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2006 Panama Rainforest Treeclimbing Expedition

Author: jmaher
Date: May 09, 2005
Have you ever wanted to go climbing in a tropical rainforest and/or a tropical cloudforest? If so, this announcement is for you. The Tree Climber's Coalition is happy to announce the Third Annual Panama Rainforest Climbing Expedition. The First Annual Panama Rainforest Climbing Expedition was an unqualified success; the second just as good. That we are now announcing the Third Annual Panama Rainforest Climbing Expedition should come as no surprise to those of you who participated in either of the first two events.

Unlike the first expedition, this yearÂ’s expedition will offer the opportunity for climbers to experience the highland cloudforest as an optional extra to be added on at the end of the lowland rainforest climbing experience. Climbers will have the opportunity to experience both the lowland rainforest and the highland cloudforest, or climbers may elect to experience only one of those two options. Many who have already experienced the lowland forest will find the cloudforest to be an exciting adventure quite different from that to be encountered at lower elevations.

Those of you who like the idea of climbing in the rainforest should seriously consider this opportunity. The Tree Climber's Coalition, working closely with the Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation, has created an adventure that will allow climbers not only the opportunity to climb in the tropical rainforest, but to learn about the ecology of the canopy in which they are exploring.

So what is this adventure all about? Mostly it will be a fun trip with a bunch of fellow tree climbers whose interests have gone beyond the idea of climbing the old oak tree in the backyard and who are looking for something a bit more exciting with a little adventure and travel thrown in for the heck of it. While we are sure that visions of Tarzan, or maybe George of the Jungle, are flashing across your mind, let us assure you that things are not nearly as dangerous or adrenalin-charged as you may think. The rainforest is really nothing more than a big set of woods writ large, with things running around in it with which you are unfamiliar. The perceived danger lies in your unfamiliarity with the place and is more perceptual than real. Do not show this to anyone else, however, or the war stories that you tell when you get home won't get you the attention and respect that you will feel is justly yours. Remember, as Twain said, "It is the prerogative of the adventurer to embellish his stories however he may see fit!" So if everyone else wants to believe that the Panamanian rainforest is fraught with all manner of dangerous and unforgiving encounters, and that you withstood them all, then let them do so. You who are going, however, will find that it is more fun than dangerous.

So what is climbing in the rainforest all about? Climbing in the tropical rainforest is very different from climbing in the temperate regions. For one thing, almost all of the trees are bigger; they are all "wild"; they have been undeveloped for climbing. Most of them are covered in vines and epiphytic growth and simply getting a line into such a tree can become an extreme challenge. Every single tree, on every single climb, will present problems and challenges no matter how many previous climbs may have been made in the tree.

The real secret of having a safe and enjoyable visit to the rainforest will lie in your ability to accept the place "as is". You must be willing to surrender to the idea that this is a rainforest and that you will, therefore, spend a lot of your time in the rain. Because it rains a lot, there will also be a lot of walking in mud, mush, and muck. Because you are walking in mud, mush, and muck you will spend a lot of time with wet feet. You will also get a lot of mud, muck, and mush on your clothes, on your face, and in your hair. Because it is a tropical rainforest, the temperature will be a bit on the warm side. In other words, not only will you get dirty, you will, heaven forbid, SWEAT! And then there are the bugs, all of which will look upon you as nothing more than a new item on the food chain. The secret to successfully enjoying yourself on an adventure of this sort is to realize, up front, that this is the way it is. The uncomfortable people are the ones who refuse to surrender to the circumstances and who try to stay neat, clean, dry, and smelling good in spite of it all. The important thing to remember is that there is an end to every day, clean clothes and a shower are waiting for you, and then you can prop up your feet and embellish the adventures of the day with a libation of your choice in hand. Believe us when we say that it is rather a splendid way to end a day, with your feet propped up, the Caribbean spread out before you, a gentle breeze on your face, and war stories from the day that will stay with you forever.

