Friday, July 24, 2009

Barro Colorado Island Revisited

Friday morning (July 24) we returned to Barro Colorado Island (BCI). Last week, after enjoying a seminar there one evening, we made a reservation for a full day guided tour on BCI. The tours are available only on certain days of the week, and the current cost is $70/person. The tour includes the boat trip to & from, plus a guided tour for the morning, a good lunch at their cafeteria, an informational slide show in the afternoon, and a visit to the museum and gift shop. Margaret, the person in charge of reservations, told us that we were very lucky to have found spaces only a week in advance. Tours typically book up at least a month ahead.

Our guide was Iann Sanchez, a native Panamanian who went to university in the U.S. Sharon, our hostess here at Simply Devine Homestays, has known Iann since he was 7 years of age. Iann has been guiding on BCI (he also does other guiding and tours around Panama) for many years. He is a geologist and has learned much about the birds, mammals, insects, plants, history and ecology of BCI and Panama over the years.

Today's group of a dozen was comprised of a batch of exchange students and their escort, a local Panamanian family of 3, Les and I and Iann. Iann stopped here at Simply Devine about 6:30 AM to drop off his son with Sharon for the day, and we drove Iann down to the STRI dock. Les and I were the only ones with bins, so stopping for every heard bird was not an option. But we did manage to see a few birds, including Slaty-tailed Trogon, Black-throated Trogon, Keel-billed Toucan, Gray-faced Chachalaca, Western Slaty Antwren, White-shouldered Tanager, Streaked Flycatcher, and another lifer for us: Crested Guan. White-faced Monkey, Howler Monkey, White-lined Bat and Agouti comprised the mammal list, and we also saw a small Crocodile, a wood boring beetle (typically found only up high in the trees, but this one was on a fallen log) and several butterflies and spiders.

It was a very interesting and productive day, and also the hottest and muggiest day ever. BCI makes Gamboa feel cool, it's that bad. The air on BCI was still as could be, not even a whisper of a breeze. Before we departed BCI for the mainland at the end of the day, we could hear much loud thunder, and it began to rain. When we boarded the boat it was still sprinkling, and we had high hopes of cooling breezes coming through the windows as the boat gained speed. I selected a seat near an open window. Once the boat took off from the dock, the young fellow next to the window closed the window and settled down for a nap. All around the edges of the boat, other guys did the same thing - they closed the windows, and most of them napped. They were undoubtedly sweating to such an extent that they were as wet as they would have been if the rain had been pouring in on them, but they chose to sit there and sweat rather than opening the windows for some cooling breezes. Les and I were both astounded, incredulous, vexed. So when we got back to our homestay, we asked a couple locals about the (possible) reasoning behind this behavior. Kathy, the housekeeper & cook here at Simply Devine said the locals are afraid of catching a cold. And Iann said they're afraid of getting sick. Getting cold when wet is a bad thing, they think. Panamanians have what seem to us to be some pretty crazy ideas about certain things. If you are ironing clothes, for instance, you should never take an iced drink - don't drink it or even open the refrigerator door. You might catch a cold or become paralyzed or worse. Don't say we didn't warn you.

No comments:

Post a Comment