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After Months of Waiting, the Day Had Finally Arrived – Costa Rica day 15

At precisely 3:30 AM, the [insert favorite expletive] rooster snuck under my hammock and began to crow. If I were not a guest in a stranger’s home, I would have killed the darn thing. The early bird may get the worm, but the rooster who crows too early gets kicked—and that’s exactly what I intended to do. My plans, however, were foiled because while began to roll out of my hammock, the rooster ran away. Over the next three hours, that stupid cock continued to crow directly beneath me whenever I fell back asleep and promptly run off when my tolerance wore out.

Finally, the sun was up and breakfast was ready. I ate a hearty meal in preparation for my first day of whitewater kayaking. This was the activity I had waited the whole trip for and was the main reason I signed up in the first place. No amount of drowsiness or sore muscles was going to get in my way.

Following breakfast, everyone was taken to the front lawn where kayaks were laid in rows. Each person was to find and claim a kayak that fit his or her body. I got a blue Piranha, the model of which I cannot remember. Once everyone had grabbed a boat that fit, a lifejacket, helmet, drinking water, and any other gear needed for the day, we loaded the trailer and headed out.

I could hardly contain my excitement.

When we all were finally in the river, we had to go over the basic skills to ensure that everyone was on the same page. We started by practicing high and low braces, hip-snaps, ferrying, eddying-out, and T-rescues. T-rescues were very important because they allowed a kayaker the ability to right their kayak without being proficient at rolling. Without the T-rescue, we would have to pull off our spray-skirt, flood the kayak, swim it to shore, and drain it; with the T-rescue, we would grab the nose of a friends boat and simply flip ourselves back over.

Once everyone had become remotely comfortable with the skills and could accurately perform them a majority of the time, we moved on to the skill I had been most excited to learn, rolling.

Each student went one-on-one with an instructor to learn the roll, then paired up with a partner to practice. This allowed the instructors to help with form until the movement came naturally enough to perform before practicing with a partner to give a T-rescue if it became necessary. Everyone knew how much I was loving this stuff, and I think at least some of them enjoyed watching me get so excited because, like many other times on the trip, they offered me the right to go first. I gladly took it. I’m getting excited for you just reading it

One of the girls who was working with another instructor flipped before me, but once I got it, it wasn’t going away. I practiced and practiced until my success rate had gone from zero to about one-in-four, then half. By the end of the next day, I was rolling successfully with nearly every attempt.

The afternoon consisted of class I & II rapids—rapids I would not take seriously two days later. At the present, however, they were a challenge. My boat wanted to tip over any way it could, but I was solid and way more fun than the stable ducky I had previous controlled. I did not have any near-flips and soon began trying rapids backwards and sideways to increase the difficulty. If I could have seen my face, I bet it would have been like a child when his father surprises him with that one toy that he would have done anything to get. I could not have been happier.

During the entire afternoon portion of our paddle, only two kayaks flipped. Each of us had fun, but many stated that they preferred the duckies. I didn’t quite understand why anyone would want that, but I guess they probably didn’t quite understand why I was so gung-ho about every little thing either. To each their own.

When the day was over and we were back at the home stay, everyone was happy but tired. Our leader was not able to join us in the water during the afternoon due to his injury, so we relayed those events back to him and he shared about a wonderful walk he had enjoyed while we went down river. Everyone was tired and went to bed on time because the mornings come early in Costa Rica.

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“Everything is Bigger in Costa Rica” – Costa Rica day 14

When morning broke, we ate breakfast and had some quiet time. I laid in my hammock in the shade and watched the river flow past. We soon prepared the duckies that had been deflated the night before and we began our trip downriver. After a few rapids, we pulled our duckies off to the side of the river and climbed out.  It was time for us to learn how to scout rapids. The rapid we scouted was a class IV. Our guides made sure everyone knew they could portage around it if they did not feel comfortable with running the rapids. Before we learned to scout, I picked the line I hoped to run through the rapids. I was very happy when I learned that it was the best line to take through the rapids as well. I was the first of the students to run the rapids and I did it well. In excitement, I portaged my boat back to the top of the rapids twice so I could run the rapids three times. The first and last of my runs went quite well. The second run, however, got off to a rough start. My ducky hit a large rock under the surface of the water and flipped just before the main tongue. I quickly righted my ducky and jumped back in just as I hit the speed boost caused by the tongue. I paddled hard and repositioned by boat just in time to make it through the rapids well, but I was unhappy with having flipped. I knew I could do better.

Another interesting rapid came a little later in the afternoon. It was a long class III with many rocks. It turned into quite an adventure. Greg, one of the guys in my group, flipped at the very beginning of the rapids. Another guy in our group, Eric, rescued Greg, but by the time Greg was in the boat, it had wrapped on a rock and was flipping over. I saw two swimmers in the water and went for a rescue. I got Greg in my boat, but Eric was out of reach. In attempt to get both of them in my boat, I had spun sideways. A rock caught my boat and over we went. I quickly righted the raft and we climbed back in. By the time I was back in my seat with my paddle ready, another rock was closing in fast. With some strong strokes and a good reading of the river, I managed to avoid it. Greg enjoyed his free ride as he was without a paddle. After crossing the river and eddying-out, I dropped Greg off on shore. One of the guides had pulled his raft onto the banks just a little ways back upstream after it flipped. I turned around and headed to the pool below the rapids. Once everyone reached the pool, we slowly drifted downstream, enjoying the slower pace and time to play around in the water. When Greg made it down to where the rest of us were, he told a hilarious rendition of the events he had just been part of.  We all shared a laugh, especially at the fact that he was in three different boats in one rapid. Everyone enjoyed the story while we jumped off our duckies and swam in the pool before the next rapid. The end of the day came and we pulled our boats off the river and secured them to a trailer behind the electric-green jeep that our guide’s brother-in-law had come in to pick us up. We piled the entire group, with all the gear and guides onto the jeep and trailer to drive to a home stay for the night. We drove slowly down dirt roads and eventually made it to the house. The family who greeted us was very friendly and had a wonderful house. They even had a television (which was always on and played one Costa Rican soap opera after another).  The porch had a hammock and several huge spiders with magnificent colors. I could not get my camera to focus well on the spider; I guess that’s what you get for trying to be a photographer without an adjustable-focus lens. We found massive bugs to throw in the gigantic web and watched as the spider hungrily devoured its dinner. Everything is bigger in Costa Rica. Those who were not helping to prepare dinner sat around and talked or washed their clothes. There was a long line for the shower, but when my turn was finally called, I was ecstatic. I took my bathing suit off for the first time in over two days and changed into clean[ish] clothes. I slept outside in my hammock and looked forward to learning to whitewater kayak in the morning

 

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