After I ate and checked my email again real quick to make sure there weren't any changes, I went downstairs and waited for Ayla to pick me up at 8am. She pulled up in a big nice white van right on time and we were off! Ayla is 26 yrs old, tall and thin with long blonde hair - from Louisiana, went to college at UCSB, came to Panama for the Peace Corps right after college and never left! She is the absolute perfect guide, and it's just she and I - not a big touristy kind of thing at all (I try to avoid those...). Ayla has been dating an Emberra man for 2.5 years, so she is like one of them! She lived in the village off of iguana and rice for two years, and even conditioned her body to drink the river water! She's crazy - and basically dating Tarzan - and I love her!
We drove for about an hour and stopped at super market to buy water, snacks, and fruit for lunch. It was just like any other big supermarket, really. Pretty nice and clean with normal stuff. There were people all over out front, buying lottery tickets I guess. Weird. Ayla is practically famous down here (I'm only kind of kidding). She wears the traditional Emberra skirt that the women wear, and people actually recognize her - they know she is "that American girl that married the Emberra man." It's so fun to just walk behind her and watch all the people look and whisper about her. One guy even came up to her and asked her if she was "that girl." She said that is the one thing about living in Panama that she doesn't like - all the stares she gets, especially when she wears the Emberra skirt (which just looks like a colorful beach towel to me).
We were in the car for another 30 minutes or so and drove in to water shed for the canal (Chagres National Park). There was an Emberra man waiting for us at the 'port', and we hopped in to a dug out canoe (like seriously, a big tree just dug out) with a motor attached to the back of it for our trip up river.
|The 'port' - not what I expected...|
Like I said, it was about a 30 minute boat ride up the river to one of the Emberra villages. It was a nice ride - beauitulf scenery, even though the water is WAY down because it is the end of the dry season here.. Along the way we saw two big crocodiles on the sand bars. Ayla says they are the biggest ones she's ever seen out here!
We pulled up to the village and hiked up the hill to walk around and check it out. Neat little 'huts' built on stilts with thatch roofs - that all kind of looked alike. It's so cool to see that people really still live like the always have. And there were these crazy ants - BIG ants - carrying big leafs all over! I mean BIG and I seriously ALL OVER!
I really wanted to see the school in the village, so a nice lady (without a shirt on - yea, the women don't normally wear anything on top) showed us up to it: a tiny two-room building with some desks in it, but unlike the other houses in the village.
We walked around the village some more (there were probably 20 or 30 huts/families there) and saw a chocolate tree and lots of other plants. We got back on the boat (I had a nice view of a guy's butt during the ride) for another 20 minute boat ride further up river. We docked (or really just drove the boat up on to the shore) in sinking sand and took off for a 20 minute hike to a waterfall and swimming hole. It was so peacful and beautiful, and we crossed the river sevearl times, as well as walked aross a ridiculously put together 'bridge.'
Of course I had to climb up the rocks and jump in to the waterhole - even though Ayla said she technically couldn't let me do that (or take pictures). That's probably the craziest thing I've done on this whole trip, and it wasn't even crazy! I guess it could have been because I really had no idea how deep the water was, but it looked deep enough so I went for it, and my feet never hit bottom! The water was COLD. A lot colder than I thought it would be, but it was hot out and I was sweaty from the hike, so it felt pretty good. Ayla and I swam for awhile, and I tried to climb up the waterfall, to no avail. We eventually layed out to dry off some and then hiked back to the boat.
|Getting ready to jump!|
|the "bridge" we had to cross|
When we got back to the village, lunch was served...in a leaf! Just some chicken ad plantains, I think. But yea, they had the coolest little leaf thing for us to eat out of! Ingenious!
The Emberra's put on a little performance for us, so as we ate, we listened to their local music as they did traditional dance. Then they showed us how they weave baskets and where the dye comes from - I wish I remembered all of it - but it was SO cool, so of course I bought one! I also bought a boat carved out of cocobolo wood to remember my trip in the wooden canoe up the river! I forgot to get a picture of it with the guy who made it... :(
|The one I bought is the third one from the left.|
While we were sitting there listening, the cutest little boy came up and sat underneath me basically. I was sitting up on a wooden bench, eating my Pringles, and I think he came up because he wanted some. So of course I started feeding him! First I just gave him one, and he LOVED it, so I started giving him three or four at a time. I sure hope he didn't get sick off all those! We weren't really there all that long after that, and it was time to say good bye! After a couple pictures with the short little women (who had put tops on for us - although I saw plenty that didn't have anything on), we took the boat back to the port/van.
On the drive back to the city, I really wanted my wet tank-top and shirt to dry out so i could wear them, so rolled down the window a little ways, hung my t-shirt out there and rulled it up in window. No problem - it would be dry in the couple hours it was going to take us to get back to the city. A little later on, I noticed a bug with a stinger on it flying around me and by my window. Ayla said to roll down the window to get it out, because it she didn't want it to sting me (or her). So...yea, my shirt was GONE. I rolled the window down and got the bug out, but forgot about my t-shirt hanging there! We were driving down the hiway at that point, so it was long gone - fast. (UPDATE: Ayla emailed me a week later and said she saw my t-shirt on the side of the hiway!)
When we got back to Panama City, Ayla and I went to Albrook Mall to meet her Emberra boyfriend, Celiano. Since I was still shirtless, we went in to the first store we could and I bought an Ed Hardy tshirt for $5. I don't even know who Ed Hardy is?? Albrook Mall is a fancy HUGE mall. I'm dirty and wet and look like crap... Good thing I don't have to worry about seeing anyone I know!
We got super good ice cream with Celiano - who hardly spoke any English - and talked/walked around the mall for a little while. it really is a BIG mall, probably the biggest one I've been to outside The Mall of America, and there ar some really fancy stores here! Ayla and Celiano eventually left, and I stayed there and shopped for a long time - and only ended up with an "I Love Panama" sleep tanktop for $1.99. I tried lots of clothes on, but I'm too big for the clothes down here, seriously! These people are tiny!
I got a subway sandwhich at the mall and caught a decied to catch a taxi back to the hostel. The big bus stop for Panama City is right next to the mall (not very safe I guess), and it was dark out, so I was proud of myself for getting a taxi rigth away AND doing it all in Spanish! The taxi driver didn't speak ANY English, but he had good latino dance music playing, so I hopped in the front seat and rolled my window down - cruising through the city lights was AWESOME - AND he only charged me $2 - which we agreed upon before I got in, but still, that's a GOOD deal for a white girl! It was a great ending to a great day!
I checked my email back at the hostel and decided I should probably take a shower after that day. It was ice cold, and I'm glad its the only shower I'll be taking in Panama! The tops of my knees and my shoulders/back are kinda burnt, but not too bad really. I'm all packed up for travel home tomorrow!