The Bartola Refugio is located right where the Río Bartola meets the Río San Juan and the Costa Rican border and is right on the boundary of the Indio-Maíz Reserve. They have lots of hiking trails and a couple of canoes for guests to use, so I headed out onto the river both mornings I was there to explore.
Unlike our tank of kayak in Solentiname, these canoes were very light (so much easier to maneuver) and very unstable (much more interesting to get into and out of). But the good folk of Bartola were there to help me get started at 5:30am, and even though I sank up to my knee in mud the first time I went to get in (it would seem that the river bank was quite muddy), no further mishaps after that.
The Río Bartola is very small in comparison to the Río San Juan and, in this extreme dryness, very shallow. I probably only paddled about 1-2km up the stream and had to get out and drag the canoe up 2 sets of rapids – just like all the locals.
Actually these two guys, Adonis and Moesis, were from the Army camp just across the river and hung out chatting with me for about 1/2 hour. Also spent a bit of time chatting with a family that were having a picnic just above the first set of rapids. Love being able to speak spanish 🙂
Others had done away with paddles all together and just used poles to punt their way up and down stream, to and from their small communities.
And some used a mixture of very small motors (which were only used in the deepest parts) and poles.
Didn’t get to see a lot of birdlife (turns out wearing a red t-shirt doesn’t help with birdwatching – black is better) but it was really beautiful just being out on the very peaceful water. Stayed out 3 hours the first day and 1.5 hours the second day and only almost came a cropper once – turns out canoeing back down the first set of rapids is tons of fun but also a bit panic-y when you end up headed straight for a massive log! All good in the end though 🙂