Snapshots of a Costa Rican Adventure to Parismina and the Pacuare River: Part 3

PART 3: RAFTING THE RIO PACUARE

After enjoying Parismina and the Green Gold Eco-Lodge for four days, we pack up and make our way to Tres Equis, where we meet up with our Costa Rica Extreme rafting guides—a great bunch of guys who are fun, knowledgeable and certified in swift water rescue. We are in great hands.

After suiting up and getting some important instructions from our guides, we are ready to hit the water!

This is my favourite part of the trip. There is something so exhilarating, so thrilling about rushing down the Rio Pacuare rapids in an inflatable raft. When we aren’t paddling hard and getting splashed and soaked while navigating the rocks and coursing through the class 2, 3 and 4 rapids, we are looking up into the enormous trees dripping with moss and vines; feeling the spray of cascading waterfalls; marveling at the size and composition of some of the boulders we pass; and watching the incredible diversity of birds—sun bitterns, herons, sandpipers, kingfishers and even some rare king vultures.

 

It is non-stop rubbernecking at trees, waterfalls, giant boulders and birds, like this bare-throated tiger heron.

We raft for a couple of awesome hours until we arrive at our destination. From the shore, we unload the rafts and climb up to the Pacuare River Eco-Lodge, which is nestled in the Talamanca Mountain Range. We are isolated from the human world again, but surrounded by exquisite beauty. All is peaceful, but not quiet. Right away, my ears fill with the chirping sound of the strawberry poison dart frogs and chestnut-mandibled toucans calling in the distance. They are very familiar sounds—it feels like a “welcome home.”

Manuel Segura Amador, the owner/operator of the Pacuare River Eco-Lodge (and a Costa Rican National White Water Champion), has created a remarkable little oasis on a private 85-acre ecological reserve. Since 2002, he has rafted in all the supplies to build a tropical tent camp. He started small, and has expanded slowly and sustainably over the years. Transforming the surrounding landscape from pasture to secondary rainforest has been a major part of his focus. He has planted native trees and reduced the pressure of human activity, which has resulted in a remarkable transformation in a short time.

Shower stalls and lush gardens of the Paucare River Eco-Lodge. “By planting trees, we are planting hope.” (http://costaricaextreme.com/pacuare-river-eco-lodge/).

After a busy day of rafting, dining by candlelight (once again, no electricity and none needed), and hiking along a small stream system running through the camp, we settle into our rustic but comfortable cabins, lulled to sleep by the surround sounds of crickets and frogs and the rushing river below.

We spend the next day and night bird watching from the hammocks and observation deck overlooking the Pacuare River, and exploring the pastureland and rainforest surrounding the rafting camp.

Highlights include an annulated boa, black and green poison dart frogs, flowering wild cucumber, robber frogs mating, countless giant millipedes mating (must have been something in the air), unique cattle, and a snail-eating snake…eating a snail!

Time passes too quickly and before we know it, it is time to load the rafts again and head down river to Siquerres. The second half of the journey is as exciting as the first.

Liam and James take turns experiencing the rapids in a kayak with Enrique, Manuel’s son.

When we arrive at the Dos Montañas gorge, we all jump out of the rafts and swim in the pristine waters…drifting happily with the current.

Dos Montañas Gorge!

The rafting ends once we make it to Siquerres. And there is no question that we have arrived. As soon as we round a bend in the widening river, there is a rather abrupt reminder of civilization spread out before us—a railway bridge and highway suspended across the water. Suddenly there are different smells and different sounds.  The air is filled with the honking of diesel-fuelled cars and trucks passing by, which sadly signals the end of our trip through paradise.

We unload the rafts, change, have lunch, and say our goodbyes to Manuel, Enrique, and the rest of the rafting team.

On our way back to San Jose, we drop half of the group off at the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center, where they will begin the second week of their Costa Rican holiday. Unfortunately, we can’t all stay. It is time for the rest of us to head back home to the cold, snowy remains of winter.

As our trip comes to a close, it feels strange to go our separate ways and say goodbye. For the last week, we have spent our days and nights together, becoming a big family.

Travelling with a group can be a real crap shoot, especially when you don’t really know the people before the trip begins! The people you are with can either make or break the experience for everyone. How people react to challenges, including the extreme heat and humidity, the rain, cool temperatures at night, the terrain, the lack of electricity, different food, etc., and how people treat one another, are critical. Attitude is everything. Open mindedness; the ability to go with the flow and adapt to changing circumstances; and respect for the environment, culture, local people, and fellow travellers are essential for any successful trip.

