Saturday, December 31, 2011

Rafting the Pacuare River

For our final Costa Rica adventure, we took a two-day rafting trip down the Pacuare River with a smallish outfit called Ticos River Rafting. The trip started about an hour northeast of Turrialba, and we descended 330 meters over 45 kilometers over two days, with frequent stops for a short hike or swim. One guide rowed the oar boat with all the gear, while the other captained our paddle boat.

Rapids the first day were mostly class I or II, but plenty exciting, as we descended between wild plantation land on one side and an indigenous forest reserve on the other. Once in a while we passed under a cable with a wooden seat hanging from it-a device the indigenous people use to pull themselves hand over hand across the river. At one stopping point we climbed up a side stream to a series of water slides, and then the kids went still farther. Because I kept slipping in my water shoes and slamming against the rocks, the kids uninvited me from the extended climb.

We camped overnight at a "lodge" above the river that consisted of screened in two-person bungalows and a well-appointed kitchen area. We had sheets and blankets, running water and showers, far more luxury than we had expected. Darkness falls abruptly at six o'clock in the tropics, but there was enough light from solar batteries to play Jenga and cards (52 cards somehow patched together from four decks) with the guides and a group from Canada. Even after Leo and I went to bed, outbreaks of raucous laughter continued.

The second day's rafting was more rigorous, with class III and IV rapids. We saw aricari (of the toucan family) and even more vultures than the day before. Waterfalls tumbled down from either side of three canyons. Mario and Fabio, our enthusiastic and funny guides, had us jump out and float in the calmer sections. Through a couple of rapids, the paddlers on one side reversed direction, and then everyone paddled forward so we spun through the jolting waves. Fabio encouraged Leo and then Damian to be bullriders on the front of the raft, holding on by just one rope. Damian flipped overboard in one rapid, but we hauled him back into the raft none the worse for wear. Near the end if the trip, Mario, apparently impressed by Rhianon's spirit, asked her to come over and row the oar boat while he loafed in the bow, grinning.

In mid-afternoon, wet and tired, we approached a highway bridge and beached the rafts. Taxi brought us to the beautiful Rio Perlas Hotel in the Orosi Valley, where we swam in a hot pool to stretch tight muscles. From here, in an hour, we'll be starting home. BUt for anyone thinking of coming to Costa Rica, looking for a family adventure, healthy food, friendly people, and lots of time outdoors, I say, do it!

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