Before I get to the exciting stuff, I will tell you a bit about Panama. It's like America. Gas is cheap, roads are nice, people speak English and THEY USE USD. They call it a Balboa, but it's interchangeable with the dollar. They use US bills and coins, but mint some of their own coins. They're just like US coins, except they have different stuff on them (same weights, etc). It's sorta weird. Panama City looks like Miami. No one walks anywhere, they just drive. We saw a woman on a Rascal in a supermarket.
That's right, this very dark photo is of a capybara (thanks Dad for making it easier to see!)!
Now the good stuff, animals of course. One of our goals for this trip was to see a capybara, little did we know we'd be seeing them way sooner than expected. Turns out there are two types of capybara, one that exists in Panama, Columbia and Venezuela, known as the lesser capybara. On a whim (and having gotten to Panama way too early -- we don't put our car onto the boat until August 15th, we entered Panama on the 8th) we decided to go to Soberania national park, mostly because there was supposed to be some excellent animal/bird viewing on "pipeline road." I figured we would just drive and find a hotel (this was after rushing to Panama City to meet with our shipping company to get our paperwork in order for Monday). When we got to Gamboa (which is the last town up the road into the park), we quickly realized there wasn't much there. Except these GIANT rat like things (not as big as capybabra, but much more rat like, the head is like a rat, the back end is more like a rabbit) called Agouti that run all over.
Agouti running across the lawn at breakfast
The Smithsonian research facility for the tropics is located in Gamboa, so it's mostly graduate students (we even saw a game of ultimate happening!). There is also a super fancy resort in town (200 dollars a night) that attracts a lot of Canadian tourists. It used to be one of the main towns for Canal workers and then US solders lived there when the bases were full. All of the houses were constructed around the same time, so they all look the same and have very neat floor plans the are above an open air car port.
After exploring all the expensive hotels/bed and breakfasts in town we found this wonderful couple (Mateo and Beatrice) that rented out little cabins behind their house, they even drove us around to the trail head. After having hiked all day and not seen any capybaras (we did see some awesome plants, lots of birds and five monkeys!), we decided to stay another night to go hunting (they are nocturnal). We ended up only seeing one, but it was totally worth it (see if you can find it in the photo above). It sat there kinda shell shocked for a minute and then waddled back into the reeds. In addition to being super sweet, Mateo let us feed the monkeys in his backyard!!
Feeding a monkey in Mateo's backyard!
That was the fun stuff, now we are preparing to ship the car to Columbia. The next three days (assuming everything goes well) will be filled with waiting, filling out forms, driving across town, waiting, more forms, more waiting, etc. Then off to Columbia! We are spending four days staying at a crazy hostel/hotel thing with the upside of them having parking and kitchen where we can finally cook some meals.