This trip was successful because of the people who made up our group. Everyone was kind and friendly and always gracious to our hosts and respectful of their property. They were keen to support a struggling local community, and made sure to buy something from each of the vendors at the Artisan Fair. They were quick to help one another up and over slippery rocks and terrain. They shared their gear and supplies and made sure that everyone had a chance to look at and photograph any species we found. They listened attentively and followed the rules. When three people fell overboard in the rapids, everyone was quick to get them to safety and make sure they were OK. They were appreciative of Josh’s experience and vast knowledge. And when our private transfer from Cano Blanco to Tres Equis messed up the time, they didn’t complain about the delay, they took the opportunity to look at more birds!

They even indulged a 10-year old’s desire to entertain with card tricks!

James performs one of his nightly card tricks for everyone after dinner at Amelia’s Restaurant.

It has certainly been lots of fun sharing this adventure together. Thanks for the wonderful time, everyone! Perhaps we’ll have to start planning our next trip…

Group shot on the observation deck overlooking the Pacuare River.

Snapshots of a Costa Rican Adventure to Parismina and the Pacuare River: Part 2

PART 2: ALL IS GREEN AND GOLDEN IN PARISMINA

Most of our time this trip is spent at the Green Gold Eco-Lodge on the outskirts of Parismina, a small town bordered by the Rio Parismina and the Caribbean Sea.

The Green Gold Eco-Lodge is far from luxurious. But it doesn’t need to be. It is clean and safe and serviceable. It is well-built, well-maintained, and well-run by owners Jason and Juliana. The food—typical Costa Rican fare—is fresh and delicious. There is running water but no electricity, except for a small generator that runs for a couple of hours each day to charge batteries for cameras and flashlights, and any other essentials.

It is refreshing to be free from the world of electronics. To live simply, if only for a short while. To disconnect from the devices and reconnect with nature and people—to actually talk face to face, sharing stories and special finds.

The Green Gold Eco-Lodge is unassuming and blends in with its surroundings.

Jason cuts open coconuts (pepitas) for everyone to enjoy some refreshing coconut water after a hike around the property.

Best of all—it is so quiet and peaceful. There are no other lodges, buildings, or houses around. No cars, no phones, no TVs, no tourists. Just us. And we are surrounded by nature. You swing in a hammock looking out and the wildlife is everywhere. It comes to you. White-faced capuchins watch you curiously from the branches a metre or so away. A pair of olive-backed euphonias use an old oropendola nest to raise their new family of chicks. Geckos dart around on the metal roof above. Hummingbirds zip around the flowers chasing one another. Colourful butterflies float by. A hundred different calls all mix together like a symphony. A symphony of bird song…nature’s music…music to my ears.

The view from a hammock: A white-faced capuchin peers down at me, while the olive-backed euphonias flitter in and out of an old oropendola nest.

 

And ever-present in the background is the surge and roar of the ocean, which is just a short distance down the trail from the lodge. The black volcanic sand beach stretches for kilometres in either direction.

Waves crash endlessly to shore; pelicans cruise above the crests; sandpipers scurry in the surf; morning glories decorate the beach; and crabs poke their heads up from the sand.

The sand contains many stories: I wonder what has been going on here…

 

The ocean is warm, but it is also very rough. The dangerous undertows and rip tides prevent actual swimming but it is fun to cool off in the surf.

Our fisher. Our swimmer.

The boys in the surf…content doing the things they love.

 

Every morning, before the sun rises, we wake to the eerie calls of the howler monkeys, signalling the start of a new day. Welcome to the jungle!

Our hot and humid days are busy with morning walks on the beach and beach trail before breakfast; hikes in the rainforest before lunch; downtime in the shaded hammocks during the hottest part of the day; late afternoon explorations of the property around the lodge; and after dinner night hikes.

The beach trail offers lots of discoveries including a sleeping three toed sloth, lineated woodpecker, and sour cane, a tasty, edible flower.

 

A typical rainforest hike reveals tent-making bats, leaf cutter ants, casqued-headed lizards and eyelash vipers.

 

An afternoon rain shower has awakened the forest. It has brought everything to life. The air feels washed, fresh, and the colours are vivid.

 

After the sun sets, darkness moves in quickly. But just because it is dark, doesn’t mean it is time for bed. The night brings the nocturnal to life. Our flashlights reveal so many amazing gems, including an hour-glass frog, whip scorpion and brown vine snake (night photos ©Liam Rosborough-Feltham).

 

On our last day at the Green Gold Eco-Lodge, we head into town after lunch. We buy some great souvenirs and gifts from the Artisan Fair; enjoy delicious fresh fruit smoothies at Soda Olga’s; have dinner at Amelia’s Restaurant and cap the night off with a boat cruise along the river.

James enjoys a visit with Tereza Ching, one of the artists at the Fair; names our new sloth “Edward;” savours his mango banana smoothie, and gets excited when Josh catches a caiman for everyone to see up-close during the night boat cruise.

Stay tuned for Part 3…