Rafting el Rio Pacuare

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October, 2007

Leaving the Panamanian archipelago behind, we crossed back into Costa Rica and met up with our transport that would take us back to San Jose, stopping for 8 hours to raft the world famous Pacuare River along the way. Situated in a pristine river valley on the country’s eastern flank, the Pacuare is revered by many in the river world for both its breathtaking scenery as well as its technical difficulty.

Guided by some local Costa Rican guides with time-honored knowledge of the El Rio Pacuare Costa Ricariver, we navigated our way down the fern lined banks and took in the sightings of toucans and sloths while dodging eddies in the rapids. Along with us in our raft were a group of three middle-aged men from the US who were all buddies from college. They said it was their sixth trip to the country together, and listening to them banter with each other reminded me so much of my treasured annual trips to Baja that mean so much to me. We dined on a surprisingly satisfying deli style lunch whipped up by the crew along the banks of the river under a palapa style thatched hut, and it felt amazing to finally once again have the sun on our shoulders after so many days of gray.

While underway one of the guides they called “Iguana” kept splashing me with water from his one-man kayak. To this day I still have no idea why.

Jumping off the back of the raft down a narrow canyon and floating on my back looking behind me, I watched the narrow gorge get smaller and fade away, permanently etching the view in my mind as a place of tranquility and satisfaction. Completely alone floating in the cool waters of a Costa Rican river, taking in nothing but the sights and sounds and smells of the scenery around me was one of those moments you wish you could freeze and jump back into whenever the world just seems a little too hectic.

As we made it down the to within a mile or so of the town where the raft headquarters was located, a towering railroad bridge rose a solid 40 feet off of the water. The old rusted bridge arced an additional 40 ft. into the sky, El Rio Pacuare Costa Ricawhere local children sat perched atop the precipice, a daunting 80 ft. or so above the raging water below. Upon sight of the rafts full of tourists floating down the river, these children would scream to assure your attention, and then go hurtling off the rusted precipice in a desperate flurry of motion. Once the rafts pulled up on the rocks, these children would swim up to the bank of the river and not so discreetly request money for their daredevil tactics. It was such an incredibly sad sight. These children are so poor, and they may as well be hurtling themselves in front of a moving bus for some spare bits of change. The desperation of poverty is a sobering beast with an ever changing face.

After removing our gear, drying off and putting down some late afternoon food, we sat and enjoyed some ice cold Imperial beers while watching our photos scroll across the screen in the hopes that we would purchase them. Possessing laughably little money seeing as it was the end of this particular Raft El Rio Pacuare Costa Ricatrip, I simply fired off a photo from the television screen, as seen in this picture here. All soggy wet and having tamed the river for the day, we finally climbed the hills back into San Jose for a quick stay at Hostel Pangea, in my opinion the best hostel in San Jose.  Airport shuttles, full bar and restaurant, and all the amenities the weary traveler needs to feel at home. I even caught a University of Hawaii football game on the internet while there. Leaving Central America behind for the time being, we knew  that we would be back sometime soon, and were thankful for the sliver of serenity and adventure it provided us with, rain soaked and all.

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