06.15 – I’m on the bus.
08.45 – I’m stuffing my face with eggs, rice, beans and sausages.
10.00 – we’re on the river.
The Rio Pacuare in Costa Rica is a world renowned river for rafting. It’s regularly ranked in the top 5 rivers worldwide for it’s rapids. In other words, it’s awesome. Our paddle downriver ensured we became very well acquainted with 39 rapids that lay before us with some particularly aptly named:
The Double Drop
The Upper Cemetery
shortly follow by The Lower Cemetery
Watch the video or read on below!
Forward please, back paddle please, get down! These were the instructions of our extremely polite guide – “get down” being the only time he didn’t say please as it usually meant we were about to dive in to some deep white water with no time to lose if we were to all stay in the boat.
Green was the colour of the day, thankfully not because of any kind of motion sickness, but because everywhere I looked I saw green. From the second we entered Costa Rica we were surrounded by green forests, jungles, lizards and insects. Today, the bright green trees guided us down river past lazy sloths, cormorant birds and waterfalls.
Smoke occasionally billowed from the forest covered hills above us as indigenous people living here went about the daily lives, miles from civilization. Others ventured out of their forested homes to fish in the white water that we rode. They waved as we passed with my only question being: how far does he walk to get that cigarette he’s smoking?!
Within minutes of jumping in to the boat we were eased in to the white water with out first rapid. That was alright, we all thought, mentally congratulating ourselves before being taken by surprise by a loud “get down” as we headed towards a rock. Rebounding off it, the boat began spinning as we bounced in to the churning white water!
Forward paddle please!
On we went through rapid after rapid before arriving at the double header we had been waiting for. The Upper Cemetery quickly followed by the Lower Cemetery were the biggest and wettest rapids of the day. There was a moment of calm before the storm where the boat fell silent with the only audible noise coming from the water all around us. Our guide told us that this was it: the largest category 4 rapid of the day followed by it’s not so little brother. We paddled hard towards the centre of the rapid with the river disappearing around a corner and down in front of us.
As the white water crashed on to our boat we plunged downwards, the boat smashing in to the heart of the Upper Cemetery and thrusting us up in to the air. With knuckles whiter than snow, we clung on for dear life with every finger and toe to avoid flying out of the boat. There was no respite for us or the water travelling downstream as the Upper Cemetery quickly became the Lower Cemetery. We plunged deep in to the second rapid which kindly offered us another wet and chilly reception.
We soon arrived at The Rodeo, another exhilarating rapid which really did bounce anyone riding it out of their seat as if a horse was bolting beneath them. Rapid after rapid soaked us, bumped us, sent us flying in to the air, all in front of the stunning tree lined backdrop.
At one point we passed through a narrow gorge banked by rocks and overhanging trees to each side. I jumped out of the boat here and let the current take me for a while. It was an amazing feeling to lie back in my life jacket and slowly float down the river, really taking in the surroundings. The water was cold, but that was a welcome change from the humid midday heat.
In what seemed like no time, our 4 hours on the river came to the end with one last “paddle high five” (everybody smashing there paddles together in the air)! The end of our journey downstream was signalled by a road bridge crossing over us – the first sign of civilisation we had seen since the morning. Until next time nature!
Have you ever tried white water rafting?