Friday, March 12, 2010

Day 7: Puerto Amador, Panama

We arrived at the river in Chagres National Park and were met by native Indians who were to take us to their Embera village in authentic dugout canoes... with a twist! They had 9.9 HP outboard motors instead of oars.

Lorne took this picture of Shirley and me, hanging on for dear life as we sped full throttle up the river!

We are in a rain forest... and this was the only day of our entire trip where we experienced precipitation. Everything was very lush and green, as you might expect in a rain forest.

The 15-minute journey up the river felt a lot like a dugout canoe race. Our skipper was not about to slack off and lose this race for anything. He kept the throttle full open all the way while we scanned the shore for crocodiles, and looked in the trees for monkeys and toucans and sloths... all of which must have ran for cover the second they heard the whining of our outboard motor... but it was still awesome beautiful!

We were greeted to the Embera village by several teenage boys and girls with colorful skirts...

And some boys on drums, etc. had a small Wood Band to entertain us. A Wood Band is not the same as a Rock Band... there are no guitars. The music is limited to hitting sticks together and beating drums.

We climbed the hill from the bank of the river to enter a large thatched roof auditorium full of very colourful stuff for sale. No one stopped at first to buy anything, but after we had spent some time with the Indians and heard their stories, everyone wanted to buy some souvenirs... which we later saw at every other port we were at. We suspected many of the souvenirs came from the Philippines.

We were then directed to another similar large thatched roof auditorium that had benches around the perimeter where we all sat down for a presentation. It was basically a Q and A with the Indian band chief.

Following that a lady explained some of the methods of making some of the baskets and dying the grasses different colors for making the designs.

While we were being educated, the Indian ladies had been busy preparing our lunch, which a couple of teenage girls brought around to us all.

In a palm leaf wrap was a wonderful variation on "Fish & Chips." The chips were actually fried plantain and they tasted great. It was all done in such a nice presentation. Then for dessert we had slices of the most delicious pineapple I think I have ever tasted, plus some papaya.

A group of guys started off the afternoon entertainment with music by the "Wood Band." Soon after the ladies came out and started to move around the circle dancing. The audience was invited to come forward and dance with the girls... And Gail saw a young man with no clothes that caught her eye...

In no time at all she was dancing with this young naked Indian boy. We will be talking about this dance until the end of time!

We got an afternoon shower, which had Lorne and me looking at this thatched roof in amazement at how well it kept out the rain.

While Gail was on a roll, she found a couple of Indian boys to have her picture taken with...

So Lorne found a couple of young ladies who were willing to pose with him. There were some topless girls there too, but since Gail was the photographer, you can guess why that never happened.

Before we left, there was opportunity for a shopping competition in that first thatched auditorium. We also walked around the camp and took a few photos of the homes where the Indians lived.

"We don't need to increase our goods nearly as much as we need to scale down our wants. Not wanting something is as good as possessing it." -Donald Horban

They certainly seem to be satisfied with these most modest accommodations. It couldn't be more basic.

"Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you." -Lao Tzu

As we were riding on our lifeboat tender back to the cruise ship, I reflected on where we had been all day and where we were now going.... from a grass hut to a four star hotel on the seas.

Or was this all just a front... a tourist attraction where Princess hires these Indians to put on a show for us, sets them up with all the merchandise to sell to the tourists, and at the end of the day they get bussed back to Panama City and stay in a good hotel.

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