Friday, July 29, 2011

Turrialba, Day 2

Let me start by saying that these are NOT my photos - it was pouring rain when we left this morning, and so I put my camera in our room.  These are all photos from online, but they ARE of the Pejibaye River, which is the river we rafted on today.

Okay, that said - we signed up for what we thought would be an easy river float trip, similar to the ones we've done this trip.  Active but not strenuous.  Hah!

 First, the tour guide showed up about 15 minutes early, so Richard and I were still at breakfast.  We rushed through eating, and he explained that we'd be doing a little hiking before rafting - so Richard grabbed his old running shoes - I was ready with my little river rafting shoes.  It was pouring rain, so as I said, I put the camera in our room.  We figured it was a half day trip, so didn't worry about dry clothes, or towels, or anything like that.

We piled into the tourismo bus, apologized for making people wait due to our not knowing things were starting early, and we were off.  We met up with another bus, and we transferred to that.

They were mostly a group of teenagers and their teacher, in country attending an intensive Spanish language school.  But there was also a 40-something mother and her two kids, ages 8 and 10 or so - plus three or four raft guides.  Quite a mixed group.  As Richard said, the two of us were a good 15-20 years older than anyone else in the group.

So - the bus driver drove us out to the Marta Wildlife Refuge, which is out in the foothills around Volcan Turrialba.  And we hiked.  And we hiked.  Up and down trails, in the pouring rain.  We got soaked to the skin.  It was a pretty steep hike, though I have no idea what the change in elevation might be.  But we did about 3 or 4 miles in 2 hours, with the naturalist in front, poking the leaves and brush with a stick before taking a step - slow going, but with good reason.  We had several bridges that were just a few planks across a small river or gulley - and on one, there was a snake.  Un serpenti.  Turns out the serpenti was the fer de lance - one of the deadliest poisonous snakes in the world.  A kind of viper.  Aggressive if cornered.  We all froze as the naturalist pointed out the snake - long and dark, with a thin reddish stripe down the side - and then the snake slithered off the bridge into the rocks and away from us.  I thought it was kind of exciting to see this snake - Richard was happy he was further back in line and missed it.  But we all stayed behind the naturalist with the big stick, and moved slowly.

This was one of those trails with lots of mud, wet mossy rocks, and roots - plus things hanging down overhead.  As I said, not an easy hike.  I was huffing and puffing on the way up - and, being my very graceful self, was very cautious on the hike back down.  Several of the teens fell, as did Richard - fortunately, all the moss and roots and mud made for a fairly soft landing.

But Luis, our guide, took pity on me, and basically walked downhill backwards, holding my hand so I had some stability.  And while in some ways it might make me seem old, well, I also know how totally klutzy I am and that I really do need someone pointing out best spots to put my feet.  Because otherwise I'm likely to fall and tear out my other knee or something equally stupid.  So I was appreciative of the help.  And hey, I figure by age (almost) 57, I've earned getting some assistance down a slick and slippery mountain.

The guides put together a lunch buffet - sandwich fixings, lots of vegs and fruit - and of course, everyone was famished because we had a pretty strenuous 2 hour hike.  Oh, plus there was a loooong hanging bridge, which had a limitation of only 3 people at a time - and of course not only did we cross it going out on the hike, but also on the return.  High up, swinging back and forth, bouncing at the same time.  One of those bridges where Richard and I both hold the sides and don't look anywhere but ahead and go across as fast as we can.  A scary bridge!

By now the rain had lightened, and there were all kinds of butterflies around, including a blue morpho!

Then we piled back into the van (big van) and drove to the river.  Another (shorter) hike down to the river, with helmets and life jackets and paddles.  We piled into the two rafts, and had a short lesson on paddling forward, backward, high five, and then how to duck down into the center of the raft and ride out a big rapid.

Then off we went, down the Pejibaye (Peh-hee-BYE-yay) River - the beginning, where we started, had mostly class II-III rapids, so pretty big and roller-coaster.  This was our first clear river, icy cold and almost blue, instead of looking like cappuccino.  Anyway, GREAT FUN!  I do love river rafting!  We had a lot of excitement, too - there was one point where we somehow went half over a big boulder when we shouldn't have, and the raft tipped all to one side so that we were vertical in the air, and were almost ready to tip over!!!!!!  Seriously, we all were holding on for dear life, with our feet wedged in and hands on ropes - and Richard said it looked like everyone was going to come falling over on him - but then we tipped back down, and settled on the water and rode out the rapids.  Then twice, the mother in the back of the raft somehow bounced right out and into the river - and Luis, our guide, grabbed her lifejacket and hauled her back into the raft almost before anyone realized she'd bounced out!  Then at one point we went through a serious series of rapids, and we were supposed to get down into the bottom of the raft - but between my bad knee and Richard and me being in the same section, I couldn't get far into the bottom, and I felt myself starting to fall out backwards - fortunately Luis had tied his shirt around the cross-piece of the raft, for Richard to hold onto - so I managed to grab that and pull myself back into the raft without really falling out - but it was a close one!

As I said, excitement!!!!!!

We really didn't know it would be such a full day when we booked this - so we sat in our soaking wet and cold clothes for the trip home, sitting on a plastic dry-sack - we felt silly, but what to do.

Back at the B&B, we washed off the mud, and climbed into the hot tub to soak in the warmth and relax a bit - so nice!!!!!!!

So that was today's adventure, and I'm pretty caught up.  We're thinking of maybe another day in Turrialba before we head to the Caribbean - maybe, maybe not.

We'll let you know tomorrow.

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