Pacuare: The Land of the Rapid and Slow
I don´t know if you´ve ever been rafting before, but it is FUN! I took on my first white-water rafting experience ever on the highly recommended Río Pacuare, a rapid-ridden river whose mouth is found in the Caribbean coast of central Costa Rica, last Thursday, and let´s just say I´m afraid I got spoiled. The trip didn´t start out so great due to a miscommunication of pick-up time and place, but when all was said and done it turned out to be better than if things had gone according to the original plan because I got to get to know a cool couple that was in the same situation, they made us some delicious breakfast-to-go, we got a private ride/informational tour down to the put-in site and the company even paid me back for my taxi fare (plus $2 extra, so I even got paid for all that!). Funny how worrying and stress is so often negated later, isn´t it? Upon arrival to the river, I told one of the personnel I was by myself and needed a group, so he immediately found me this lovely group of 4 that unfortunately looked like they belonged more in a nursing home than in a raft. At first I was reluctant, but my outlook quickly changed when the guide put me in the front (probably because I was the only one who would be able to hear his paddling commands from that distance and perform them without dislocating a hip). Plus, it meant I was the only one who could do some of the tricks he suggested, like riding the front of the raft like a bull or laying prostrate on the raft with my head and neck hanging over so that when the huge rapids came they rushed over my whole body and submerged me from head to toe! The class of rapids ranged from 1-4, so it was a perfect combination of leisure and thrill that left us wanting more even after 3 consecutive hours of direct, tropical sun exposure that laughs in the face of SPF 30. When it got to the point where we could hop out and float with the current under a waterfall in the canyon and I was laying there looking up at the sky surrounded by unending green and birds flying overhead, I had one of those rare moments when… you know? To top it all off, we were met with an enormously delicious lunch afterwards of too many heavenly things to mention. I´m telling you, that trip has put forth a serious case for being considered my single favorite experience in Costa Rica.
As if one unforgettable experience in Pacuare that week wasn´t enough, I returned the very next day; this time for a 3-day visit to a private reserve a little farther up the coast that is dedicated to the protection and survival of various types of sea turtles. The trip itself was free (with a mere purchase of an entire semester abroad with the IFSA program), but we paid a high price in a losing battle against the ungodly amount of insects and reptiles swarming around that place. I never thought I´d see the day when mosquito bites were so unavoidable that I actually wanted them to bite me so that every part of my body would itch equally and perhaps cancel out the urge to scratch. Though just so you know, that theory doesn´t work in practice. Despite our insect inconveniences, I would go back in a heartbeat if given the chance because it was something special to see and help those turtles. I mean, these things are gigantic. We´re talking like well-over 2 meters and approaching 1500-2000 lbs. But man are they SLOW. I don´t see how that hare could have lost. They would just take forever to find where they wanted to dig, dig the hole, lay their eggs, cover the hole up and they may even just doddle for a while if they feel like it before finally heading back to the ocean. I guess they´ve got nowhere to go in a rush, but after 7-hour graveyard shifts of surveying over 7 km of beach, one´s got a right mind to just put a shovel to use for her. Despite the long waits, it was certainly awe-inspiring to watch the miraculous process take place, and we even stumbled across some baby turtle hatchlings later! Normally they don´t come out during the day because the sand is too hot, so pictures are nearly impossible because flash and any other white lights are prohibited, but I got to take a few of the 69 that we saved from, according to our guide, “certain death.” We dug them a path of cooler sand to the ocean, and I couldn´t help but feeling like a proud father as they were scurrying along to the sea to start their life. Of course, apparently only 1 in 1000 survives to adulthood, but I´d like to think one of ours is gonna make it!
Returning to Heredia has confronted me with a manageable multitude of projects to complete and presentations to prepare before heading north to Nicaragua this Friday. Julian and I still have no hotel reservations, bus tickets or even ideas of things we want to do, but we´re as certain as we can be that we´re going to Nicaragua this weekend. Maybe it will be better to go with an open itinerary, but those sound like famous last words to me…