The Kalu Yala Blog
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July 18, 2012by Austin Ray
Posted In: Adventures in the Tropics
During the last stint, Aaron Prairie, I, and two more companions got it together and made the hike to find the source of the Iguana river tributary from which we will draw water for the future settlement in Kalu Yala. There were all kinds of wild theories about the stream’s origin and the time it would take to find it and the four of us left prepared for a three day ordeal to find a mysterious spring in the depths of the jungle. In reality it only took about six hours to find what can be called the source.
Like in most things, the most obvious solution is usually correct. As we hiked up our aqua-road, we noticed how the tributary’s flow was continually thinning. As the tributary flows down the side of a mountain, it is fed all along the way by trickles of groundwater. At several places, the flow disappears into the rock and sediment and reappears further upstream. Each vein of the tributary we followed ended in the same way: the flow disappears into the ground from which it trickles like water leaking out of a giant sponge. After about six hours we reached the top of the ridgeline and were surprised to find familiar territory that Aaron and I had explored during a previous stint. Our primary goal was certainly a success, we followed the tributary till there was nothing left, and took a good survey of the surrounding lands which feed it. This area is very dense rainforest, there are no cattle pastures for at least a mile in every direction. By all appearances, the water is safe to drink.
After reaching the top of the ridgeline, we still had a lot of time and energy left. So we made the decision to keep exploring more of the ridgeline till nightfall. We found a trail that follows the ridgeline all the way into Chagres National Park. Along the way we found a farmhouse and clearings in the trees that revealed some stunning views. The whole trail, from tributary, to Chagres would be an ideal trek on which to bring some adventurous tourists.
We pitched our tent underneath a shack we found on the roadside for the night. In the morning I was greeted by a friendly spider monkey screaming at me. Because our water supply was running very low, we made the decision to turn back to the farm house at the border of the national park. Unfortunately, there was nobody home, but, because we were desperate we took some water from the unwittingly generous farmer’s rain catchment. At this point, our company parted ways. Aaron and I wished to continue exploring the land while our two companions were ready to head back to camp. After they left, we went to the land behind the farmhouse to take care of some natural business. Unfortunately, it was at this time when the farmer returned on his horse with his dogs and rifle in hand. Thinking he had still not seen us, we grabbed our packs and ran through the dense growth behind the farmer’s land into a valley where we were sure to find another tributary that would lead us to the Iguana River and back to camp. We reached the tributary and fortunately avoided any unpleasant contact with Farmer John. This tributary was another exciting spectacle itself; we either passed or climbed down waterfalls of about six meters in height every few hundred meters. There was dense growth and very intriguing shapes made by fallen wood. After reaching the Iguana we followed it back to camp bringing with us exotic insect specimens, a good knowledge of the land, and stories from our epic adventure.
The rest of the stint I spent nursing my torn feet, pinning insect specimens, and cleaning up camp. I can’t wait for the adventures our last stint will hold!