We are supposed to meet our ride to the river at "the curve in the main highway"... Good Morning, vague directions! Fortunately, we find a curve on a highway and we are picked up. Success! We meet Andres who ends up being our guide for the majority of the Pacuare River segment of our trip.
totally useless side note: i have the attention span of a gnat these days and can't seem to finish this. Shoving all the work aside and finishing blog NOW.
So, we meet up with our fellow travelers and start down the Pacuare river. I really enjoy whitewater rafting as it is a mix of adventure, sight-seeing and physical activity. It was a relatively mellow day as it had not rained in awhile and the river was low. We arrived at the lodge and I exhaled a huge sigh of relief. I do most of our reservations and you are never really sure how some place is going to be until you see it. Especially in foreign countries, you run a risk of finding your luxury jungle eco-villa to be a insect-infested lean-to shack. Whew. It is beautiful! The carefully landscaped grounds dotted with the handful of villas, the gorgeous open air lodge, the river front view... Just what I wanted!
We unpack somewhat and head off on our next adventure - a new excursion they offer called Canyoneering. Now, since there are no BIG waterfalls or canyons around, it seems a little silly at first, but it turns out to be thrilling enough and lots of fun. We get filthy, muddy and are rappelling down waterfalls into murky pools of water (and who knows what creatures). I have a problem with slippery surfaces. Okay, I have a problem with a lot of surfaces, but if something is slippery and I am there - I will be the one to fall. I was doing so good - I'm used to rappelling (rock climbing) however, these slick and mossy rocks are giving me hell. Sure enough, i misplace a foot and BANG into the side of the wall I go. Fortunately for me, I have sturdy legs and am able to take the blow without too much whining. It does leave a nasty scrape that led to simpering fears of what happens when you start bleeding in the jungle. Enough of that, enough!
That night we arrived to dinner at the main lodge in a state of wonder. The entire lodge is light up by candles... candles everywhere... in the chandeliers, on the walls, set on the ground. It is beautiful. The wood of the lodge floor is high quality and it is customary to remove your shoes and leave them on the outer deck. We head upstairs to the bar area bare feet against the softest polished wood. It is at the bar where we meet an absolutely wonderful couple - Jean & Bob. They live in England, but met in the US (where she is from) and have recently bought a small place in France. They are well traveled, well educated and easy to converse with. We are called down for dinner and seated in various groups.
Imagine sitting on the deck of a beautiful lodge lit solely by candlelight...the river rushing past, the jungle twittering with the life that comes alive with the setting of the sun...complete access to a nice wine cellar... a fantastic three course meal... good friends...This was our experience. A well earned reward after our previous days of work and adventure. We ended up enjoying a few (plus) bottles of wine and enjoying each other's company as well as the company of our guide Andres who we cajoled into drinking wine with us. We also had the good fortune to see a ARMADILLO! It was quite possibly one of the cutest, shyest things I've ever seen. It was living under one of the pathways and it was only a foot long (not including it's tail). Silver and black, with very tiny little paws!
The next day we wake up late (maybe we had too much wine, maybe) and saunter down to the lodge for our breakfast. More excellent food prepared by the same guys who were our guides, our hosts and our activity coordinators - these guys are outstanding! We opt for a morning of canopy touring via zip-line and afternoon massages in our room. The zip-line is fun and we sail through the trees at high speeds! It's exhilarating and scary enough to get your adrenaline going a little bit. We are joined by Bob & Jean on this adventure and use the opportunity to laugh at ourselves, each other and converse.
It is raining now and I head back to the room for my massage. Surely, it wasn't the best massage, but it was luxurious in that I lay face down on the table being spoiled while listening to the river rushing, the steady patter of rain and the twitterings of little birds. I ease my way out of the room and float to the lodge for some hot chocolate with my book while Mike gets his massage. The afternoon is leisurely and before we know it the sun has fallen again. This is our last night, and we head to the lodge for our customary pre-dinner drinks.
