the boys had the difficult and hilarious task of catching them).

Our second day in town was on Wednesday, when we woke up extra early to hike there in order to start work early and take advantage of the dry hours of the day. Two members of the group, Brooke and Maddie, spent their morning at the elementary school teaching English to the three students there (yes, there are only three students!). The rest of the group began work building a new water system for the town. We carried pipes up to the water source at the top of a hill and got to work digging trenches with shovels and pick axes, laying the pipes and finally covering them back up. We just barely finished our work before the rain came, but it was amazing to see how much progress we were able to make in just one morning – over 42 meters of piping!

Another exciting event from our week in San Isidro was Maddie’s 19th birthday. We woke her early in the morning on Thursday with some beautiful singing and we ended the night with more singing and a cake that we shared with Santiago and his family. Although it seemed like we would have so much time in San Isidro, the week flew by and it was hard to believe when it came time to leave on Saturday. Santiago and his family made us feel so welcome and at home! We will all miss our home in San Isidro but are excited for our last few days in Costa Rica at Surf Camp, and for seeing what new adventures await us in Ecuador!