In true Link style we banded together a few days ago to help out maintain trails here in the Cochamó Valley. We were working to improve the upper trail system that helps adventures and climbers alike access two of the waterfalls on Campo Aventura’s property. Since this area receives extraordinary amounts of rain, trails are built to help visitors navigate mud pits and slippery slopes – trail conditions new to many of our students.
Day one involved scouting out work projects: where stairs would be located, where hand-rails needed to be replaced or added, opening up a viewpoint, replacing rotten deck boards. We learned that in the rainforest, placing handrails involved finding a 4-6 inch tree with a fork in it, cutting it down, cutting it to length with a machete, sharpening the tip into a point, then using the biggest person you can find to penetrate the soft forest floor with it by merely throwing it into the ground multiple times. No shovels or saws required.
The next day, students and staff headed out with their appointed group and focused on one of a few various tasks. One group piled slash near the lodge and then focused on picking raspberries for our wonderful desserts. Another group focused on building 20 stairs. A third worked replacing handrails. The final group worked to replace rotten deck boards. My group, the fourth group, on our way up wondered how we were supposed to replace wood boards since we had seen none stashed the day before and we definitely weren’t carrying them. This gave rise to a very interesting question: How do you cut boards when you’re a 20 minutes drive and a 3-4 hour horseback ride, across multiple creeks, rocky and muddy terrain, and a river from the nearest mill? Our faithful leader Horacio merely carried his Stihl chainsaw with him.
Once we got to the site, Horacio scoped out a potential tree, felled it, and proceeded to rip perfectly flat boards with nothing but his chainsaw. It was so informative to how the people we have been staying with and meeting over the past few weeks use their resources in entirely new ways, at least to a majority of Americans. After cutting the first few boards boards, Horacio graciously handed over his saw to me and allowed me to try. I speak next to no Spanish, and yet this man was willing to give up one of his most precious tools without knowing if I have ever used one before; what trust. We worked for a while with him marking boards and me cutting them in total silence while other students were installing the new floor. After the lunch break, Bobby and James had the opportunity to give making their own lumber a chance. It was incredibly fun to watch.
Once the hours of work had slipped away and we returned home, we were treated to numerous raspberries and then went to visit the natural waterfalls, an adventure in and of itself.