Saturday • September 19 • 05:19 PM • Filed under: Panama
Last Tuesday we did something unusual (for us) - we took a "tour", although a more accurate description would be "expedition". Our adventure started at eight in the morning and ended over ten hours later - it was a loooong day. We traveled, first by car - then dugout canoe, to a Embera village on the Chagres River in Panama's rainforest. Not all that far from the city - but we were transported to a whole different world.
Our guide was one of those interesting people that you tend to meet in unusual places, like Panama. Anne is a U.S. citizen, with a 20 year career as a animal trainer in film and TV. She meet her husband while working on a film in the jungles of Panama, and is now married to a member of the village we visited.
A little history. The Embera are one of the seven recognized tribes of indigenous people in Panama. They first migrated from Columbia to Panama’s Darien region. Then, over the last quarter-century, a few of these families pushed further west, establishing small villages on the Chagres River. Today, they live much as their ancestors did - except that they welcome tourists.
So, take a little trip with us as we visit Embera' Puru.
After our one hour dugout canoe trip we arrived to see a small village perched above a quiet section of the Chagres and were greeted by music and a gaggle of kids. Embera' Puru has about 100 inhabitants, fifteen or so thatched roof huts, a gigantic "town hall" (getting a new roof) and a small "guest house" for visitors. We were allowed to wander around on our own and then climbed the steps of the "guest house" for a short explanation of the Embera' culture and history - translated by Anne. Over in the corner Anne's mother-in-law was cooking tilapia and plantain, over an open fire, for our lunch - it would be served in banana leaf "plates" and was GREAT!
After lunch we took a little walk in the village's "pharmacy", the rainforest, and learned about the many plants used to treat everything from snake bites to headaches - no Advil or ER out here, just the village's Shaman and what nature provides. Back in the village the ladies attended a little basket weaving class, while I wandered around taking pictures of the kids playing.
The little ones, were playing a version of hide and seek. Next oldest, found the ropes hanging from the "town hall" great fun to play on. Another group was taking music lessons and they all would periodically take a run down to the river for a swim.
Then some shopping - Jane bought a basket and a couple of carvings. Anne had explained that these crafts were priced at one dollar for each DAY it took to make the item - how's that for a simple pricing structure. The last activity of the day - dancing, fortunately it's the custom that only the females dance (the males provide the music) so I wasn't "volunteered" to participate. Jane seemed to have fun!
After a little rest we made our way down to the river and boarded the canoe for our trip back to "civilization" - while I wondered who was more fortunate, those of us returning to the city or the resident's of Embera' Puru staying behind.