Slippery Otters Paddling Club

Slippery Otters Paddling Club

Promoting paddling sports to foster an appreciation for their benefits of fun, adventure, and fitness.

Category: Costa Rica

Traveling Gluten Free

Adversity: Food Allergies AKA I am hungry, but I don’t want to get sick. Lunch was delicious and very Costa Rican. This is where having a concierge/guide/driver/translator comes in handy….

Adversity: Food Allergies

AKA I am hungry, but I don’t want to get sick.

Lunch was delicious and very Costa Rican. This is where having a concierge/guide/driver/translator comes in handy. I hired a wonderful Costa Rican gentleman named Jose who runs Passport Adventures.

Jose, Passport Adventure

I have to be careful whenever I eat because I have Celiac disease and get sick when I eat anything with gluten in it. Jose explained my issue with the waiter who brought over the manager who took me to meet the chef. The chef is his Momma. I love this place. The bottom line: the food tasted great and I didn’t get sick. Jose has looked out for me before and he has done the same for my daughter and granddaughter (both have Celiac). I really enjoy Latin style food and I often eat at places which are referred to as typical, rustico, cafe’, etc.. It is easy to find good food in Costa Rica. Since I have Celiac I have to avoid gluten, wheat protein. It isn’t all that hard. I avoid wheat flour and fried foods (the grease gets contaminated by frying goods with flour batter). I eat fresh fruits and veggies. There are lots of interesting and delicious foods to try. When in doubt I suggest you go with the local stuff. I always try to eat clean and simple. I avoid processed foods, casseroles, and sauces because the more complicated the recipe the more likely that there is something hidden in the dish that will make me ill. You should always ask lots of questions and don’t assume that they know what ‘gluten free’ (substitute your food allergy/sensitivity here) means. When in doubt eat simple foods and avoid things that were deep fried. If you do that you should be just fine.

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Handling Adversity When Traveling

What a beautiful day! I am back in Costa Rica. This trip will be unique because my wife and I are taking her parents to Costa Rica to celebrate their…

What a beautiful day! I am back in Costa Rica. This trip will be unique because my wife and I are taking her parents to Costa Rica to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. There will be paddling (whitewater and ocean) as well as hiking and zip lining, birdwatching, flowers, wildlife, and volcanos. There will be Pacific sunsets, spa time, and delicious food. This first day is about airports, great food, a coffee farm tour, and a beautiful lodge.

Adversity: Traversing the airports

Travel = Stress
For many the stress of travel is just too much. Some just don’t travel or they avoid it. Others medicate and over pack. I cannot tell you that I don’t feel stress. I do, but I work hard to reduce it as much as possible. Here are some tips that help to reduce adverse experiences when traveling. We had a great first day. Everything related to the airport experience went very smoothly, and it wasn’t by chance. This family knows how to pack!

TIP #1

Everyone got all their clothing and such into two bags each. We all have one carry-on bag that went into the overhead bin and a backpack that stowed under the seat. Traveling light and small alleviates so much stress and I travel in part to reduce stress not to make more.

TIP #2

Stephanie checked us in online and got everyone’s boarding passes the day before our flight. We found out then that we had gotten the coveted TSA Pre-check that gets you through security screening quickly.

TIP #3

Empty your pockets and try to avoid wearing or carrying anything metal. Even my belt buckle is made of plastic.

TIP #4

Check the monitors that list departing flights. You need to make sure there have been no changes in your departure time or gate number. I hope all of you have the good fortune we did today. We got there plenty early and had no problems.

Pura Vida!

 

Photo: Stephanie’s parents Jan and Steve – celebrating their 50th Anniversary!

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The Rio Savagre: An Ever Changing Evolution

Today we paddled Rio Savagre. Actually we paddled the upper Savagre and the lower commercial section. I have rafted the lower section a number of times. Today was my first…

Today we paddled Rio Savagre. Actually we paddled the upper Savagre and the lower commercial section. I have rafted the lower section a number of times. Today was my first time on the upper.

Rio Savagre was greatly effected by the storms that flooded much of Costa Rica this rainy season. The bridge at the old put in is gone. The suspension bridges are gone. Farmland, villas, and lodges are gone. My landmarks are all gone. All of it became part of the river. The river has changed. It is still changing. It will continue to evolve until the dry season kicks in and the river course stabilizes.

