A Travellerspoint blog

Visit to an Embera Village

February 20

We got up early and got ready to be picked up at 7:30. Unfortunately, they did not arrive until 8:00, but in we got and went off to pick up the other people who were coming on the tour. This took over an hour in downtown Panama City in heavy traffic, going to several different hotels to get a couple of people at each one. Finally we got on the road out of town. It was about an hour's drive to get to a spot on Lake Alajuela, where we transferred into a dugout canoe with a motor on the back. There were 13 of us tourists and our tour guide, Harry, as well as the two Embera men who were handling the canoe. It was about a 40 minute trip in the canoe across the lake and up a tributary river to their village. At times the river was so shallow the two Embera men got out and pushed the canoe thru to deeper water. Luckily we made it without having to get out and push ourselves. When we arrived at the village, there was a band playing welcoming music and the villagers standing around waiting for us. Here is a video of our welcome:

We got seated in a thatched hut up off the ground and the headman gave us a lengthy explanation of how they live and some of their cultural practices. He spoke in Spanish and Harry translated to English for us.
While this was going on, two of the women were cooking us lunch. Then they delivered to us a piece of tilapia and patacones, which are fried plantain, in a cute little dish made of a heliconia leaf. They also prepared platters of pineapple, watermelon, and papaya, as well as bananas for us. A very nice lunch cooked over an open fire.
Lunch in its container

Lunch in its container

Curassow, sort of wild turkey

Curassow, sort of wild turkey


After lunch we could wander around and look at all the crafts they had for sale. They had carved wooden objects, carved taiga nut figures, woven plates and baskets, jewellery, and some colorful fabrics. Each family in the community (28 families) had a table with things for sale. We also had an opportunity to get one of their temporary tattoos, so I did right away and both Don and Rob did as well. These tattoos are done with a dye from a fruit, so they only last about a week. They use a little two pronged instrument to make the design and are very skilled at doing so. Everyone is tattooed, more or less, and they redo them all the time.
Carvings from taiga nut

Carvings from taiga nut

My tattoo

My tattoo


We also had a little walk in the jungle with the herbalist man who showed us some of the plants they use for different things.
Herbalist

Herbalist


Then we all gathered in their thatched recreation area and had some dancing and singing. Finally it was time to go and we all climbed into the canoe and retraced our path. Luckily, we were dropped off first so we didn't have to go thru the downtown torture test again. Traffic!!!
After a bit of a rest, we walked down to Via Argentina and had supper at Trapiche again. Rob thinks he may be suffering from gout so we went past the pharmacy and he got some pills to try. Hopefully, he will be able to be more pain free in the next few days.

Posted by katdill 19:03 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

Visiting the Panama Canal

February 19

Baru Lodge provides us with breakfast every day and we get to eat in a room open to the garden. Lovely view to have while eating.

Lovely garden

Lovely garden


Don and I went out and walked around the neighbourhood while Rob went for a Spanish lesson. We discovered a park with built in exercise equipment which was fun to try out and we got to bird watch as well. We also found the metro station and with the help of a nice security man, but more money on our transit card. Our plan was to leave for the canal when Rob got back. However, when he did get back he decided not to come with us. He had re-injured his big toe while we were in Las Tablas and it has been getting worse and worse, so he thought he should put it up for the afternoon and quit walking on it so much.
So Don and I went off on the subway - very new subway, clean and modern. The subway ends at Allbrook Mall, which is the transportation hub for the city. All the buses that leave for other parts of the country and all the city buses use it as the bus terminal. So you have the subway, the buses, and of course, the taxis waiting. We had lunch in the mall and then caught the bus to take us to the Miraflores Locks Visitor Centre.

Some of the out of town buses at the Mall

Some of the out of town buses at the Mall


It is a great museum with the history of building the canal and information on the expansion that is currently happening, so they can handle even larger ships. It was very interesting and as we finished going thru it, a ship came thru the lock that is right outside the building. So we got to watch the whole process and they said it was the largest size of ship that they can handle at the present. A very slow process and it was amazing what a tight fit it was.

Large ship being towed thru the lock

Large ship being towed thru the lock

Opening the lock gates

Opening the lock gates


Then we caught the bus and returned to the mall to catch the subway back home. We felt much more comfortable in the bus terminal this time than when we first arrived there from the airport to catch the bus out of town!
We got back and visited for a bit with a couple staying here, she is Panamanian and he is Dutch. They have been very helpful and friendly, with lots of suggestions for things to see and how to do it the best way. Then we went out for supper with Rob before returning to our room to get ready for tomorrow. We have a tour booked that is picking us up at 7:30 so we have to be up and ready early.

Posted by katdill 18:43 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

Back in Panama City

February 18

We were awakened by a huge racket this morning. Carnival was ending so part of it was shooting off fireworks and fire crackers for half an hour!! The sky was filled with smoke from them. At first we thought it was raining very hard from the noise of the crackers!!

Smoke from the fire crackers

Smoke from the fire crackers


We walked over to the bus depot first thing this morning. There were lineups of people getting tickets and then people waiting to get on a bus. They would fill one bus and then another one would pull up and get filled up. So we got on a nice bus and rode quite comfortably to Panama City. A 4 1/2 hour ride with one 15 minute break 1/2 way along.

