On a balmy, sunny midmorning away from the hustle bustle of the city, a traditional wooden canoe modified to fit 2 powerful Yamaha motors propelled its curious and excited passengers across the Chagrin river, light glittering across the water like diamonds. Only this wasn’t any usual canoe – instead of a captain of the ship, there were two indigenous tribe members skillfully steering the somewhat 10 feet wooden structure, with lush greeneries on the both sides, stretching to the horizon to as far as one’s eyes could see.
The 40 minute odd boat ride felt shorter than it ought to be, and before we knew it, we reached a rocky corner and was told the boat could go no further. From a distance, one could hear, irrefutably, the thunderous rush of millions of water plunging down into the never ending abyss of water.
We get only knee-deep, bravely navigating our ways through the slippery rocks to edge closer to the waterfall. Cold, the water was, but no hindrance to the courageous buckeyes. Professor Dickstein wasted almost no time and was the first to dive into the falls, emerging head-first for some oxygen, almost like from a scene of James Bond. (Professor Bond?)
AT where the pool of water plunges down onto the rocks below, we were told there was an opening where one is able to be directly under the fall and yet still breathe. Skeptical at first, Erik and I decided to check it out – we took a deep breathe and with a mighty push, swam directly to under the fall. At first, it seemed almost impossible to find an opening, and as we were about to give up, there, beneath a huge rock, was the opening the guide was talking about. There, for a moment we were simply dumbstruck by the magnificence of mother nature, of how insignificantly small we were – simply lost in our thoughts.
After a good hour of swimming and water-splashing, we headed back to our means of transport – set to departure to the infamous Embera Indian Tribe of Parara Puru.
Our destination, the village, is located at a lovely corner of the driver, with steps carved out of the hilly slope leading to the main hut. As our boats pulled closer to the shore, a drum sounded – then accompanied by more drums, and before we know it, the whole village came out to welcome us as we walked up the stairs, feeling like a star walking down the red carpet. Such, was a telltale of the great hospitality we were to receive in the next two hours.
Immediately after we were seated, the chief introduced himself, with our knowledgeable guide Juan Carlos as his translator. Knowing very well that us, a bunch of college kids with monstrous appetite, home-made food was served shortly – deep fried fish (bought fresh from a local community market) and plantain (deep fried banana mixed with flour), which was well deliciously satisfying. While we were working our way up to satisfy our appetite, the women and kids put up some spectacular traditional dance performances, one of which was oddly name – Monkey dance. Men, on the other hand, were the beat makers – using bamboo flutes and drums to guide the flamboyant dancers.
After the monkey dance, the beat changed drastically – a somewhat waltz feeling, and that’s when the women and kids paired up randomly and started doing their version of waltz. As we were comfortably sited and simply awe by the performance, what happened next was beyond our guess – the remaining women and kids and men each dragged all of us to the dance floor – and hola, we were in the spotlight. Long story cut short, everyone did extremely well except I, who stuck out like a soar thumb as an awkward turkey. (Anyone kind enough to offer some lessons?)
After the dance, we were given time to browse through some of the local handicrafts made by the villagers displayed on different tables (every different table represents a different family).
Yet the village isn’t just another tropical getaway for the stylish and well-heeled to experience a different culture, it was by itself, an example of an emerging ‘economy’. The village has gone through some changes, albeit maintaining its customs to cater to tourism – and is now so successful that it is world renown and with the profits from tourism – the tribe kids gets the privilege of attending a nearby school, with one of them even in the process of getting a bachelor’s degree. This goes a long way to show how just change is inevitable in this ever-changing world, and the only thing that is permanent is change itself, which calls for a great deal of innovation.
A summary and visual for Day’s 6 happenings – also us dancing, you don’t wanna miss this out!
(To be posted in the following post)
Exhausted, we dozed off on the journey back home – with Aaron and Cathy being the exception who managed to get a few heads and thumbs up in their direction. Why, you’d find out just below.
Here are some pictures to fuel your imagination:
Our never-stop-smiling guide, Aribas.
Tomorrow : Industrias Boston Panama (a detergent and margarine manufacturing company), banco general (leading local bank) and our farewell dinner at Gatun Locks!