On The Road Again

Trip Start Nov 16, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Panama  ,
Saturday, August 21, 2010

After two years of travel, I was happy to be settled into a comfortable scene in Quepos.  I needed badly to  slow down to rest and regroup.  I resented having to make trips out of the country every 90 days to renew my visa and learned that even travel, when mandated from elsewhere, is not fun.  What happened to my wanderlust. I wondered?  But wasn’t particularly preoccupied because life in Quepos was good.  Go with the flow like a good Pisces.   We were considering starting our own rafting business in Quepos and to that end Gustavo was in touch with a friend who had a couple of rafts he would sell us.  This friend mentioned to Gustavo that a company he knew of in Panama was looking for a guide so Gustavo called and sure enough they were looking and said they would call back.  We waited a couple of weeks and then got the call on a Wednesday: Can you be here Friday?  OMG!  Talk about short notice!  We told them that Friday was impossible but we could be there on Sunday, Aug. 1.  What ensued was a frenzy of organizing and packing and within 48 hours we were driving a rented truck with our stuff to store at Gustavo’s house in Heredia   Saturday morning we were on a bus to Panama with the kayak and a backpack. Who knew what we would find but we were up for the adventure.  We arrived in David at 6 pm and checked into Bambu Hostel in a daze after an 8 hour bus ride.    The next day Gustavo was on the river, Rio Chiriqui Viejo.  Big water!  Class lV plus!  Gustavo was happy!

It seemed they were quite happy to have Gustavo guiding for their company.  The industry here in Panama is not nearly as developed as in Costa Rica and there are no professional local guides.  The guides they have know the river and are good at what they do but they don’t speak English which is really vital in tourism.  Gustavo is a huge asset to their company and they apparently recognized that right away.

As for me, although I was happy in Quepos, it has been my dream to live in different parts of the world, finding some sort of work and now I am realizing that dream.  I am thrilled to have the chance to live here in Panama a while!  The people have been incredibly kind and helpful and the energy feels very positive.

It didn’t take long before Gustavo started to have some serious concerns about how Panama Rafters operated.  For one, they said they would have a contract for him and whenever the question came up the owner had an excuse as to why she couldn’t talk to him.  In addition to this, Gustavo was very concerned about the level of safety.  They don’t use a safety kayak and although their brochure says they don’t take anyone under 14, Gustavo made a trip with a 9 year old and it was not a good trip.  They didn’t even have a children’s life jacket for this kid!  The owner was getting worried about Gustavo not having a work permit in Panama and told Gustavo to check into it.  When he has worked in other countries before, they had the contract in his hand first thing,  This company should have taken care of this before we came here but to say they are disorganized is an understatement.   In the end, after 2 weeks of working for the company without a contract, they told him there was no more work for him.  No problem.   Since neither the owner nor anyone else in the company knows anything about rafting they should have been glad to have a professional who could help them improve their company but apparently they ended up not seeing it that way.  We are both fine with this.  Gustavo has been doing this for 15 years and hasn’t lost a client.  Working solo on a Class IV plus wilderness river is a recipe for disaster and he didn’t want to be a part of that.  Anyone looking to take a whitewater rafting tour should ask the company if they have a safety kayak and if not, find one who does.

Gustavo is now working with Chiriqui Rafting as their safety kayak.  He uses his play boat and the clients love watching him do cartwheels and spins.  And he’s enjoying paddling his kayak on this amazing river!  I've had the opportunity to go on a trip down the Chiriqui Viejo with Gustavo and all I can say is...wow!  What a ride!  I've also gone along on other trips to keep the driver company and was able to take some pictures and videos

About 10 minutes from David is the Balneario Majagua.  This is a bend in the Majagua River that boasts a picture perfect waterfall and cool clear water for swimming.   We went there for the first time with Igor and Mariana, newlyweds from Peru and Australia - great people!  We brought a picnic lunch, wine and the kayak and fell in love with the place. When it started to rain we ducked under the cover of the bar and met Arturo and Celina.  After a while we took the party to a wonderful restaurant called La Barranca where we ate fabulous grilled chicken and danced into the night.  Great fun!

The river also offers great fishing so we are eating well!

We’ll be here in Panama until the end of the month.  There is little work here in October so we are going to take advantage of that time to go back to Costa Rica for a few weeks.  There are two reasons to go other than renewing our visa for Panama…

First we are going to acquire what we need to be able to do our own rafting trips here in Panama.  Before we came here we were thinking of doing this in Quepos but there is much less competition here and lots of fabulous rivers!  So we will operate out of David (saving tourists 1 hours travel time) and offer trips rorm Class II - IV. 

And the other big reason we’re going to CR is that we’re getting married on October 16 in Sarapiqui!  On the river, of course!  So if you find yourself in Costa Rica next month,  come celebrate with us!

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