Pura Vida

Pure life

That’s the catch phrase here, according to my raft guide, Daniel. As a greeting you say pura vida. When someone asks you how you’re doing, you say pura vida. It kind of just rolls off the tounge, doesn’t it?

The raft company’s shuttle picked me, Danny, and 12 high school Autralian boys and their teacher up from the hostel at 6:30 am. Of course my phone/only-clock was an hour ahead on Eastern time and I had been ready to go since 5:30am (because who needs sleep on vacation?). Within a couple of hours our stuff was stored and we were having breakfast. Ah, the glories of fresh fruit!

Our raft guide, Daniel, was awesome. Danny and I got paired with a family of 5 from Minnesota. Daniel knew all of our names instantly and had us play along during the mandatory safety lecture (which was reassuringly exactly like the one for the New River in West Virginia). When it came time to choose seats on the raft, I saw the weight dynamics immediately: two strong guys in front for power, then two girls, and then the elderly couple in the back closest to the raft guide so he could help them. Which left me, the odd woman out of this seven passenger boat, and the smallest, seated next to the guide in the very back. They like to stick the small people here because they won’t get as much in the way and they are less likely to be a strong force in paddling. The back is also known as the ejection seat – think of riding in the back of a school bus driving over train tracks. I would have liked to feel like more a contributing member to the team. But I got to be both lazy and have a wild ride. I’ll take it.

Daniel told us stories along the way. When he met Danny (from Manhattan), he talked about the lack of hospitality when he visited New York City, and getting lost quickly and often on the subway – but stumbling across a Marley brothers concert made up for the whole thing. When he met me, he asked if I was eating enough, and then looked grimly at my forearm as he wrapped his entire hand around and said I needed more muscle. He also assured me that alligators love white meat and thrust his arm out so we could truly compare how pale I was to him. (Sigh. Maybe I’ll get a tan this trip. Or just burn.) Daniel also told stories of the things around us. The pulley system across the water that the natives use to haul and trade goods. The marginalization of the natives who get little help from the government and live off the land in the national parks, several hours of trekking away from any town. One of the nice ladies from Minnesota looked confused and asked, but how do they go to school? They don’t. They learn the lessons from the jungle, Daniel replies. Daniel also told us about the power struggle over power – twice the river has been sentenced to damming by the government and the power compancy, ICE. One time the river was saved by a huge earthquake that caused developers to rethink the stability of the bedrock canyons. Another time, the local community vetoed it in a special election. Now that a large portion of it is within a national park, no one, our guide assures us, can touch it.

It was a gorgeous day to be on the water. The sky was overcast so the sun wasn’t beating down on us. Even when it started pouring rain, it was one of those warm summer rains that I used to love running through. When our guide Daniel picked me up and threw me into the river, I discovered the water was also the perfect temperature. Maybe I’m stressing this too much, but I don’t know how else to relate that EVERYTHING IS THE PERFECT TEMPERATURE HERE. I don’t know how they do it. We stayed on the river FOREVER – 4, maybe 4.5 hours? It was great, like it would never end. And when it finally did, you were kind of ok with it because you were exhausted and hungry.

(If you’re ever here, i strongly recommend the raft company: www.exploradoresoutdoors.com)

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