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Common Commute

The purpose of our trip was simple: Demarcate the watershed found at the Quebrada Barro Colorado in southern Panama. The trip itself was much more complicated.

The Quebrada Barro Colorado is located in Punta Patiño Nature Reserve deep in the Darién, Panama. This reserve is remote, private, and administered by the National Association for the Conservation of Nature (ANCON), a private nonprofit organization founded in Panama. I was headed there with Eric Lorenzo and Humberto Tamayo of ANCON.

That’s me on the left and my travelling companions Eric and Humberto.

Our journey started in Panama City, where we took a three hour car ride to the city of Metetí. There we changed routes and hopped over to Puerto Quimba along the coast, about 12 miles west. We boarded a boat and prepared for travel through the estuary that would eventually bring us to the community of Mogué. The entire trip was scheduled around high tide in order to get out of the mouth of the estuary. We timed it right and the entire boat ride took about an hour and a half. The sights from the boat were overwhelming in their beauty. You have mangroves on either side of you, seabirds flying overhead and, if you’re lucky, a group of dolphins might escort you for part of the way. The ride filled me with that sense of freedom that only nature can bring.

Picture time while traveling through the estuary.

Eventually we docked our boat and had a short 10-minute walk along a beautiful trail which cut through the comarca of the Embera and Wounaan peoples. It is a beautiful land dotted with Embera and Wounaan dairy farms, and traditional houses built on stilts. We passed several young women in brightly colored parumas, or traditional clothing.

Embera and Wounaan community members taking a rest during the day.

Upon arrival it was important to contact the traditional authority of the community. We explained to him the purpose of our visit, in this case ours was simply taking a shortcut through their lands to get to Quebrada Barro Colorado. The meeting was pleasant and quick and then we were on our way.

For generations, the Quebrada Barro Colorado has been the source of water for communities in Punta Alegre. It is important to demarcate the land to ensure the watershed is protected. The people hope to eventually build an aqueduct—running about 8 miles—that will continue to provide water to communities.

We decided to take a quick break at “Rosita,” a small store. It was there that we met up with a guide Lucio, who was to be our guide the rest of the way. He kindly offered to put us up at the worker’s house on his ranch where we could spend the night. ¡Que bueno!

Nothing like a sip of natural, cold water.

To get to the small ranch home it was a long, but pleasant two mile hike through lush rainforest full of large trees and small streams. We arrived at Lucio’s ranch house at sunset. The small house was perfect – and so was the nearby lake where we caught our dinner. We cooked our fresh catch over a small campfire.

The late night sky gave us a breathtaking star show. We shared stories throughout the evening, enjoying the meal and each other’s company, and eventually went to sleep. Some of us slept in hammocks, some slept on the floor inside the ranch house.

We were all up bright and early, made some very strong coffee and ate a few yuccas. We walked an hour on narrower trails where at one point we saw titi monkeys playing in a high tree and at another we watched a beautiful, majestic eagle land on a Cuipo tree. The tree had been full of small birds that quickly scattered leaving the eagle alone as the mistress of her tree.

Let’s recap: Panama City, to Metei, to Puerto Quimba, over to Mogue and finally down to La Reserva Natural de Punta Patiño.

From the dense, thick jungle we finally arrived at the Quebrada Barado CoIorado water source. We had made it. Now, it was time to get to work demarcating the water source.

So, how did you get to work today?

Yaira is from Santiago de Veraguas, Panama and works on EcoLogic’s projects with our partner organizations in that country.


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