This Time Last year
Today we paddle the Rio Arenal a long four hour canoe. We are up for breakfast at the local cafe at 7.30am and it is lashing with rain. By the time we get to the put-in at 9.30am it is fine.
The river is big and wide with huge crumbling banks. You can see that the rainy season river levels are about two metres above what it is now. The river has a lot of tree debris for us to get around and John and Tina tip over at one point whilst trying to avoid a strainer, but we quickly get them rescued and back on track.
At one point we have to line the canoes around some obstacles and then we continue paddling whilst looking for a suitable lunch spot. We find a shady beach and flip over one of canoes for use as a table.
After lunch we continue downstream until the Rio Arenal spills into the Rio San Carlos and we find our take-out on river right. Once we've loaded the canoes onto the bus and piled everyone inside we hit the road north for Cano Negro (which is a Wildlife Refuge), about a three hour drive. We stop at a supermarket for provisions and ice-cream
The last hour into Cano Negro is along a bumpy dirt road but we eventually arrive a bit shaken and stirred at the Natural Lodge. We get everyone into the hotel which is a series of chalets in a small park and then do the washing up at the bar by the swiiming pool.
After dinner Luis and I stroll into the small village to catch a couple of beers at the only bar in town.
This Time in 2007
Today we are going to El Castillo in the Rio San Juan and we want to catch the fast boat from San Carlos which leaves at about 10am. Jose Ramon is ready for us to leave after breakfast at about 7.30am. Jim is coming with us as far as San Carlos and therefater its just me and Carlos with our guest Lee. We get no coffee thi morning as Daniel and Marie, who run the Albergue, are still in a strop with Jim. This wont be resolved and Jim and Carolyn will eventually move out and leave San Fernando for the island across the water (Mancarron). Island politics - don't go there.
On our way across Lake Nicargua we take a detour around "Bird" Island. We are not allowed to disenbark so the boat idles and drifts as we watch the hige number of birds. Their are plenty of Anhingas and Egrets and Herons, but the real stars are the Wood Storks and the Roseate Spoonbills. The islands are dripping with guano!
At San Carlos Jim and Carlos and Lee disembark whilst Jose Ramon and me shoot around to the Rio San Juan jetty and unload our canoe and kayak onto the freighter which is to carry them down to El Castillo.
I run around to find everyone and see if we have tickets for the 10am boat. We do, but inexplicably Jose Ramon has disappeared without unloading our luggage onto the El Castillo fast boat. More running about. I just love the chaos and noise and confusion! Of course everything comes together just in time and we are on our way. We wave goodbye to Jim and I wont see him for another year.
It takes about two hours to get to El Castillo and we stop at three or four places along the way. Eventually we round the final corner and the castle sitting about the small town of El Castillo is revealed. The place looks simultaneaously spectacular and ramshackle. At the dockside we unload and two boys appear with a handcart to help us move our stuff. This town has no access by road and no vehicles whatsoever. Everything arrives on the river.
We climb some steps to the Hotel Albergue but we reject it has it has no rooms with en-suite bathrooms. more of a backpackers place. carlos runs off to fimd another place and eventaully comes back to lead us to the Victoria Hotel - a new place only recently opened. So we pile evything back onto the handcart and make our way along the river front lane to the hotel which sits on the river bank at the end of town.
After checking in Carlos and I walked back through town to check out a restaurant for the evening. It must have Camarones which are the local, and huge, freshwater shrimps.
In the afternoon we siesta and meet a Swiss girl, Florence, who is staying at the same hotel. It turns out that she well hang out with us for a while ... as you shall see.
Later Carlos and I walked back up to the dock to unload our canoe and kayak which had arrived on the freighter. It was almost dark but instead of carrying the boats through town we decided to paddle them through the Diablo Rapids back to the hotel. This was fun and bouncy as some of the standing waves are 2 metres and it was difficult to see! I thought I'd lost Carlos (who took the kayak) but he was just messing about in the waves.
We were joined at dinner by Florence.