The transfer from Arenal to Bajos del Toro took a couple of hours, driving past peaceful scenery of papaya, pineapple and yucca fields high up into the mountains where our next hotel – El Silencio Lodge – is located.  Beautiful pink flowers, which I have yet to identify, lined the roadside.  Most of the houses we passed along the roadside were one storey high, built from breeze blocks and all with corrugated iron roofs.  Many had neat little front gardens with colourful plants growing and often, there was someone out front, sweeping up the porch.

Wispy white clouds so thin you could see through them stuck firmly to the mountain tops despite the breeze as we approached the long uphill road to the lodge.  The warm, nutty smell of coffee (a thoughtful leaving present from Nayara) accompanied us for the whole journey.

Our driver was very proud to share with us his love for his country as we travelled – pride in the mountains, forests, rivers and beaches and in the peaceful democracy Ticos enjoy – very different from neighbouring Nicaragua.  Tensions between Costa Rica and Nicaragua are obvious and there is concern over the growing level of immigration.  If you see people working in the fields, they are likely to be Nicaraguans rather than Ticos and quite possibly, they are here illegally.  There is a good healthcare system in Costa Rica they can access.  Interestingly, I have seen many young adult in Costa Rica wearing braces on their teeth.  Orthodontic treatment is all free here – unlike back in the UK.

The next day took us an hour back down the windy mountain road to the Sarapiqui River and a knuckle clenching raft ride on the white water rapids with Pozo Azul Adventures..  These are Class II/II rapids and rough enough to be quite a thrilling ride.  You don’t just get a bit wet on this ride, you get completely soaked.  We had 4 cheerful Americans accompanying us on the raft and Alberto (“Babyface”) as our guide.   The penalty for falling in (which happens maybe as often as once or week or so, Alberto told me) is double Piña Coladas all round for the group.  Well – Tim and his mate up front weren’t about to let that happen any time soon.  The rapids may have been fast, the current strong and the water over our heads at times, but we gritted our teeth and dug deep to paddle through the rapids back to dry land.  This was only my second time white water rafting and I was very glad it wasn’t my first attempt.  Every time we “survived” a bumpy section, the paddles were lifted aloft and we hollered – “High Five – Pura Vida!”  Between us, there was over 465 years of experience on that raft and we weren’t going to let this river beat us.  By the time we got back to dry land, the orders were placed pretty prompto: 2 left shoulder transplants, one hip transplant, 1 Valium, 2 stiff rums (guess who) and a siesta (yep – that was Alberto).  The trip was great fun and health and safety was taken seriously.  It felt exciting – and thrilling – but not really dangerous.  I was holding onto my oar so tightly and concentrating on the rapids that I couldn’t take any photos – but one of the team on the bank at the worst/best (depending on your point of view ) part of the rapids kindly obliged.

​The afternoon was spent taking a peaceful hike (4kms return) through the forest trails up to the three waterfalls in the El Silencio Lodge grounds – beautiful.

Foodie Firsts:
Fresh pineapple, cut into huge slices and served as a half-way point snack on the rafting trip.  It is so sweet and ripe here you can eat the core easily – in fact – it is delicious.  Transporting it such a long way to the UK must dry it out.

Glad I packed:
Reefies, rash, waterproof pouch.

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