On Sunday morning, we decided to go exploring. Our destination was Ancon Hill a site we have been looking to conquer for sometime . Ancon Hill is the highest point in Panama City at 654ft above sea-level. It is now a nature preserve, but previously was a place for designers and engineers to oversee the building of the canal and was part of the United States Southern Command in the days before the United States turned the canal zone over to Panama. Long before that, around 1612, the Pirate Henry Morgan sent scouts up the hill to look for incoming ships and possible threats after he sacked the old City of Panama.
We were prepared. Four water bottles, snacks, etc. We took a taxi to the base of the hill. I was a little unnerved when the driver laughed as we told him where we were headed. “Is this a bad idea” I asked. He just kept saying “It’s a hot day”. Well, as I said in a previous blog I am going to say “Yes” to challenges whenever possible and we are pretty used to the weather here in Panama so we continued. Sam goes for hot weather treks frequently but I know I can’t usually keep up with him. We knew it was a 30 minute walk (or so) uphill to the summit. The trail was a narrow road and several cars and taxis passed us with the people who wanted to dispense with exercise and just enjoy the view.
The big attraction of the hike, for me, was the promise of all sorts of flora and fauna. The hill and surrounding area has been annexed as a nature preserve. The description promised toucans, sloths, many varieties of birds, monkeys etc. We love this stuff so hiking Ancon was a must. Plus, the view at the top was to be the icing on the cake with 360 degree views of the city, canal and ocean going vessels.
So we began. First, I must tell you of my husband Sam’s ongoing love and fascination with all things homely, different, strange, broken and peculiar. Some may say this was why he was attracted to me but I would argue that I don’t think I am homely. Anyway, ever since we decided to visit Panama, he has been obsessed with the Capybara. We have watched endless you-tube videos and hunted diligently for pictures and profiles on these creatures. It seems they are the biggest of the rodent family. So to say I didn’t share his enthusiasm was an understatement. However, they are vegetarian, so I found that somewhat comforting. Anyway, as we started up the hill, I heard a familiar noise, kind of a high-pitched chatter. It sounded kind of familiar. I was scanning the thick vegetation looking for monkeys, birds, butterflies etc. when I turned to see a rodent coming out of a hole. It was a large rodent. I stopped as my mind registered this as the elusive and prized (only in Sam’s world) capybara. Sam’s mouth fell open and he couldn’t have been more excited. We saw 14 capybaras. Our day was complete before it began.
I was happy for Sam but I wanted more. The hike was really easy and we arrived at the top and the views certainly did not disappoint. We spent some time taking pictures and looking around then it was time for the easy part, downhill. Yea!
I was determined to find more insects, animals, birds, etc. So we took our time and scanned the lush vegetation and enormous trees. Finally, I saw a gorgeous multi-colored hummingbird on her way to feed her babies in a miniature nest that looked like a cup.
We saw squirrels that had weird tiny heads and every kind of bird you can imagine, no toucans though. Lots of beautiful butterflies, majestic trees and enough tropical flowers to satisfy.
It was a good day of exploring and sweating. Ancon Hill? Check!