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!