When asked what makes Costa Rica so special, the rivers are always the obvious answer for many paddlers…but if you look beyond the whitewater, it is the people of Costa Rica that make an experience so memorable. And no one epitomizes the pura vida of the “ticos” better than our driver Miguel.
Miguel has been with Endless River Adventures since before there was even an Endless River Adventures. He and Ken teamed up on Ken’s second trip to the country. At the time, neither would have guessed that they would share so many years together, with so many amazing paddling friends. Our trips would not be the trip they are without Miguel.
With the staff of Endless River Adventures, there has never been a question as to the caliber of guides folks will have on the river. But what is often overlooked is the value of the “guia del camino.” Miguel is hands-down our most valuable guide. He and his vans have taken us to the put ins and take outs of rivers from one end of the country to the other, and even accompanied us for some Panama exploratories early on.
In a 20+ year partnership, Miguel and his family have made their home our home, Ken sat in the dining room of the Morera house with a sketch pad, pencil and erasure drawing out the original plans for the Endless building twenty years ago.
Special moments with our friend go far beyond the Endless staff that has worked in Costa Rica all these years. Miguel is often the first person folks meet when landing in San José. Boats are outfitted in his back yard, allowing for the opportunity to get to know his family, his pets, and his life. Over the years, paddlers that come with us have seen his children grow up, going from small toddlers playing among the kayaks to graduating from school and becoming adults. There are always many “abrazos” when folks show up in Costa Rica.
Our trips would not be of the caliber they are without having someone as trusted as Miguel. He has scouted out with us every river we have ever paddled, learning not just the obvious put-ins and take outs, but alternate access points, emergency access points, and developing fun side trips that we could combine with paddling.
He has come to have a 6th sense about when rain might affect the next day’s paddle and is the first one tapping into his sources to find out water levels. For those who have not been with us in Costa Rica, it might be difficult in this day and time to imagine not being able to just pull up water levels on the internet. Nothing of the sort exists in Costa Rica (weather forecasts themselves are almost nonexistent). Over our 20+-year partnership, we have developed a network of friends across the country that we can contact to ask, ”how is the level of the river” relative to a particular rock on the bank/mark on a bridge…. Miguel’s help with that has meant that over the years we have missed very few days on of paddling even in high water years. There is a bit of mystery surrounding our friend – and that is how he manages to site a sloth/toucan/iguana when he is so focused on driving down the road. Some have suggested that he spends time before we arrive planting some of the favorite critters in strategic trees along the way!
And of course, his input has always been invaluable for finding that cold “cerveza” stop after a great day of paddling.
We have a powerful partnership with this warm-hearted, always smiling, caring Costa Rican. When asked about his thoughts regarding the celebration of our 20th anniversary this year, Miguel wrote: “En el año 1980 conocí a personas que sin saberlo afectarían mi vida de la manera mas linda, mis hijos se llenaban de emoción cuando se les decia vienen los kallaqueros , tengo como gran recuerdo que el diseño del edificio se dio una noche que ken no podía dormir y el la sala de mi casa se puso a dibujar, la confianza de tener muchos kalllak guardados en mi casa, pero sobre todo saber que E.R A es parte de mi vida, de mi familia, crecí con ellos y hasta que dios me lo permita estaré con ellos porque son mi parte de mi familia, estarán en mi corazón por siempre.”
It is with great anticipation that we, the guides, land in Costa Rica tonight, knowing that our friend will be waiting for us to start another great season in Costa Rica!