Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Pachecca Island--Birds and More Birds

On Tuesday January 13 we made an early morning stop at a bird sanctuary on Pachecca Island. The zodiacs ferried us in close for a marvelous view of brown boobies, frigate birds displaying their fire red mating pouches, herons, pelicans, and even a few iguanas

With all birds in hand or bush, we returned to the ship for a relocation to get into position for the "creme de la creme" of our trip--a passage through the Panama Canal. As I have reported before, this has been a dream of mine ever since I read Richard Halliburton's Book of Marvels when I was a boy. Halliburton remains to this day a singular personage in Canal history. He has the record for cheapest passage through the canal as a result of having himself declared a ship in 1928 and swimming through the canal. His fare was 36 cents. Our ship will pay $22000.

Monday, March 02, 2009

We Meet the Embera People in Darien

Methinks the ship folks had anticipated the rough water on the night of Jan. 11. They scheduled a brunch for the following morning at 9:30 AM. Jan and I had both taken Dramamine the night before and lost some shuteye, but didn't get sick. Several folks, including a crew member or two, did have some tummy trouble though.

As the morning dawned we were anchored blissfully just off shore in the Panamanian province of Darien. The beach was a long unbroken stretch of brown sand with some thatched roofs visible amid the coconut palms.

The beach was broad and shallow so it was a true wet landing from our zodiacs. The sand was soft and oozy, but as we struggled ashore we were met by smiling inhabitants of all sizes.

In the shade of a small shelter musicians were playing

After the initial welcome we split into groups and toured the village. Houses were generally raised on stilts and open to the air on the side away from the beach. This spot is only accessible by boat or long hikes on jungle trails. We were told that our boat was the only tourist ship that visits regularly. There are no phones, no electricity, no TV's. It is a simple life on the land culture and the land is plentiful. Coconuts and fruit are ubiquitous. There is some hunting and some cultivation of sugar cane and vegetables. Flowers grow in wild profusion.

We re-assembled in a large open sided thatched roof assembly area for more music and dancing. That was followed by displays of the native crafts, which were available for purchase.
Later in the afternoon the ship's crew had a soccer match with the village men.

The village chief, pictured below, was a happy and communicative man who spoke good Spanish in addition to the native tongue.

But you do have to wonder how long this "seemingly" idyllic and simple existence will last.

There is a government school in the village and . . .
this young future chief may not be as willing to stay at home.

I leave you to ponder that along with this fellow.