A Panamanian Thanksgiving Day 3

I hadn't planned on getting up each morning at sunrise (this was my vacation after all) but the day before was so fulfilling that I did it again.  I loved walking around the grounds of the hotel as the morning broke, the birds sang, and the sun rose over the mountains. It was very calming and a surprise for me since I am most definitely not an early riser.

After breakfast we were scheduled to go on the ariel tram tour but my aunt wasn't feeling well so I went down to the hotel desk and did some rescheduling. This gave us a few extra hours before what would now be the Monkey Island tour.  I sat on the balcony, looked and listened to the birds and enjoyed the view while I read my book. The extra tours are really great but I think I could go to that hotel and be happy just sitting on the balcony listening to the sounds of the rain forest.

We got underway on our first tour of the day to Monkey Island. Monkey Island is located at Gatun Lake  in an area off of the Panama Canal.  We went down to the marina and met up with our same tour guide from the orchids the day before. At the marina we boarded a speedboat that held about 12 people. This time we headed away from the Chagres river and towards the Panama Canal.  Did I mention that I like boats? I love them. The speedboat went whooshing through the waters of the canal. We passed several of the big  cargo ships on their way through the canal and it was so much fun to whiz by them.

The boat made several little side stops along the way to the main destination.  We saw a crocodile sunning himself, that is until he decided to get into the water and swim toward us.  Another stop along the way brought us face to face with our first monkey.  The monkeys we encountered on this trip were White-Faced Capuchin Monkeys.  At this island there was just one that came out when our boat passed.  It climbed out onto the branch and watched us.  An autistic boy on the boat  happened to bring bananas (the captain and guides didn't bring any) and the boat captain cut one and tossed it in the air to the monkey.  The monkey missed to the sounds of disappointment from everyone in the boat. But the boat captain tried again and sure enough the monkey grabbed the banana piece out of the air. And then he bared his teeth at us and ran back over the branch with his prize.  One more animal we saw on the way to the official destination was a toucan.  I don't know how the guide could see the bird in the trees, but they slowed the boat and tried to point it out to people.  In the middle of the hand waving and exclamations of "over there" the bird took flight and we could all see its colorful snout as it flew in front of the boat.  That was just flat out cool.

We finally arrived at Monkey Island which is basically just an island like any of the others that have tourist friendly monkeys. I know more than just the hotel we were at brings tour groups there.  The captain and the guide commented that maybe the early-morning tours for the monkeys had fed them too much and they didn't want to come out. We circled the island and then again with the captain calling and calling but no monkeys were appearing. We circled one last time and then there they were, high up on the branches of the trees over the boats. They slowly worked their way down to the boat and then the captain cut up some more bananas and sprinkled them on the hood of the boat.  The monkeys came right onto the boat to eat the bananas.  There were probably about five different monkeys that got on the boat to collect their bananas. It was a really neat experience to be that close to the monkeys.  After we were out of bananas we slowly pulled away from the island and began our way back to the hotel.  My favorite part was flying back through the Panama Canal on the boat [video] with the wind in my hair,  the sound of the waves on the water, the engine humming and passing by the large ships. I loved it. 

We got back to the hotel and grabbed something to eat at the hotel bar. The bar has a wonderful balcony that looks over the hotel pool with the river and mountains beyond. I've said it a lot but I'll say it again: the scenery and the atmosphere of the place was wonderful. Since we rescheduled we didn't have as much time in between tours so after lunch it was time to head out on our last adventure of the trip, the aerial tram tour.

As I was looking at the photos of the aerial tram in the hotel I wasn't sure how well I was going to handle it. I am not a fan of heights. When we got to the tram location the tourists were broken up into groups and each assigned a tour guide.  We were once again greeted by Arial who had been with us on the orchid tour and monkey island.  Each group loaded the gondolas and rode up the mountain.  We were the last group to board.  I surprised myself by not being scared at all. It was very smooth, peaceful and quiet all the way up the mountain.  Once we were at the top we walked a small path to the observation tower. The observation tower was quite a climb. It was a series of ramps so the incline wasn't bad but it was 10 levels of ramps and there were four ramps per level.  We were going around and around and around and around. It started getting tedious and I know that my aunt suffered towards the end of it and my fear of heights really kicked in about halfway through.  It got harder and harder for me to go up each level and my grip on the railing tightened with each quarter of a ramp, but boy was the view worth it once we reached the top.

We were above the treetops and could see the Chagres River, the hotel and its grounds, the Embera Village we visited the day before and a section of the Panama Canal complete with ships moving through.  I was fascinated by a tree called the "suicide tree" that blooms only once in its lifetime and then dies. It was actually fun to be above the trees for once looking down on the suicide trees, the mimosas and the palms.  Eventually we made our way down the observation tower back down the path for our ride down the mountain. The gondola ride back down was lovely and we even saw some iguanas sunning in a tree. I was sad to say goodbye to Arial. He was a great guide for us.

Then it was back to the hotel. I had time before dinner so I went swimming in the resort pool.  That is something that I told myself I was going to do when I saw pictures of the hotel.  I'm not great at relaxing and I was determined to do that since I love to swim.  There were only a few others at the pool because the horde of sunbathers leave after the hottest part of the day. I had the pool mostly to myself and I loved it.  After a while a few people came and then it started getting cloudy and thunder was rumbling in the distance. I still stayed a little after that.  I love swimming and I knew it would be a long time before it was warm enough back in Texas to swim comfortably.  Then it was time to shower, grab our last dinner and pack. We were leaving the next day for the city. At this point I can say I love, love, love being in the rain forest and I was sad to leave it.

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