Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pura Vida in Costa Rica...

After 10 years of spending every “vacation” multisport racing internationally, Heather deserved a casual vacation that didn’t involve pre-race meetings, bike boxes, and oversize luggage charges for kayaks. We chose the eastern Costa Rica seaboard as our multisport destination complete with whitewater kayaking, jungle lodges, canopy tours, mountain biking, and beaches.
Pacaure River (Mario in lead, Jeremy 2nd, Heather in raft 3rd)
 Day 1-2…We hit the water running with our 3 day whitewater river trip on the world famous Pacuare River. The Pacuare River is a 60 mile stretch of continuous class 4-5 big whitewater which runs from the continental divide in the west due east to drain into the Caribbean. Marcos, from in Turrialba , was our lead guide on the Upper Pacuare which I kayaked and Heather rafted with 6 others from the UK, Holland, Germany, and Costa Rica requiring Diego, her raft guide, to call out commands in 3 languages to avoid certain doom. Most class 4 rivers in the US are typically class 3 primarily with 5-10 class 4 rapids along the way. The Pacuare is a consistent class 4 rating (ie the whole river is a class 4 rapid) with over 30 class 4+/5- drops as the river rages through the tropical rain forest with waterfalls abound as the monkeys, red frogs, and toucan’s find humor in why these humans are descending this river in such poorly thought out means of transportation. 

Heather’s raft guide Diego was excellent and always on line. Even with his multinational commands and mixed experience levels in the raft, they cleared the canyon with only one near flip that Heather insists Diego tried for to spice up the descent. Mario was my compadre in a second kayak and I simply mirrored his kayak angles as we weaved our way through the minefield of bus-sized holes, some more gracefully than others. I was actually impressed with the quality of the guides most when one rafter from Texas took a swim in the gut of the canyon followed by a super swift rescue by Mario. I certainly had my hands full with a wing paddle (trying to limit # of paddles I brought!) and no time to recover between rapids as well as essentially paddling the river blind with my guide in front setting the line as the only thing I could use to foreshadow the trouble ahead.

 Our friend Shane Sigle from Boulder lived in Turrialba for a year and certainly warned us this river was a handful but you’ll see from the photos, it was worth every minute including getting worked by El Sugundie rapid which I front endo’ed into the main hole followed by a beat down equal to the spin cycle of your favorite Maytag washing machine. My favorite adventure racing teammate Bill Dean put it best years ago: “gravity and moving water, otherwise known as your judge and jury.”

Day 3-4…Mountain biking off road in Costa Rica typically means lots of mud and we certainly got our shoes full. Carlos, from, was our always enthusiastic and quite fit guide. Heather found him from another American’s blog entry describing his 6 hour “March of Death” ride with Carlos. This ride option obviously intrigued us more than a “March of Roses” ride so Carlos was happy to oblige us for the second time he has done this ride as a guided tour. We began in the rafting epicenter city of Turriablba and made 2 ascents/descents of the continental divide on jeep trails including a 1 hour mud slog in knee deep mud descending into the River Reventazon valley (see video). We were super stoked with these 2 days of riding which allowed us to slow down while ascending volcanic rims and see some great wildlife, sample coffee beans from their host fruit, and suffer some sweltering heat with our solid guide Carlos. Check Lava Tours out if you’re looking for a high end hard core single or multi day bike tour with zero down time. Many of the tour companies we contacted catered to casual rides with lots of down time. Carlos knows what’s up and is a solid mountain biker in his own right and multi year competitor in the Leaville Trail 100 Bike Race. He speaks great English and even stuck around to have dinner with Heather and I.

Day 5-7 was spent on the Caribbean Coast in Puerto Viejo following a simple transfer shuttle via the national shuttle system Interbus.  We were quick to decide renting beach cruisers sooner than later was the best way to get around the coastal destinations for snorkeling, kayaking surfing (see video), and wildlife tours. The monkeys and sloths were particularly densely populated on the coast compared to the elusive species on the River Pacuare. Bring lots of KinEsys sunblock and plenty of Nuun electrolyte replacement for those tough days where your GI system isn't feeling as gung ho as your legs.  We also wished we had brought more clothes for a rain forest trip as by the end of a week we had 2 piles of clothes, those that stink and those that stink less. Something about nothing dries when the humidity is pushing 90%!

Pura Vida
Jeremy and Heather