Monday, July 5th was our final full day at Sapibenega. It started with breakfast and rain. It wasn’t raining hard enough, however, to deter us from the long hike we had been saving for today. We felt lucky that we had had two gloriously sunny days previously for the beach and snorkeling. I’m not sure our guide had the same enthusiasm for a rainy hike but he willingly obliged. We headed out in the boat donning rain slickers and hiking boots.
After following the coast of the Kuna Yala Comarrca we found a small delta, and headed up river.
When we reached the place where a couple of canoes (hollowed out logs) were tied up we also tied our boat and climbed up the river bank. We hiked a well worn trail where Kuna farmers had cleared out patches for corn, sugar cane, Robusto coffee, and pineapple to name a few crops.
This rainforest, while similar to our experience at Los Quetzales, was different because it was considered lowland rainforest. In this hike we saw bamboo and mangroves in addition to the palms and other tall tropical trees.
Other highlights of this hike was seeing a whole flock of Toucans and finding a Crocodile hidden along the bank of the river.
After returning to our cabin and enjoying lunch we got a final boat tour of more of the Kuna’s lovely islands. They are very independent and proud of the islands that make up thier Comarrca (Reservation). Luckily, the Panamanian Government allows them to control and take care of this beautiful place. As a result, they have been able to maintain their traditions and culture (including their own native language) while learning about modern society to make Eco-tourism one more way to earn money for their tribe. We enjoyed a final dinner and sunset that evening.
On July 6th we woke up early and packed our backpacks. Our Kuna Hosts took us back to the landing strip and we waited for our plane. This flight started out with a couple of pit-stops at similar landing strips down the coast. Bringing mail and supplies. Finally, our plane began heading back in the direction of Panama City. We landed about 9 AM and dropped our packs off at our hotel. We hit the Artisan Markets for some last treasures to help us remember the different cultures we encountered We have so much to share with family, friends, colleagues and, most importantly, our 6th grade students when we get home. We ate dinner on the Causeway over looking the Pacific coast, the city skyline and the bridge marking the entrance to the Panama Canal. I couldn’t help reflecting on the beautiful places and people I encountered on this trip of a lifetime. I learned so much as I was immersed in this culture… and I learned a little about myself in the process. What an incredible experience! Many thanks go to Fund For Teachers and the Malakai Foundation who funded our grant. I hope they will continue to help teachers travel so they can bring similar experiences to their students.