On our second day, we had a couple of activities before heading to the next hotel. These were horse riding, followed by river tubing. Ollie had never been on a horse before, and he wasn’t as nervous as I was expecting. In fact deep down, I would admit that, despite having been horse riding before, I think I was more anxious than my husband. I couldn’t have said that at the time though, of course.
Our group had merged with another group as we all climbed aboard our stallions. Before long there were about forty of us, if not more, with little to no horse riding experience in a small paddock.
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We were trying to get our horses to stop biting each other’s tails or suddenly deciding to walk around and barging other horses and riders out of the way. It was a good team building exercise, especially with people you don’t know because you are suddenly able to feel their breath on your shoulder as your horse pushes to the front and you find yourself apologising profusely.
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We trotted our way through the dry vegetation near Guanacaste, with the sun beating down on our backs and sand churned up from the horse’s hooves. It felt like we were in True Grit, only with some truth and no grit. We tried to follow our instructions and guide the horses, but to be honest, most of us had no clue what was going on, as we sometimes overtook other riders we had to hide our joy. With the local cowboys bouncing along beside us, at one with the horses, I looked to my husband and asked him to take a photo of me. He looked back and told me he couldn’t take his hands off the reigns as I wondered how severe his case of saddle sore would be in the morning. His head and then his whole body was bobbing around like one of those dogs you put on the dashboard of your car and I agreed that it probably wasn’t a good idea to give the camera to him.
After horse riding, we made our way to the river tubing. Ollie had a fear of water, from a very young age. I eventually talked him around to facing his anxieties and we went for swimming lessons together. He managed to overcome his phobia, but at this point he wasn’t comfortable in the water. I worried that his fear of water would affect him enjoying the activities when travelling and that is why I had encouraged him to try the swimming lessons.
He was doing so well at his lessons but as the wedding drew nearer, we found ourselves making 90 origami lilies rather than going to his weekly swimming class. I tried to reassure him as we walked down to the river with our rubber rings in hand, that he would be alright, but I could understand why he was nervous.
I learnt a lot about my husband’s bravery when he plonked his ring down into the river and sat on it and drifted away, before I hurried along to join him. I was concerned about him being nervous, but I soon realised that I had nothing to worry about as I saw him drift down the rapids in circles and he looked to me and shouted “This is fantastic!”.
We all sat in our rubber rings, as the water carried us along down the natural gradient. It was mostly peaceful, but every now and then, you reached the rapids. Because there were so many of us, the rapids often ended up in a bottle neck, with us all shaking our bodies, trying to break free until whirling down the frothy water.
I had been on artificial rapids before, but the genuine ones took it to another level. The water and rocks were natural, the sun was so warm and there were animals all around. We spotted howler monkeys in the canopy above us as we floated along wondering whether we were dreaming.
I had since lost track of Ollie and I was worried about him, not because I had thought that he would get into trouble (the water went up to our waist) but I wanted to have him in my sight, just in case. I pulled up and grabbed onto a very slippery algae covered rock. It isn’t easy to park in a rubber ring atop a flowing river, but I tried my best.
A few people drifted by assuming I was stuck and offering help, as I explained that I was waiting for my husband. I saw him eventually, coming over the rapids on the horizon behind me and an older bald man was next to him. I am not sure what happened to said bald man, as he cascaded over the rapids but he fell out of his ring and was fully submerged. His ring was carried away by the current as I looked on in horror, waiting for the man’s little bald head to re-appear.
His head popped through the water and I breathed a sigh of relief as my husband, who resembled a little glass ball on a marble run, was propelled towards the bald man. I could see what was happening, but he was too far away to say anything, my hands were slipping from the slippery rock I was clutching on to and before I knew it, Ollie had bumped into the bald man, and then straight over the top of him.
I could hear Ollie saying, ‘Sorry! I am SO sorrrry!’ as I could see the bald man trying to find his footing once again in the rapids. The abandoned ring was approaching me, so I grabbed it, as I could see the owner of it wading through the water in the distance. Ollie caught up with me and then the bald man did too. Luckily the ordeal wasn’t as bad for him, as it looked from my point of view and he clambered aboard his transport for the final leg of the river.
We spent the next 20 minutes or so meandering through the rapids giggling and I made friends with a Jamaican lady who was from the other group. Each time either of us got stuck, we helped one another to join the flow of the river.
Before we knew it, we had reached the end of our journey and had to disembark from our transport. The tour guide announced that we had to carry the rings up the steps to where we had started from and my Jamaican friend looked to me and said “Me no carry no ring up no hill, man.” I laughed as I wondered who was going to carry her ring up (I wasn’t going to, one was enough) but luckily for her, the tour guide fell for her charm and although he pointed out that she was Jamaican and should be able to handle the heat, he carried her ring as I wondered whether I should have said “I is from Brizzle mate, I ain’t carrying no ring, mind”.