Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rio Chagres

I ended up spending the whole two and a half weeks in the Chagres while waiting for Helen to fly back. It was having such a wonderful experience I just couldn't leave. I anchored in 4 different locations on the river and each had its own unique feeling. My first anchorage was closest to the dam that forms Lake Gatun which is the main part of the Panama Canal. It was an easy
anchorage and I was treated to my first sighting of toucans since being in Panama. I saw a few monkeys and a tarpon(fish) that was as big as my kayak. It came up right along side my kayak while I drifted down the river watching the wildlife. It was long and slender, but felt the size of a dolphin as it surfaced next to me. I stayed there 4 days and then decided to go down stream to explore another area. I anchored off the mouth of an inlet and was able to explore it using the kayak as well. I saw a few crocs, parrots, an anteater, and sloths but no new toucans. This jungle river was a true jungle cruise, unlike many I have taken before in Costa Rica and Mexico. Once I made it back to the boat I was sitting in the cockpit and noticed a couple of toucans about 50 yds away. I watched them when two more came into view. It was quite a treat to be able to watch that many. Over the next couple of days I was treated to many more wildlife adventures as I explored the many inlets. I was able to see all three different types of toucans and I have good pictures of two types. A new group of toucans were about 50 ft from the boat eating berries off a bush right next to me. On one of the afternoons when I was again just sitting on the boat I saw a Howler monkey on a limb over the water. I watched him scurry out to the end of the limb and then retreat back to the main trunk. He went back and forth for over 45 minutes. I was down below when I heard a splash. I went up and discovered that the little monkey had jumped into the river and was swimming across. The howlers on both sides were going crazy. I have no idea what would motivate a monkey to swim across a swift river with crocs about. He made it in about 20 minutes, must have been love!

My last anchorage was down stream towards the mouth. I wanted to go ashore and explore the fort so being closer was a little better since the dingy had been acting up. The trail from the landing was a nice 1.5km walk up hill to actually get to the fort itself. I again saw two types of monkeys and many birds. The fort has a history going back to construction in 1597. It was taken over and destroyed three times. The fort was used to both protect the river of gold, and to plunder it depending on who had control. They said it was the richest river in the world for the amount of treasure that was moved down the river and later sent out on ships. It was very well fortified but still taken after very bloody attacks. I took many pictures of the remaining cannons.
The next morning I woke up to the dam dumping copious amounts of water with a 5.5knt current. I didn't dare get off the boat for the whole day. I spent the day watching the anchor chain stretch to its limits. The next day when I left it was back to normal. Thanks to the sea gods.

My time in the Rio Chagres was absolutely magical. I am hoping to take Helen back there, but the amount of rain that has dumped worries me that there will be another water release right when I am trying to enter the reef and sand bar tricky and narrow entrance.

Life is good. Helen is back on the boat, and we are ready to take off on our next adventure. Next we are headed to the island group called San Blas. 300 islands, 39 inhabited, and life there is the same as it has been for over 800 years. We will be greeted by Indians in dug out canoes selling fruits and vegetables, fish, lobster, conch, and hand made molas(reversed embroderied rectangles). They take American dollars, there are no gas stations, no banks, and no worries.