Thursday, February 5, 2009

Costa Rica - Pacuare Lodge

Our trip began at the ridiculous time of 4:00 am when we caught a taxi to O'Hare. Ouch. Everything went smoothly and we checked into our hotel. Some readers of this blog know that The Husband travels a ton. As such, he has built up a ton of points at IC Brand hotels which are Holiday Inn, Intercontinental, and Crowne Plaza. So we chose a free night at the Holiday Inn in San Jose before embarking on our whitewater rafting trip the next morning.

I would avoid San Jose if possible. There are many charming towns (at least from what I read in the guidebooks) in the Central Valley. San Jose is not charming. The Holiday Inn is a retired person in a tour group's haven. Skip if you're paying. If you do stay downtown opt for Grano de Oro which looks great. We were exhausted so we grabbed dinner at a small soda within walking distance. A soda is a small casual restaurant. Turned out the nachos and fried bananas we shared were excellent!

Our first full day started with a pick-up at 6:15 am. Ouch again. We drove an hour and 20 minutes outside of San Jose where we enjoyed a traditional Costa Rican breakfast of rice, beans, fruit, cheese, tortillas, and eggs. Then we had another hour and 20 minute drive to the river put-in for our whitewater rafting adventure. During this time our guide talking about the horrors of whitewater rafting (falling out of the boat) and even worse, the horrors of our accomodations in the jungle (scorpions in our rooms along with other assorted wildlife). Needless to say, the scorpions were terrifying. According to our guide that was the only wildlife we could kill. All others were to be left alone.

We arrived at the river put-in to rain. Awesome. It was just cold enough to be freezing when we got in the river. We hiked down a hill so steep the van couldn't transport our bags. They had to be transported via 4x4 vehicle. Finally the start of our rafting trip. The trip was set up really well. About an hour rafting on the first day over grade 1 and 2 rapids which was a very nice start for beginners like me. Day 2 would be grades 1-4 rapids for 3 or 4 hours on the river. The Husband and I got extremely lucky and were put at the front of the raft. Meaning we got extremely soaked. The rafting was awesome though.

The Pacuare Lodge though was AMAZING. You are able to access the lodge by land but that involves taking a basket over a cable across the river and a horseback ride. So everyone rafts in. From the cooks to the guests. They raft in all supplies including food and linens. The only electricity is some produced by the lodge itself for the kitchen to use for cooking. The main lodge was open air. The bottom part included the kitchen, eating area, and a wine cellar (yes a wine cellar in the middle of the jungle). The upstairs part included a bar and some couches for reading. The entire thing is lit by candlelight at night. Everyone has an individual bungalow set off from all the others. It had a room with a bed and a couch, then stairs down to a bathroom that had stone floors and a large shower area. Unfortunately showers were heated by the sun which we didn't have any that day. So that was a really quick one. Because it was pouring we decided to relax in our rooms instead of going on the waterfall hike like we had originally planned. Originally I had been looking forward to a massage by one of the local Indian women that the lodge hired but she had apparently quit. So we spent the afternoon relaxing and reading in our bungalow.

The best part was the gourmet meals. Lunch was a buffet on the first day. There was flatbreads, fruit, and couscous. Dinner was the main masterpiece. Appetizer choice was between goat-cheese and honey stuffed phyllo dough or carrot soup. Dinner was tilapia in a passionfruit sauce or beef tenderloin in a porcini mushroom sauce. And dessert was creme brulee or pineapple with ice cream. Seriously a 5 star meal. In the middle of the jungle. Breakfast the next morning was delicious as well with rice and beans, eggs, cheese, and fruits.

The next day started our rafting at 10 am. This day we would hit some big rapids. It started out raining again. It had poured all night and then when we woke up at 7:30 am it was finally sunny. However it started pouring right as we were getting our rafting gear on. Luckily it cleared up soon and as a result we have a lovely sunburn complete with life jacket tan. Really there are no words to describe the river. Absolutely gorgeous and surrounded on both sides by trees growing hundreds of feet tall. We also got a glimpse of native Indian life alongside the banks of the river as we rafted down. We bought the CD at the end of the trip of us rafting. We had an expertly prepared lunch when we stopped at a beach on the way down. Pasta salad, tuna fish salad, pitas, chicken, and fresh fruit. They did a great job creating our lunch and presenting it on an upturned raft.

I would highly recommend this trip. The river was gorgeous. There was nonstop action with the rapids. Hardly any flatwater so it was exciting the entire time. It was easy enough that a first time rafter like me could do it but some more experienced rafters also enjoyed it as well.

We were deposited back at our beloved Holiday Inn in San Jose after a 2 hour drive back from the river take-out. We were so exhausted we went back to the same soda for dinner since it was so close and we knew it was good. Then we were in bed by 8:30 pm. I'm starting to feel elderly this trip with going to bed so early.

Church on the way to the river that the Virgin Mary has supposedly appeared in

Inside of the church

Getting ready to start Day 1 of the rafting trip

Our jungle bungalow

Hallway leading down to the bathroom area in our bungalow

Bathroom area

The bar in the main lodge

View of the river from the lodge

How I spent my afternoon. I'm all bundled up since it was pouring rain and I was freezing.

Upstairs of the main lodge

The wine cellar

The upstairs of the main lodge lit up by candlelight at night

My appetizer for dinner. Phyllo dough with goat cheese and nuts inside on a bed of lettuce. We forgot to take pictures of the other food.


It was finally sunny the next day. This is the area around the bungalows.

The main lodge

Dining room on the first floor of the lodge

How we didn't capsize I don't know.

Beautiful waterfall along the river

That's me on the front left and The Husband on the front right

The main lodge from the river

Another waterfall

The gorge we got out of the raft and swam through

The amazing lunch prepared on the beach for us in the middle of the rafting trip

Riding the rapids

Getting some air

I'm making strange faces in every single one of these rafting pictures. Apparently I was terrified.

1 comment:

Liz said...

So I assume you didn't see any scorpions?!?

What an amazing experience! I loved the photos, and the lodge looks incredible.