Rising early in the morning, Andy and I were packed and ready for a full day of white water rafting with Exploradores Outdoors. We were picked up by their van at our hotel and greeted by Ricky, who was our guide for the ride and gave everyone on board a pre-orientation to rafting. We quickly made friends with Jane - the only English speaking passenger - from Northern England.
We left the city and had a scenic trip through the country as we headed to their base camp where a breakfast buffet was served and we had a chance to change and store our luggage.
Rafts were assigned and we went over to the Pacuare River to get going. We met Olger, our friendly guide, who taught us the commands and the most important phrase of the day - Puda Vida! We shouted this phrase in joy every time we made it through the more difficult rapids.
It was my first time white water rafting and it was one of the best experiences I've ever had. The weather was beautiful and warm and we all jumped into the river to swim a bit and cool off. We passed waterfalls and more and Olger told us the history of the area and generously answered all our questions.
One of the highlights was we passed under a bridge that was populated by local children. As we went under, they made the 20-30 foot jump into the water and one climbed on our raft with the help of Olger. We paddled a bit more and then the children helped the guides take the rafts a little further down the river. In return, all the kids were given the leftovers from our lunch.
Tired but elated from the journey, we had a beer at the campgrounds with our raft mates and were able to get a CD of fantastic photos from the day.
Andy and I then made our way to the Selva Bananito Lodge. One of the staff members, Jonathan, picked us up in his old but reliable pick-up truck and took us on the dirt roads to the very private eco-lodge. There would be no electricity for the next few days but we would be closer to nature than ever.
The lodge was beautiful and we had our own cabin with a deck that overlooked the Talamanca Mountain Range. There were hammocks to relax in and we collapsed into them to rest after all the rafting. A jug of fresh water to drink was available and there was a solar-powered light in the bathroom. The shower even had warm water, as long as all the guest played nice and didn't hog it all. It was eco-tourism but not too extreme that you felt like you were on an episode of Survivor.
Staff member Carlos stopped by our cabin to say hello and answer any questions. He directed us to dinner, over at the main lodge.
We walked over as the sunset and were greeted to a gorgeous covered deck with tables and chairs all made of local wood.
The kitchen staff lit candles all over the place and we met the other guests - Benny and Marteen from Belgium and Ursula from Switzerland.
Carlos sat with us and told us all about the history of the land and this truly unique hotel. Our arrival was celebrated with a shelled out coconut filled with a freshly-made cocktail of coconut water and rum. Soon after, the food was served and was delicious, as it would prove to be our whole stay. It was a truly home-cooked meal of cucumber salad, chicken with potatoes and carrots, fresh juice and coffee cake to boot.
After a fun dinner with everyone, it was an early bedtime due to the lack of light. Sleeping without the buzz of electricity and just the hum of crickets was a great finish to the day.