By Benita Rose
One of our tours that had interested me the most since I´ve started working as an Intern in the EcoCircuitos-office was the tour to the Embera indigenous tribe In the Chagres National Park. I had heard that it is a fascinating experience, and therefore I felt very fortunate when my supervisor Annie sent me on the Embera-tour with guide Fabio, driver Roberto, and our clients Mr. and Mrs. Sameth. I had no idea what was expecting me yet . . .
Our adventure started with a 1-hour ride to Puerto Colotun, where we embarked a Piragua, a typical Embera-canoe, for our exciting trip to the Embera Drua village. While on our way to the port, we were already able to see different sides of Panama: passing the metropolitan City towards the countryside, and from there entering the lonely Chagres National Park, where life is more laid-back than in the City, and skyscrapers and fancy restaurants are not a lot of people’s business. But the fun part started on the piragua, which carried us through green and ever greener landscapes that provided enough space and the perfect environment for all kinds of birds and animals. Our client Mr. Sameth was at a loss for words, while Mrs. Sameth got a little nervous on our quite unusual piragua-ride. Guide Fabio managed to keep us all in a good mood though, explaining us everything about the area, and all of us were excited to arrive at the Drua village.
Upon our arrival to the 93-people-community, we were kindly welcomed by the Embera, all of them seemed pleased to have us there, while at the same time we didn´t seem to distract them much from their daily routine, which we liked to see.
The village is built in a very rustic style and makes you think back in time, when people used to live without any technological devices and when capitalism wasn´t as present as it is today. The houses are all built with natural materials: wood & different types of dried leaves as protection against rain; to enter you need to climb up a latter.
A lovely young Embera girl approached us and wanted to explain us a little bit about her culture. She gave us a nice presentation about the history and present culture of the Emberas. Mr. & Mrs. Sameth, as well as myself, were listening carefully and questions about how things work in the community kept popping up in our minds. She patiently answered all of our questions while a number of other Embera girls were gathered under the same open roof than us, chatting, cooking or playing with their kids, just living their everyday life. To round-off the presentation about the Embera culture, we were served a typical lunch: fresh fish (oh how fresh!) & Patacones – delicious!
After lunch we were able to explore the rest of the village, take pictures, and have any new questions answered by guide Fabio. We spent some time watching little boys play soccer, and at the same time we were observing everything else happening around us.
With a bunch of new impressions on our mind, we left the Embera village with a smile on our faces. We were treated very nicely by everyone in the community and felt very welcome. On our way back to Puerto Colotun, where driver Roberto was already waiting for us, we barely said a word, but instead reflected on what we had experienced during this adventurous day.