Leaving our narrow rooms

Leaving our narrow rooms

Bus lineup

Bus lineup


We got a taxi to our hotel, the Baru Lodge. The taxi driver tried to really rip us off, but because Rob had taken a taxi from the same area he knew how much it should cost. So the price was negotiated! The lodge is a lovely little place. Nice rooms with rain shower heads and air conditioning. We went out and had some pizza for lunch and came back and rested for the afternoon. Having internet again means we have a little catching up to do. We went out and walked a few blocks to find a restaurant and had a good meal, although of course, prices here are higher than Las Tablas.

Posted by katdill 18:33 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

Carnival in Las Tablas

February 14 to 17

Don and I traveled from Boquete to Las Tablas easily on the bus. It took 4 different buses, and about 6 hours, but only cost about $15 each. Quite a deal! We called Vitalina, our landlady, when we arrived and found Rob had beaten us there. So they met us and took us over to our little place. And little is the word! The three of us were staying in a room about 9' wide with a double bed for us and a fold down couch for Rob, with only a buffet/drawer unit between, so no privacy. There was a pokey little kitchen and the bathroom was at the back. It was a bit dismaying, but for only 4 days we managed to cope with it quite well.

Looking in from the door

Looking in from the door

Kitchen

Kitchen

Bathroom

Bathroom

That first night we ate supper and walked around the town square a bit. We found out there would be a parade with floats later on, starting around 10 or so. We went back to the room and I decided to go to bed, but the guys went off and watched the show before coming home around midnight. To give you an idea of Carnival: there are two neighbourhoods, Arriba and Abajo, which are competing throughout Carnival. They each have a queen and every day they have a float with a band vehicle following in the afternoon and in the evening, they each have two floats with the band vehicle. So you have the town square, packed with people, and the floats go around the outside and down a couple of side streets, with the bands playing and also loudspeakers playing other music at the same time. Cacophony!! The floats are amazing and they have different floats every day, both afternoon and evening. They also start the parades each time with fireworks and/or firecrackers!

Daytime float

Daytime float

Nighttime float

Nighttime float

Band vehicle

Band vehicle

One of the queens on her float

One of the queens on her float


Also, during the heat of the day, the water tankers are there, spraying people to cool them down. Even if the water tanker doesn't get you, it's likely that some child or adult will spray you with their hand water pistols or dump a container of water on you if you look too dry!! Here's a video to show you a little of what it was like:

On our last day there, Vitalina and her husband, Hector, came and picked us up in the afternoon and took us out to Santo Domingo. It's a little town very close to Las Tablas. There we watched the people in their traditional costumes dance around their town square. Absolutely gorgeous and such graceful dancing! We spent a couple of hours there and then came back in to town and saw the same sort of thing in the square there. We went out for supper with them and then home. The guys went back to the town square for the last parade, but I was beat and stayed back and went to bed. After 4 days of parades, waiting for them to start for hours sometimes, as there is no fixed starting time, and mostly having no place to sit, it's quite hard work being a spectator! According to Vitalina, the queens only get to sleep a couple of hours a night. They are on the floats for hours each time and it must take hours to get their costumes on!! Hard work being royalty!

Rob, Vitalina, and I watching the dancing

Rob, Vitalina, and I watching the dancing

Gorgeous costumes

Gorgeous costumes

One of the queens with her headpiece on

One of the queens with her headpiece on

Posted by katdill 18:32 Archived in Panama Comments (1)

Saying Goodbye to New Friends

February 12 & 13

Yesterday morning we got an early start and went for a walk down Volcancito Road to check out a side road. It led to a new little development called Volcancito Village. Lots of empty lots, some new homes and lovely views of the mountains. We had decided not to go into town so spent the rest of the day pretty quietly until mid-afternoon. We sat around and visited with Ivan for awhile and then we went over to Larry and Cathy's place, just around the corner. They are a couple from Detroit that have decided to move to Boquete. They've sold their home in the US and are now renting an octagonal house for a year. We had a drink with them and some wonderful appetizers Cathy had made. A very nice visit. Larry is a photographer and took a great picture of us at the Jazz Festival. His website is www.larrywilkinsonphotography.com.

At the Jazz Festival Garden Party

At the Jazz Festival Garden Party


Today we went for a walk up the other way on Volcancito looking for a road Larry and Cathy had told us about. It's a gravel road that lead right down into town. Nice little road, although the logic of walking uphill further in order to go downhill is a little strained. We didn't walk all the way into town, just part of the way, which was very pleasant.
We spent most of the day cleaning house and packing up to leave tomorrow. We checked on the hummer babies and here they are:

Hummers looking for mom

Hummers looking for mom


We had made a plan with Ivan to make supper with him (our last supper) but around 4 or so, Larry and Cathy came over to take our picture with the lovely rainbow we were enjoying today. The rainbow started early and lasted for a long time. They were going downtown for supper to Mike's Global Grill where there was live music. So we changed our plan and all three of us went with them. They have a car so that makes it very easy.

Larry, Cathy, and Ivan with the rainbow

Larry, Cathy, and Ivan with the rainbow

They are also going to give us a ride down to catch the bus in the morning. Very nice people, indeed.
When we got back from the restaurant we found two scorpions in our room. One was a tiny one on the floor and in the bathroom sink there was one which was 2 inches long. Yikes! So we had to dispose of them before relaxing. We'd had one other scorpion come in one night, but it was on the floor and very easy to step on and kill.

Scorpion in the sink

Scorpion in the sink

So tomorrow we travel to Las Tablas for Carnival. We may not be able to post very easily while we are there so it may be 4 or 5 days before there is another posting.

Posted by katdill 17:32 Archived in Panama Comments (1)

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