[Due to Costa Rica’s fabulous telecommunications monopoly….we are a bit delayed on scouting week reports. But even delayed, reports are too good to let go!!]

Scouting Report #2 from Craig

Twilight Zone on the Toro Amarillo

Twilight Zone on the Toro Amarillo

You know what it is like when you spill something big? You reach to stop the flow with a napkin and then a second later it is off the table in too many places to handle. We had a time spill today. And we had some other situations. Overall, the strangest day I’ve spent in Costa Rica. We were in the Twilight Zone and time was out to get us.

Since we hadn’t been able to paddle Sunday, it was a crunch to get everything done this week, and today was the crux. I wanted to nail the unknowns between Sarapiqui-land and Turrialba. Because of a road closure and last year’s high water season, we were looking for new runs near Guapiles, on the road to San Jose. I was told that three good runs are rafted there, set up after the Sarapiqui’s earthquake floods last year. I had a simple plan. Run two sections of Toro Amarillo, do the Rio Corinto, and two sections of the Rio Sucio. Today. Easy enough, right? So we were up and off at dawn to see a friend in Guapiles and do the five runs.

Our buddy was necessary because he has exclusive rights to takeouts, and would plug us in because we don’t compete with rafting companies down here. But we had to get the tour of his place. And he had to drink coffee. And walk me through a creek-bed to the Rio Corinto to show me the put-in. “Time keeps on slipping… into the…” I pulled up my slacks as the time spill started to splatter my wingtips. Joe and I pace for a few minutes, displaying a little agitation, and then our helper realizes I really want to go. We head out after we de-smokify one of his guides, the Redeye-Jedi. We head over to the first take-out, chat with the owners, and the strangeness begins to snowball.

Picture a man who hates his neighbors because they let rafters tread upon their property; and is furiously brandishing two machetes as he walks toward you. That’s the easy part. Picture a man who almost died several years ago of multiple stab wounds. Now picture him with a baseball size rock yelling and chasing machete man across a banana plantation. That’s what we saw today. Red-eye Jedi ponders: ”I guess he likes knife wounds…” Did I mention Twilight Zone yet?

Then, we go to show Miguel another takeout…it’s getting late. Finally, we do two great sections of the Toro Amarillo. It is an awesome creek run very similar to the Quijos below Baeza or the Upper Missualli [Ecuador talk here]. There are some things to figure out because of one huge rapid and some shallow spots; but Cheoah heads will love this run. Results at last. Now, we need to find a lower takeout. This involves asking lots of people questions on random farm roads. “We hear there’s a guy with a F-350 Cummins that lives where Toro and Sucio meet.” “Yeah, its down there somewhere.” “Where?” “Down that way…somewhere.” “Which way?” “That way…and he doesn’t have a truck.” This is like a usual scouting week, in case it sounds fun. Hours upon hours in the van for short moments of terror on flooded unfamiliar rivers. I may have looked at my watch 1,326 times by now. By now we are all starving but especially afraid that Red-eye Jedi will eat a sprayskirt or something.

A quick sandwich and thirty glances at my watch. Find helper, he’s across the highway drinking coffee. Then we are off to the Rio Sucio. At this point I think we are good on time to do the two sections before dark, and I really need to see the lower one. We stumble down a jungle trail and come out on a small cliff. We have to get down from there. And get through a ravine. We have to climb up a pile of rain-soaked boulders. And then we can walk 300 yards of riverside jungle flood spew to get to the water. And the sky is purple and raining. Pelting, you might call it. By now the time spill has re-escalated and the proverbial baby in the high chair is pointing and laughing. Whitewater is readable based partly on a difference in color between foam and green water. The Rio Sucio happens to be the color of Milk of Magnesia. And it is continuous, heavy, class four. And it was raining so hard we could barely see. So we did our best. And ran that sucker like confused squirrels in a tornado.

Today is the most incredible imagery I’ve seen on a river. The sky is dark-purple veins of cloud depth with flashes of lightning. The dark purple (Ken would call it midnight blue, another story) sky fades through to the misty rainy haze along the dark, silhouetted boulder-banks. And the entire river flows white. Cell phone and power-line towers occasionally loom in the misty purple sky over a strip of inky rock and exploding milk of magnesia. Did I mention Twilight Zone yet? We got to the first takeout as a million more gallons of Cappuccino blasted past the van. It was time to get out. We loaded gear in awe of the storm and drove away in the dark. It wasn’t as productive a day as I would have liked, but I’ll take a spill like that anytime.