Early in the morning, we get to the Chagres River, the main reservoir of drinking water for the cities of Panama and Colon, also supplies water for the operation of the Panama Canal. Here we board a dugout canoe with motor and travel up the River to the Embera Drua village.
The boat journey of 45 minutes takes us through lush rainforest of the Chagres National park. From the boat it is possible to admire the beauty of the rich and flourishing nature; there is a complete silence, broken only by the sounds of the water and of the birds. The river is the only way to get to the Emberá village, otherwise it is possible to walk through the forest but that will take no less than 4 hrs. During the rainy season the river will rise a lot, while during the dry season the level of the water will be very shallow, causing problems to pass through some places.
The Emberá community was founded in the Chagres national Park in 1975, and today counts 115 inhabitants, of which 30 are kids. In 1996 a school was built also thanks to the contribution of organizations, tour operators and individuals who strongly support the protection and conservation of the environment end the life of the Indigenous communities. There are often volunteers who spend some time within the village, offering help and doing researches.
When we arrive, a representative of the Emberá community explain us everything about their history, way of living, traditions, dances, music, together with the help of some women that show us how they make handcrafts using palms fibers, woods, leaves, rocks, etc..
All the handicrafts they make are on sale at their small picturesque market.
We have also the chance to get our body painted, as the Emberá usually do, using a particular ink made of ashes and plant pigments. The tattoos will last about 8 days.
At lunchtime we sit together enjoying the delicious freshwater fish, Tilapia and Sargento, accompanied by crispy platanos y a bunch of fresh fruits, such as pineapple, passion fruit, watermelon, bananas..
After lunch we move to another open air building, where the Emberá women will perform local dances on the music played by the men using artesian flutes and drums. The first dance is performed in between them, while in the following ones everybody will take the floor and show their dancing skills!
Once we have done with that, unfortunately It’s time to board again on the piraguas and go back to the “real word”, but confident with the fact that our soul is fulfilled with the best emotions and feelings that the wonderful people of the Emberá community were passionately able to transmit to us.
Léa Maillard & Paola Alzatti.