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Lessons in Boyhood, Manhood Learned on the Rio Sarapiqui
Gregory J. Rummo
AUGUST 12, 2002
It was that short three-word phrase that stuck in my mind. It had rolled off everyone’s tongue at the dinner table and I kept hearing it over and over again in my sleep. It is a lyric phrase, somewhat poetic and alliterative. If you repeat it softly, you could lull yourself to sleep. But it is not possible to divorce its meaning from the simple sounds of the words spoken together: White water rafting.
“Dad, I live for stuff like this,” my thirteen-year old son John had told me shortly before we went to bed.
“John, the Rio Sarapiqui is not like the little Lehigh in Pennsylvania,” I warned.
No fear—teenagers are unfazed by things like shooting through class two and three rapids on a river wider than the Delaware.
Now, as I looked over at him in the dim light from across our room at La Posada, the bed and breakfast where we stayed for a week in July in Costa Rica, his slow, rhythmic breathing evidenced the fact that his sleep was peaceful.
The day dawned shrouded in fog in San Ramon. In the mountainous regions of Costa Rica, it is often cool in the morning and several members of our party donned sweat shirts and long pants for the four-hour bus ride that would take us through the misty mountains of the Cordillera Central to the northern lowlands and the small town of La Virgen.
It was here, as our bus bucked and swayed
across a rickety bridge spanning the
The bus stopped and we all piled out. Making our way down the steep embankment and around the bridge supports, we met our guide, Juan.
“You’ll need a helmet,” he said
“What color would you like, blue or yellow?”
The rafts were large and held six adults with room for our guide in the back. My son sat across from me in the middle.
Before setting out into the maelstrom, we paddled around in the large pool under the bridge. Juan shouted commands to us to make sure we knew what to do: “Paddle forwards! Paddle backwards! High Right Side! Lean in!”
Five minutes of this was the sum total of our schooling in the art of white water rafting.
When he was finally satisfied he raised his voice above the roar of the current and yelled, “Okay, let’s go!”
“That’s it?” I asked incredulously, convinced that we were all insane.
The river wasted no time introducing
itself. We had barely floated two hundred yards when our guide pointed out to us
that we were bearing down on The Gringo Hole. I assumed The Gringo Hole gets its
name from the number of Gringos who are flipped out of the raft.
And so it continued for the next seven miles. We shot through pieces of white water with names like Superman and Confusion. Twice we took a break to rest and catch our breath. I thought it would never end.
Mercifully, two hours later, we climbed out
of the river dragging the raft behind us.
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