Monday, May 2, 2011

Once was Enough!

Arriving at the put-in, I looked at Clay with awe in order to remind myself why I was doing this.  We were enjoying a marvelous vacation in Costa Rica, and only for the man of my dreams would I fulfill his delight to raft the Rio Pacuare.  His goal was thrill and excitement in a jungle setting beyond compare, my goal was to have it over!  The rapids are levels III and IV, and for the uninitiated, level V rapids only exceed IV by the fast sequence of tough currents, so at level IV we would be experiencing fast, bouncing jumps over jagged and sharp rocks in a narrow canyon.  I had rafted in levels II and III elsewhere and knew that this was not my preferred sport, but there is that tremendous love that compelled me to join Clay and see his face light up with glee with each and every rapid conquered.

The Pacuare roams through eastern, central Costa Rica, cutting a swath through deep and old flora and fauna that put me in mind of Jurassic Park.  We passed the occasional waterfall, saw colorful and rare birds, and were able to swim in shallows that tried to make this whole daring adventure worthwhile. We were Jorge, our knowledgeable, trustworthy, and rather slight guide, Clay, a sizable man whose heft I counted on to keep us upright, and me, a petite, but strong, risk-averse type. Having only three of us in our raft seemed enviable and wrong at the same time, but Jorge assured me we would be fine on our two day trip, as long as I followed his instructions and did my part.  I hoped my part would be to lay prone on the bottom of the raft only to get up when we reached dry land again but, no, I had to paddle front, back left, and right, which only frightened me more to know I was being depended upon.  It’s hard for me to believe that I did much, but I lived to tell, so I must have done good!

Some rapids were light and lovely, but most were shockingly rough and fast, tossing our raft perilously close to canyon walls, shooting up at an angle of nearly 45 degrees with me holding on to small canvas tabs for dear life.  Jorge warned us when the tough ones were coming and what our plan would be, but that all rendered useless once when I looked over at Clay and saw the better part of his strong frame out of the boat with barely a toe hold to support him.  “So now we’re going to see what this is like,” I thought to myself as I looked away from fear and envisioned Clay out of the boat followed by Jorge to save him, leaving me alone in this fast moving rubber duckie.  Jorge yelled to me “Paddle, paddle”, which I did, and when I looked back to Clay he was still there, saved by that one big toe that I loved even more than I had an hour before.  Jorge marveled that Clay was still among us, I shocked myself by laughing heartily, and Clay looked triumphant.

The voyage was divided by a romantic night at a remote, isolated jungle lodge that lent itself to spooky stories fueled by red wine.  This was where Clay made my trip worthwhile, but I knew the whole time that the only way to get out would be 4 bouncy hours and about 10 challenging rapids later when I would see a parking lot and crawl out of that raft to touch Costa Rica’s dry land forever after. I am so glad I did that, but please don’t ever make me do it again!

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