Thursday, May 20, 2010

Real Gold in Panama

Searching for treasure but finding gold.

The treasure map lists three places for this bend in the river:

Last Name Lookout, Monkey Falls and Penis Point.

The scroll in the map tube has the next riddle: Arnold Schwarzenegger has a big one, Michael J. Fox has a short one, Cher doesn’t have one and the pope has one but he doesn’t use it anymore.
Which spot in this bend of the river do you look for the next riddle? Most people head to Penis Point – obvious right? You find the next map tube and to your disappointment are the words Wrong !!! That’s right… the best answer is Last Name… you should have headed to Last Name Lookout for the next map tube and riddle.

This is the premise for the Lost and Found Treasure Hunt… a three to six hour journey through the Fortuna Forest Reserve, across rivers and waterfalls, through giant strangler figs and a garden labyrinth that requires both the brains of Sherlock Holmes and the balls of Indiana Jones.

Our team of four, two guys and two girls started off ok, finishing the labyrinth in good time. But around hour three, when, we were told, the record holders had already finished the whole hunt we were deep in the Forest of the Elders unsure of where to go next. Our team of four split into two, saving time by going in two different directions to find the next map tube with the next riddle. My buddy Max and I were pretty damned sure we had the right answer and our fellow hunters Samantha and Adriana were equally certain… we would become rivals with only one pair partaking in the spoils of victory -- Boys against the girls.

Max and I hit our stride solving each riddle the first time and making good time. We were back an hour later at the main lodge and presented the treasure to the owners of The Lost and Found and were already half finished the bottle of Abuelo rum when the girls came back.

The girls came back an hour later just as the sun was beginning to set behind Volcan Baru. ‘We won,’ we told them. But they didn’t seem to care.

"We found gold at the river," Sam said. "Your treasure isn’t even real." Max told them that if they really found gold we would buy them the bottle of rum they would have won for the treasure hunt. Fine with me.

Sam opened her hands and showed us the gold… not real gold but actually a rare gold beetle. She dropped it in my hands and legs digging into my skin made it actually feel like gold. "Nice I told her," but not real gold… it was a trick. Real gold is worth money.

Not so said Spider Ray, a spider expert and sometimes volunteer at The Lost and Found jungle hostel. If you have the right permits these sell for more than $200 a piece. Alas, we had no permits, so I argued, without worth it is not gold and therefore we were not required to buy the girls a bottle of rum.

"Life is not a pursuit for gold all the time," Adriana got philosophical on me. "Real gold is there for those who open their eyes."

That is the way things go at The Lost and Found sometimes… I met birders at my time there that thought the Barenecked Umbrella Bird was gold. Ray thought the rare tarantula he found was gold. Me, I, can’t sit in the forest and wait for gold… I like the adventure. For me gold is the hunt, it’s the river I wouldn’t have crossed or the tree I wouldn’t have climbed if I weren’t on the hunt… even if in the end it is only rum I win… hell isn’t that what pirates spent their booty on anyway?

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