It's a Raft Guide's Life...

Ever wondered what we get up to during the winter months?

Raft Guide & office guru Sarah left North Wales in search of a warmer winter…

In September I temporarily swapped the astounding beauty of North Wales for the equally but altogether different beauty of Hawaii with the aim to escape the cold, dark winters we all know so well, to have some adventures and to improve my terrible surfing. I'd managed to wangle 8 months off work but only had a 3 month tourist visa for the United States so decided along with friends who work at the centre that Costa Rica was the perfect place for us to meet up for Christmas, catch up, surf, eat good food and do a spot of rafting...and to wait until I could re-enter the US!

Tom and I met up with Cait and Johnny in a beach front bar on a beautiful evening in Malpais on the Pacific coast and had a good catch up, a few beers and discussed our plan of attack with regard to how much surfing we could physically do in 3 weeks! The surf in Costa Rica is perfect, particularly around Nosara where we ended up accidentally spending the majority of our time. Sandy breaks, consistent surf and the sun is always shining. After a week or so, we dropped Tom in San Jose for his flight home and decided it was the perfect time for a break from surfing and to get on a river.
We had been told good things about the Pacuare River and the trip price included transport so that was decided pretty quickly, we just had to get up at 5am to meet our shuttle to the rafting base. After a strong breakfast of biscuits and chocolate milk we met our taxi driver at 5.30am who was to drop us at another location to meet the rafting shuttle. After a small incident involving our bags getting locked in the boot of the taxi, we were met by the shuttle only to be told by Roberto, one of the raft guides, that there had been landslides on the road and so the journey would take a bit longer than usual, and that there had been a lot of rain and so they're 75% sure they'd need to cancel the trip on the Pacuare River. It only seemed fair given that I have spent the last 7 years delivering that same information to customers when there isn't a water release on the Tryweryn that it should happen to us, but luckily we're in a unique position to appreciate these things so we weren't bothered. Roberto explained that there was another river we could do so we were beginning to get excited (well, Johnny had been like a small child the evening before Christmas for the couple of days beforehand, but Cait and I were getting excited!). Upon arrival we we're greeted with a delicious local breakfast and got ourselves ready for the trip. The alternative river was good, but it wasn't quite what we were expecting, the river was so high that a lot of the rapids had washed out, though there were a couple of huge waves to punch through which made up for it being a shorter trip. We'd been told that we could rebook with a discount and being the money watchers that we are had already figured that this would actually work in our favour, getting dropped off on the Caribbean coast for a few days and use the free rafting shuttle to get back to San Jose after our second rafting trip. Feeling pretty smug with ourselves we set about finding sloths along the Caribbean coast and exploring a National Park. Sloth mission achieved (they're so darn cute!), we could now look forward to our 'proper' rafting trip.

Thankfully it was a slightly later start to arrive in time for another yummy breakfast of rice and eggs, so we were full of beans (literally) and REALLY excited by the time we'd zig zagged down the insanely steep track to the put on. It will never fail to amaze me how raft guides are the same, the world over. The three of us shared some discreet laughs and knowing looks at various parts of the safety briefing, some jokes were a welcome change (both Johnny and I came away with some new material) but some were oddly familiar, which was reassuring. The river is set in a beautiful gorge among dense forest but the rapids were the highlight for me. A nice gentle start and a bit of messing around getting to know our fellow crewmates, then it was down to business. When we're told we're coming up to the first grade 4 rapid I don't think I've ever been so excited! It was awesome and ended with us paddling underneath a small but beautiful waterfall at the bottom of the rapid. The next hour or so was spent bumbling along grade 2 rapids with some awesome grade 3 and 4 sections in between before a much needed lunch stop of burritos and fruit to prepare us for the rest of the trip. Our raft was home to two German guys in the front who were keeping us all in time, one girl from Switzerland, one girl from Montreal, the three of us and Christopher our guide who was born and raised on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. After lunch we continued down the beautiful river feeling well and truly in the middle of nowhere as the river had opened up and we enjoyed some more exciting rapids, including one called 'Magnetic Rock' so we were feeling pretty at home, and our last chance to swim in the river through a narrow, steep sided canyon before the last few rapids of the day. The take out was back at the main centre so it was straight for showers and beer to finish a perfect day in style! The folks at Exploradores Outdoors were absolutely fantastic from the late notice booking process to the actual day, a professional and well set up outfit - next time you're in Costa Rica, don't miss rafting with them!

As for now, I'm back in Hawaii on the island of Kaua'i hiking, snorkelling, kayaking, learning about volcanoes and exploring the's a hard life!


27 February 2017