Panama Chronicles Ė Isla Taboga

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Hi all,

Well, life meanders on here in Panama. Itís hard to believe that I have been here for nearly six months! Recently, I have been missing the familiar faces of my northern home and to remedy the hole in my social life, Beto and I had a BBQ this past Friday. We had a good turn out and both the guests and the hosts had a good time. Of course friends and family here cannot replace friends and family up north, but surrounding oneself with other people generally helps just the same.

Last Sunday, I decided that it was time to escape from the jungle and the city, so I took the ferry out to Islas Tabogas (The Taboga Islands). The Taboga Islands are a collection of ten main islands and about a dozen smaller islands about 20 km south of Panama City. The ferry takes about an hour and fifteen minutes and brings tourists and locals alike to the largest island (Taboga Island: 571 ha). On my boat ride out I was treated to the sight of various seabirds including Brown Pelicans, White Ibises, Tropical Cormorants, Magnificent Frigatebirds, Laughing Gulls and Royal Terns. Two small islands en route were covered with White Ibises and might have been breeding colonies, but I canít say for certain as I was not close enough to see nests.

Taboga Island is home to approximately 1400 people who live in a very quaint town with colorful red-roofed houses, green parks and a modest but beautiful white church. The church actually dates back to 1550 and it is the second oldest church in the Western Hemisphere! When I passed it on my morning walk through town, however, it looked like any other Panamanian church filled with parishioners on a Sunday morning. My wander through the town took me through narrow and steep walkways which reminded me very much of Europe. The walkways were filled with children, dogs, chickens and clean laundry drying in the breeze. There were no cars and the widest road was large enough for a golf cart at most.

The town is built up the slope of Cerro El Vigia and from the top of the town I took a narrow trail through the forest to a lookout on what were once WWII US military bunkers. From the top I could hear the begging calls of young Brown Pelicans. Taboga contains one of the largest Pelican colonies in the world with up to 100,000 individuals! Down below hundreds of adults formed a swirling cloud around a trawling fishing boat and every now and then one would fly up with food. Beyond the pelicans to the south the forested slope of the island dropped away to the open Pacific Ocean. To the north a myriad of boats waited their turn to enter the Canal and in the distance the skyscrapers of the city looked ghost-like through the humid air.

After my walk I headed to the beach. The water was very clear due to primarily south winds and I read and swam uninterrupted until thunder rumbling over the city broke into my reverie. The storm was impressive! The towering thunderhead must have stretched a kilometer into the sky and from its dark base forks of lightening and a dark curtain of rain erased the city from view. Beto told me later that the storm had dumped so much rain onto the city that many of the major roads flooded, snarling traffic for hours. Luckily the storm missed Taboga and had blown over by the time I had to catch the ferry back to reality. Three years ago I took the same trip and on the boat ride home a girl told me the story of her aunt who had come to Panama and fallen in love with a Panamanian. She married him and moved to Panama. Now I have a similar story of my own. Who knew?

Hasta la proxima,

Debbie

-- Anonymous, June 09, 2003


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