Sunday, June 3, 2007

Day 14: Chagres National Park and Embera Village

Everyone woke up this morning with their own ideas and thoughts about what it would be like to visit an indigenous village; little did any of us know that we were embarking on a miniature journey into the heart of Chagres National Park, home of the Embera tribe. Immediately stepping off of the bus, we saw Embera males dressed in their native garb, which included basically a cloth wrapped around the groin area covered with beaded attire. I think it’s safe to say that we were all a bit shocked. However, the shock quickly turned into excitement and curiosity as we all took our seats on the long and narrow canoes. The canoe ride in the river provided fantastical scenery; we were literally being taken into the mists of the rainforest.

The Embera men guided us through the forest on a well traveled path following a large stream. None of us had any idea where we were headed, but we were thoroughly enjoying our trek and the beautiful terrain surrounding us. At one point we climbed over some rocks and saw our destination point: a waterfall with a pool below it. Right then, we found ourselves caught in a rain shower, but that did not stop us from jumping into the pool and climbing onto the waterfall.

Back in the canoes, we traveled to the local Embera village where we were welcomed with warm greetings. We were led to the largest hut, otherwise known as the “Convention Center.” We were served fried Tilapia and fried plantains in a palm leaf cone. Their leader spoke to us about the tribe and their trades, mainly basket weaving and wood carving. Their tribe is open to visitors and usually hosts tourists every day. The women performed a dance and the men played instruments including drums, maracas, a turtle shell, and a wooden flute. They also had a marketplace where we were able to buy their handmade bowls, plates, jewelry, and wood work. Some of us even got a tattoo, but don’t worry, they only last for about eight days.

Before we knew it we were back on the canoes and headed back to where our bus waited for us. I think everyone was happy to be traveling back home because we were all sopping wet, although the cold air conditioning on the bus made the trip back slightly uncomfortable.

Later on we went out to a local restaurant in the city. Some of us ordered Tapas which can be described as small plates, almost sample size of certain foods and everyone shares. They didn’t exactly fill our stomachs but they were delicious nonetheless.

Needless to say, we had a very exciting and adventurous day today that none of us will forget.

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