At last, it was excursion day! We had a fun-filled, ambitious itinerary ahead of us which included zip-lining, lunch in La Fortuna, and hot springs. We had to rise early and leave by 7am to make our 8am start time. Our driver Adolfo was friendly and helpful, pointing out stunning river views and the symbol of La Fortuna, the Arenal Volcano, as we drove along. At one point, confusing signage caused him to take a wrong turn. He expertly backed up and turned around on the steep side road, nevertheless, the students squealed nervously and comically as we went in reverse, entertaining the chaperones.
We got to the recreation center and decked ourselves out in zip-line gear. (One student, who will remain nameless, wore flip flops and had to have her shoes duct taped to her feet.) 😉 We took in some basic instructions and ascended to our first platform. The group was full of excited and nervous energy. Still, not a single student stayed behind. The course had 8 zip-lines plus something called a “Tarzan swing.” The first platform rose high above wide, open space, but once we went flying, the ground dipped far below us and we were launched deep into the rainforest. The trees passed close by on either side, leaves and vines of every shade of green imaginable whipping by, the sun breaking through the canopy in bright bursts.
Just as we started getting comfortable zipping past tropical vistas, we came upon the Tarzan swing. Dun dun dun… And yet again, NO ONE SAT OUT! The group had a blast watching their friends one by one react hilariously to the shock of their stomachs drop as they were pushed from the platform into free fall, and then swung up high above a giant ravine. Students growled, yipped, begged, screamed – pretty much every possible combination was heard. The cheers and laughter were contagious and carried us through the rest of the course. On our final leg, the trees unexpectedly opened up and a breathtaking view of mountains and forest rolled out beside us. The amount of oxygen in the air was intoxicating, and just like that, we had to come back down to earth.
We raced to lunch, a bus load of hungry daredevils ready to descend on the charming and popular tourist town of La Fortuna. We ate lunch and enjoyed free time exploring the shops looking for just the right souvenirs. After a couple hours, and several giant hamburgers that quenched students’ craving for American food, we were off to relax in the steamy aguas termales. Our destination had the feel of a spa, so naturally, we lounged around in style sipping fresh fruit smoothies and lazying around the 100+ degree springs. It was a much needed descanso (break) which left our bodies feeling warmed and ready for sleep.
On our last night, the heat broke with a rolling thunderstorm, filling our houses with the sounds of cascading water. We ate our final meals together and shared our departing gifts. In the morning, as always, our host moms woke bright and early to feed us and give us a proper send off. As we made each stop along the 3 block radius of our little town, mothers, fathers, children, and pets shuffled out to say their goodbyes. Heartfelt hugs and kind words were shared, then the sleepy-eyed, young travelers piled inside, waving to their families who lingered watchfully on their front porches.