Friday, October 18, 2013

Up a River without much water - Up Rio Sabana

Made it up another river, not as much water in this one!!!  Met up with 3 other boats and we all came up to check out another traditional village.  There are 7 indigenous tribes.  We were at an Embera village, La Chunga, (you can YouTube dances, etc.) and now are at a Wounaan village.  This is less rustic - power lines, streetlights, streets, garbage on the ground, cell phones, etc.  Again, they were nice people with rugged housing, traditional dress, but not as natural and authentic.
The Wounaan and Embera villages are parallel communities in housing, clothing, etc.  The difference is in language and their dance style.  Some anthropologists put them together due to their similarities.  We noticed that their baskets and plates were more geometric shapes rather than nature.  The Embera village has birds, flowers, turtles, butterflies, leaves, etc. as their subject matter.

Four of us went in for a traditional dinner, said it was great, rice and chicken.  I stayed on the boat with the kids.  In the meanwhile the other 3 boats had issues dragging their anchors and were getting low on water so went down the river past us.  We are almost at low tide and almost out of water under our rudders.  Hoping for swing tide soon.

We are thinking of leaving with the tides tomorrow afternoon and taking the other boats to La Chunga to visit.  That river is easier to settle in and the village is more native.  I was thinking of asking if we could buy the materials for a plate/basket and they could show us how to weave one.  It may be too complicated for us.  If we could get started, maybe we could finish it on the boat?  Innocence gave the girls shells as a gift last time we were there; I was thinking we should collect more.  Not so many seashells where they are and they seem to really like natural objects.

Cassidy had a big following of kids.  They loved the iPod.  She showed them pictures of themselves on it.  As we passed the school the kids were yelling out the window "Cass-i-dy” (sort of a chant, funny and cute).  Got a great video of her entertaining the kids on the boat with her iPod hooked up to the TV looking at distorted pictures of themselves and laughing.

Stopped at a small town called La Palma today and got a few food supplies.  Tried to resupply our popcorn, but no luck.  Only had microwave popcorn or animal feed dried corn.  Guess we have to wait for Panama City for that.  They have free Internet throughout La Palma, but by the time we re-anchored closer to town this morning and walked through town it was time to ride the tide up the river.  Tried to post a single picture to Facebook from our last week with no avail.  Made a 15 minute video and shared it with our buddy boats with a little cultural introduction and navigating the river knowledge for them with our night in La Palma. -- Unable to share that at this time also.  I narrowed down our 1300 pictures to the top 167 in a folder to upload.  Hard to cut it less, but maybe if you weren't there they may begin to look redundant.  Overall they were really a great people and we had a great visit.  I know Loyal gave you some details and soon I hope to write a blog with events and impressions.

Good night.  Will buzz La Palma tomorrow if we go to the other river.  Need to go out to sea, then across a mud flat to get back up.  If so, will try again to load some pictures.


Wounaan Village Visit

Today we are up a wonderful little river to visit a Wounaan village.  They charge you $5 to visit the village for 3 days. That is per adult. Children are free.  Once you have paid your fee you are free to wander the village as you please. There is a central hut where they will put on a market if you are interested. The baskets here have fewer animals, and more geometric shapes. Also, the woodcarvings are much better, and the ... I can’t remember what it is called, but it is a seed from a palm tree, almost as hard as rock. They carve cute little animals into it and paint them with unbelievable detail.

They have a restaurant (a hut that has a table) where you can get a meal. When we asked if we could have dinner tonight they said no, there was not enough time to make dinner.  Tomorrow would be better. We told them we would not be here tomorrow evening; they asked if rice with chicken would be okay. We said yes, and another boat (Grace) that came up the river with us said they would like to come too.

We headed back to the boat to put out a second anchor, as the channel is not wide and we did not want to swing into the side at night. While we were putting out the second anchor, another boat called Alba (3 of them came up the river) decided the holding was not good enough and headed down stream where the channel was deeper, wider, and offered better holding.  We smiled and waived as they passed, and thought to ourselves “amateurs". That is when we notice we too we dragging. Up came the anchor, and we too were in search of some place with a little more water.
We found a nice place with close to 20 feet of water. Dropped anchor, set it, and hurried off for dinner.  On our way up stream we passed Windsong as they went in search of deeper water.  We arrived at the dock along with the people from Grace, and were met by the village "tourist director" who told us Grace would be on dry ground in a few hours. Naturally they shot back to their boat to head for deeper water too. By this time it was getting hard to get a reading over 15 feet anywhere.  In the time from when we anchored till we got to the dock the water had fallen 5 feet and was moving fast. One guess put it at 6 knots.

