Last week we had the pleasure of being able to spend the afternoon on the glorious Sarapiquí River with a couple of rafts full of friends.
We had initially heard about the trip a couple of weeks prior, but had had a goal-setting meeting set up with the kids running for student government in our escuela on the same day. To our good fortune, classes ended up being cancelled for census training (school teachers conduct the census in Costa Rica, so they have four training days that lead up to the week long event) and our meeting was consequently rescheduled for a different day.
We met up mid-morning at our friend Rebecca's house in a nearby community and were able to catch up with friends that we hadn't seen since late January (or longer) and eat some delicious home cooking. It was nice to hear what other volunteers have been up to and to brainstorm how to make some projects go a little smoother. After lunch we headed up to the road with full bellies to catch the bus to the community of La Virgen where our rafting adventure began.
Donning PFDs and helmets we received a quick lesson on how to sit in the rafts and learned the basic commands used by our guide. We had the usual forward and back as well as stop, then there was a new one that we hadn't heard before in our prior rafting adventures, floor. Not quite sure what to think of with that command we dutifully practiced moving from the sides of the raft to the center. And then we were off.
The water was great, cool and clear and moving right along. We quickly encountered our first small rapids of the day, let out whoops of joy and success and then learned a new command, Pura Vida. This one signified our survival after passing through rougher waters (where the floor command was used, getting us out of harms way), our paddles were raised into the air and we shouted, with smiles on our faces, Pura Vida!
After repeating this process a couple of times we were told that we could leave our rafts and take a break, floating in the swift waters. Once we had all rolled or jumped into the water we splashed around and floated to where the rafts were being tied to the roots of a nearby tree. At that point we found out that the tour also included cliff jumping. Everyone quickly got out of the water and made there way up the steep climb to our jump off point.
The first to jump was Sarah, who also happened to be a diver during school so she gracefully flung herself into the air, pulled off a beautiful flip and then plunged into the water. Others quickly followed and the longer I stood on top of the cliff the more my knees began to shake. One after another my friends were jumping into the water. Chris jumped, spinning around and quickly disappearing into the water (camera in had of course!) and then a couple of others. I was left with one other volunteer and our guides. It was then or never, so I jumped. It felt like I was falling for hours or even days before I felt my feet hit the cool water. I instantly bobbed to the surface, my PFD doing its job and laid back to float downriver, allowing my heart to return to its normal beat (and reveling in the fact that I had been able to temporarily overcome my slight fear of heights to make the 30 foot leap of faith!)
A couple of people jumped again and then we climbed back into our rafts to continue on our way. We'd hit patches of rough water, shout pura vida, laugh out of pure and simple joy and paddle when our guide commanded it. It was such an amazing way to spend the day that we didn't want it to come to an end. We had one more break with cliff jumping and fruit (I couldn't bring myself to jump the second time, even if it was only about 8 feet high - what can I say, I'm chicken!) before hitting the last of the day's rapids.
With the end in sight we hit our final rapid and lost our first and only paddler for the day. We went through the white water sideways and in a slow motion instant I watched as Chris tumbled over the side and underneath the raft. As our guide attempted to pull him back into the raft we ran into a rock wall and the rescue attempt had to be aborted. A brief moment later he was pulled back to safety, at which point our guide informed us that we had reached our last swimming point before getting out of the water. And so, we all tumbled back into the water and floated until we were told we had reached the end of our tour.
Then we wrapped up our adventure with big plates of Gallo Pinto, is there any other way to end an adventure in Costa Rica?
Now, back in the comfort of our home our camera is sitting in a bag of rice and our fingers a crossed that our adventure companion will dry out and come back to life. If not, we still have another camera with us, it's just a little more delicate and more often than not, sits on the sidelines when the good stuff happens.