Yesterday we ran the Rio Reventazón. This is huge. We ran the Rio Reventazón. This river is beyond famous. It is legendary, and it was only by chance that we were able to run it. My crew and I have been training for two years to run the Upper Rio Pacuare. We have pushed ourselves and sacrificed money and time to be ready. The day before, we ran an even higher section of Rio Pacuare. That section is difficult to access. It is on land that is the home of indigenous people. There are not paved roads. There are no stores, souvenir stands, or restaurants. It is a one lane dirt road that we struggled up and through with our two 4X4 vehicles. The people were gracious and polite as we passed them while they walked on the side of the or rode their horses. There was one store. It was an older 4X4 Land cruiser flatbed truck that carried store goods to the indigenous people there. That Land cruiser would pull over and the locals would walk up and make purchases. The women would be choosing flour and oil and the kids, like kids everywhere, would be begging for a piece of candy. It was a great glimpse at a different culture from home.
This day on the river was a true training day. Our guide is an expert whitewater paddler. He is one the first of the Costa Rican raft guides that learned their craft on the Rio Pacuare years ago. He took this seriously. He was fun, but he worked us. We were always changing direction and we knew it was all about preparing for the next day, the day we had worked for, for more than two years.
Rio Reventazon is one of the best whitewater rivers in the world. In the 1990’s there were three championships run on it. Then the government built a dam and it has been lost. Yesterday we were in the right place at the right time with the right people. The electric company released water from the dam. It is never scheduled so no one can take advantage when it occurs. I have read that luck happens when preparation and opportunity collide. We were prepared. Yesterday we were locked and loaded and heading to do the river of our dreams, the upper section of Rio Pacuare. To get there we crossed a bridge over Rio Reventazon. I have been here before. We stopped once and a guide told me stories of this river, of its past. He spoke of it with awe and wonder. He was emotional. I thought he might cry as he described how beautiful it was and how he wished he could run it again. As soon as we crossed the bridge yesterday, our driver got a phone call and pulled over on the shoulder of the road. He got out of the truck and walked to the back. I thought something was wrong. I stepped out and was waved over by another guide, one who spoke fluent English. He told me that if we wanted to, we could change our plans and do the Rio Reventazon instead of the upper Pacuare. I had a choice to make. My crew had no idea. They only knew that we had been training for a specific river. Could I change our plans? Should I? I could see it in the eyes of these Costa Rican paddlers. They knew how special this opportunity was. Could I appreciate it? Thank God that guide pulled over last year and spoke of this river with such emotion. It only took a minute and I had given the OK to change our plans. We were going to do the Rio Reventazon.
Our trip was the first commercial raft trip to run the class five sections of this river in 18 years. We ran it as clean as anyone ever has. No one swam, and our raft did not flip. My God, it was beautiful. It was exciting. I am so glad that my team was trained and ready. We took care of each other. I grabbed Mitch when he was falling, and he grabbed me. Stephen and Mitch grabbed me several times as I was going out over the side of the raft. It was amazing. The guides, and safety boaters were so complimentary on our technique and teamwork. Of course, they were part of the team. We were surrounded by world class Costs Rican paddlers. Our guide is a former national champion and so was his assistant. I will always remember El Horrendo. El Horrendo is a class 5 rapid and we hit it perfectly. There was a huge wave. I reached out and sunk the blade of my paddle into it as I tried to help get us over it. Then, I was flying backwards into the laps of Stephen and Melvin. They had dragged me down out of the air. They kept me in the raft. I got back in position and we kept paddling. The talking and celebrating was held in until we reached the calm pool at the bottom. When we had finished the final drop, we started paddling to the take out. Unknown to us, there was one more surprise in store for us. Out of nowhere, for the first time ever for me in Costa Rica, appeared the head of an Otter. He just looked at us. We all saw him right there in the middle of this fast -flowing river. Then he was gone. What a beautiful moment. The Slippery Otters and a Costa Rican otter together. Wow!
When we got out we were all strangely quiet. We had experienced something totally awesome. It was too much for us to process at that moment. We were kind of numb. We were also proud.
Today we are recovering from an adrenaline overdose. We are nursing a few bruises and lots of sore muscles. We are smiling.
As soon as I finished my first draft of this entry I sat down in my hotel room and I cried. They were tears of relief. We had accomplished something that we had worked towards for two years. We had accomplished something even more special than what we had hoped and dreamed for.