Dinner was great, rice with chicken. The chicken was in a fantastic sauce made of tomatoes, celery, and other veggies.  Not sure what, but it was good. The pots were left on the table and we were told to help our selves if we wanted more. It was so good we pretty much finished it off.  During dinner we got to watch a nice lightning storm come in over the mountains.  Made for a great dinner and at $4 per person, quite affordable.

After dinner we got out our flashlights and headed home. Courage was driving and I handled the light. We were speeding along at about 10kts plus the 5 or so from the river so we made good time. The light would usually reflect back off the logs so we only hit a few small ones.  When we got back to the boat the water was down to 7 feet, and the sides were closing in. We sat there watching the Fathometer as it slowly ticked off the inches. When it hit 4 feet we knew we were aground.

When the tide started coming in, I took the boat hook and pushed us off the riverbank so we could turn around and sit properly. As I write this I can tell we are once again afloat and things are as they should be. Next time perhaps we will try to 25 feet of water...

I am happy to report that even though we are only 50 feet from the jungle, there have been no sightings of mosquitoes. Strange, perhaps they had their fill already?

Goodnight all,

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lost in Translation

So, Courage was trying to say thank you for a great tour of the mountains to his guide. The guide just gave him this strange look. He said it again, and it was easy to see the guide did not know what to make of it. There was a young man nearby who spoke Spanish and offered to help with translating. It turned out what Courage was saying was Thank you for the old women. You gotta love it when things get lost in translation.

We are now anchored off Las Palmas. There is not much here, but it is a good jumping of spot for our next adventure. Tomorrow when the tide is low we will navigate the river with the dingy to lay a GPS track we can follow once the tide is high. After that we will go about 5 miles upriver to visit another village.

Right now there is a bit of a storm off over the mountains with lots of finger lightning (finger lightning is lightning where you see the bolt of light, camera lightning is when you only see the flash, no actual bolt).

Coming in we were moving at about 8kts on an incoming tide. It will be interesting to see how we do against the tide.

Time for me to hit the hay. We have an early tide tomorrow.
Goodnight from a mosquito free zone.

Rio Sambu & Embera Indian Village

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Another Day on Rio Sambu (The Winding River)

Another great day here in Rio Sambu!  The sun is shining and our batteries are charging.  I have a machete ready and we are off to learn how to sharpen it using a file.  Along the way we meet several women on their way to say goodbye to us.  Our plan is to leave with the high tide. By the time we make it to the village we are a pretty big group. The fellow who was going to sharpen the machete is busy making his rounds in the village, so we walk with him - - sort of a moving class on knife sharpening.  It is a pretty simple procedure and in 20 minutes we have visited most of the village, and have a sharp knife.

We are looking for the chief now. Sadly Mother's iPad turned up missing yesterday.  After several hours searching the boat we thought we would ask the chief to keep an eye open for anyone who suddenly has an iPad.  We did not want to make a federal case of it, but they took it very seriously.  We have the word of the whole village they will find it if one of them took it.  If they do not find it there, they will file a complaint with the big chief up the river.  It is nice to see they are trying to do something about it, and not just say those things happen.  We will see.

Back at the boat about 15 children and 7 women and several men, including the chief, have come to see us off.  It is a very nice farewell with several nice gifts.  Cassidy even got a very nice vase and the boys got toy boats. We made popcorn for the children, and Cassidy gifted a few of her blouses.  We brought the boat close to the dock and dropped anchor just 20 feet away.  Courage started ferrying our guests to the shore.  It took 4 loads to get them all in.

And we were on our way.  Navigating the river is pretty easy as it is wide ad usually over 20 feet deep.  About the only things we had to watch for were trees and the occasional gator.  Once we made it to the mouth of the river Cassidy and I jumped in the dingy to clear a channel across the mud flats.  We had a 15-foot pole and kept about 500 feet in front of the boat.  Most of the way we were at about 8 feet with a mud bottom. Suddenly the mud turned to rock and we dropped to 7 feet. Cassidy radioed the information back to Courage.  Seeing as we would still have 2.5 feet under the rudder we figured it would be okay as long as it did not get any shallower.  With the tide racing out we did not want to get stuck.  Another 100 feet and the bottom was mud at 8 feet. We were back on track.

