Monday, October 14, 2013

Arenal - Day 2

We woke up early again and headed to La Fortuna, the main town in the Arenal area.  It's about a 10 minute drive around the volcano from Tabacon.  I thought it was a small town but actually compared to the other "towns", it's fairly large.
Arenal from the main road in La Fortuna.  

After a small panic attack about how and where to park (and realizing we drove through town the wrong way), we went over to the Rainforest Cafe for a traditional Costa Rican breakfast with the best cup of coffee/latte of the entire trip.  The food was good; rice and beans and tortillas with two eggs over easy and the place overall was kind of super cute.  The guy next to us special ordered plantain pancakes.  That made me smile.

It was still fairly early so we walked around town to check it out and the sun was already beaming.  We were warned about it's strength but seriously, I have never felt anything so strong in my life.  It was almost unbearable and hindered our walk a bit.  We walked into the church (iglesia), around the town center, decided we saw enough and got in the car to road trip a bit.

We drove the countryside, through the towns.  They are all the same.  Church, school, run down "soda", stray dogs.  Then it was time for the thing I was most excited for...monkeys!  We arrived at Proyecto Asis a little early and chilled in the front area with the best greeting committee ever, three super friendly, domestic dogs.  I knew I was in the right place.  :)

I had read about Proyecto Asis on, and with some further research, I knew I had to go.  It is a rehab facility for Costa Rican wildlife that opened in 1994.  They have a couple of options for their place when you visit.  You can go for a regular visit to tour the place, go for a volunteer program for a few hours where you interact with the animals more, or go for weeks at a time as an educational program to learn Spanish and work with the animals.  We did the volunteer option.

It was just us and this other couple.  Our guide, Carlos, was so great; just a really good energy, very happy and passionate about what he was doing.  Being in a rescue world, I could tell this was a good place.  Yes, dogs and cats are different to jungle animals but I just knew, these people were the real deal.  The facilities were well maintained and the employees there knew their stuff.  It was an extremely impressive experience for me.  I said if I were to move here, this is where I would work.
Carlos and his girlfriend, Daniela.  

We got the tour first. Ideally, they hope to vet the injured animals and then get them back in the wild.  But sometimes that just isn't an option so they are a sanctuary as well, which means the pets that can't be released back into the wild will stay there and be cared for for the remainder of their lives.

We saw some hogs, a baby boa, an aggressive Huron (like a ferret), lots of birds like parrots, a rainbow toucan, a sloth mommy and her baby (who actually just lives free and happened to decide to swing from the electrical wires that morning and needed rescue, we saw the video!) and of coarse the monkeys.  Costa Rica only has four native species of monkeys. Howler, Spider, Capuchin and Squirrel.
He kept doing this to make me laugh.  It worked. 

What happens when birds are kept as pets and get too stressed.  


After our tour, we got some fruit and coffee and then cut up the rest of the fruit for the animals.  I was all prepared to clean up poop and stuff but we threw the fruit in some baskets and began feeding which was our "job".  It was so fun!  We came at a time that there happened to be four male, Capuchin baby monkeys.  They were all about four months old and orphaned for one reason or another.  We got to go inside their cage to pet them and feed them and I seriously had to make an effort not to lose my shit because I was so excited about this moment.  It was my dream come true.  (Side note for the ladies, wear your hair UP.  Monkeys LOVE yanking hair, as the other lady on our tour can attest to.)
This is one of the most exciting moments of my life. 
When we were done, David basically dragged me out of there and when we got to sit in the car I realized how badly my legs were bit up.  Despite literally bathing in bug spray, I counted a total of 47 bug bites.  Every single one was worth it.  But if I return, I'll be wearing pants.  And if you go, wear pants.

We continued our evening with a little R & R at the thermal pools, got caught in a crazy rain storm, and then headed to dinner at Benedictus, our first night venturing out of the hotel.  David looked on tripadvisor (Tabacon has free wifi by the way and as you can see, tripadvisor was a huge help) and did not tell me anything about it but had me drive.  I'm the better driver so I should have known something was up.

Benedictus is on the way to La Fortuna from Tabacon so we pulled in and then I realized why I was driving.  I laughed the entire winding, very uphill, pitch black, cow blocked, dirt road way up.  We got to this house at the top of the hill and I can only imagine what the view would have been in the daytime.  You could spend a while there on their porch and playing pool in the living room.  There were only a couple of tables at this converted cabin and the one waiter there was so nice and the food was AMAZING.  Best meal of the trip.  I had talapia with avocado sauce (aka guac).  I wish I could cook fish like this!  I was told the avocados were literally picked from their tree that day.  Everything is from their land which I theoretically loved yet actually struggled with when it came to the meat.  When I actually saw the cows/chickens, I just couldnt get myself to order any it.  I ended up avoiding it the entire trip.  Despite the fact, Benedictus really cares about their establishment and the quality of their food which is the point I was trying to make.

The couple we randomly were on the hiking trip with the day before happened to be there and we chatted with them to give us some ideas for what to do the next day because we had nothing planned.  Side Note: The only problem I had about the dinner was that the entire time I had heard this puppy crying and on our way out, the CUTEST puppy was chillin with our waiter.  It was his new little pup and whenever he was in the dining room, he cried.  Once again, David had to drag me away from an animal.

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