Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pacuare I: Day 6

There was a rafting trip leaving around 7:30 that we could have linked up with, but our sleepiness prevailed and we made a more realistic goal of an 8:30 departure. Figured we would just go with it, raft or no. Had our usual breakfast and as luck would have it, leapfrogged a rafting company from about half way to the put in. We'd been warned that the water was running low. It would be good to have someone to follow.

Kevin, spiking the water with Nuun. Photo: FaceLevel.com.

Turns out probably every raft company and kayak was running it that day. It was really high! It had rained a lot the night before and was continuing to rain all day. This was going to be awesome. A rafting group, some in euro-style shorts (why do they do this), was getting ready to put in, but we had our alliance with a different group who was already getting down river. One of their guides was a one-legged kayaker. We struggled a bit to catch up but eventually got close.

Yesterday had been my day to learn about holes. Today's lesson: Eddies 101. Eddies are a great thing. You can avoid a potential death trap just by swimming over to the side and getting out of the water. You can scoot back upriver to talk to someone or get a better picture angle. You can rest out of the current. These are all great things. But get just the slightest bit out of line on the Pacuare and she sucks you into it faster than you knew what hit ya. It was useless to fight one that pulled me in after a rapid/drop and swooped back upstream alongside a smooth rock. I let the current take me back to the hole, then used the hole to push me back into the current.

The water seemed really 'grabby', like there were little gremlins beneath the current tugging at my ankles. Perhaps it was because it was a fairly narrow river and a lot of water moving through it. The rapids, although brown, were splendid waves, one that even sort of spouted at the top. There was seemingly little consequence to anything we did, although we still followed the lead of the boats and kayaks. It was pure, simple and beautiful fun.

Photo: Alex Koutzoukis, still from video

There was that one time (there's always that one time) where three of us didn't quite get to the best side of a drop. Josh saw it soon enough and paddled to the right to take the best line through it, and while the rest of us tried, we were already too far over to the left to get out of the magnetic force field sucking us into the vortex. It happened kind of fast and all I remember thinking was "whatever is down there, I guess I'm going to find out" and that thought relaxed me. What we were being drawn over towards was something resembling a concrete spill, smooth fast water angling down at about 30 degrees probably, maybe more - I'm trying to recall what slope degrees feel steep when I snowboard - and a big dark hole at the bottom. I don't remember getting spun too much, but we all went through the rinse cycle and came out unscathed.
Approaching the hole. Should have been more right. Deep breath!
Looking back at the spillway geography.
Detritus.  Photos: Alex K, stills from video.

The most beautiful part of Rio Pacuare is just before a steeply walled canyon with waterfalls coming down into it. The top part has a few quick rapids but a good portion is slow, allowing you to really enjoy the surroundings, which is probably one of the prettiest places I've ever experienced. Unlike the Reventazon, there were a lot of people to wave to on this run.

Photos: FaceLevel.com
The run was fairly long, and we felt like we should stop and get some nourishment. Pulled up on the shore, a fairly rocky with some wet sand, for about 15 minutes. Not five minutes after getting back in the water, we saw a tower, a cable and a bridge...

Right about then I had another date with Eddie. This Eddie was very strong, must have ate his Wheaties that morning, and done weight training. We had to get through a shallow, bumpy rapid, then go to the left to get to the bridge and car area. I couldn't get over to the left. Eddie vacuumed me off and to the right, and drew me towards a dead area that was full of debris. I was thinking, this can't be good. Survive all the rapids and get done in by a log in an eddie. Josh motioned for me to go with the current, swinging around back into the main area. But I was afraid I'd somehow get wedged where the debris was thicker and was determined to fight it. There was a rock face and I was able to pull myself along it and hang onto tiny fingerholds with my fingertips, inching myself closer to the rock. I struggled this way for what seemed like eternity, probably five minutes, and finally got enough of a counter-current next to the rock to kick out and around it.

There was a nice little rapid under the highway bridge leading up to where we met Luis, our driver. Out by the car someone tried to sell us soap stone carvings, little dust collector ugly things (who buys this crap!). We asked if he made it but of course it was a relative who made them. But the nice thing about Tico vendors is that once you tell them you're not interested they bugger off. Some countries the junk sellers must have been taught that no never really means no, in sales, you never hear no, you just work to overcome their objections. Or be enough of a pest so that they will buy something to make you go away.


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