Right now we are anchored off a little island waiting for an incoming tide tomorrow when we will start making our way toward Rio Dulce.

I just came in after taking a look to see if we were dragging. Behind us I can see the light from a very small cruise ship.  It is making its way slowly in this direction.  Courage has assured me it will not be close to us until tomorrow afternoon.  Using my special binoculars I can just make out the name SS MOSQUITO on her bow.

Good night all,

Monday, October 14, 2013

Dancing in the Rain

Today was the day of the great hike.  Courage, Shannon, and Cassidy, got up at 5am this morning and headed to see the mountains. While only about an hours hike away, they had to go through mud and rivers. From everything I hear it was a wonderful hike. We will have to wait to see the pictures and read about it when it gets posted.

Here at the boat, Mother and I had the children.  We were planning to head to the local pool when it started to rain. We have school when it rains, so out came the books and learning began. That was a lot of fun.  Math is progressing nicely, and writing is..... Well math is progressing nicely.

In the afternoon we headed to the village to see a demonstration of local dances, and some of their art. The dances were preformed by 5 of the local women (topless naturally). They had the local paint on their bodies in interesting shapes. One lady was leading the group with a drum as the others followed.  Videos will be sent when we have Internet.

There were baskets, plates, and carved seeds, presented by the women. Pretty much once the dances were over the place became a little market. We bought 28 eggs (all they had), 20 lbs of locally grown, and hand shucked) rice (again all they had), a bunch (about 25 lbs) of bananas, a bunch of plantanos, and even a couple of their beautiful crafts.

What we forgot was that it is a 1.5-mile walk back to the river. Courage and Shannon were carrying babies, Cassidy the eggs, and a nice gentleman from the village carried the bananas. They left me with a bag of rice balanced on my head and a bunch of plantanos in my hand.  Needles to say we were quite the group.

After we settled in for dinner we heard a commotion outside and discovered a few of the local ‘Cassidy Fan Club’ had brought us sugar cane. They had wanted to bring fish, but after a day without a single bite, they settled on sugar cane.

Tomorrow the local chief is planning to come out to say goodbye and wish us safe travels as we head back toward the open ocean and other adventures.  He is a nice fellow with a big smile. Missing a few of his front teeth, but at 75 that is to be expected.

I did stop off at the local mosquito shop and notice they had a new high flow pump designed for use on sleeping white people. There was an extra large one they only rent that said it had been tested on Bigfoot and was a great success.

Wishing you all the best,
A rather pale, Loyal

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Another Day on the River

Another wonderful day here in paradise!  We had some of the village fishermen out to show us a few tricks of the trade, met a nice couple paddling their way up the river, and removed some stitches from the chief.

The tide is high in the morning so were able to motor up a little river 2.5km.  That is most of the way to the village. Otherwise we walk through the jungle on a raised boardwalk. The ground is somewhat soft mud, so we are glad for the boardwalk. It is about 8 years old and made of wood. A few planks are missing, some have been replaced with bamboo, and some are not very rotten. The others you need to make sure you step on two at a time and stick near the edge, or they may give out.

This evening as I was cleaning the dingy, a couple with a child paddled by and asked if they could take a break. We invited them aboard and as it was dinnertime asked if they wanted to join us. They did.  We also happened to have another guest who spoke English and could translate.  It turns out the couple was waiting for the tide to change for the trip up river. They still had 2.5 hours to go and were very happy for the rest while waiting for the tide to turn. The conversation was lively with a lot of questions from our guests. One of the ones I liked was when they asked what river we lived on. They figured it must be a pretty big one, and the only big one they could think of was the Panama Canal.  In the end we were invited to their village where they wanted to present us with a chicken, a living one naturally. That is an adventure for another day. Tomorrow the local village is putting on a traditional dance with all the war paint and costumes associated with their culture.  It promises to be quite the event.

Mother has introduced sprouts to the local Peace Corps guy. I think he may miss some of the fresh veggies from back home. She even started him off with a few mung beans and alfalfa seeds.  He plans to try to get them to produce seeds and be able to continue having a supply.

The mosquitoes are doing pretty well.  Between Valiant and I the blood supply has never been better. I am pretty sure they have a tracking beacon on me and their GPS comes preprogrammed with my whereabouts.

With a great big smile,