Day 7: Division, Savegre and Rafiki Lodge

This morning we awoke to hear that the Rio Division might be too high to run with all the rain we’d been having. We spent the morning waiting while Jose called around trying to get river levels. A family that lived close to the confluence of the Division and Savegre described the Rio Division as ‘nasty’.

We decided to go ahead and take a look at the river with three possible options: 1) we all run the Division into the Savegre, 2) a few of us run the Division and meet up with the rest further downstream where the gradient tapered off, or 3) we all skip the Upper part of the Division.

The bus took us part of the way where we switched over to two 4×4 trucks. The roads went from decent Costa Rica quality to dirt roads, winding higher and higher into the mountains and rain. Every runoff was pumping down the sides of the mountains into the Division. As we descended into the valley, we could see the brown turbulent waters rushing westward.

We took a look at the upper put-in. At lower levels, the Division is a rock dodging creeky run that any of us could have handled. At this level, the river was riddled with rocks and holes, and nary an eddy in sight! I’m not sure I could compare it to any other river I’d been on. A swim here would mean a swim all the way into the Savegre.

We hopped back into the trucks and made our way to the lower put-in. The river was still quite pushy and some of us were definitely feeling challenged! We had a few stops to regroup or rescue swimmers. I was a little hesitant at first… After Jose, Bill and I waited downstream for the rest of the group, I managed to get disoriented, drop into a hole, roll up in another hole and then again! Joey was wondering what had happened to me and why I wasn’t paddling like I usually did.

I sorted myself out though and ran the rest of the river like a champ. It involved continually scanning ahead, looking for drops, holes and any eddies – not just following the person ahead.

Our lunch stop was incredibly unique. We had lunch in the kitchen of a local family who lived on the edge of the river! There was no large village nearby and apparently this family cooked and provided tent pads for kayakers and hikers.

After lunch, we continued on down to the Division and Savegre confluence. Jose pointed it out to me, the two rivers met like a ‘Y’. The water from the Division in the rainy mountains was a rich chocolate brown, and the Savegre was crystal clear. once on the Savegre, the river was two different colours. River left was brown and river right was blue! It was rather surreal…

The Rio Savegre was a big continuous wave train river with huge Phil-sized holes to avoid. The waves were a good 6-10 feet tall, and usually a valley separated me from Jose, who was ahead. Sometimes I couldn’t see anyone in front of me.

The highlight of the day was one rapid with a large hole at the bottom. Jose went first and then signalled to Joey and Chad (who were eddied out river right) that we had to run far left to avoid the hole. I led Linda down and Joey ferried over to show us where to go. At the bottom we saw a HUGE munchy hole. I looked at Jose and said, “That little thing? Pffftttt I’m going to surf it!”

Just as Jose said, “I’d like to see that,” Brian came down centre and dropped right into it! He got worked. We watched helplessly as he was thrown around like a rag-doll. At one point we were hopeful as we say him hanging out in a side-surf and then, WHAM! windowshaded again!

This is when the fun started. We watched in horror as Brian’s boat flw vertical into the air, and landed right-side-up in the backwash, just hanging out there. Brian resurfaced about 20-feet downstream right next to Joey who was frantically searching for paddle and/or paddler. We couldn’t believe our eyes!

I turned to Jose and said, “Uh, I changed my mind,” and we all broke into hysterical laughter.

A few more mishaps and some major big water and we landed at the most incredible place in the world: Rafiki Lodge. A rustic resort on the edge of mountainous jungle, powered by a stream that ran through the property. Our roms were large tents on platforms overlooking fields, ponds and jungle valleys. The stream that powered the resort flowed into a pool below via arguably one of the fastest waterslides in the world. Wheeee!

We were wined and dined by the staff and rested our heads in a 5-star tent city after the most action-packed and challenging day of the trip!

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