Monday, May 18, 2009

The Jungle Post

Two weeks ago a laaaaarge group of us--15, biggest group of gringoes I've travelled with yet--decided to hacer rafting, or "go white-water rafting" on the Pacuare River in eastern Costa Rica.  Rebecca Dos had said she LOVE love loved it and many people had never been rafting at all before, even in the states, so Tristen signed us up for a day trip down the "best rapids in Costa Rica."
They are called class III and IV (out of VI), but I've been on rivers in Colorado and other places with such designations and never felt too much of a thrill.  Still, we happened to be going at the exact right time of year, when the season was changing, so the rapids were ideal.  We shouldn't get stuck too much, for the river wouldn't be all dried up like in March or so, but it also shouldn't rain on us like it surely would in June.  On the bus ride over there our guide just warned us to try to be a "lucky swimmer" if we could, in other words, try to fall out somewhat CLOSE TO the raft.
Lathered up we split into two groups, helmetted up and donned our life jackets.  Our guide spoke mostly Spanish, but at least he gave the commands to paddle front or back in English.  He would point out things off to the side, animals or rock formations, in Spanish, which was interesting to learn.   We were in indigenous country, actually, so there were some cool huts and ziplines (for transport of stuff across the river, who knew!?)  to see.  We passed an old indgenous cemetary, which just was really a river bank for all we could tell, and a young boy walking in boots down near the water along a miny fútbol field that was set up there on the gravel.  The guide taught us the Cabeca word for "how are you," "bamasquina" in Spanish spelling, and two possible replies meaning "fine".  The first was "bebe, which got all us gringos singing "Ay baybay, ay baybay," rather maturely.  And the second was "masú masú," which apparently literally says the singular form of "male genitals" twice.  The guys got a kick out of that one, too.  Fun language.
Well the first set of rapids really was challenging!  I was in the back so my paddling wasn't too strenuous, but staying in was!  Several times Danimal had to grab my arm to keep me on the boat, and I definitely got some class A blisters on my toes from jamming them  as far in as they would go under the plastic in front of me as a desperate attempt at a foothold.  Still, we navegated well and even did 360 spins through a set of class IIIs, pretty near in sync with each other's paddeling all along.  We paddle-fived each other with a "Pura vida!" whenever we passed the other group we came with struggling to dislodge themselves from a rock or just simply not paddling with any sense of order.
Lunch was also provided along the way, fresh watermelon and pineapple and turkey sandwiches (my first turkey here!) with splendid té frío.  All that we didn't eat went as a donation to the Cabeca.    Though it drizzled a bit there on land, it didn't ever really rain our entire trip, which was great.
Back on the boat there was jungle all around.  Blue butterflies passed us and at one point monkeys were swinging far up and to our left.  It was really beautiful to see so much green, as the rainy season was commencing, so much life.  The rocks, too were unbelievable, almost fake-looking in their size and smoothness.  Some guides even did flips off their boats.  Nothing like rafting in Costa Rica.
When we got back we met up with our other group from Veritas and heard their stories.  Two of them had fallen out, one in front of a kayaker from the company who had a camera!  So they were somewhat tired.  The absolute BIGGEST BUG I've seen in my life was back at the base, too, no less than 3 and a half inches long, and an inch or two tall, slow, and beetle-y.  We played with him some and changed our clothes, bought the $10 disc of all the pictures from the trip to share, and got back on the bus.
What I learned from this trip, besides that class III and IV rapids can be fun but that class XI rapids can be waterfalls, was that there is a kind of social bird in Costa Rica that builds hanging nests next to one another in the high branches of trees.  They look kind of like tear-drop shaped baskets and their builders are black with yellow tails.  I learned there is a small black and red bird, too, which you can watch on YouTube, that can do the moonwalk.  Look for "Michael Jackson bird" and I think you'll find it.  I learned that if you don't get in to swim in the slow parts of the river people will pull you in regardless of how much you try to whack them away with your paddle, and also that I can get BACK on the raft myself, then succeed in pulling an almost 200 lb guy back on as well.  I also, unfortunately, learned the importance of driving carefully on one-lane roads.  We waited in traffic for over an hour before passing a horrible car wreck between a jeep and a truck where the jeep had been too slow to pass another truck before the opposing one reached the spot.  So much jungle can be a beautiful thing but a vision impairing one as well.
As for the rest of that weekend, we didn't do much.  Sharifa and Tristen and I went to the National Museum again for a school project Sharifa had.  It was a little better this time, with more information and a cool new art gallery upstairs, but it still was not extremely impressive.  We also tried to go into the butterfly garden they have downstairs, but found it closed starting in May (BARELY missed it), which was another bummer.
Saturday night we tried to go to a fun-sounding bar in the next municipality over with two British guys we'd met rafting.  In case anyone is in San Pedro after it's done being rennovated, it's called Formula One.  Apparently upstairs it is a bar, but downstairs it is a Gokart/bumper car track.  It's actually encouraging drinking and driving.  Safe, right?  Well in any case, it was closed, so we didn't get to test it out.  Siiiigh.
That's really all for that weekend.  I had some delicious KFC for lunch one day and a barbecue chicken wrap another, which, guiltily, were both nice and American.  And I bought my first bootleg movie on the streets.  Benjamin Button.
Over all it was a pretty relaxing weekend again, and I had no complaints.  The Pacuare was a beautiful river and I was with fun people.  :)

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