My two and a half days in Gamboa were filled with lively conversation surrounded by rainforest and flecked with wildlife. While the rainforest provided me with some amazing sights, it was the people that provided the memories for this trip.
On my first night, I wound up at the Gamboa Resort, which was a short walk from my room at the Soberanía Lodge. As it housed the only restaurants open for dinner in the area, I sat down for a beer and ceviche while watching the second half of the Giants-Packers game. I found some friendly conversation with a couple from Massachusetts. I never thought I’d meet people who travel around with a bowling pin, but there they are at TobyThePin.com.
As I returned to my hostel, I met a group of bird watchers returning from their day’s expedition. Unfortunately, they left the following morning. For the second day, I was one of three guests at the hostel. The other two were reptile and amphibian researchers — Jon Wedow and Eric Rittmeyer, the latter is a PhD candidate at LSU who was part of the team that discovered the world’s smallest frog in Papua New Guinea.
For some reason I decided to take a late-morning hike with Jon and Eric behind our hostel. They brought along golf clubs that were fitted with hooks where the actual club should be (I should’ve gotten a photo of them). These golf hooks came in handy in the removal of leaves, sticks, and brush, as well as handling snakes. After only a short walk and little wandering off the trail, they found a boa constrictor, which they proceeded to handle and photograph. Twice the boa lunged at Eric, but he was far enough away that it couldn’t bite him (they informed me that even though the boa is not poisonous, it has one of the most dangerous bites of any snake). Being terrified of snakes, I kept my distance.
As we continued to hike along the trail, Jon and Eric continued to veer off it in the hopes of finding other animals — their goal on this trek was to find salamanders, which we didn’t see. While they didn’t find what they were looking for, they did uncover a wood turtle hiding under leaves in a dry creek. Fortunately for me, we encountered no more snakes. We also found a carousel horse along a dry creek bed, which was rather amusing.
They offered to take me out on a night hike, but I declined. I wasn’t confident enough in my ability to locate dangerous creatures during the day, so there was more of a chance that I’d step on a fler-de-lance at night and die. They did get some really cool photos on those night hikes though. I opted for beers with my afternoon guide who took me out along Pipeline Road (that’s another post).
Have you ever gone off the trail while hiking? Would you trust these biologists?