When writer and intrepid traveller Sarah Woods set about discovering the jungles of Central and South America, her quest – to catch sight of one of the few last breeding pairs of Harpy Eagles – took her into some of the most remote tangles of vine-knotted jungles on the planet. In Panama’s rain-soaked Chiriquí highlands, she navigated seemingly impassable trails with a machete to reach Quetzals with resplendent jewel tone plumage.
Sarah sought the native wisdom of the indigenous Embera deep in the Darien Jungle in order to encounter the world’s largest and most powerful birds of prey, the elusive Harpy Eagle. Using razor-sharp talons to hunt and kill sloths and monkeys with deadly precision, these mammoth, winged dinosaurs hide a lesser-known, softer side: devoting great care to raising their young for the first two years of their life. Seldom seen in the wild, Sarah struggled to demystify the fear-riddled legends and superstitions that earned the Harpy Eagle its name from early explorers.
Sarah’s voyage taught her much about the rich glories and mesmerising spectacle of the natural world and also its challenges and dangers. She met the albino ‘moon children’ of Kuna Yala, swam in the Panama Canal, encountered left-wing guerrillas at the heart of Colombia’s five-decade conflict, and witnessed the Amazonian shape-shifting beliefs of the jungle afterlife. Sarah survived landslides, crash landings, mammoth floods and culture clashes in mysterious untrodden lands, learning much about aspects of herself from the incredible wildlife and tribal peoples she encountered – arguably her biggest journey.
On a wing and a prayer will be released on 21st May and can be ordered from Bloomsbury.