Traveling Tegs: Flying Jayhawks marvel at scenic wildlife and impressive engineering in Central America
Posted on Mar 11, 2016 in Alumni News and News
The new year began with another Flying Jayhawks adventure. I was excited to host a group of 27 Jayhawks as we explored all that Costa Rica and Panama has to offer. We cruised with stops at national parks, islands, and a trip through the engineering marvel that is the Panama Canal.
Before boarding the Star Breeze ship, we toured the city of San Jose on our first day, and capped off visits to the National Theater and National Museum and butterfly garden with a Costa Rican lunch at the Hacienda Villa Hermosa.
We spent the next two days in Costa Rica. The early wakeup call at the in Quepos was well worth it, as we were the first groups to enter the Manuel Antonio National Park. With the help of our fantastic guide, we spotted white-faced capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, two and three-toed sloths, bats and a red-eyed leaf frog as we walked along the trails that led down to the beach. The next day we visited Curu National Wildlife Refuge. It was a wet landing, and we took the zodiac boats up to the beach and walked in from there.
Another wonderful guide walked us through the refuge, where we saw more wildlife including monkeys, iguana, deer, raccoons and a variety of birds. It was extra special to see the red macaws—they flew in pairs, and our guide said it was rare to see the spectacular birds. The best part was that the beach was empty except for our group, which was very relaxing because we didn’t feel rushed and were able to take in the experience and ask plenty of questions. At the end, our guide opened up a fresh coconut for us to eat.
On to Panama! Isla Coiba National Park was a prison from 1919 to 2004, where the most dangerous criminals were housed. It is now a treasured marine park and abundant ecosystem. We took a quick hike and then enjoyed our time on the beach, playing in the ocean, or snorkeling. We spent the next day in Panama City. We took in a quick video at the Panama Canal museum located at the Mira Flores set of locks, and then we had time to explore the museum exhibits before enjoying a private lunch on the third floor.
It was fun to watch two ships side by side in the locks go up and then down as they moved along; it was a good perspective to see the view from land before we made the journey ourselves the next day. After lunch, we headed to the Biodiversity museum to learn more about what the land has to offer with the different species of wildlife. Next, we went to the old town for a quick tour and shopping at a local marketplace. It was interesting to see the contrast between the old town and its close proximity to the new modern city with towering skyscrapers.
That evening we had a wonderful reception on board the ship, inviting our local KU alumni living in Panama to join us on the ship for dinner with our travelers. It was exciting to connect Jayhawks together around the world. The ten Jayhawks living in Panama who were able to join us were able to make connections not only with the traveling Jayhawks, but with other locals, as many of them were meeting each other for the first time. They have already made plans to get together and cheer on the basketball team this season!
Then, it was transit day: our turn to go through the Panama Canal. We had a morning time slot. The morning transfers flow from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and in the afternoon it changes directions. The pilot boat came up to our ship so the Panama Canal Authority pilot could come aboard to steer the ship. As we approached the first set of locks at Mira Flores, where we toured the day before, two men rowed out to throw the lines to our ship. One rows and the other stands—yes, he stands, he doesn’t sit. Once they connect the ropes forward and aft to both the starboard and port sides, they connect them to the “mules” or the locomotives that help center and guide the ship through the locks. It took all day, but we navigated through the three sets of locks locations (each location also has three locks). At the last set, the Gatun locks, we got a good view of the Canal expansion, viewing area, and museum that we visited at the end of our trip.
We enjoyed one more relaxing beach day at the San Blas islands at the end of our trip. Water activities were available, including stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, a paddle boat and snorkeling. The water was clear with an abundance of coral. People leisurely went exploring on coconut walks around the small island where we met the indigenous Kuna people of Panama. They were selling beautiful hand stitched molas, and beaded jewelry they made.
This was another fantastic experience hosting a Flying Jayhawks adventure. I enjoyed all of our passengers and had fun getting to know them and learning about their life experiences.
Until my next travels, Rock Chalk!
—Tegan Thornberry, or “Traveling Tegs” as she’s affectionately known around the office, serves as assistant director of membership and co-hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip to Costa Rica and the Panama Canal in January. She also brings cookies every Tuesday. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the 2016 schedule, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.
Watch our slideshow below to see more pictures from this trip, or view them on Flickr.