Friday, May 13, 2011

Our Guide

Terry hired a guide, named Rainald Framhein, to drive us around Panama City. The tires on his car had blown out the week before, so he picked us up in a new rental car. Driving in Panama is an adventure. Stop signs and lights seem to be considered suggestions often ignored. Cars merging into traffic would blindly accelerate assuming they would push in. There were several instances when I was certain I would die but our Rainald's lightning fast reflexes saved us. There was a constant angry barrage of horns honking and curses shouted out in Spanish. Alison spoke fluent Spanish after six months of intensive language studies prior to her posting at the U.S. Embassy. Terry knew some Spanish from having lived in Venezuelan for a year. I knew how to say "yes" and "thank you." Luckily many of Panama's citizens knew English. Even better they use American currency.

The first place we explored was the Parque Natural Summit. This natural refuge was established by the United States. We hiked up a two mile dirt road until we reached a grass clearing at the summit where we had a wide panoramic view overlooking all of Panama City. I didn't sketch since I was exhausted and sweaty from the hike and besides I had just sketched the city skyline the day before. As we relaxed, taking in the view, I noticed a long line of Leaf Cutter Ants as they marched down a tree trunk and then along the forest floor. I laughed when I noticed a smaller ant hitching a ride on a leaf fragment being carried by another ant. It turned out even this hitch hiker had a role to perform by keeping parasites away from the leaf. The constant activity reminded me of the angry traffic on the streets of Panama City. The ants were more organized than the concrete civilization below them. They cultivate the leaves to create a fungus which is their food source. They were successfully farming thousands of years before humans. To cleanly cultivate this crop the ants have been using antibiotics which the human race only discovered some 60 years ago. Research is being done that may help make hospitals more sterile and perhaps new drugs can be found from the never ending work of these tireless workers. When the leaves have been cleaned of their fungus, the ants remove the waste and pile it up in immense mounds which are easily seen on the rain forest floor.

1 comment:

Scottie Campbell said...

I used to live there!