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Whitewater Rafting in Costa Rica… Are you brave enough?
Well I certainly didn’t think I was brave enough, but then I was told by my family that we were going whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River and that was it: No discussion.
Okay, I admit it — I was scared. I had visions of me falling out of the boat within seconds and disappearing off down the rapids, never to be seen again. For 10 years I had avoided whitewater rafting like the plague.

No Way Back.
And now the day had come… at the very least I thought my breakfast would feed the fish and was wondering where on my body I could safely put my health insurance card. It was sure to be needed…
Our rafting guides came to meet us looking so professional it made me even more nervous. I was going to let the whole team down, for sure. Then began the safety briefing and the phrases we had to learn to follow the guides instructions once we were on the river.
We got our kit on: life-jacket, helmet (eek!) and were handed our paddles. I didn’t like to mention that I was no dab hand with a paddle.
And then we were in the raft, floating down the Pacuare River. No way back now.

The Adventure begins…

At first it was all very gentle and I wondered why I really needed to wear a life-jacket.
I was about to find out.
Suddenly ahead of us I could see big boulders and white water rushing between them. We were about to take on our first rapid. My heart was in my mouth.
The guide shouted ‘Lean In’and I remembered the briefing and so leaned in impressively — my head was almost touching the bottom of the raft.

Leaning IN!

I will never forget the phrase ‘Lean In!’ as long as I live.
And then we were in it — swirling water, a rush of adrenaline and we were out the other side… and I was still in the raft: Brilliant.

I’m still in the raft!

The relief was quickly followed by euphoria: I could do this. (Well I have to admit that the guides are SO good that almost anyone can do it — they are such experts.)
I wasn’t scared. I was exhilarated.
One rapid followed another until we were almost blase about the Class II to Class III rapids but more excitement was just a few metres on: our first Class IV rapid.

Here we go! Class IV Rapid

Ooffff…. So we went head into the Class IV rapid and I leaned in with everything I had, paddling like mad when instructed. It was SO exciting!
I really never thought I would say that.

A high five after our most impressive rapid: What a Team!

There are plenty of blogs and websites on whitewater rafting in Costa Rica but this blog is especially for those of you like me who think they are just not brave enough. You are.
My only regret was that I waited so long to go whitewater rafting: it was one of the most exciting days of my life so far.

I did it! Cooling off afterwards was sublime

And just as an added plus: whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River is also incredibly beautiful.

Floating in the canyon on the Pacuare River.

So now that you know you’re brave enough, what are you waiting for?
Take a look below at some of the superb companies that offer Whitewater rafting in Costa Rica. My favourite is Exploradoresoutdoors.com where you can also stay overnight at their lodge and raft 2 days. Highly recommended: Even for scaredy cats like me.

Rafting

Pacuare River Rafting – 1-Day

http://www.centralamerica.com/cr/raft/aventuras.htm

 

Ordinary Life in an Extraordinary place: Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
I could be said to be living an extraordinary life by living in the rainforest on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. When chatting with friends from other countries I realise that my daily life has some very extraordinary elements!
But of course despite living somewhere which could be called extraordinary, like Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica, my life still contains all the ordinary aspects, like doing the food shopping, cooking, washing, gardening, going to work (sort of!), exercising and social life.
However, those ordinary aspects have some extraordinary surprises…take doing the food shopping and cooking just for starters.

The oldest supermarket in Puerto Viejo: El Chino’s.

Food Shopping: Ordinary Life in an Extraordinary place.

When we first came here in 2006 there were a few small supermarkets with a very limited choice of products. There was one butcher and no fishmonger although we are are right by the ocean. It took me a little while to work out where to buy fish in the beginning, but finally, using my then inadequate Spanish, I learned that you had to go to the sea and wait for the fishermen to return with their catch. Right, Red Snapper or Lobster for dinner then. If you plan on going fishing and catching your fish for dinner make sure to get the top tackle box.

Bucket of fresh fish straight off the fishing boat

 

In the supermarket I spent hours trying to fathom what I should be doing with any number of products I’d never seen and had no idea how to use. It was fun though and made for some very interesting meals… not always delicious but certainly different.

Old Harbour Supermarket in Puerto Viejo

Now, 11 years later there is a far greater choice of supermarkets and products, several butchers and we even have a fishmonger!
I have to admit I still don’t know all the names of the local vegetables and cannot make brilliant patacones. But I can make a good Rondon and will put the recipe at the end of this blog — try it — it’s delicious! It was given to me by a good friend who took me under her wing and educated me in Costa Rican food shopping.
All these years later, I am an avid fan of yucca, (especially yucca crisps), Natilla (a sort of sour cream) Rondon and almost all the fabulous tropical fruits. I’ve learned that eating papaya without lime juice is like eating potatoes without salt and how to cut a mango perfectly without waste.

Cooking: Ordinary Life in an Extraordinary place.

My cooking before Costa Rica was far less adventurous than it is now. Now although I still use recipes for inspiration I substitute recipe ingredients for what I have found locally which makes for extraordinary combinations which often work — but not always!
Larry the Kitchen Lizard usually watches me cooking and the chuckling of Geckoes punctuates my time in the kitchen. Larry is a small long tailed lizard that has a penchant for kitchen action and can be seen darting around, especially as I chop.

Larry the Kitchen Lizard watching me cook

As I cook I watch the Agouti’s outside, nibbling on the vegetable and fruit peelings and the toucans sitting in the trees above the river.

Agnes the Agouti having a snack outside my kitchen

Toucan keeping a beady eye on the cooking

So here is my recipe for Rondon: Even if you don’t have a Larry Lizard or Geckoes in your kitchen, it will taste authentically Puerto Viejo: Buen Provecho.

Puerto Viejo RONDON
Ingredients:
1 Can of Coconut Milk OR the equivalent from Fresh Coconuts
Fish Heads to make Stock.
500g Fish
1 Large Onion, chopped
6-12 Thyme Sprigs
6-12 Fresh Coriander Sprigs
1 Hot Chilli
Black Pepper & Salt
Yucca
1 small crab or a few crab claws
1-2 Plantains (green bananas)
Sweet Potatoes
Garlic

Method:
Fry onions in a large pot, add chilli and then all the vegetables.
Add the coconut milk and fish stock.
Boil gently until the vegetables are almost cooked.
Reduce on a higher flame until you have the consistency of cream.
When reduced, add fish and simmer gently until the fish is cooked.

Eat with friends and enjoy your Caribbean Cooking!

Rondon: The famous fish soup of the Caribbean coast