Monday, October 4, 2010

Living La Pura Vida

Well, I should actually have some fodder for the blog for the next two weeks.

On the Road Again
Saturday, Mark and I flew down to Costa Rica, where Mark will be the race director for the Pre-World Rafting Championships. Long-time readers of our various adventures may recall that we went to Ecuador for a similar race ages ago. The deal is this: Every two years, the IRF puts on a 6-person world rafting championships. In the year before the actual event, they require that a "pre"-race be put on to ensure that all logistics, etc., are in place and problems are smoothed out before the big event. It's kind of a pain in the butt for the organizers, but until they get big sponsors, it's a necessary evil (big sponsors would provide big money, and with big money, most of the little problems that come up during a pre-worlds would never be a problem). This year there will be 21 teams from about 7 countries.

Anyway, after a long day of travel from Boise to San Jose, Costa Rica, with no delays, no luggage problems, and no problems (albeit also with no legroom and no amenities whatsover), we got in, made it through immigration and customs without a hitch, and headed over to Budget Rental Car. Even with a hand-drawn map and a GPS system in the car, we had a heck of a time finding our hotel in the rain at 10 p.m. at night. But, at last, we turned off Miss Gertrude the GPS and trusted the hand-drawn map. After a few more wrong turns and missed exits, we finally made it to the Country Suites and Inn by Carlson (if we had known that full name, Miss Gertrude would have had no trouble whatsoever ... as always, technology issues come down to user knowledge and user error). The hotel was lovely, and our room had a massive, comfy bed. Our first dinner in Costa Rica was rice and beans and fruit from the local grocery store enjoyed while flipping through the TV channels. Not exactly what I imagined, but still just perfect for the state we were in.

The next morning, the hotel provided a delicious breakfast buffet, including Costa Rican coffee, fresh fruit juices of just about any flavor you would like, and eggs made to order (not to mention a plethora of pastries and breads).

Driving Miss Gertrude
After filling our bellies, we loaded up the car, programmed in our route to Turrialba into the GPS (which was much easier to work when I could actually see what I was doing in the light of day), and headed east. We soon learned that Gertrude is worth her weight in rice and beans. Not only did she take us around the city instead of through it, but she also has a partner, Bill, who speaks up every now and then with tidbits of history and sight-seeing info. What a fantastic invention!!

We drove right past the largest volcano in Costa Rica, which last exploded in 1963, the same year JFK made a state visit to the country, and which flattened the since-rebuilt town at its base. Of course, the clouds were all pretty low, so we didn't actually see it, but it sounded impressive. Apparently, on a rare, clear day, you would be able to see both the Atlantic and the Pacific from its peak.

Then we passed through Cartago, the ancient capital of Costa Rica, in which there is an old church to which pilgrims from miles away come once a year, many of them making the entire trek on their knees. We didn't stop to see it, but apparently it has beautifully painted wooden pillars and lots of stained glass. As we approached another turn in the road, Gertrude beeped and displayed a little message letting us know that we were passing the ruins of an even-more ancient church. I love that little GPS!

Romancing el Rio
After fixing a flat, we arrived at Jose's place in Turrialba. Jose is a friend of Mark's and an employee of Rafa's (Rafael Gallo is our host, the organizer of the race, another old friend of Mark's, and the owner of Rios Tropicales). We had just enough time to say hi and switch out of our travel shoes before heading off to the river. As always, the drive to the river was an adventure in itself, but Rafa is a fantastic driver, and his truck is apparently pretty indestructible.

The race will take place along a stretch of river that is bordered by two little farms with lots of land for people to camp and park and enjoy the race. There is so much to be done before the race starts on Friday, but they have a great crew of workers. One of the big jobs is to create trails down through the jungle for spectators to follow. Since said trails were not yet created, we made our way through the jungle just like Joan Wilder and Jack T. Colton in Romancing the Stone, though without the high heels or heavy luggage (or the police shooting as us). Rafa and Walter hacked away with their machetes, while the rest of us tried to keep from sinking to our knees in the mud. I know my family will find this hard to believe, but it was a blast. And I certainly don't need to worry about anything I ate for the rest of the day. I think I sweat out about half my body weight thanks to the humidity and the strenuous activity. I even walked across the creepy, creaky, swaying bridges without flinching ... too much (I really do hate those things).

Of course, Mark has the camera with him today, so photos will (once again) have to wait until another day.

I just love watching the entire race coming together. Impromptu meetings occur in the strangest places ... atop a mossy, riverside rock; on a creaky, metal bridge over a rushing rapid; beneath the farmer's carport, while sipping his much-appreciated Imperial beer; in a delightful soda (cafe/restaurant), while eating yummmmy casados (meat, rice, beans, eggs, salad, and fried plantains). Mark is back in his element and thriving on pulling it all together. Unlike some other past race locales (ahem ... South Korea!), he has a terrific crew of guys to help out, so I know it will all come together pretty smoothly.

That's It, for Now!
Today (Monday), I'm sitting here in Jose's lovely home, with a view out his iron-adorned French doors into the valley and the distant mountains, catching up on work and getting started on re-creating the timing sheets for the race. Mark is off checking out the downriver course (by boat) and then starting the arduous task of setting up the sprint and slalom (always the hardest part of the entire race). Teams start arriving today and will be on the river starting tomorrow. The race itself starts on Friday. And now my story is all told ... for now.

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