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Raleigh Expedition in Costa Rica

Unsure about what he wanted to do after finishing school, Mark Pluck decided to take a Gap Year and joined Raleigh's ten week expedition in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Mark looks back on his time with the charity as "a life changing, thoroughly rewarding & unique experience."

Before I joined Raleigh I was working at a conventions hall in Barcelona, Spain where I live. I was unsure as to what I wanted to do after finishing school so I wanted to take a year out to think. I was attracted to Raleigh over other organisations as it seemed the most organised and best structured organisation which offered the most variety and a diverse range of people.

For the community phase we were based in La Carona, Conte Burika:

In this small community inhabited by the indigenous Guaymi people, we built foundations for a dining hall for the local school. With a dining hall in place the community would have a better chance of receiving funding for food. We walked deep into the jungle for the first few days to collect wood and then dug and positioned the foundations. Being in the community was amazing. The wood-carrying and physical work was tough. I learnt so much from the Guaymi about simple living and how to plant building foundations.

For the Adventure Phase we did the CorcavadoTrek:

We trekked for almost 3 weeks starting near the Panama border The trek phase on an expedition with Raleigh in Costa Ricaacross Costa Rica and down into the Corcovado National Park. I loved the constant changing scenery and being able to stay in different places every night. The early wake-ups were tough to begin with along with the food rations! I learnt how much trekking and other physical challenges are all about being in the right mental state. That way you can achieve anything.

For the third and final environmental phase we were in the Santa Rosa National Park

We stayed in the campsite at Santa Rosa National Park and repaired and rebuilt fourteen BBQ's for visitors and also repainted the toilet block. The park relies on visitors coming to it so it was very rewarding work seeing them being used by visitors when they come to the park. I learnt how to mix cement and how to build structures with concrete blocks and bricks, a skill for life.

Basic living involved sleeping in bashas when in the jungle on this Raleigh expedition in Costa RicaThe highlights for me have been meeting so many new and amazing people. Learning about the Guaymi People in the community phase and how they look at life and finishing the trek and seeing such incredible wildlife. Another highlight was learning about myself and what I am capable of doing without home comforts, with just basic living.

The biggest challenges were sleeping on a mat on the floor almost every night, eating the same food repetitively and not having hot showers... EVER!

Working with people from a mix of backgrounds and nationalities has been a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding experience. I have an advantage having lived in Spain for many years and speaking Spanish, so learning about life in Costa Rica and Nicaragua and the Guaymi culture was easier and an unforgettable experience.

I have learnt how to live without home comforts and enjoy it! I have learnt how unnecessary material items are and how capable I am of achieving anything I put my mind to.

It has been a life changing, thoroughly rewarding and unique experience that has left me with a completely different outlook on life.

Mark Pluck's expedition in Costa Rica and Nicaragua was organised by Raleigh.