The adventure will begin with a flight to Panama City, Republic of Panama, on Saturday, January 14th, 2006. You will arrive at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City. Once there, you will most likely spend a night at a hotel. You will continue your journey to Bocas del Toro on the 15th. At Bocas del Toro, on Isla Colon, you will continue on to the Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation, which lies at the opposite end of the island from the town. The institute is a biological field station at which students from colleges and universities come to take courses relating to rainforest science. There are also a number of individual researchers who come here to work on projects of one sort or another. The northwest end of the island where ITEC exists consists of a small beachfront community named Boca del Drago. ITEC itself consists of a lab/classroom building and several beach type bungalows. Meals are served at the Restaurante Yarisnori, with which ITEC has a standing relationship. The meals are basic but good. The restaurant also has soft drinks, beer, and snacks. Fifty yards in front of ITEC is a Caribbean coral reef, fifty yards behind ITEC is an agricultural pasture and fifty yards beyond that is the swamp forest. There are several large areas of primary rainforest within a short walking distance.

From January 15th till the morning of January 21st, the rainforest and its surroundings will be yours to enjoy and explore. We would like to emphasize that your time at Boca del Drago is your time and that you are under no obligation to do anything at all! The trees are there and we are there to help you find and climb those trees, but unlike many such tours, there is no concrete itinerary. Certain adventures will be offered on certain days but it is entirely your choice as to whether you participate. In other words, life around Drago is very laid back!

On Saturday,January 21st, those of you who will not be participating in the cloudforest adventure will fly back to Panama City, and on the 22nd you will be returning to the United States or your point of origin, wherever it may be. Those participating in the cloudforest adventure will remain at ITEC until the following morning, January 22nd, then travel onward to the highland town of Boquete, at the foot of Volcan Baru, the highest point in Panama. Those who are participating only in the cloudforest adventure will have flown to Panama City on Saturday, January 21st, and will fly onward to David, near Boquete, on Sunday the 22nd. We will all meet in Boquete on Sunday, January 22nd. The cloudforest adventure will end on Saturday January 28th with a flight from David back to Panama City, followed by a flight from Panama City to home on Sunday, January 29th.

So what is this optional cloudforest adventure? The cloudforest is a type of tropical forest that occurs at higher elevations and hosts a different array of biological diversity than is to be seen in the typical lowland rainforest. The cloudforest, as its name implies, is a region dominated by fog and clouds. It is a region of mostly vertical terrain, most of the forest covering steep mountainsides. Temperatures are cooler than in the lowland forest, the insects are not nearly as voracious, but the wet and the mud are still there. The trees in the clouforest are not quite as tall as those in the lowland forest, but are covered in dense epiphytic growth giving them more of the typical look of the jungle that we tend to associate with the tropics. Because most of the trees are on mountainsides, almost every tree will offer a spectacular view, once climbed above the surrounding understory.

The cloudforest adventure will be centered in the mountain town of Boquete and our group will be housed in a hotel arrangement in the town itself. Day trips will be made into the surrounding forests. While the cloudforest is the most attractive option for climbing in this region there are also areas of tropical dry forest only a short drive away. There will also be an opportunity to spend a day at the hot springs in nearby Caldera, where the slothful may spend their day running back and forth between hot springs and cold river. A day at the hot springs is a unique adventure in and of itself.

This opportunity is for Tree Climbers who have taken a Basic or Intensive Basic tree climbing course, or those who are experienced tree climbers. SRT experience would be helpful but is not a requirement. Limited SRT training will be available on-site. Graduates of any basic tree climbing course are more than qualified for this adventure. ITEC would like to discourage the participation of those under eighteen years of age.

Cost of the adventure will be $850.00 for those enrolling in the rainforest adventure at Boca del Drago. For those enrolling in both the rainforest and cloudforest adventures the cost will be $1500. Those enrolling in only the cloudforest adventure will need to pay $700.00. Cost does not include transportation from your home to Bocas del Toro or to Boquete. For those involved in both adventures, the cost does include transportation from Bocas del Toro to Boquete.

For more information about this adventure, please contact Joe Maher at jmaher@treeclimbercoalition.org., Bill Maher at wcmaher@alltel.net, or Abe Winters at abewitheye@msn.com.

For information about the Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation go to www.itec-edu.org

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