“Campesinos locos, matando la selva”. Crazy farmers, killing the forest. That’s what Edgar, our guide would say when we passed another place where the indiginous Ngobe Buglé had slashed and burned a section along the road from Santa Fe to the Caribbean town, Calovebora. It’s also what he called our group as we stumbled through our trip as only imitation campesino gringos can. The Ngobe Buglé are clearing patches of forest to build houses and plant bananas and plaintains. According to Edgar they can live on that alone and they require virtually no maintenance
Between the president Torrijos rushing to finish the road through to the Caribbean where he owns tracks of land and the Ngobe Blugé slashing and burning along the way, it seems that the town of Calovebora, it’s surrounding coast and the journey to get there is going to change quickly and drastically.
We took advantage of our timing and set out on horseback with Edgar and Etienne, a French-Canadian we met at the hostel, to make the two day trip up and down hill after hill and through several rivers to Calovebora. The first day was 12 hours on horseback. Ouch. Etienne had never been on a horse and refused to urge his on with anything but kind words. He stayed behind.
Edgar’s mule refused to move an inch unless one of the other horses went in front so it was up to Angie and I to take the lead. About an hour into the ride I got sick on the side of the road and felt woozy for the rest of the day. Halfway through the day Angie’s horse decided it had had enough of going slow and began galloping through the bottom of every downhil with her hanging on for dear life. Edgar decided to tie her horse to his mule. When we finally reached Rio Luis, where we would stay for the night, we stopped to wait for Etienne. After a while his horse came over the top of the hill without it’s rider. Not a good sign. It turned out that everything was fine. The tarp protecting Etienne’s saddle (it rained for the last 4 hours) had fallen off and when he dismounted to get it his horse decided to finish the trip without him. Needless to say, we were extremely relieved to get to our resting point in one piece. We stayed at a family’s house where we were given beds and hot food and were stared at by their children.
The next morning the four of us and a driver piled into a huge dug-out canoe with all of our bags and headed for three hours to Calovebora. The ride was exciting with lots of little rapids. The scenery was lush green virgin hills. We had to get out a few times to let the driver navigate some really shallow spots. That was fine with us. Sitting indian-style on a wooden seat after an all day horse ride is not comfortable. When we got to Calovebora Edgar set us up in a wooden house that cost $5.00 per night, total
We spent the next three days swimming, fishing, relaxing, resting our backsides and listening to Edgar resite the sceintific and popular names of all the bugs, frogs, butterflies and birds that we saw or he tracked down.
We ate breakfast and dinner at a family’s house where we were served yams, another unknown root and fried fish for breakfast and then fried plantains, rice and fried or stewed fish for dinner. 75 cents per plate.
The town itself is very quiet. It sits on a hill overlooking the Caribbean and at the mouth of a river. They have no electricity, their water runs from a spring. About 200 people live there and, from what we saw, they do a whole lot of nothing. When the conditions are right they run out and haul in a bunch of fish. If they catch one big enough someone in the next town will hear about it and may bring their boat over to buy it from them. They eat plaintains, bananas and various roots, no greens or other vegetables. They have a school and a small health center. The beach is untouched. Since it’s the beginning of the rainy season the muddy water from the river made the rest of the coast murky, but it was still beautiful.
The journey back was less eventful. We walked to Rio Luis as the river was too low to go up, spent the night and then got back on the horses. Our horses knew they were going home so didn’t need much encouragement and we did the trip in 10 hours. For now we are going to continue searching, but, so far Santa Fe is at the top of the list