A Dif­fe­rent Cam­pout

The Sarigua Na­tio­nal Park

Excelencias Turísticas del caribe y las Américas (Centroamerica) - - Destination - By: Mai­té Ro­drí­guez Pho­tos: TETEOLIVELLA.COM, Al­fre­do Mai­quez, Cour­tesy of IPAT

The Sarigua Na­tio­nal Park is no doubt a pla­ce that has not­hing to do with Pa­na­ma’s la­vish ever­green sce­nery. Ba­rely 28 mi­les from Chi­tre, the ca­pi­tal of the He­rre­ras pro­vin­ce in the Azue­ro Pe­nin­su­la, trip­pers can now find an arid coas­tal area, the re­sult of con­ti­nuous salt­wa­ter floo­ding that ha­ve oc­cu­rred in the Pa­na­ma­nian isth­mus. Dry and crac­ked soils low in fo­lia­ge do­mi­na­te the nearly 20,000 acres of the Sarigua Na­tio­nal Park, ho­me to dregs and ruins of ma­jor pre-his­pa­nic settle­ments and a for­mer far­ming vi­lla­ge that are so­mew­he­re bet­ween 11,000 and 5,000 years old, res­pec­ti­vely. In that fa­ra­way past, Sarigua used to of­fer the fi­nest con­di­tions for a good li­festy­le: lush ve­ge­ta­tion, gra­zing areas and abun­dan­ce of birds for hun­ting, let alo­ne ar­ma­di­llos, rac­coons, white-tail deer and ot­her wild­li­fe spe­cies. But to­day’s Sarigua is really on the flop si­de of the coin. Everyt­hing the­re ma­kes vi­si­tors be­lie­ve they ha­ve arri­ved in a de­sert. And even though not a sin­gle drop of wa­ter can be found in this area, the Na­tio­nal Park is far from a ge­nui­ne de­sert zo­ne. The ag­gres­si­ve sa­li­ni­za­tion pro­cess the re­gion has en­du­red has gi­ven way to the for­ma­tion of a sea-stric­ken strip of land that co­vers as much as 80 per­cent of the en­ti­re sur­fa­ce and keeps high salt le­vels on the ground as a re­sult of tidal wa­ves. The con­for­ma­tion of this de­sert-li­ke lands­ca­pe is a con­se­quen­ce of gra­dual de­vas­ta­tion the area has go­ne th­rough over the past 2,500 years due to lack of ade­qua­te ur­ban and hu­man plan­ning.

At only 148 mi­les from Pa­na­ma City, in the coas­tal area of the Pa­ri­ta Gulf, an arid and in­hos­pi­ta­ble lands­ca­pe ma­kes tra­ve­lers be­lie­ve they are in the midd­le of a de­sert. That little nook har­bors the Sarigua Na­tio­nal Park and its highly sa­li­ni­zed con­di­tions. The pla­ce is so desola­te that it doesn’t seem to be a part of the hu­mid Pa­na­ma­nian te­rri­tory

In the mid 20th cen­tury, co­lo­ni­zers came and de­vas­ta­ted the zo­ne. Da­ma­ges cau­sed by a sh­rimp pro­ces­sing company ins­ta­lled in Sarigua we­re al­so paramount. Coas­tal fo­rests that used to knit them­sel­ves to­get­her with man­gro­ve thic­kets we­re vir­tually do­ne in. To­day, a ma­jor ero­sion pro­blem is un­der­way due to the wa­ter­cour­ses of the Pa­ri­ta and Vi­lla ri­vers.

Pa­na­ma­nian aut­ho­ri­ties are con­duc­ting re­search stu­dies in an ef­fort to th­wart the four main cau­ses of sa­li­ni­za­tion in this area: the ne­ga­ti­ve ef­fects of winds, high tem­pe­ra­tu­res, salt and ero­sion.

In 1979, the zo­ne was de­cla­red a “pro­tec­tion area of na­tu­ral re­sour­ces,” a mo­ve that even­tually prom­pted the crea­tion of a Na­tio­nal Park that to­day boasts great na­tio­nal and in­ter­na­tio­nal re­cog­ni­tion for its his­to­ric, anth­ro­po­lo­gi­cal, eco­lo­gi­cal and eco­no­mic va­lues.

