The locals living in the area paddle around on these long handcarved boats. To get around, this is their preferred means of transportation. The boats are so long that they can haul around lots of materials, particularly large bunches of bananas. Man, bananas grow like weeds around here. They are tasty but you will soon become sick of eating them with every meal. And you don't want constipation now do you?
the good life
See....this is what I wanna do all day. Sit on a boat, relax, drink some cervezas, and throw out some lines in attempt to catch fish. Well I certainly am no fisherwoman but if I could do this every day instead of going to an office to work I would be a happy, happy woman. Certainly a broke woman, but who cares if I am going to go live in a hut anyway.
what am I wading in?
Take a look along the banks of the water. Now this isn't exactly the cleanest of liquids I've ever seen. It's brown, murky, and trash infested. Yeah, sewage systems don't exist around here, so everything is dumped into the streams. So if you want to go for a swim, watch out for the floating turds...or those little parasites aiming to enter your bloodstream.
hoist me up
Houses built along the waterways are generally on stilts to prevent flooding. Most of these houses are rather dilapidated and primitive. The men go out and sit in the river all day fishing or they go collect bananas to eat. Just throw out a string with a hook tied on the end, and the fish will bite. I wish I had as much luck fishing as they did. Beta-sized fish don't do much for my appetite.
throw a german overboard
So the only other passengers on my water taxi were two young Germans. One of them tried to pass out on the ride. I don't know how he managed to, as the ride became extremely bumpy as we reached the open water of the ocean. He was so light that I thought with every bump we hit that he would fly out of the boat. Whereas I was gripping on the side of the boat for my life.
I think this guy is screaming internally "I am one sexy piece of meat" - he stands posed with his fishing pole in one hand waiting for tourists like me to speed by and snap his photo. I am going to blow off all men here and move back to Panama so that I can make him mine. Hahaha.
Mangroves, flowers, short little trees that I don't know the name of - this is what the environment is like here. It is beautiful, it is odd, it is intriguing. I could be in the jungles and swamps of any part of the world. For the slightest moment of time I forgot I was in Panamá. I was envisioning elephants and lions running around in the grass as if I were in sub-Saharan Africa, or I was envisioning boas and monkeys of the deep Amazon. Eventually I snapped out of it and got a grip on reality.
The tribes dominating the area around Changuinola are predominantly Ngobe and Naso-Teribes. The people are short, dark, and have slightly asian looking facial features. I was surprised at their short stature as I felt like a giant in comparison even to most males. They don't really wear any distinguishing clothes nor do they run around naked like the Embera tribes. They are just like you and me, except that I don't wear poofy Sunday dresses full of lace like many of the women tend to wear here.
There is quite a dense population of these tribespeople in the Northeast; as soon as you head south to Panama City you won't encounter so many. In Panama City, Kuna Indians from the San Blas Islands are more predominant and noticeable.
I see the ocean
After quite some time cruising around the murky brown rivers surrounded by mangrove trees and fishermen, suddenly the scenery will disappear. The water becomes choppy and the boat begins to fly all over the place. This is because you have finally reached the Caribbean Sea. The water becomes clearer and salty. The horizon is in plain sight. You know you're finally getting closer to reaching Bocas del Toro. And hopefully you don't get seasick at this point of the ride.