LOCATION: Housesitting in Panama City, Panama
WEATHER: 80s and humid. Intermittent rain
Today was our big day. The maid comes on Fridays, so we can be away from the apartment longer. She is willing to take Mac, our dog, on his mid-day walks. With that it mind, we planned a trip to the rain forest to visit the Embara Village native Indians.
Our tour guide picked us up (we were the only ones on the tour) and we drove about 1.5 hours north into the jungle. For awhile we paralleled the Panama Canal, then over the primary lake that is part of the Canal. We stopped in a very primitive village with a few chickens running around. This is where we got into dug-out canoes to get to our location.
Two Indian boys helped us into the boats. The boys and men wear loin cloths and paint their bodies black with a jungle seed. The boat trip was about 40 minutes over a 15-foot lake that feeds the Gatun Lake which is part of the Canal. In the dry season, the lake runs dry, and people walk across the lake. After crossing the lake, we went down a jungly river with a fierce current.
We arrived at a small opening in the jungle, and heard jungle drums welcoming us…
We walked up a steep path to the main part of the village. We learned that 132 people live here. Spanish is their second language so we could communicate.
Each of the houses is a palapa-type cone-shaped building situated around a community dirt center. This house belongs to the chief.
This is another home. Each house has laundry out drying. Women wear these pieces of cloth as a skirt. They design the fabric themselves, with colors of the jungle.
The houses are built up high so that they don’t flood when the river rises. They have this type of ladder going up to the houses.
Most of the village people were there to host us. It was incredible. We were the only tourists! It did not feel touristy, even though they depend on these tourist visits for part of their livelihood. A lady spent about an hour describing their lives and showing us how they make their handicrafts. Everything is natural ,….They hike up to the mountains and cut down different barks, leaves, palm branches and dye them different colors with various leaves and nuts. Then they weave the fronds into baskets. A man showed us how they carve intricate pieces out of different wood.
The village doesn’t have any electricity. There are no outside influences – no refrigeration, no cell phones, TV, etc. They live a very simple life.
Each house has a “kitchen” like this one. A lady grilled us pieces of talapia and plaintains over this fire…
And then, she served us the food wrapped in plantain leaves…
See next post for more photos.