The sweet sorrow of parting from Pacuare
There are some places you can stay in around the world which really do make you feel like you need to pick your jaw up off the floor when you arrive. Not because of their opulent luxury, but because they just feel so special, so unique and so… ‘right.’
Pacuare Lodge is one of these places. It just blends seamlessly into its surroundings, which are spectacular. Rainforest the way it looks in the movies, with mists drifting across the trees, birds swooping over the river, and the distant whoop of the howler monkey as the backdrop. And then there’s the whole business of getting there, and getting out…
The sudden calm came almost as much of a shock as the first faceful of water had. Having not been on the river for the better part of a decade, I’d forgotten how quickly the adrenaline-inducing torrent could give way to placid, almost static stretches of river.
I ineffectually wiped my sleeve over my face and looked at the scenery around me. There was mist drifting across the verdant hillside to our right, while the craggy side of the gorge on our left looked over us as if it was about to topple down into the river. A couple of unidentifiable birds whistled through the narrowest gap between the cliffs ahead of us, apparently enjoying their surroundings just as much as I was.
We’d been rafting for an hour on the Pacuare River already, but it felt like moments; none of us were ready to reach the put-out point. I was already bemoaning the shortness of my stay at this gorgeous lodge, where I’d woken up to the sound of howler monkeys greeting the day, and the sight of the jungle spread out in front of my private plunge pool.
In any other circumstance, leaving somewhere so beautiful would be the cause of genuine sadness. With Pacuare however, you make your exit by climbing into a raft before hurtling downriver, alternately gasping for air as you plunge into another trough and gaping at the pristine wilderness all around you.
After a couple of hours of exhilarated action we hauled the rafts up onto a rocky beach on the riverside. I’d assumed lunch would be turfed out of a couple of picnic boxes on the support boat, so was pretty surprised to see a local family emerge from the trees and approach a shelter where an enormous spread was laid out on bamboo tables. We’d all worked up quite an appetite by this stage, and set to with some relish before sitting back to soak up a little sunshine before climbing back into the river.
At least, that was the plan. We hadn’t noticed that to the side of the food station were some more bamboo structures: goalposts, as it turned out. The family in charge of our refuelling had clearly been busy in other respects too, as they could field nearly a whole football team with their offspring. Our recently loaded stomachs protested as they were dragged into a chaotic and enthusiastic (well, the locals were) impromptu match.
Heading back into the raft came as something of a relief if truth be told, though I suspect I wasn’t the only one whose paddling was a little less vigorous than it had been in the morning. After another 45 minutes or so of being revived by the river, we emerged at the put-out point, soaking wet, exhausted and happy.
Taking a last look back at the misty hills of the Pacuare, I was again struck by its unreal, almost fictional appearance, and told myself that one day, I’d raft it again.
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