Arrival in Arenal: March Break Travel Journal Post #1

Bienvenidos a Costa Rica! 

Despite a long travel day that began at 4:30 am back in Toronto, our enthusiasm and energy carried us through a long day of airports, transfers, and hours on a bus to arrive in La Fortuna.

With a full bus of 25 students, 3 staff, 1 driver, and 50+ bags on board, it was no easy journey for our bus to chug along up winding, rocky roads as we drew nearer to the La Fortuna. After 3 ½ hours of driving, we were relieved to see the signs of civilization as we reached Hotel Rabfer. What a journey, and what a great feeling to find our way to a delicious meal and a bed in the beautiful and cool air conditioned rooms.

For our first day, many of us were very excited to be visiting Proyecto Asis, the animal rescue centre outside of La Fortuna. Founded in 1997, Project Asis cares for native Costa Rican animals that have been turned in due to injuries, or have been confiscated by authorities as illegal pets. This facility is run entirely on donations, and relies on volunteers and private donations to care for hundreds of animals. They do their best to rehabilitate and release many of them, although many will call Asis their long-term home. After a tour of the facility, we helped to prep food and feed a variety of animals, from a raccoon (soon to be released into the wild), to a baby Mexican tree porcupine, scores of parrots, peccary wild pigs, large cats, and our most loved White-faced Capuchin and Spider monkeys that we stole from the set of Friends. After spending years in the company of people, many of these animals still long for human attention, like Jessica the Spider monkey who was eager to calmly hold the hand of any of us who reached out. The spider monkey was especially fond of our guide, Carlos, as she reached through the cage to try and steal his water bottle! 

After eating a delicious lunch of empanadas, carrots, and beans in front of the pond, it was back to work. As the sun came out of the clouds after lunch we split into three groups. Two groups set to their tasks scrubbing the cages getting them ready for their annual painting, while the third cleared the enclosure that will soon be the home for two baby wild pigs. We had some adventures, including wooing an escaped Macaw back into her enclosure and watching Stephen enjoy some time with the energetic Toucan (the Toucan used him as a chew toy). Were all looking forward to returning tomorrow to spend another morning with our new furry, fluffy, and feathered friends. 

We returned to Hotel Rabfer for a short rest and dip in the pool before heading out for a tour of the shops, restaurants, and attractions in the town square. After a refreshing Gelato treat, we had some down time until supper. We had our first official announcements at supper, followed by an energetic round of speed dating. By the end of the round we all shared something we learned about our new friends. There were some small-world moments like learning that John and Stephen share a birthday, and that Tara and Vanessa are hockey rivals with a showdown (which they will both be missing this week) for a spot in the playoffs. Following that we allowed the students some free time with curfew at 11pm. Tomorrow were back to Proyecto Asis and then off to our first optional excursion Zip lining!