up the Rio
Diablo, San Blas
We had a 9am appointment for our trip up the Rio
Diablo with Federico, and we were all pretty excited about seeing some
wildlife on the mainland. Capt
Mark & Mike headed over to Nargana about 7:30am to go to the bank
and get some lunch for our trip up the “devil’s river”.
The bank was not open at 8am as advertised, and they could not
find any lunchmeat so they were forced to have a nice breakfast at
Nali’s and wait for the bank to open.
While there, they went ahead and ordered a few hamburgers to go
for lunch. As they
walked around town that morning after breakfast, Capt Mark and Mike
served as human playgrounds for the little Kuna girls who insisted on
being picked up and hugged, and once one would get them close to the
ground, several more would jump on for the ride.
Those children have no idea about the toys, video games and other
entertainments that children in the developed world have access to, but
we have never seen children have more fun that the little ones on
Nargana. After getting
change at the bank and stocking up with more “pan de Kuna”(Kuna
bread) and then headed back to Stray Cat.
Federico and Tomas arrived shortly thereafter in a
large cayuco with a 20hp motor on it – they were ready to go – we
piled into the cayuco and headed toward the Rio Diablo.
At the mouth of the Rio Diablo were many fallen
trees, submerged trunks and limbs - it was tricky to navigate to say the
least. With Federico on the
bow and Tomas at the tiller, we worked our way through the maze and
luckily we only touched bottom a few times.
The river was very pretty and lined with a dense wall of very
green palm & banana trees. We
saw many wading type birds including tri-color herons, great egrets and
ibis! We even spotted the
elusive toucan!! They were
high in the trees and were difficult to spot, but we did see at least 3
or 4 of them and one toucan flew right by the cayuco!
Mike was very quick with his telephoto lens and captured an
incredible photo of the toucan in flight.
Federico & Tomas took us about a mile up the river, pulled
over at a bend in the river, and told us that it was time for a little
side trip. We all exited
the cayuco and Federico took us up into the jungle on a small path.
It was an interesting little hike – we saw some very colorful
birds up in the canopy and in several places on the trail, leaf cutter
ants were scurrying back and forth along their well groomed highway.
When we got to the top of the hill, we found a
clearing with odd structures scattered about and realized that it was
the Kuna cemetery. We
instantly knew that we were in a sacred place and we all became very
quiet and listed intently to everything that Federico told us – we
were experiencing a truly unique cultural moment.
Federico showed us his family plots and told us how all Kuna are
buried with their favorite personal belongings.
The gravesites were littered with plates, cups and bowls and
Federico told us that all of their clothing was buried underground with
them as well. We explored
for a while, took pictures and tried to take it all in before heading
back down to the river.
On the return trip, we were running with the
current and did not need the motor.
We wound back down the river, seeing more birds, Jesus Christ
lizards running on the water, and finally 2 monkeys.
Mike spotted them in the trees and we were able to stop and watch
them for just a few minutes and even get a few quick shots.
They were very small - black with white heads.
They were called TeTe monkeys or “mono” en espanol.
After exiting out the mouth of the river, we took a few minutes
to visit the local airport at Corazon de Jesus.
El Corazon de Jesus was the smallest airport we
had ever seen and one that Walter had briefly stopped at on the way to
Porvenir. There was a very
small runway and a a small “concourse” (a.k.a. a shed) and an
outhouse that was built right over the water.
We got a few pictures and headed over to Nali’s for some lunch.
We had many Atlas cervezas and Federico joined us.
We had again. Lunch consisted of pollo, hamburger, conch or cambombia and squid or pulpo – it was good and
inexpensive. We headed back
out to Stray Cat for a nap, and spent an evening resting up for our
visit to the traditional village Isla Tigre the next day!!!!
The trip up the Devil's River or Rio Diablo
We left Stray Cat in a cayuco Captained by Tomas and guided by
Tomas was our Capitan on the cayuco
Walter rode in front with Capt Mark & Stu behind him and
then M&K in the back, with Tomas bringing up the rear
The mouth of the Rio Diablo, the name of the river translated
to "The Devil River"
It was called the Devil River because in torrential down pours
the river rises quickly and rages viciously out of control
The mouth of the river was very tricky to navigate with all of
the fallen trees from the Devil's past rages
Tomas was an expert Capitan and navigator
The mangroves inside of Rio Diablo
Federico on the bow with Walter, Capt Mark & Stuart
The river was as calm as it could be and was not looking like
a Diablo at all this trip, thank goodness!
The banks had many coconut palms and they were home to many
shorebirds, exotic birds, monkeys & lizards
There was some traffic on the river although not much, and no
locals lived on the river due to malaria
The locals did go up river to obtain bamboo & palm fronds
for making their homes or huts, these Nargana locals were bringing back some
supplies for building
The palms bent right out over the river and still turned
straight up, eventually they would fall in and become a part of the debris at
the mouth of Rio Diablo
Mangroves on Rio Diablo
A ringed neck Kingfisher
He was gorgeous and we saw him catching fish on the Diablo
Ring necked Kingfisher
Yellow bellied sap sucker - As far as you know.
Locals with building materials
There was perfect geometry in this reflection of a palm frond
The river was quite still
Looked like a tricolor or Louisiana Heron
Jesus Christ lizards sitting on a log, one had just taken off
and you can still see his trail across the water, they run on top of the water -
hence the name
He kind of looks like Lurch from the Addams family
Bamboo tree with a local cayuco nearby
Flora on the Diablo
A submerged tree
Another bird on the Rio
Local Kuna men in the bathing suit of choice, tighty whities
or tighty Grey's
Federico on the bow
Hiking through the forest up to the burial grounds
Mike on the path
Some of the older gravesites in this area, the locals visited
their relatives often
It is traditional in Kuna Culture for all of the deceased's
personal belongings to be placed on top of the gravesite -see the shoe?
Rocks outlined many gravesites, you can see the plates and
cups that the deceased would have used
Some graves were more elaborate
It is easy to see the personal belongings on top of this grave
Some people even built a shelter above their loved ones - this
site looked fairly new
This was a young boy only 4 yrs old
You can see his cars inside here with a little video game he
liked to play
Leaf Cutter ants building a nest and feeding the queen
A Toucan in the trees of the riverbanks
Toucan in flight
A Heron flying down the river bank
More curved tree trunks
Sugarcane growing wild
A Monkey!!! Or Mono in Espanol
One of the locals had been cutting bamboo to build a shelter
A couple of local children with their dogs
Back to the mouth of El Diablo
After the river trip, Federico took us to see the Airport at El Corazon de Jesus
The Kuna name for the island is Akwanusadup
M&K notice the outhouse over the water behind us
A private plane at El Corazon de Jesus or "The Heart of
Jesus" in English
Our guide Federico coming out of the Bano or bathroom
Walter the Muscovite(Russian) posing for the camera
The Crew in our cayuco Captained by Tomas