The drive to the put in on the upper Savagre required 4X4’s. We drove on one-lane tracks, forded a river, and made a number of steep climbs. On the way one vehicle broke down (radiator problem) forcing us to consolidate and shuttle using the remaining vehicle. No one got stressed. No one got angry. We just continued on. Mr. Ramirez, the owner of the rafting company, and I had an interesting chat about success. Antonio (raft guide) and I walked and talked our way to the put in. He is an amazing young man. We did our safety talk and began our trip. The sunny day went dark. It started to rain. It was a stinging chilly rain. But it was beautiful. We saw and played in a lovely waterfall. We ate fresh cut pineapple and drank water. We crushed a rock into pigment and gave ourselves war paint. We paddled. We laughed. We splashed each other. We teased each other. We got wet and then wetter and some of us even swam.

This group of guys has morphed into a team, a family, a club. We are the Slippery Otters Paddling Club and tonight, for Halloween, we will don pirate hats and become “The Pirates of Pacuare.”

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Turriabla, Costa Rica and Rafting the Rio Pejibaye

I am in Turriabla, Costa Rica today. We will raft Rio Pejibaye. Today it will be Mitch, our guide, and me. The river is high and strong because of the…

I am in Turriabla, Costa Rica today. We will raft Rio Pejibaye. Today it will be Mitch, our guide, and me. The river is high and strong because of the recent rains. It should be an interesting trip. We are rafting with a new company, and this is their first trip. The company is new, but the guides are experienced. In Costa Rica many of the raft guides work as independent contractors and they go where they are needed. The raft we will use will be rented from another company. In Turriabla all of the guides and rafting companies know and seemingly get along with one another. It is interesting to hear stories about the older guides who have mentored the younger ones. Here it is all connected, and everyone relies on each other. In Turriabla everyone is fond of saying, “Safety First!” The guides I have worked with here have all been very professional and safety conscious. This new company is the first female owned rafting company in Costa Rica. Karol, the owner is fighting against a macho culture. She is highly respected and I have high hopes for her.

Pura Vida!

Zane

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Running the Rio Reventazón

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…

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.

Pura Vida!

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New Year

How will you remember New Year’s Day 2018? I won’t have any trouble remembering that day. My beautiful wife and I were in Costa Rica. We had already spent a…

How will you remember New Year’s Day 2018? I won’t have any trouble remembering that day. My beautiful wife and I were in Costa Rica. We had already spent a few days in Monteverde where Stephanie discovered the love of bird watching. I paddled a new river (leaving that for its own post) and we settled in Jaco to enjoy the New Year’s Eve festivities at the Croc Hotel. They put on a great party with a wonderful firework show. The next morning wife and I are heading out to do some kayaking/bird watching around Damas Island. As we prepared I went out on the balcony to fetch our water shoes. We were staying at the Crocs Hotel and Casino. The owners put in a pool with two crocodiles in it for the visitors to see. My room was on the third floor directly above the crocodile pool. I grabbed my phone and took a few pictures. I was very careful because I had taken the protective cover off my IPhone just a couple of days earlier and now it was slippery and easy to drop. No, I didn’t drop it into the Crocodile Pool while snapping pictures. I set the phone down on a chair. Then when I picked up the shoes I bumped the chair and the phone fell onto the balcony floor where it seemed to pick up speed as it flew off the edge of my third story platform and plunk it landed in the water with said crocodiles. The big male that was basking on the island jumped in immediately to chase down my shiny phone, but I guess it was too thin for him to grab once it settled on the bottom of his lair. It might surprise you but none of the maintenance guys was interested in retrieving my phone. I was told I would have to wait until the Crocodile guy came into work the following day. That next day when I walked by the front desk all of the reception clerks were smiling. They had my phone and the darned thing still worked.  My phone was recovered from the crocodile pool. It still works! This is the last pic I took before I dropped it!

 

Pura Vida!

 

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Rerun…

When I hear those words I immediately begin to think about TV and those Summer reruns. This was not a summer rerun. This was not Netflix or a DVR recording….

When I hear those words I immediately begin to think about TV and those Summer reruns. This was not a summer rerun. This was not Netflix or a DVR recording. This is real and real is always unique. Two days ago, we ran this same river. Then it was dark, stormy, and the river was as wild as I had ever seen. That was then and now is now. Things have changed.

