COCODRILOS! By 4CRS Paddlers Orin (12yrs) and Rowan (9yrs) Gartner from Durango, CO

COCODRILOS! By 4CRS Paddlers Orin (12yrs) and Rowan (9yrs) Gartner from Durango, CO

Orin Gartner & Rowan Gartner

A jungle river adventure from the interior border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua to the Caribbean Sea.

We woke up before the sun and got breakfast. It was yummy. It had eggs and beans and lastly rice. This dish is called Pinto Gallo (Pinto Gayo) . It is a traditional dish here in Costa Rica. As the sun came up the truck came with dad and Mario (Mario is for Shuttle) and we got on the road. Once we got driving we went to pick up Kike. Kike was our guide and grew up here. He has been traveling this waterway since he was a baby boy. We got back to the road after packing Kike’s stuff. First, it was paved roads and then it was gravel roads. We went on dirt roads for an hour or more passing these huge almond trees with macaws in them! Once we got to Delta Kike pointed out that the Nicoraguan border was right across the river. Once we got the stuff unloaded and blew up the duckies, we were on our way! Just before we launched we got to meet Julie (you-lee) the Scarlet macaw.

The water was moving really fast for a flat water river. We started paddling and flew down the river. There were lots of floating coconuts in the river. Kike was fishing the chilamate trees becuase the chilamate fruit falls into the river and the Tarpon eat them! He did not catch anything though. We were getting hungry after a while so we barged up and we made lunch. Tuna and cream cheese in a tortilla with vegetables! We ate and hung out while floating for an hour till Rio Colorado (Colorado River In Costa Rica) joined, then it got windy and slow. We were still moving but slowly. So we unconnected and started paddling. After a while we got to the canal that we would be going down the next day. There are road signs on the river!

A couple hours later we got to Barra De Colorado and passed it. We were so close, but we kept going until we got to a lodge a mile later. They said that we had passed the town as it was so small we didn’t realize it. So me and Rowan got out and walked while dad, mom, and Kike paddled back up stream.

They got there first and found a plant that closed its leaves when you touched it! Then, we got to meet ‘Don’ Memo who is old and famous because of his lodge for Tarpon fishing. He showed us around the lodge. Once we got our stuff in our room me and Rowan went to go play soccer on the runway that was there. It was hard and fun. After a while we got bathing suits on, not to swim in the river because there are lots of Caiman and Crocodile in it but to swim in the sea that was a quarter mile from the river. The beach was steep so we had to stay close and not ride waves! After a while we were ready to go back to the room and take showers then eat. The cafeteria was down some halls and up some stairs before we got to it and we were getting hungry for some dinner. The only problem was the mosquitoes! They were really bad. The only thing that I found that I could do to keep the mosquitos away was play soccer with rowan. Then, the food came. The food was a dish called a Casado. They are rice, beans, meat, salad, and a drink of juice that is made with real fruit that came from the jungle!! If you are ever in Costa Rica you will surely eat a Casado which is a healthy and filling very popular dish. After we ate we went to the room to go to bed.

Once we got up out of bed we walked over to the cafeteria. We ordered and got the normal Costa Rican Pinto Gallo. Then all of the sudden a hybrid helicopter flew by. It was unusually quiet for a helicopter but not long after it flew by it landed. Once the people got out the helicopter flew away towards Tortuguero. Barra De Colorado used to be a big fishing capital but most of the fish were fished out and the only fish that are there now are not smart. People travel from all over the world to land in this fishing village to catch Tarpon. There are still Tarpon there and they are as big as sharks! 

Then, my familly and Kike went back to our room to get ready for the Penga boat ride up the river, and into a side canal heading toward Tortuguero. By the time the boat got here it was getting to eleven o’clock and we needed to get on the water. We started out slow but then the captain revved the motor and we got to the place where we were going to get dropped off. It was a side canal to Lago Nueve (Lake 9). When we got back in our duckies it was super cool! We were the only ones there and it was a very remote and narrow canal that was really cool! This natural canal was ducky's and canoes only! The jungle was all around us and there was green and life everywhere. Birds and bugs were singing, fish were speeding under our duckies, and it felt like we were the only people to ever see this place in the middle of nowhere.

Once we got out onto Lago Nueve we floated to the bottom where we found spider monkeys swinging fast across the trees and jumping 30 feet from tree to tree. Quickly, they disappeared into the trees and just a few minutes later we found a cabin with pigs, chickens, coconuts, avocado trees, mango trees, guanabana fruit, achiote spice, yucca root, fresh water and the ocean all on 400 square meters!! We chased the pigs and chickens around before getting the machete and cutting some coco de pipa and cocos for a fresh drink and snack. Pipa water and Coco fruit are yummy!! Then we swam in the ocean and it was fun. After a while dad called us in and said it was time to go. We started paddling to the top of Lago Nueve and then back through the natural canal to the main canal, then lastly to the straight canal to Don Molla’s cabana. 

Don Molla has been in the middle of nowhere for the past 30 years ever since his cattle were stolen from there and he decided to live there with them. The only access is several hours by boat through jungle canals. The only neighbor is the jungle. We explored this place and found a fish tank full of fish that we feed dog food. These are food for Don Molla! There was also a dog that ran so fast that we could not catch him. Then we ate (for Dinner) some sierra mackerel with the regular casado. Don Molla has a cabana where we went to bed in comfy beds! There were no sounds or light from anywhere except the jungle noises and fireflies.The next day we got to see this Wild (tamed) Curasaw. It was a feisty bird that would chase you around.

After a while, It was time to hop on Molla’s boat and get a ride halfway to Tortuguero. Once we got out, we were on our own but there was lots of boat traffic in the canal that was now a natural canal and the only waterway to the busy tourist destination of Tortuguero. After a while we got to San Francisco village (In Costa Rica). It is a boat access only village and it has refreshments for us! By the time we got back on the boats it was blazing hot and there was no way to cool down so me and Rowan jumped into the river with the Cocodrilos and quickly jumped out again. After a while of paddling we made tortuguero!

Tortuguero is famous for turtle hatches and it is very touristy. There are men singing “agua de pipa” and women making tortillas by hand! We stayed there for 2 days all the while being on the beach next to the Caribbean Sea! This town is between a huge fresh body of water and the Sea, about a quarter mile strip of land very similar to Barra De Colorado. After our 2 days were up we got souvenirs carved from Almond nut shells and got on the 1:00 boat to our truck. The river leaving Tortuguero that we went up was moving really fast downstream. I don’t think we would have enjoyed paddling up this. On the river we watched some guys sawing on the strainers, like road workers but on a river!. Once we got to our truck we left to La Virgen which has been our home on the Sarapique River for the past 4 months. We are building a house there in this small town and we kayak the Class III and Class IV sections of El Rio Sarapique almost everyday. Want to hear more about building a house in Costa Rica or see what our backyard run on Rio Sarapique is like? Stay tuned!!!


This is where we stayed for the first night.

A cool paddle at lago 9 called a Caneleta
The natural canal
Our patio at Don Molla’s place
A trash can in tortuguero


Boat Ride
And now we are entering tortuguero!
View from Don Molla’s
Almond shell carvings
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