Up The Lazy River

Our destination was the Mawamba Lodge in Tortuguero National Park. And we were a long way from our destination. On the trip from Puerto Viejo to Limon our driver, a young man in his twenties, told us story after story of his life in Costa Rica. He grew up in Bribri near the border with Panama. He said that in his younger days he and his friends liked to slip across the border, where booze is cheap,  and sneak it back home to sell for a tidy profit. He was full of adventure.

So, we are chatting away about all kinds of things. Eventually we enter Limon, which has done nothing to become more appealing in the three days since we last were here. Our driver took us by the docks and we were still telling tales when all of a sudden he pulls up to this place:

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And, guess what? It is still pouring rain. No matter. it was time to head north. We said goodbye to our driver and threw our luggage on board. A nice day for a cruise. As luck would have it, the two front seats were available. The crew stuck our luggage into plastic bags and gave us rain ponchos.

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About fifteen other people climbed on board and off we went. Here is where we were going:

Map to Tortuguero

You will notice a nice road leading out of Limon heading west. Well that’s the wrong direction. You will notice no roads connecting Limon to Tortuguero. That’s because there aren’t any. Instead there is a series of canals connecting to rivers for the entire fifty miles of coastline. We settled in for a mighty long boat ride.

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Although the rain did little for our respective complexions, we remained otherwise dry. And for the early part our captain, another young man, stopped to point out wild life. But we couldn’t do that all day. In time the rain let up and the captain poured on the coal.

At first gradually:

The first part of our trip was along a canal. Here is a typical view:

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Often, as you will see, they were much narrower. Now the captain picked up the pace:

Frequently the canal would empty onto rivers large and small. Here is a typical river view:

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About ten miles in, we suddenly found ourselves at the mouth of a very large river, the Rio Matina, as I later learned. It had plenty of wild life:

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But it also emptied out into a very unwelcoming Caribbean:

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Here is how it looks from space:

Rio Matina

Well, we, of course, knew nothing about these canals; rivers, or any of this. We had been expecting a bus ride. My first thought, after casting eyes on the pounding surf was that this dude wanted to put out to sea. In which case I, and I’m sure others would happily and heartily  have broken into a loud chorus of Zevon’s “Mutineer” as we threw the captain overboard.

Fortunately, such action was not required. The captain bore hard to port and took us up the river for a while till he found another canal entrance.

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From here we crossed the River of the Mother of God, who fortunately, we did not meet, a few canals and finally a very large river, the Parismina.

The Parismina is a big river:

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There are a number of resorts in the area, and lots of boat traffic:

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Now the captain felt it necessary to show these nimrods what we could do:

We would have preferred to just tell them. Now, about two hours in, the captain decided it was time for a break. We tied up at a little, I don’t know, dance hall? Anyway, they were serving cold beer and I was more than ready for one.

Here is the captain, re-securing the ship:

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Here is our vessel, nicely moored:

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During our stop, the captain came up to me and said, “My job is to take you to Tortuguero Village. For an extra 20 USD’s I will take you directly to the lodge.” Well, Anywhere Costa Rica had warned us about just this kind of thing, where vendors already paid would try to earn themselves a bonus. I told him that I had paid to get to the lodge and I was going to get what I paid for.” He did not argue. Later I saw a couple women hand him cash for something, but I wasn’t close enough to hear what it was.

After we got to the village, he came up to me and said we were close to the lodge. He would just go ahead and take us over.

Otherwise,  our stop was very welcome indeed. For one thing, they had bathrooms.

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We were glad to see a couple local boys heading out to fish. One had fishing gear, the other a machete. That seemed odd.

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Eventually it was time to board again. Not far from our stop we met this guy:

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Makes you wish you had a machete.

The Parismina river has a number of resorts like this one:

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And, while we loved highballin’ up the river, we soon were back in the canals. But getting into them was not always easy. We actually ran aground and our captain, to his credit, did the heavy lifting himself.

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Soon we were in canals that were very narrow indeed:

Yet, there were always reminders of why we keep our piggies in the boat:

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Finally, Tortuguera Village hove into view:

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And just up the river, after just under four hours at sea,  our destination, Mawanda Lodge:

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