Archive for 2006

Embera Drua Village

Wednesday December 27, 2006
Today we went to visit the Embera Drua Indian village on the Rio Chagres above Lago Alajuela.  The day started at 7AM by meeting with other cruisers at the Balboa Yacht Club Bar.  Rides to the river-landing had been arranged so we were soon in cars heading out to the lake that feeds the Panama Canal.  It was about a 1 ½ hour drive and we made only one stop.  When we were almost to the landing we stopped at the park offices to pay the park fees. 

At the river-landing we boarded wooden cayucas with outboard motors for the trip across the lake and up the river to the village.  It was about a 2 hour trip up and somewhat less down.  On the way up we took a side channel to visit a waterfall and swim at its base.  The last stretch of river to the village was swift moving water and very shallow over rocky shallows.  There were two of the Embera men with poles to get us thru this shallow area of the river where to outboard was of little use.  When we arrived at the village we were greeted by a small group of young men playing native instruments and received a nice welcome by the females of the village.  They escorted us up to the village that is built on a flat area above the river.  Their homes are all built above the ground on stilts to help keep the bugs and animals of the jungle out of them, at least as much as possible.  One of the village men gave a talk on the history of the village followed by a talk on the basket weaving that is done by the woman.  The men do the carving of wood and tagua nuts.  Bill and I purchased a carved tagua nut that represents a turtle hatching from a white egg.  The turtle was very intricately carved. 

The village that we are visiting had moved to this site from the Darien area in 1970 with just 4 families.  They now have about 23 family groups, but in the meantime, the area that they had settled has been declared to be a Panama National Park. They had existed by marketing their agriculture products, but they no longer are allowed grow or harvest from the forest more than is needed for their personal use.  A few years back they started inviting tourists into the village and now some of the large cruise ships have shore excursions to visit them.  They not only show the tourists something of their lives but crafts, baskets, wood carvings and jewelry are available for the tourists to purchase. 

We took a short hike with one of the old men of the village.  He pointed out several of the plants that they use for medicinal purposes.   Lunch was served back at the main building.  Some of the woman had been cooking it over an open fire.  Lunch consisted of a large piece of river fish and patacones (platanos that are sliced thin and then fried) and was very good.  After lunch the village got together and performed some dances for the tourists. 

This is the high tourist season for the village as there is still enough water in the river to motor to the village and yet the dry season is soon starting, so there is a higher probability that one’s visit will be in dry weather.  During this time of year groups from cruise ships anchored in Colon are brought in, as well as smaller groups by the various tourist agencies in Panama City.  During our visit there were only two other small groups visiting the village.  We had been scheduled to go the day before but we moved our date when the villagers discovered that a cruise ship was scheduled to bring a large group of guests that day. 

Embera 021.jpg

Cayuca Ride up the River.  This is the second cayuca in our group.

Embera 040.jpg

Swimming at the base of the waterfall in clean fresh water, slightly cool.

Embera 161.jpg

The village when we first entered at the top of the path.

Embera 085.jpg

Lunch was cooked for us in the traditional manner

Embera 125.jpg

Children are curious about the photos taken of them

Embera 130.jpg

Baskets that the villagers have made are for sale to the tourists in the space below the building.

Embera 181.jpg

The villagers dancing for the tourists.

Christmas 2006

Christmas Eve I cooked a dinner on the boat and we had Ed, from Kuay, over to eat with us.  Ed’s boat was still out of the water when we met him ashore to enjoy a few beers while the dinner was cooking.  He returned to his boat only to discover that the boat was going to be launched with the 6PM high tide!  We put dinner on hold until Ed could get his boat safely checked out and tied back on a buoy.  He arrived about 7PM and the food came out of the oven.  The baked potatoes and spinach soufflé were good, but the small boneless ham that I had purchased frozen in pretty holiday green-and-red foil was no better than just a slab of lunch meat.  We enjoyed the dinner anyway!! 

Christmas Day at 2PM, we met with several other cruisers up at the Balboa Yacht Club bar for rides to Angel’s house where we enjoyed a very fun afternoon and evening.   She had about 30 people over to enjoy the friendship and food.  We spent several delightful hours visiting with the new friends that we met.  Angel’s home was all decorated for the season and – although no snow fell outside – we had a grand rainstorm that lasted for several hours.  Just as evening was darkening outside, Angel served the Christmas feast and it was wonderful.  There was a real turkey and a real ham and all the usual goodies to go with it.  Everyone stuffed themselves with the delicious food.  We then exchanged the small gifts that everyone had brought.  Some of the gifts were a real hoot and several of the guests had never participated in that type of gift exchange, but they soon caught on and enjoyed the fun. 

