by Tracey G. Ingram
I traveled to Costa Rica for a weekend getaway with my favorite travel buddy Ann to experience an exotic birthday adventure. The journey began in San Jose arriving mid-January, which is supposed to be one of most ideal times for reduced crowds to visit Costa Rica. My friend and I had experienced 7 days of white water rafting in the Grand Canyon, and thought paddling the Pacuare River for 3 days in Costa Rica would be a piece of cake!
I couldn’t believe that I was initially stuffed in a van with 15 other passengers, taking us two hours up and down steep hills to the rocky river bed. I had been jostled and knocked to the floor several times as the van tried to dodge huge potholes on this gravel road that could easily hide a small car. I couldn’t wait to start our long awaited journey and I rushed towards the bright blue rafts as soon as we arrived.
Safety guidelines are a huge aspect of river rafting and listening to the guide is critical. Our guides Mark and Jack discussed the importance of wearing helmets the proper way and did an excellent job of building team dynamics. Within the first 3 minutes of the ride, our raft hit a series of massive rapids and my friend Ann, another guy Peter, and I were tossed outside the raft!! Ann and Peter were pulled back in almost immediately; however, I ended up riding downriver on my back before being rescued by one of the four rafts behind us.
Talk about a scary experience, but I was incredibly grateful that the Exploradores Outdoors team was on the ball when it came to safety. There were several times rafting I felt I was spinning, dipping, and felt out of control. I also enjoyed the calm moments as I sat just drifting down the river admiring the steep moss-covered walls of the gorge while listening to the rich blend of rushing water and bird songs.
Rafting down the 20 mile stretch of the Pacuare’s Class III and IV rapids, traveling approximately 22 miles with rafting outfitter Exploradores Outdoors was a dream come true. The Pacuare is known as one of the five most scenic and wild rafting rivers in the world, which originates in the Orosi Valley and flows eastward to the Caribbean.
The rest of the trip, including staying in our private Pacuare River lodge overnight went off without a hitch. I loved the meals which were a delicious and plentiful mix of American and Costa Rican foods. There are a total of 13 cabins with panoramic views of the surrounding pristine jungles. When I arrived at our cozy cabin and opened the door I was impressed with the beautiful red and yellow flowers that were placed on our twin beds and on the dresser. The cabins were rustic and had screens and no electricity. The floors were made of natural teak wood with no interior bathroom. Ann and I were prepared with our flashlights as the owners are serious about ecology and conservation of resources. Sleeping in the jungle was an incredible experience of hearing an orchestra of animal sounds I never hear living in the city.
Overall I felt the trip was an unforgettable adrenaline rush. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and having the experience of witnessing majestic waterfalls and seeing a countless array of exotic animals in their natural habitat was breathtaking, and I quickly forgot about my scary unscheduled swim!