Puerto Viejo

8. November
We had a really early start to the day, since we were being picked up at 6:30 for the drive to the Pacuare river. On the way we drove past one of the volcanoes, and the view was surprisingly good from the road. The light was kind of harsh, so it was just silhouetted against the sky, and from the top a stream of clouds rose from it and blew to the west. I also slept, it was early.

We got breakfast at the place, so I ate a lot of fruit. Then they drove us up for 30 minutes to where we got on the boat, and the guide, Jefferson, was telling us about positions, what to do if we fell out and other significant information. It made it seem kind of dangerous and I was imagining myself rushing down the river after falling out of the raft, my head hitting a rock and that would the end of my pura vida. We were divided into teams, and our team was me and four Canadians and our playful guide Yepe aka Jefferson.

We got onto the boat and after a moment we were white water rafting. The river was brown and blue at the same time. It looked like a muddy version of the glacier rivers in Jotunheimen, and along the bank the rainforest towered. We were accompanied the whole way by the humming of grasshoppers and other insects. At one point we floated through a canyon, and the steep walls on both sides added a cool and quiet atmosphere. It still was that Costa Rican green, despite the rock walls.

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Photograph by Exploradores Outdoor

In the beginning it was very easy. We just practiced our paddling, following the commands of our guide. It was fun; we would twirl around, get splashed from big surfs, the boat would bounce up and down, and we splashed the other boats with our paddles and had a sort of war fare going on. It was not as fast and wild as I had imagined it would be, but it was still a great time. Twice we were able to jump off the boat and float in the river. Despite not being a massive fan of swimming and bathing, I always end up having these amazing, tranquil and content moments when I am floating in temperate water. We stopped at a point for lunch, and they cut up large amounts of pineapple.

Towards the very end of the rafting one of the guides on another boat grabbed my life vest and pulled me into the river. Melissa, my rescue partner, came to pull me up, and as she grabbed my vest, the guide that had pulled me into the water grabbed her too. She got helped up by her boyfriend, and our guide grabbed me, twisted me around so I was sitting neatly on the boat. Then he pushed me back in again.

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Photographs from Exploradores Outdoor

It lasted 4 hours, but it still felt like a let down when we ended. Like it had gone too fast, but also since I had not felt that rush of adrenaline that I had expected to feel. It was, nonetheless, an amazing experience and I felt totally fine spending $100 on it. We all changed, and then we got on the bus to Puerto Viejo, which, I just realised, is almost at the border of Panama. Our boat crew were all going to the same hostel, Rocking J’s, a place where you can stay in hammocks for $7 a night and do mosaics that they put up in the hostel.  Our Quebecan friends, Olivier and Marko, had travelled all the way from Arenal to Puerto Viejo, and were here when we arrived. We booked in, I bought some tomato sauce and ate cous-cous with tomato sauce for dinner.

Olivier came over from the hostel they had booked, and we sat by the bar. On the TV in the bar the results from the election in the US was being counted up, and terrifyingly Trump seemed to be winning. To relieve the stress, a rastafari band came and played live music for us. We had a few drinks, chatted, listened to music, and Tommy even did a solo karaoke which we all enjoyed in a way despite his voice not exactly matching that of Queen’s vocalist.

9. November
We rented bikes, and we went into town to get some money and breakfast. I bought yoghurt and fruits, and made myself a little fruit cocktail and ate some of my crips breads with avocado. Olivier and Marko came with their own bikes, and we went to find Anna who is staying down the beach somewhere. It was a nice little ride, maybe 5km, and the soft breeze felt nice. We found her, and went to the Jaguar Rescue Centre where we had a tour. It was quite interesting to hear about how they slowly introduced animals back into the wild. We saw baby sloths, a baby monkey, owls, hawks, ant eaters etc.

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Then we went back to the beach a little bit south of the hostel. It was a much nicer bit of the beach that what is in front of the hostel, the hostel has a reef, but that beach was clean sand and clear water. A small island was there too, adding something extra to the horizon. We stayed there for a bit, went for a quick swim. The water was so salt! Then went back into Puerto Viejo for lunch. I had a passion fruit smoothie and it was amazing. We returned to the hostel and I showered, but after I still smelled like sun screen. I feel like all of my things are wet and full of sand.

They made a party at the beach that night. The rastafari crew brought their drums out, made a fire, got the BBQ going. We bought vodka and coke from the local shop and drank together, then we joined the people on the beach. Marko and another guy from Canada was playing the drums, and they were jamming along like it was the easiest thing. I tried too, but they took it away from me. It was such a great night; the haze of booze, the smell of food cooking on the fire, the constant beating of drums. All these new people. It was so easy, and fun, and the energy was relaxed in a way that it never, ever is at parties in Europe.

10. November
I was moving on to San José again later in the day, so in the morning I checked my stuff out, rented a bike, intending to go to the national park of Cahuita. I cycled, and cycled, and cycled, and after like 50 minutes and a considerably sweaty back, I checked the GPS on my phone and had to admit defeat. It was too far. I could have made it, but adding together the time to go there and back on the bike I’d only have like an hour in the park. So I went back to Puerto Viejo and found where they guys were surfing on the beach. Joppe, another friend from our Cerro Chato tour in Arenal, arrived to show the boys how to surf. The Canadians went for lunch, but I stayed on the beach with Joppe. He surfed, I napped. By the time I had to leave to cook my lunch before the bus I was completely covered in sand. I am beginning to thing that my skin has a sticky quality to it that is particularly perceptible for fine sand.

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Tommy joined me on my bus back to San José, and we both fell asleep. Almost at the city I went into my bag to get my book out, and realised I had left it in Puerto Viejo with my journal, postcards, and the CDs with photos from white water rafting and the bungee jump video. At the hostel I immediately texted Olivier and Marko, and Marko declared himself the hero of the day and fetched it. The plan is now to go to Montezuma tomorrow and in two days go south to wherever Marko and Olivier will be, and get my stuff back and also be able to reach Drake Bay on the 14th.

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