As we pulled away from the university in the pouring rain at six-thirty in the morning, I began to doubt my decision to raft the Pacuare river. Our guide at the front of the bus instructed us on safe procedures to follow should someone fall over the gunnel, and I began to envision vicious rapids tossing and flipping our raft in the rain. I´m also irrationally terrified of avalanches occuring in river canyons, which didn´t help the uneasy feeling in my stomach.
Two hours later, we were riding the rapids through crystal-clear waterfalls cascading over the mossy volcanic boulders at Irazu´s base, and I no longer questioned the worthwhileness of the early morning bus ride. Our paddles carved and sliced the green river waves as we followed our guide´s instructions: “Forward right, backward left, raise your paddles!” The raft swerved and swiveled around rocky river islands. After ten miles at the mercy of the rapids, I learned to trust the river and those around me. I started to realize the sheer power of millions of gallons of flowing water, and also have the confidence that it would not hurt me.
Each time I saw an eddy spring up in front of us, I thought “This is it. This is the time where we hit the rock and all fly out of the raft.” Each time, however, we managed to squat on the blue raft floor and hold each other´s life jackets to prevent falling overboard.
I felt rushes of adrenaline ripple through me like the river current as we mounted whitecaps and plunged back down into the bubbly troughs.
The scenery was breathtaking- wisps of white fog coiling around bright green cliffs that shaded the gorge, and tiger herrons opening their wings to the sky. I never wanted to leave. What had begun as a dreary morning turned into one of the best days I had in Costa Rica. Of course, you don´t have to travel all the way to Costa Rica to go rafting, but there´s no other place you can ride the rapids through a rain forest at the base of an active volcano in the warmth of Central America.