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Day 5: Whitewater Rafting on the Estrella River

Destination: Puerto Viejo

Our misadventure on Day 3 led to a white water rafting invitation, which Vincent and I gladly accepted. Truth be told, my excitement was mixed with just a hint of nerves -- even though I can swim like a fish, several childhood experiences have taught me to be wary of the water. However, I had been assured that the tour was safe and that the river was mostly calm. We met at 7 a.m. and hopped into a converted truck to take us to the river. We drove first through extensive banana fields, where the trees were weighed down by heavy banana bunches and supported only by small rope ties.

After half an hour, we passed into the Cabecar Indigenous Reserve -- traditional and modern homes lined the road, and children pooled outside a small, hillside school, where Cabecar youth learn their native language before beginning Spanish. After an hour of driving, we reached the end of the road. A long suspension bridge extended over the Estrella River, and we greeted a Cabecar couple crossing the bridge. They were on route to run an errand in Limon. They had been walking for two days already and had at least 36 more hours to go. After crossing the bridge, we waited until our fellow rafters -- fresh off a cruise ship -- arrived for the adventure. Once they had arrived, we jumped on board the truck again and drove 15 minutes upriver to begin our white water adventure.

We had our choice of one- or two-person intertubes -- Vincent grabbed an individual tube, so that he could ride ahead for photos, and I grabbed a two-person tube with the cruise ship's guide. He said he had been rafting before, and that was all I needed to hear. Armed with life jackets and paddles, we began to float down the river toward the churning water. Emotions swirled through my body -- excitement, exhilaration, trepidation and uncertainty -- and then our speed picked up, and I redirected all of my undivided attention to the task at hand.

As we hit the first rock, our intertube's soft underbelly latched on to its rough surface. My rafting partner called out instructions to me, telling me to push forward, pull hard or paddle backward. I was nervous and, at this point, quite scared, but I didn't think twice -- doing as he said, I pushed, pulled, paddled and exerted myself as best I could. We cleared the rock and rushed farther down the river, navigating the class III rapids with ease.

Our river tubing adventure lasted just 45 minutes, but by the end, we were all exhausted, soaked to the bone and absolutely elated. The Estrella River, running low due to little rain, had been a kind but exciting introduction to white water rafting. Back at the base station, we changed into warm, dry clothes, enjoyed a fruit snack and readied for our ride back. Once back at Vincent's car, we drove to Bocuare's main grounds. It was almost 3:00, and we wolfed down the delicious fajitas, rice, beans, squash, plantains and ceviche offered to us. Afterward, our stomachs satiated, we went out on a walk through Bocuare's jungle grounds.

We navigated the trails and grasslands of their butterfly and botanical gardens, as well as a ranarium. Arriving at a trapiche -- a traditional machine used to press sugar cane -- we squeezed ourselves a glass of fresh sugar cane juice. Dusk was setting, so Vincent and I headed to the car and began our 80-minute trip back to Puerto Viejo. We were tired but happy, and my brain could not help but replay the day's events over and over -- white water tubing had been an incredible experience, and I couldn't wait to try it again. For the moment, however, we were headed back to our two-bedroom, two-bath casita at Cashew Hill Jungle Lodge, where a long, hot shower and relaxing hammock nap seemed like the perfect way to spend the evening.

Day 5: Whitewater Rafting on the Estrella River in Pictures