There was a boy in the tropics……
There was a boy who lived near the jungle and a river – It changed my life!
by Rey Vargas – Native of Costa Rica
Let me tell you my story…. as a boy in Costa Rica.
I lived in a small town near the now ‘capital of river rafting in Costa Rica. My town of Turrialba was full of happy people. Everyone seemed to be working at the exact thing they wanted to be doing. Working in the coffee fields, playing in the crystal waters of the rivers especially on hot days. Following the birds and wildlife was a passion for me; the primates, so many monkeys, sloths, birds of every kind, and the ‘Toucans’ calling from the treetops along the rivers and jungles, so many beautiful things.
But every day on his way to school I would see the excited people in the vans and trailers with rafts traveling to the rivers. Along the river were boats, kayakers and I somehow knew this was going to be the best time of their lives.
I was just a boy and not old enough to work as a guide. And even more complicated was the approval I needed from my parents to go to the river in general. My mom used to say, “don’t go to the river without permission or something bad can happen” and being the good son, I listened to my parents.
Years later, after I graduated from high school, I had the opportunity to go on that life-changing rafting trip with some friends that we’re training to become river guides. They needed volunteers to go on a paddle raft. A week later I was part of that guide training group and a whole new world of opportunities opened for my life. Lots of adrenalin, new friends, the place to discover, and new adventures that would lead to world travel as well.
I was only 17 years old, and I started my rafting career on a BIG volume river named Reventazón River forms part of the Reventazón-Parismina drainage basin, it is 145 kilometers (90 mi) long and flows into the Caribbean Sea, with flows of about 10 to 35,000 CFS (cubic feet per second), during the Costa Rican rainy season. This river, that many years later, would become the main production, (60%), of the hydro-electric power in Costa Rica, with more than 12 dams, (good for the country), (bad for the environment) and for sure incredibly sad for the rafting industry.
When I turned 18 years old, I received a birthday gift and was paid as a guide on a rafting trip. It was official and now considered an adult in Costa Rica and a class III-IV professional river guide.
Time like rolling down the river has gone amazingly fast especially when you are doing for work exactly what you want to be doing! It is now 20 years later, and I have so many different rivers, different countries, and thousands of miles of river rafting. My stories, histories, and experiences have put a forever life passion in my life. I want to save these resources for generations to come and make sure I can share the beautiful places with others today and all the tomorrows. The river life has opened a big future around the world, to be able to travel, learn from others, and even a few mistakes along the way have taught me how to be a better person and a better guide. I want to give my guests more than a raft trip but open their eyes to the beauty as well as have fun, play safely. gain knowledge and build long-lasting friendships.
A raft ride gives us access to beautiful locations that can only be seen from the water and every trip is an opportunity to show others the wonders of nature and the pleasures of the trip. We can navigate a raft down a river anywhere just the same, no matter where you are.
Being a professional river guide is a lifestyle and the best way of living a dream. It has been the best part of my life and I will always encourage people to go rafting no matter if it is a short trip, afloat with a family, or the excitement of big class V whitewater. Just go sit on a raft, paddle, get wet, feel calm, and seek the adrenaline rush.
Wildlife and birds are the bonus on your journey or maybe even try to catch a fish for tonight’s dinner at camp. Time does not matter anymore it is river time. Get wet, laugh, watch the stars at night and be happy!
I cannot say enough good things about what the river has taught me, but I do know it talks me through a lot of dilemmas in my life.
“I encourage anyone who just needs a good listener to go sit by the river and just listen to its knowledge and receive the peace of mind and a sense of place it will give you.”
Pura Vida my friends!