Birdwatching in the Savegre Reserve (Cindy McKinnon)
Day 2 – Heading for the Pacuare River, Exploradores Outdoors van traverses mountainous, winding roads to reach our whitewater rafting destination. Our guide, David, explains safety precautions when rafting this class III/IV river during the 18 mile trip, a 41/2 hour ride. Susan and I are nervous, unlike most of the others who look to be half our age, and we are relieved that the head honcho, David, will be our own personal guide downriver. The rafts are self bailing, all of us are expected to paddle, and we quickly master David’s instructions, especially the part about crouching down in the raft when we hit the rough spots! Our six man raft enters the water along with several others, and David maneuvers the rapids with ease, all of us paddling as he calls out orders, “Forward!” “Right back!” “Paddle hard!” A particularly difficult patch of rapids manages to snare another raft of Mexican tourists who struggle to get free. We witness one of the other guides fall out and swim toward his raft to be hauled in by the passengers, laughing that he is the one to tumble overboard. We relax and enjoy the beautiful rainforest surrounding the Pacuare River banks. “Pura vida,” we are told, “Pure life,” a Costa Rican expression that describes our feelings as we float down the river. Hawks, white egrets, grey herons, and bare-throated tiger heron are identified. Pulling into shore, David spots poison dart frogs, and scoops up one of the tiny red frogs with blue legs. After replacing the frog to its muddy home, he thoroughly washes his hands in the water, explaining that handling this frog with an open cut can be dangerous since the poison is on the frog’s skin.
We pass camp sites used by overnight rafters and view primitive dwellings built of wood and palm leaves by the local tribes. Indigenous women scrub their laundry on rocks in a shallow section of the river. No roads access this area and supplies must be rafted in we are told. Indians in kayaks accompany us on the trip, sometimes stopping to take our picture or help dislodge a raft when it gets hung up on the rocks. A light rain begins to fall as we finish the last hour of our paddle downriver. This may be the dry season, but we learn that some rain is to be expected nearly every day in Costa Rica. Grateful for a hot shower, we relax at the Guayabo Lodge with gin and tonics before dinner, recounting our adventures on the river as we admire the exquisite gardens set off by towering mountains in the setting sun.
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