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Costa Rica, Tales about...

Rafting the Upper Sarapiqui


After the “jeep-boat-jeep” transport, we arrived in La Fortuna, which is most known for Volcano Arenal. Arenal had been dormant for 400 years until it erupted in 1968, and now it is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. According to my guidebook, it’s been spewing ash or lava almost every day since its inital eruption. Unfortunately, its peak is also often covered in a cloud of mist, so it’s a rare treat to see it when it is completely clear—a treat that we are yet to enjoy on this trip.

Although we hoped to do a bit of mountain biking while here, we ran into difficulty finding adequate bikes for our needs (the best bike outfitter in town had rented their fleet to a Mt Bike tour), so we opted instead to go white-water rafting on the Upper Sarapiqui river, which has class III and IV rapids. The Sarapiqui runs through some beautiful landscape (both rainforest and plantation) and is a great spot to view several of Costa Rica’s 850 species of birds. The river isn’t always open for rafting, so this felt like a special treat.

Despite recent flash rain storms, the river was running low on the morning of our trip, making navigation around its numerous boulders much more complicated. We launched the boat not far above a class IV run aptly named “Morning Coffee” and our raft immediately churned within its roiling waters and very nearly flipped as we entered the crux of the rapid. Thankfully, we were able to right ourselves again and felt properly awakened and exhilerated afterward. Another raft behind us dumped two of its rafters (and several paddles) in the same rapid, so our guide paused so we could lend them a hand and help one of the rafters back to his boat.

Another blurry shot from the condensation-filled GoPro

We continued rafting down the river in that same vein, but with no more close calls. On this trip, we’ve enjoyed Costa Rica from the perspective of its rivers on several occasions, but it was incredibly refreshing to enjoy it between bouts of battling a rapid or navigating a boulder— somehow, those brief struggles make the landscape around you that much more vivid, or the sight of a heron gracefully flying ahead even more lovely. After awhile, the guide allowed David to take over (David used to be a raft guide—one of his many jobs on the road to becoming a nurse) and he successfully led us through several rapids.

This morning, I awoke wonderfully sore from the rafting and with visions of hiking on Arenal for the day ahead, but soon discovered that David had taken ill with an ailment that all travelers get at one point or another (but which is intensely annoying and uncomfortable to endure, nonetheless). To top it off, a massive rainfall was taking place outside. With all of the heat and only occasional (and brief) rainfalls, it's been easy to forget that we're in the rainy season. So for now, hiking plans are temporarily thwarted. We leave to drive to the coast tomorrow (our last leg of this trip), so perhaps there is still time before we go.

For those who are interested, here’s a map of our trip:

upper sarapique (7-18-12)

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About colleen finn

Colleen Finn is a globe trotting, sight seeing, day tripping, frequent flying traveler with a penchant for voluntourism.

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