We bumped along the winding road that would take us to Rios Tropicales whitewater rafting put-in along the Pacuare River.
Our guide for the week, Kevin, stood at the front of the coach, providing safety instructions that were now familiar to me and no longer fear-inducing. He pointed out the turn-off to the river as we trucked past it. We had one special stop for the students before paddling down the river.
At the top of the hill, we pulled into a narrow dirt road and stopped in front of a home mostly obscured by lush foliage. At the side of the house where the car port might be, a counter gave way to an outdoor kitchen space and a freezer full of the creamiest ice cream I have ever tasted wrapped in single serve plastic bags. Flavors ranged from coconut to banana to tropical fruits and included standard favorites such as vanilla and chocolate. The tiny woman who sold them to us had been making them by hand for decades.
With students equally delighted and on sugar highs, we made our way back to the top of the road leading down to the put-in.
Whitewater Rafting the Pacuare River
We grabbed our bags from beneath our coach. Most of the group climbed into a wagon pulled by a tractor. The rest of us clambered into the back of a pickup truck. The steep dirt road had those of us in the back of the truck, sliding towards the cab and catching splinters in our rear-ends.
The put-in had the usual craziness of any whitewater operation: guides inflating rafts, directing people towards helmets, paddles, and PFDs, collecting our bags of clothes for the next three days and loading them into huge dry bags. It’s a hurry-up-and-wait situation if you’re efficient at following directions.
As soon as we hit the water in our seven-person rafts the familiar zen that comes with being on the water struck me. The trip up until this point hadn’t been particularly stressful. But on the water was where I was meant to be.
Our guide deftly maneuvered us through low water levels – February is part of the dry season in Costa Rica – before delivering us to shore. We jumped off one of the ledges into the river, swam to the opposite shore, explored a waterfall, and practiced rescuing our raftmates in a calm pool. We paddled on until we reached Rios Tropicales’ ecolodge mid-afternoon.
I didn’t want to get off the water.
Up next in Costa Rica: the ecolodge.