Chagres National Park Journals

Staying Overnight in an Embera Indian Village

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An August 2003 trip to Chagres National Park by wanderluster

Drua Embera Village Photo, Chagres National Park, Panama More Photos
Quote: Step onto the banks of the Chagres River and back into time when you enter this remote jungle village of thatched huts, towering palms, and gentle Indian people who practice herbal medicine, wear native dress, eat what they catch, and create beautiful handicrafts from nature around them.

Staying Overnight in an Embera Indian Village

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Overview

Drua Embera Village Photo, Chagres National Park, Panama
Quote:
This, my friend, is the real thing. If you want an authentic cultural experience look no further.Staying overnight with Embera Indians in a tiny village deep in the rainforest was one of my favorite experiences in Panama. Highlights included interacting with the villagers, trekking through the jungle and listening to stories told by the Medicine Man.I felt like I had stepped back into time, surrounded by indigenous people who still today continue to live an existence altered little since Pre-Columbian times.According to their oral history, Emberas migrated from Colombia's Amazon to Panama's Darien jungle beginning in the 16th century. Nomadic...Read More

Piragua Transportation & Waterfall Hike

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Attraction | "Piragua Transportation & Waterfall Hike"

The departure point  on Chagres River Photo, Chagres National Park, Panama
Quote:
After a jarring jeep ride, the five of us arrived at Chagres River, the main water source for the Panama Canal. We unloaded the jeep and hauled supplies down the embankment to our waiting piragua, a narrow dugout canoe the length of two kayaks. Our guide Annie began speaking Spanish in raised tones, upset that the larger piragua she'd reserved had been taken by the day tour group. We'd have to make do. So we threw backpacks, sleeping bags, food, tents and coolers in the bottom of the somewhat water-logged boat, and climbed past a loin-clothed Embera man at the bow. The canoe wobbled as we settled into our places, sitting on backpacks or a wooden seat depending on where we ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 15, 2003

Embera Cultural Day Tour

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Attraction

Following three adorable girls up to their  Photo, Chagres National Park, Panama
Quote:
Most people book a day tour. Be forewarned that you'll be ushered through a planned itinerary, lessening the feel of authenticity. Actual time spent in the village is 2.5 hours since transport takes a good portion of the 8:30am-3:30pm day. Here's what you can expect, as overnight guests participate in these same activities. Our piragua coasted to the sandy shores of Drua Village where a small group of Embera children and adults welcomed us with music of flutes, drums and singing. Short dark-haired men were naked except for solid-colored loin-cloths in pink, orange, blue, or yellow. Beautiful women had long dark hair, boldly-patterned fabric wraparound skirts and beaded neck...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 15, 2003

Embera Cultural Overnight Experience

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Attraction

The sweet girl who tried to eat the Silly Putty Photo, Chagres National Park, Panama
Quote:
The main advantage over a day tour is the freedom to explore and interact with the Embera Indians. Few tourists stay overnight, keeping the experience fresh for villagers and tourists alike. There is no planned itinerary after the day group leaves. Guests pursue individual interests such as hiking, swimming, fishing, birding, taking nature photos or learning how to weave canastas from the Indian women. The two other guests spent the afternoon in hammocks, and I went on a hike. But first I brought out school supplies I'd hauled from the States and gave them to the female leader, identified by her coined necklace. She distributed items equally to the women ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 15, 2003

Dura's Medicine Man Photo, Chagres National Park, Panama
Quote:
After the day tour left, the Medicine Man approached me and asked (through Annie) if I was interested in trekking with him through the rainforest. He laughed at my enthusiastic reply. I squeezed into my wet boots and followed. My guide and interpreter Annie, her Chilean friend, and a small local boy joined us. The 41-year-old Medicine Man, naked except for a pink loin-cloth, led us barefoot into the jungle dense with lush vegetation. We entered a luxuriant green world of ferns, banana palms, buttressed roots, towering trees, brilliant birds-of-paradise and spongy mosses. The trail was rough, steep, strewn with twisted branches, ankle-twisting roots and sharp twigs, and I couldn't im...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 15, 2003

Embera Handicrafts

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Attraction

Overview of Embera handicrafts Photo, Chagres National Park, Panama
Quote:
When you visit an Embera Indian Village, you will have the opportunity to buy handicrafts made in the community. Woven plates, masks, baskets, beaded bracelets and animal carvings range from $1 to $25 depending on the detail. The cost of the canastas is calculated by the time women spend weaving them at a charge of $1 per day. Just bring cash in small denominations unless you're willing to accept nuts as change. CANASTAS Tightly woven baskets, plates and masks are created by the Embera women. Highly constructed and watertight, each canasta will last 80-90 years. No exaggeration. One day-group guest could attest to that. The masks, wo...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 15, 2003

About the Writer

wanderluster

wanderluster
Evansville, Indiana

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