Friday, February 15, 2013

Land Travel

My new fav photo. My dad and Vlad watching capybaras. 

Traveling by land has its perks. Sure, you have to pay for a place to sleep and there isn't the convenience of a kitchen and the water doesn't rock you to sleep at night. But we had spent pretty much all of our time exploring the coast of Panama, completing neglecting all the interior has to offer.

Well, no more. Take our trip to Gamboa, a town adjacent to the Canal and on the edge of the rainforest that also, incidentally, looks like a Panamanian Mayberry. We spent two days at the schmancy Gamboa Rainforest Resort with its picturesque views of the Chagres River, and, yes, each room has a hammock on the balcony. As it turned out, the resort is the northernmost range of the world's largest rodent - the capybara - and we got to get out amongst a herd of these rodents of unusual size.

We also took my dad on an arial tram canopy tour, and while Vlad caught up on some much needed sleep, Dad and I went on an early morning bird watching expedition on Pipeline Road, one of the world's premier birding sites. My dad digs the birds, though I'm not much of a birder myself. Nevertheless, I got kind of into it, mainly because I enjoy the ridiculousness of bird names (Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Pied Water Tyrant, the Tawny-faced Gnatwren and the Common Snipe, to name but a few choice monikers), but also because there's some sport in birdwatching. Seeing a tiny bird perched on a twig in a mass of dense foliage is extremely difficult and trying to take a photo as the Broad-billed Motmot bounces from limb to limb is even worse.

A Bicolored Antbird

We saw about 50 different species of birds in the five hours we were out, as well as some non avians including two troupes of howler monkeys, a family of white-faced coati and another sloth! (Sloth Watch 2013 kind of got pushed to the side during this outing. The birders just weren't that in to it.) Alas, we only heard, but did not glimpse, my namesake. Evidently, there is a bird called an Attila, but not just Attila - a Bright-rumped Attila - which everyone seemed to find highly amusing especially our Panamanian birding guides.

Anyway, I have now found myself describing the call of a toucan to unsuspecting passersby while they stare at me with slightly concerned expressions as I make a sound like a loud tree frog with a chest cold. On second thought, maybe we should really get back to the boat.


  1. I think that resort sounds like just the kind of break I would like, complete with bird watching. Looks like exotic bird-watching bingo at its finest!

  2. haha! A bright rumped Attila, that's a hoot. Those giant rodents remind me of Nutria rat here in the swaps of Louisiana. I'm sure they have them in Texas too. The "technical" name is Coypu, suspiciously close to Capybara both with C's, P's and Y's. Coincidence? I think not.

    Bird watching, as I like to call it (the term "birding" just drives me up the wall after having a few "birding" friends say the word as much a possible)Can be really cool! My mom had this bird book from ages ago and she went around over 30 years where ever she lived and kept up with it.

    So fun to explore the inside of Panama. I bet it's easy to get sidetracked on the outside, but Thanks for reminding me we should visit the inside too! I mean look at all these awesome places we'll visit.