Much to our horror, a couple has arrived from....Orange County... What bad luck is this?! Had they been more, how shall I say, like us? It would have been tolerable... [inner groan]. Some 20 year-olds had booked this segment on their credit cards not realizing that it wasn't really the kind of place they fit into. I was horrified at the prospect of having to hear Frat boy stories peppered with Duuuuude every other word. Like, ya know? Ohmygod!. Shudder. Fortunately, our hosts/guides were very keen observers and set up the dinner tables so that Bob, Jean and us were at one table, the Swiss couple was at another and this Terrible Twosome was at their own table well away from the adults. Exhale, it's okay, it's all okay.
We had a lovely evening. This couple - I just can't say enough about them. I really liked their relationship - friendly, gently teasing, comfortable, nice... They had been married for over 30 years and have experienced so much together. Our conversation was constant and pleasant over a few bottles of wine. It is always a luxury to find oneself amidst excellent company combined with good food and nice wine. The night took a bit of a rough turn as we returned to our cabana and I began my Nightly Bug Check. Sure enough, a poisonous friend was hanging out in the space between the sofa and the bed. Completely unacceptable.
I immediately hopped on the couch and hollered at Mike that he had to get it out! In desperation I gave him an Open Favor. That is one favor to be called in at ANY time, for ANY thing, ANY where. Whoa. Now you know how scared I was. Fortunately we chased it around, he lost a few legs and Mike was able to catch him and throw him outside. Things like that are just too big to smash. Really, just too big. Augh. No more talking about it.
We wake up and it's been pouring rain for a few days now. The river is faster, higher and brown with all the silt that's swirling around. While I like whitewater rafting, I don't like dying or near drowning. I'm a bit nervous as they start to load up all the boats and I see just how many safety kayakers are going with our tiny group. On a good day this part of the river has Class 3s and Class 4s. This is a great day, if you like death or if you are an experienced kayaker. I am, um, neither. I can jump out of a plane hundreds of times, but you get me near water that has the potential to kill me and I am like an angry, pissy cat near bath time. Unpleasant.
However, rafting is pretty much our only option to get out of there at that time. So into the raft I go. Into the front of the raft (bad move). With a little safety pep talk and a how-to-hang-on-to-the-safety-kayak demo we are on our way. Did I mention that it is freezing, raining and I'm near death? Well, know you now. The Swiss Couple is behind Mike and I and I think they are crazy because they seem to be enjoying this. Mike is enjoying this. Andres (the guide) is definitely enjoying this. Highly possible that Mike is trying to kill me and has paid all these people to conspire. Highly likely. The whole Can't Live Without You, Can't Live With You thing.... It could happen.
We are flying down the river, stabbing at the water with our plastic paddles, inhaling gallons of water (please let it be clean), and barely staying right side up. Oh yes, I am feeling the adventure now, thank-you-very-much. Eeeeek! I yell to Mike and ask him if now is a bad time to let him know that I can't swim very well. He laughs, you know me, alwaaaays the joker. Well, it's true. I swim like a platypus without a tail. Not well. I can survive, but not, say, make it out of a Class 4 rapid without a concussion. Not to worry, we lived and I can't tell you how grateful I was to make it to dry land. Wait, I can - I was VERY grateful.
We spent our last night back in San Jose - eating and taking it easy. Our flight was uneventful and everything went smoothly. The best parts about coming home are:
- Hot showers with NO time limit
- Your own bathroom - and not having to worry about getting eaten alive by bugs while doing your thing.
- My King Size Tempurpedic Bed, with the Egyptian Cotton sheets.
- Fleecey soft pajamas that are too big for packing in a backpack.
- Silence (i.e. no snoring friend).
- Knowing I can wake up in the middle of the night and not put my headlamp on to go to avoid death lurking in the forms of bug, snake & scorpion.
...Adios muchachos & muchas gracias para leyendo...