Sunday, December 06, 2009

Day 5: Upper Upper

Today we ran the upper upper Pacuare. Luis was our shuttle driver, and asked where Kevin and Alex were. Indeed. Work and school. Why do these have to interfere?

We were thinking of running the Reventazon, but I showed the video from the last trip to Peter C and he got a little on edge about the dirtiness of the water. So we went to where we knew the water would be clean.

The bridge to the higher put-in was being worked on, but there was just II-III stuff up there. The bridge would open in a little over an hour. Our group is a bit on the indecisive side. "What do you want to do?" "Oh, I don't really care, either way is fine with me." "Okay, well what do YOU want to do?" "I'm okay with any option..." This scenario has played itself out a few times on our trip, but this time Josh decided to flip a coin. Heads, we 'headed up the river' after the bridge reopened, and tails, we high-tailed it down the river. It was tails. I was kind of glad. It was pretty hot out, and aside from one little snack stand that was part of a house, there was nothing much to do there.

Unfortunately Alicia had mal de estómago and was too ill to riverboard. I hadn't even noticed that she had hopped down from the top bunk bed several times during the night.

Most of the river was read n' run class III. Clear water, visible rocks. There were a couple holes near the top Peter wanted to stop and surf. I wasn't able to get in them. One was just off the side of a pool with a little 2' waterfall pouring into it, and good eddy service. The other had beautiful banana trees and cliffs as a backdrop. White birds flew by. It really was a slice of paradise.

We came to the first class IV section and scouted to make sure it was clear of wood. It was a pretty decent boulder garden, reminding me just a little bit of Monster on the Cascade, without the mandatory boof drop up top. The right was runnable but very narrow; we all took the line down the middle, which did include a pretty much mandatory rock but not much of a drop. Josh ran it first while we watched, then I followed Peter. It was a fun rapid.

At the next rapid Josh and I stopped on some rocks in the middle to look, but Peter kept going. I made a mental imprint of his moves and bumped along the shallow entry. Reminded me of home! I ended up hitting the biggest hole in the meat of it. The helmet cam footage looks like it held me for a couple of seconds but I don't remember struggling. Probably because I was under water and just thought I was punching through slowly. The helmet camera is above eye level so it's a little deceptive.

I needed to stop and defog my GoPro so we pulled over to a rocky beach. Blue heron and white birds circled, an orange butterfly darted about our knees while brilliant blue ones fluttered across the river. On the next rapid I got hung up on a rock. The current was pushing to the right but there were tight rocks over there. I was standing, and managed to slowly scoot over using my hand and my hips, to get off the left side of it. Fet like it took forever.

We were told to take out at a bridge. No one told us what kind of bridge. It didn't feel like six miles yet. We came to what looked like a footbridge and some elementary school-aged kids were on it. Josh asked them where the town was, or if there were cars on the next bridge. They looked at us curiously but didn't say much. We decided to keep going.

We came to a blind corner with a lot of rocks, and couldn't see around it and weren't sure if we'd passed the takeout. There were piles of black dirt and rock that almost looked man made, like from a gravel pit, not very pretty, and that's where the vultures chose to perch. Like attracts like, sometimes it's true. Josh and Peter climbed to the top of the highest rockpile and tried to scout the rapid, but couldn't see around the bend.

There seemed to be a way up out of the river to the left, and we saw a power line, and decided to climb out. The next section was a class V gorge and we weren't sure if the previous bridge had been our takeout. Exiting the river was easy, but the climbing was difficult because the slope was muddy and steep. Josh threw me a line and I sent my riverboard up. First time I've ever needed a rope. I needed his hand towards the top when I was unable to gain a foothold anywhere for the last few feet. I tried jumping up, pushing up with my arms, but the life vest wasn't helping me get over the hump. Even that was a false summit and we continued to climb on a narrow, muddy, manure-laden trail where the farmer helped us over the barbed wire. It was a fairly short walk and Luis drove up just as we approached the real take out. Which had another footbridge. It was sturdy enough for a couple horses and their riders to go across, but I'm not sure I'd take a Percheron on it.

We walked down to the river and there was a nice waist-deep pool and an easy trail up the short cliff. No banditos or drunkards; it was pure country on the upper upper.

Didn't get lunch and was hungry at 4:30 after a shower. First we stopped at a produce stand that sold mostly grapes and apples. Josh got a half kilo of red grapes and ate all but maybe five of them. We went to a nice hotel and had appetizers. Huge trucks rumbled by using their j brakes. The restaurant yesterday played Christmas music loudly. There is no quiet in this town.

We'd been frequenting the local bakeries as well. It's kind of like Christmas; sometimes you don't know what you're going to get when you buy a pastry. I went for the smallish cookies; no surprises there. We also went to an ice cream store. Josh got a huge rum raisin cone. I put 100 colones in the toy motorcycle and went for a ride. Woot.

Afterwards we played pool in a smokey hall. I scratched on the 8 w/ Alicia while Peter played a local kid. The local could shoot, but Peter had better strategy. I left when the smoke got to be too much.

There are really loud people outside our room. Hookers, pimps, druggies all yelling at each other. I tried to sleep but even the Ambien didn't let me tune out the escalated shouting match around 1:30 am. This continued well after the police arrived until about 3 am. I have a method of using my mp3 player for white noise to help me sleep, but I'd used it a lot and forgot to bring the charging cable on this part of the trip. It was dead. At 3am the trucks began to arrive to unload their produce for the weekend farmer's market. We all began stirring between three and four hours later, but what I missed was that Josh had been up half the night losing his dinner.

I'm blaming it on the grapes.

Day 6


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