Basically, it was a great last field trip day. We had to wake up at 5 and catch the bus at 5:45 a.m. to drive three hours to the Rio Pacuare. The whole river is a little more than 100 kilometers. We rafted 18 miles and we were only 25 miles from the ocean when we were done.
This is the website of the tour company that took us:
And this is what they said about our tour:
Pacuare is considered the most beautiful river in Costa Rica, and worldwide one of the best whitewater rafting rivers due to the scenic beauty, waterfalls, hiking trails and diversity of flora and fauna, among which participants will observe blue morpho butterflies, sloths, tucans, red frogs and great variety of birds. Thus, nature is present throughout the route.
Well, again, we didn’t see any wildlife. We saw a pretty purple butterfly (maybe that’s what they were talking about), and a few indigenous people and some of their houses, but that was about it. Our river guide told us a lot about the indigenous people, how they don’t have TV or electricity and they live in straw huts along the river. We rafted under a basket that was suspended in the rainforest with cords, and apparently the people use the basket to transport goods. When the Costa Ricans want to interact with the indigenous people, they pay in goods – like coffee or sugar – instead of cash, since the people would have no way to spend it. Amanda was really pumped to see an indigenous person – I just wanted to see a monkey. She got her wish, I didn’t. I guess that means I went three weeks in a monkey-filled country without even seeing one.
The waterfall description was accurate, though. They were absolutely gorgeous, these natural waterfalls spilling over the rocks and spraying water into the river. We rafted under a few of them and it was really cold but great. Even at 10 in the morning, when we got there, it was already probably 90 degrees and the sun was intense – so it felt good to get in the water.
Anyway, we took nearly the same bus route that we did on the way to Puerto Viejo, going through Alajuela first, then San Jose, and then winding through the mountains (nauseating but beautiful, again). We stopped a few hours later for breakfast, and Paulo, our guide, let us know that was our last stop for food and a bathroom before the river. That’s when we realized that we wouldn’t be able to wear our flip flops in the water – so over half the kids ran to the store attached to the restaurant to buy water shoes, but I just decided to wear my tennis shoes in the river. We tried to sleep for the rest of the way, but Paulo kept telling us all these stories about how he became a rafting guide and he kept us pretty entertained for awhile. He told us jokes the whole way home later that afternoon, and a few of them were pretty hilarious – he was definitely a great dramatic storyteller, so it made the bus ride feel a little shorter.
We finally got to the starting point of the tour after a 3-kilometer stretch where we descended 1000 kilometers – it was pretty insane. I feel like my ears are just constantly popping here. The river is in the middle of the rainforest, and there were about 50 rapids we were supposed to go over in 18 miles. Only a few of them were really intense, where we had to “get down” and take cover in the raft so it wouldn’t capsize.
Our raft was six girls: me, Janelle, Elise, Natalie, Kristen and Amanda. We were the last group claimed by a river guide. I really don’t think any of them wanted an all-girl group. Janelle and I took the front of the raft and did maybe 80 percent of the rowing. I ended up in the middle and back of the raft eventually, and it was a whole lot easier than leading the way. We had to learn how to row and get the safety talk before we could start. A lot of the time, I was too busy watching Janelle and making sure we were rowing at the same time to look around and see the scenery, but the rapids were really pretty – I haven’t really seen a rough river before, and the water cascaded over the rocks like something I’ve seen in maybe a spring water commercial. I already talked about the indigenous houses, but it was mainly water and rainforest, occasionally with a scattered hotel or bar in between. There were just so few signs of human life. We could hear the cicadas really loudly the whole time. I kept thinking they were monkeys, but I was sorely disappointed. Anyway, the six of us definitely held our own during the trip. We were usually fourth out of six, sometimes third, and we even went into first once when everyone else decided to dive in the water and we kept rowing. Not like we were racing or anything.
My favorite part of the whole trip was the canyon. We had been rafting for maybe 2 and a half hours, I’m not sure because obviously we had no concept of time, but I was getting kind of tired and definitely hot. We didn’t get overheated because especially being in the front, Janelle and I were getting splashed pretty much nonstop from either other boats or the rapids, but I was ready to take a break from rowing. The canyon was this semi-covered, cooler section of the river that had high rocks on either side, and we all took a break there for awhile. Our guide wanted us to play the “Viagra game,” which meant we all went on one side and he tried to push the raft up in the air as high as it could go (and keep it up there the longest, beating the other rafts) but we had very little interest in it and we all fell in the water maybe within 10 seconds, so we just floated in the water in our life vests. I went to a huge rock and did a cannonball off it. It was probably a 3-meter jump, it was pretty high and a little scary once I was up there, but the water was really deep and the life vest obviously meant I wasn’t under water for very long. I was doing flips off the front of the raft, too, which was surprisingly tons easier than the diving board. I’m guessing the bright yellow helmet and the life vest helped me be a little more confident than in the pool. We sat on top of the raft while it was flipped upside down…and then everyone else started getting back in their rafts and rowing away. Natalie and Kristen were floating a little downstream, just waiting for us to pick them up, but the four of us couldn’t flip the raft over and so the other rafts had already disappeared from view by the time we finally managed to get back in the raft and rescue the other two girls. Like I said, I’m pretty sure our guide couldn’t stand us. We were a little all over the place.
We did the Macarena a few times in the boat, standing up, which was pretty fun and definitely beat “Row Row Row Your Boat” in terms of coolness (which was what a few of the other boats were doing). Our river guide nicknamed us the Mamacitas about halfway through the trip and it became our “team name,” which was great because let’s face it, mamacita is an awesome word to say.