The Naranjo River is changing. It is a different river than the one we ran two days ago. The trip we took on 30OCT17 was wild, badass. In the first five minutes we were inundated by large waves. The river has moved. Those waves aren’t there. At the put in, the Naranjo River has shifted from downstream left to right in two days. The rapids have been remade. They are being redesigned by the river. Some of the waves, rapids, drops, and holes that we experienced are simply gone. They have been replaced. Boulders have shifted, channels have moved. The rock and sand are still moving. This river is alive and undergoing change. This is nothing new. This is what wild rivers do at the end of every rainy season.

Two days ago, it was storming. There was lightning, thunder, dark skies, and steady hard rain. Today the weather was sunny and clear. It was easier today. Rio Naranjo has changed. There are new dangers as the riverbank is undercut and trees fall into the water. These fallen trees become dangerous “Strainers” that a raft, kayaker, or swimmer can get tangled up in. Strainers want to scrape the rafts clean and hold everything underwater. Fortunately, they are few and our guides easily avoid them. This was an easier trip. The rapids and the weather gave us no trouble. No one swam a rapid today. There were no “Supermen” flying through the air. No rafts flipped. There were waves, drops, and hydraulics. We had to paddle hard. We were always paying attention but, today were also able to relax between the drops and appreciate the landscape and wildlife that we passed. There were Tiger Herons and Cormorants and monkeys! The trees over our heads were full of a troop of Squirrel Monkeys. This has been an amazing trip. It was challenging. We are training as a team and we got better on this trip. We are stronger and as a group we understand why we have to work together and why we have to focus. I am glad we had a raft flip earlier on this trip. Now everyone on my team knows what it feels like to swim a rapid. They know that the “International Swimmer’s Position” isn’t something you do 100% of the time. They know about those rocks. They came to know some of them intimately. We have a lot of fond memories from Costa Rica/Halloween 2017. One of my favorites is the story of how Mitch went flying through the air, landed in the water, clamped his eyes shut and assumed the “International Swimmer’s Position”. His hands gripped the front of his life jacket as he tried to catch his breath. Then he heard the guide telling him to get up. He did not understand, after all he knew that if he stood up his foot could become trapped and he might break an ankle or be pinned and drown. The guide and others kept yelling at him and eventually he opened his eyes and discovered that he was lying in a puddle at the edge of the river. We reenacted the scene for a photograph the next day. We will never forget it. I won’t forget seeing Stephen’s body draped across the bow of a safety kayak and I still count helmets in my dreams as I did after that flip when I was accounting for everyone.

I always say, “There is no adventure without adversity.” We had some adventure. We learned a lot. We learned about whitewater rafting, safety, and each other. We have taken another step towards being prepared for bigger more challenging rivers. What a perfect way to end our five days of paddling in Costa Rica. We are sore. We are tired. We are smiling!

Pura Vida!

 

 

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“Do you guys want to die today?”

Whitewater rivers are often a series of drops followed by a pool. In the pool above the rapid where the raft flipped, Jose, my friend/driver, yelled to the guide in…

Whitewater rivers are often a series of drops followed by a pool. In the pool above the rapid where the raft flipped, Jose, my friend/driver, yelled to the guide in Stephen’s raft. Jose’ told him that the lifejackets on the four guys needed to be cinched up. Jose said, “Do you guys want to die today?” The guide tightened them up and two minutes later they were swimming. It is a Happy Halloween.

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The raft flipped!

The raft flipped. Everyone was swimming. It happened at the top of a very long rapid which means it was a long swim, a very long bumpy swim. It wasn’t…

The raft flipped. Everyone was swimming. It happened at the top of a very long rapid which means it was a long swim, a very long bumpy swim. It wasn’t my raft. It was worse than that. It was Stephen’s, Melvin’s, Mitch’s, and Jordan’s raft. First I saw the guide. Then I saw 3 more on a beach. One was missing. Stevie…

We are turned around paddling upstream when I first see the safety kayak with a body draped over the bow…

Stephen is holding on. Our guide picks up a paddle, gets us in position and pulls Stephen into our raft.

Everyone is well. I cannot describe what happened next.  We beached our boat and then it was hugs, laughter, and gratitude. It was a day we will never forget.

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