As I anticipated, no sleep, and I caught the wake up call on the first ring.
The sun is not yet up and Panama City looks great in the early morning light
Panama City from the ship at sunrise
Ellen and the pretty sunrise
Breakfast in the buffet was quick – oatmeal, waffle with cottage cheese, and some eggs.
We are on tour today - “Authentic Embera Indian Village”. The tour (Guide: Enrique) first took us through parts of Panama City and the former Canal Zone. The Panama Canal Administration Building has a good deal of symbolism – the building is perched on an 85 foot grass hill. This is the exact height that a ship is raised from one ocean to the other (the level of Gatun Lake). In front of the building, is a monument to the last engineer Canal engineer and the one who actually completed the project, Goethals. The monument has three stacked fountains representing the three sets of locks present in the canal.
Panama Canal Monument and Administration Building
Produce Stand along the route
The bus ride took us through toll roads, national highways, and small roads. About two hours later, we arrived at the Chagres River. I had spotted a number of motorcycle police just off the back of the bus but didn’t realize that they were escorting us. At the river, they posed for pictures.
Our Police Escort
The Chagres River is very scenic. This is an important river since it supplies water to Gatun Lake, which is used in the Canal and Locks process. It is very hot and a little buggy at the river.
Ellen at the Chagres River
There were three busses at the river so a number of canoes were need to get everyone to the Indian Village. Some canoes were two seats across and some were singles (the most unstable).
The life jackets are had the letters “UCLA” on the back. We could not figure out what that meant – maybe a local acronym.
The Chagres is quite muddy – this does not stop local from swimming in the river.
A convoy of canoes headed toward the village
The canoe ride took about 15 minutes – the canoes were motorized but need to be moved by poles at the shallow portions. Getting down to the canoes was pretty treacherous – steep and muddy. Getting up from the canoes was not any easier.
The Embera Indians originally came from Colombia and settled in what became Chagres National Park. This changed the Indian’s life style since they were no longer able to hunt the local wildlife – I guess they have food brought in. There are three villages in the area with their own chief. The total population on the river number about 250. They live in raised huts but do have refrigeration powered by solar panels provided by the Peace Corps. We also saw water showers – the kind you see at the beach – in the village.
After a series of explanations of Embera life, which wend on much too long, some food prepared on the spot was brought out: Tilapia (from the lake), plantain, watermelon, and various drinks (also cheese sandwiches – how authentic). We ate most of the food, my favorite being the fried plantains. Somewhat reassuring was the bottle of hand sanitizer on the table along with a bowl of lemon leaves in water (the local sanitizer).
Ellen trying the plantain
The fruit spread – the bowl at the right is for washing hands
The tour brochure warned passengers that the Embera were pretty “native” in their dress but we found them pretty much dressed in a Polynesian type of top and bottom (which we were told was designed by the Embera but made in China). They may have dressed up for the tourists and wear more traditional garb in their daily lives.
We were treated to a few native dances and then it was “free dance” – passengers and Embera.
Dancing with the Stars – Embera Style
One female passenger fainted from the heat and lack of moving air in the hut. A few passengers, including me, helped take her back to bus parking lot. Two of us plus a nurse (a passenger) and two park rangers went back at Warp 9 in a one seat across canoe. Very exciting – tipping from side to side with water splashing all over us. Not so exciting was hauling the passenger wrapped in a blanket up the muddy slope to the bus area. We made the decision to send her along with the nurse in a ranger vehicle to Puerto Amador and then to the ship to be rehydrated.
About two hour later, we were back at Puerto Amador. There were no Internet Cafes at the port and we had already been through the limited shopping. On to the tenders and back to the ship.
Island Princess from Puerto Amador
Island Princess from the tender – almost home
The main show tonight was pianist, Mac Frampton, who played a number of medleys – 70s TV Show Themes and Themes from James Bond Movies.
Ellen in front of the Wheelhouse Bar
A long and eventful day…