After a rough autumn, I decided to go through my photos and find things I haven't written about and some of the great things happened in 2016 Turns out, I never wrote on the blog about how much fun I had on my trip to Honduras with Wildside Nature Tours. I also think that I needed some time away from Honduras to digest what I saw. Honduras is heartbreakingly beautiful. Amidst all the rugged wildness, ancient culture and eye searing color, it's also a developing nation and life is very different than it is in the United States. So while there was overwhelming beauty and adventure to be had, there was also immense poverty.
We ended up staying at two different places in Honduras. The first two nights we were at Panacam Lodge which was foggy with mystery when we arrived. You just knew cool-ass wildlife was hidden, tucked away in the greenery.
I wanted to do a little unpacking and freshening up before our group met for dinner. As I took things out of my suitcase, I noted a spot where there was some kind of excrement. It was large, almost as large as a mouse but not quite. I looked up from where the pile was and just where the plaster met the wood in the ceiling I saw a crevice and some movement, definitely insect and probably a bit larger than what I'm used to.
When you travel, especially to countries where it's warm and humid--critters in your room are going to happen. Even if you paid for a single occupancy room on your tour, I guarantee you will have had some sort of roommate that's neither bipedal nor necessarily a mammal. I'm generally so tired at the end of the day that I can't care about what is in the room with me. There was a time I inadvertently spent the night with a bat at Canopy Tower in Panama--not the worst thing I've ever woken up next to and those are the sorts of things that add character to your travel stories. I opted to continue unpacking and ignore whatever movement was coming from the crevice in the top of my room.
Then I made the mistake of looking up once more.
Very large ants were now emerging from the crevice. Now when I say large, I mean about the size of a multivitamin that you take in the morning and wash down with a giant swig of juice so it doesn't get lodged in your throat. Even more alarming was that some had wings. I had a queen hatch happening in my room! This wasn't going to be just a few ants. This was going to be an "Antenning." I can put up with a few bugs, but I really didn't want to wake up at 2am and be covered in about 500 winged ants fluttering around looking for any crevice available to start a new colony. I considered the possibility of leaving doors and windows open, but considering that was even more insect life outside that would be more than happy to come in, I ruled that out. Also, a hatch would no doubt attract bats and I don't need to sleep with one again.
I put everything back in my suitcase and closed it up. I took some pictures of the ants and I went to the front desk with my haphazard Spanish to see about getting another room. I showed them the picture of the ants and tried to explain and got reassuring faces smiling and saying, "Sí, hormigas!"
Mercifully, Elmer Escoto our guide was walking by and heard my voice, "Amiga, what's going on?"
I showed him my phone and he said, "Oh no, you are about to have a lot of ants."
I asked about the possibility of switching rooms but the lodge was packed. "Amiga, go to dinner and I will make sure this is taken care of for you, ok," he said and I dutifully obeyed.
I'm an adventurous eater, especially when away from home so if there's an entire fish body that's been fried on the menu, I'm going to eat it. Elmer eventually joined our group and assured me the lodge was taking care of things. The fish practically melted in my mouth and paired well with the pickled onions. And any day plantains are involved with a meal is a great day. We dined, we discussed the the following day's itinerary and the bird possibilities ahead.
I went back to my room and heady notes of insecticide punctuated the air to my bungalow. The crevice showed no signs of life. My floor, however, looked like a battlefield out of Game of Thrones with about 500 dead and dying ants. I giggled and decided on a new rule for my room--unless you are laying on the bed, shoes must be worn at all times. I fell asleep safe in the knowledge that I would not be covered in in flying ant queens and let the days travel fatigue carry me away.
My alarm went off the next morning and there were even more dead and dying ants on the floor. I quickly dressed for our morning breakfast-birding and figured that the staff would sweep up the ant carcasses while I was out and I would return to an ant-free room.
We got in some woodcreeper and motmot action then had some breakfast. Everyone was curious about my ant situation and mercifully I was the only one who had an ant hatch. We birded areas off of Panacam grounds and I'll write more about that in another post. But just birding around the trails of the Lodge was very fun. Here's an eBird list of what was around the lodge. The bat falcon above was just outside the lodge grounds and ended up in an eBird incidental report.
When we did come back from birding other areas I was anxious to see what my room was like. Clearly the staff had worked hard to sweep up the ants...but more were still stumbling out of the crevice. I spent the night with fewer dead and dying ants and the next day we headed to Pico Bonito Lodge. When I was escorted to my bungalow at that lodge, I instantly heard a "chirp chirp chirp chirp" sound. Nervous, I looked at the staff and they said, "It's a house gecko, all the rooms have them."
I was ecstatic. If I had a house gecko, they would eat any ants about to hatch. They were a preferable roommate.
Panacam is a lovely lodge and close to many birding locations--including a spot for resplendent quetzals. The ant incident is just part of the joy of nature travel to remote areas. The staff did the best they could to keep me comfortable during the incident. And as I said, it's fun story to whip out at dinner parties when people ask me about my travels.
Ants aside or the "antsident" as Non Birding Bill calls it, if you are ever interested in traveling with me, especially if you're interested in digiscoping, laughing and relaxing as well as birding check out my tours page.