Before leaving we were treated to some fabulous desserts.  Angel is a professional pastry cook so you can imagine how good they were!!!  Even though we were still quite full from the meal we enjoyed more than enough of the sweets.  A group of the female cruisers helped with the kitchen clean-up, washing the stacks of dishes and even bagging the left over food for the refrigerator.  The washing was made fun by all the “girl talk” that took place in the absence of male company.  Shirley, of Windsong, had arranged drivers so we did not have to hunt down taxis for the ride back to the marina.  We returned to Lanikai to realize that it was already after 10PM and bed time.

Christmas 010.jpg

Bill is greeted by the family’s pet

Christmas 020.jpg

The home is well decorated for the season

Christmas 030.jpg


Christmas 033.jpg

The food tables were covered with all the proper Christmas goodies

Christmas 045.jpg

The gift exchange was almost the last activity.

Visit to Casco Viejo, Panama

Thursday, December 14, 2006 
A visit to Old Panama, Casco Viejo  

Today we took off by catching the mini-bus to Cinco de Mayo plaza and the start of the walking street that leads to the Old City called Casco Viejo.  The “walking street” is Avenida Central and is like an open mall.  It has been closed to car traffic and the vendors have stalls that line the street.  Since it is almost Christmas there were lots of shoppers.  The street is a shopping mall all the way to Plaza Santa Ana and the beginning of the old city.  Panama City was moved to this site to prevent its sacking by the pirates in the 17th century.  It was constructed inside a defensive wall and the shallows of the bay made it difficult for the pirate ships to get close.  There are many old buildings with hanging balconies and restoration is in process on many of them.  Others have already been restored and some are still homes to some of Panama’s poor.  We walked to the central plaza and then got hung up in the very nice Panama Canal museum in the old post office building; its all labeled in Spanish, so there are seldom many tourists in this excellent and comprehensive museum.  As we got too tired to view more exhibits the rains started.  We waited in the lobby until the downpour cut back, then with umbrellas we walked out to the point discovering a new walking park built above the old wall.  There were several Cuna women selling their molas, but otherwise the path was mostly devoid of people.  We followed the streets closest to the water – with great views over to the new city – and ended up passing the president’s palace, which we only knew about because guards searched our bags as we entered this area.  We got a nice view over the fish market, but turned back toward the main streets before getting that far.  We stopped for lunch at what looked to be a new café in one of the restored buildings before continuing on to plaza Santa Ana and the walking street.  Back on the walking street we purchased some fresh veggies to take back to Lanikai and caught a minibus back to the causeway and home. 


Street of Casco Viejo, the old City of Panama


Looking from the old city to the new buildings of the new city


Molas for sale in one of the plazas of the old city

South of the Equator

We crossed the equator 35 minutes after midnight last night. Since the nights run had us passing many fishing boats by the time we crossed the equator Bill and I were too tired to do more than note it in the log. We are anchored about 20 miles south of the equator behind Cabo Pasado where the rolls are not too bad. A large southerly swell is predicted to increase over the next several days. We will wait here until they subside before making the last 15 miles and crossing the boca into Bahia Caraquez. The last two days of the trip were mostly under sail although last night we dropped the jib and motor sailed so that we could point closer to our goal. The northerly setting current caused us to have to tack thru a wide angle and it would have taken at least another day to reach the anchorage under sail alone.

Lots of Wind

Did not get much typing on the computer done yesterday as it was a rather wild day. Tuesday early afternoon we had some rain squalls pass by and with them we ended up with little wind. The wind then picked up and we had a great sail the rest of the afternoon but during the night things got wild. The seas picked up and the wind picked up even more. We dropped some sail and continued sailing in the good winds. Yesterday morning and early afternoon the wind picked up more so we had to downsize to our gorge sails. Things got comfortable then but we were having to tack as the wind was right from the direction that we wanted to go. About 7 last night the winds died out so we again dropped the jib and motor sailed thru the night. The seas have gradually calmed and we could make way in the direction that we are headed. The winds are starting back up again and I expect that we will soon be sailing again.