Day 104: Fortuna Cloud Forest, Panama
That’s what I wondered as I contemplated going to the Lost and Found Lodge. Okay I wasn’t that naive, but I didn’t want to be in a downpour each day.
I heard lots of recommendations, yet was still on the fence often referring to it as some kind of green-eco-lodge-rainforesty-hostel-thing.
I didn’t want to go to some Costa Rica inspired green-washing lodge but in the end I decided to go for one night and if it rained I could always leave.
Once I arrived I knew the place was different. After a strenuous hike, foolishly wearing flip flops, I was greeted with smiles, a glass of water and a heart stopping view of clouds climbing over the volcanoes.
After a brief rest, the hostel volunteers showed me the site.
A large dorm with 3-storey bunkbeds, an affordably-priced pantry to make food, a series of maps for trekking the land along with photos of animals you may see along the way.
The lodge is located in the Fortuna Forest Reserve in Panama. It’s protected by a Quebecois-owned dam company, which is both a curse and a blessing.
While it means that no trees may be cut down, it also means that the dam has supreme power over what happens in the area.
When it first proposed the dam it promised the community that tourists would flock to see a forest reserve.
But nothing has been done to progress this.
As nearly all of the residents are legally squatters they cannot secure loans to build structures or a business that would attract tourists and at any moment they could be removed from the land.
The hostel, one of the few owners of its own land, has had many issues with the dam but that could be an entire post on its own.
At $12 a night with the third night free, the Lost and Found appears to be a pricey hostel, but you begin to see that it’s not like foreign owned hostels that just take from the community.
The two most popular tours, a nature hike and a coffee tour, are not profit centers for the hostel, in fact they receive no money as it all goes directly to the local tour guide and farmer.
As an open concept structure, during the day hummingbirds erratically fly around you and at night.
Olingos and cacomistles approach bananas left out on a ledge (this prevents them from getting into the trash at night and keeps them on a natural diet) and I have seen so many spiders, beetles and other insects that I have lost my former instinct to scream like a little girl.
Although I had only intended to spend two nights the third night is free so it just makes sense to stay.
If I weren’t heading down to Ecuador I could see myself becoming like the others who planned for only a few days but ended up staying for weeks.
Note: The folks at the Lodge and Found Lodge were kind enough to send me the photo of the beetle as I was too lazy to get my camera when they appeared.