It felt like I was entering the Amazon. Not a soul was to be seen. Great swaths of bamboo fell into the water at the river's edge and wild mangoes towered overhead. But for the hum of our motor, the world was silent. There are many places the tourists visit in Bocas, this is not one of them. I did hear there is a man they call Santa who lives along the river's edge in a home built by his own hands. I hear he has a long beard. I watched as we rounded corners of dark water until his house finally came into view. I saw his hollowed out canoes, but I did not see him sitting in the lawn chair sitting among the coconut palms down by the water. I know there are crocodiles, very big ones, in some of the rivers that run from the mountains down into the sea. I wondered if one might be lurking beneath me.
A middle aged man and his aging mother came into view. He paddled their cayuko. She held an umbrella in her wrinkled hand. They said nothing as they passed. He smiled, but did not pause his paddling.
Then two young boys came by. the recognized us from town. They waved hello and spoke a little Spanish. Were we going to Almirante? "Yes," I said. I think they asked us for a tow, them not having a motor and Almirante being a long paddle away. But I am not sure. We did not stop. And it was not until later that it dawned on me they may have been asking us to throw them a line and pull them along for a joy ride.
No matter, they were laughing when we left.
I did not forget to ask them about the crocodiles.
"No," they said and one shook his finger. Not here.
I am not sure if I was relieved or disappointed.
They were very modern looking young men, out of place for such an authentic mode of transportation and such a remote location.
The world is changing.
I am thankful I get to see it in transition.
This is real. This is life.
Getting out of My Comfort Zone