Li­ke in the rest of the country, this re­gion is mar­ked by well-de­fi­ned dry and rainy sea­sons. The dry sea­son stret­ches out from De­cem­ber th­rough April, whi­le the rainy sea­son ex­tends from May to No­vem­ber with an­nual ave­ra­ges of roughly 60 in­ches of rain.

Al­so du­ring the dry sea­son, Sarigua is hit by hu­ge sands­torms and even a few mi­ra­ges can be ma­de out in the area. Es­pe­cially in the sum­mer, a con­si­de­ra­ble chunk of the park turns in­to so­me sort of smooth-dust de­sert. The su­rroun­ding ve­ge­ta­tion con­sists of cac­tu­ses, man­gro­ves and dwarf ca­rob trees, among ot­her spe­cies.

The Sarigua Na­tio­nal Park is strip­ped of wild­li­fe spe­cies due to the pre­vai­ling de­sert con­di­tions. Ho­we­ver, a num­ber of ma­ri­ne birds can be seen, as well as small mam­mals, rep­ti­les and amp­hi­bio­us, plus 162 dif­fe­rent kinds of mi­gra­ting birds that ha­ve been log­ged on the pre­mi­ses.

Tem­pe­ra­tu­res sway bet­ween 41 de­grees Cel­sius at day­ti­me and 19 de­grees in the night, a range si­mi­lar to that of a de­sert that ma­kes Sarigua the only lo­ca­tion in Pa­na­ma whe­re sud­den temp fluc­tua­tions oc­cur, a pro­cess that trig­gers the quick crac­king and pul­ve­ri­za­tion of rocks.

Gi­ven its ama­zing scien­ti­fic va­lues, this area has drawn scho­lars and stu­dents ali­ke, and has pa­ved the way for the de­ve­lop­ment of eco­no­mic ac­ti­vi­ties, such as far­ming, dis­ti­lling in­dus­tries and pot­tery.

At the Sarigua Na­tio­nal Park, fol­klo­ric traditions ha­ve a spa­ce of their own with such events as the Be­rra­que­ra Car­ni­vals and the fa­mous Manito Fes­ti­val in Ocu.

Ot­her sight­seeing spots in­si­de the park are the Ca­ri­ta Pin­ta­da ar­cheo­lo­gi­cal si­te, the Na­tio­na­lity Mu­seum in Ocu and the Green Igua­na Project, whe­re vi­si­tors can ta­ke a clo­ser look at the bree­ding pro­cess of big li­zards in cap­ti­vity. Don’t miss the Hum­boldt Eco­lo­gi­cal Sta­tion –a safe ha­ven for mi­gra­ting birds in Pa­na­ma- and the Ce­re­gon de Man­gle, ho­me to a co­lony of ro­yal he­rons and to their only nes­ting pla­ce in the en­ti­re country.

For good cam­ping at the Sarigua Na­tio­nal Park, vi­si­tors should carry all the wa­ter they are going to need –for furt­her in­for­ma­tion, wa­ter gets pretty hot at noon. Sin­ce the­re’re no sho­wers or bat­hing stalls, the right thing to do is wait for the sun to be low in the sky and stri­ke your tent in the midd­le of this “de­sert”. The fo­llo­wing mor­ning, as the day starts to get bal­mier, it’s ti­me to pack and mo­ve out to one of the many nearby ri­vers and bea­ches.

Sarigua is the only lo­ca­tion in Pa­na­ma whe­re sud­den temp fluc­tua­tions oc­cur, a pro­cess that trig­gers the quick crac­king and pul­ve­ri­za­tion of rocks.

The ag­gres­si­ve sa­li­ni­za­tion pro­cess the re­gion has en­du­red has gi­ven way to the for­ma­tion of a sea-stric­ken strip of land that co­vers as much as 80 per­cent of the en­ti­re sur­fa­ce and keeps high salt le­vels on the ground as a re­sult of tidal wa­ves.

Newspapers in Spanish

Newspapers from Cuba

© PressReader. All rights reserved.