Monday, August 4, 2014

Great, there we were, dumped out on a lonely jungle back road.  Does this happen to anyone else?  I mean, how often does the transportation bus for a guided rafting trip have it's engine catch on fire and cause everyone to evacuate?

I only had two days in Costa Rica and I wanted to experience one of the top five most amazing jungle white water rivers on the planet:  The Pacuare River.  

Though I have done some of my own rafting adventures without guides, I prefer to use guided trips in areas I'm unfamiliar with.  The experience is more fun, more relaxing and takes less logistics.

So I'd bet all my time on one excursion to the Pacuare.  I was on an extended trip back from South America making hops to check out new locations.  I'd just come from Ecuador and planned the short stop in Costa Rica before departing back to the United States.

Needless to say, when smoke came billowing into the bus from an unknown fire in the engine, I was none too amused at the predicament.  The entire company and crew were left with no bus and no means of communication other than two-way radios.  No cell reception in this remote area.

Fried engine wasn't on the excursion itinerary
As I stood out on the highway looking as pathetic as the rest of our party I wondered if I'd even make my flight back much less lose my opportunity to do the whitewater.

Now Costa Rica is a place I could spend at least a couple of months exploring.  There's a plethora of jungles, beaches, mountains and white water to explore.  This was just my "taste test."

Despite the bad luck in being stranded, we were fortunate that one of the guides was able to get a hold of the river portage employee.  They had a tractor that hooked to a wagon which they use to take everyone down to the actual put in spot.  We were also lucky in that while we were pretty remote, we weren't too far away from that put in road and eventually they showed up with tractor and wagon in tow.

Out secondary transport.  10 miles at a speed of about 3mph...

Tractors are great for getting down to the river but not so on back road highways
This river was Class III and IV whitewater which means that it had some very large rapids and some fast moving water.

Ready to finally get wet!
There were several extremely large rapids where the holes between them swallowed the entire raft to where our heads were actually level with the tops of the rapids.

That's me closest to the camera obscured by a wall of water
We were fortunate enough to have the most experienced guide on the river and with our instruction, he was able to even backpedal into a huge waterfall that nearly filled our raft and soaked us completely.  It was all safe and according to plan but awe inspiring none-the-least.

The great thing about doing a jungle river over doing a mountain fed one is that the water is really warm.  This wasn't some snow melt frigid river, this was inviting to get wet, particularly given the heat and humidity outside.

 At one point we were allowed to float along by ourselves and enjoy the calmness that comes with just floating down naturally.  With Monkeys swinging from the trees and bright tropical bird singing along side the river banks, it made for a really memorable moment.

Yes, that bridge is truly scary
Just before the put out point, we floated under one of those crazy rotting bridges you see in movies like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom or Romancing the Stone. Sure enough, this was movie set worthy!  Trying to cross the bridge wasn't on the itinerary and I doubt that even if it was any of our crew was crazy enough to try.  I've done a 50 plus foot jump from a bridge before and it really isn't a very soft landing.

So in the end, I was able to enjoy the river and get my taste of Costa Rica.  I definitely need to go back and explore the country some more.


  1. oh wow! looks so beautiful. just discovered your blog (read the hilarious entry about being sick on a plane for 10 hours) and had to come back to read from the beginning. can't wait to here about all the locations you've visited and misadventures you've had

  2. Megan - Thanks. Yeah, the sick flight was definitely one of those travel low points :) I've got a lot of ridiculousness and places still to cover so glad you are following. I will return the favor at your blog.

  3. Haha! That happened to us in Costa Rica, too. It was a rainforest zipline excursion from our cruise ship. It was a 2-hour "commute" and the bus broke down 45 minutes into it. They were in cell phone range and got another van out there in about an hour and we were still able to do our excursion. It was rushed, though. Sigh. I don't think van/bus maintenance is something they pay much attention to out there!

    The rafting adventure looks like an adrenaline rush. FUN!

  4. reforminggeek - doesn't surprise me. I think they run their vehicles into the ground in Costa Rica. It is known as the "poor man's Panama Canal" because ships port on one side, they ship all the goods via trucks across the country to the other side and load them on another ship rather than pay the incredible costs to go through the canal.