Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sad Times for the Sarapiqui

We pulled into La Virgen late afternoon to find very few people around. Our first mission was to talk to a rafting company to see if we could hook up a shuttle for the Rio Sucio for the next day. On our second try to the Sarapiqui Outdoor Center we found some helpful folks. They were working on finding new runs to do commercial trips on, since the stretch they typically raft on the Sarapiqui was destroyed with the earthquake, and had just returned from the Rio Sucio. (that would explain the lack of people at the rafting companies) The plan was to return the next day to look for a better take out and they were kind enough to say we could tag along.
When we arrived the next morning, the plan had changed. They were joining another raft company and the Cruz Roja (Red Cross) to make the first trip down the Upper Sarapiqui since the quake. We were told that as long as we were solid in class 4 we could help. We immediately jumped on board. Driving to the put in was very sad as areas that had fallen apart were taped off, reporters were everywhere, the Red Cross was offering food and supplies, and a priest even stopped us and gave us cookies and juice and said a prayer.
We arrived at the put in to find the bridge crossing the river had fallen in. The organizer gave the group a safety talk that included instructions that we were not to play, our job was to make sure everyone got down the river safely, look for debris, animals, houses, cars and possibly bodies. We were to all stick close together and signal if we noticed anything weird or saw vultures circling. The river was very muddy with few eddies. (Sort of high water Upper East Fork Hoodish for you Northwesterners) We pulled out and came up around the first corner to find the bridge that had fallen in. Everyone was able to make it through with no problems.We continued downstream, stopping several times to check out some farms and huge piles of logs. Fortunately the river itself was clean of strainers and other debris. It was a great run and the rafting companies were excited that they would be able to take trips down this section, but said it was very different than it had been. We only had one raft flip and it was a quick recovery. It was also fortunate that the only remains we found belonged to animals. Overall, a successful mission!

Thanks to all the good spirited folks who welcomed us with open arms for this trip! What an experience!

Next up: The strangest color of river I have ever seen!

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