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April 2007

 I Trip Reports   II News  III Agenda  IV Suggestions V Picture

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I. Trip Report                                                                                                     

1.   The Chagres Challenge, by Jackie Jenkins, from Canada, March 16, 2007

We decided to go to Panama and to spend some of the time exploring the rainforest with a tour company. The 2007 Frommers Panama book recommended Aventuras Panama ("one of Panama's top rafting and kayaking tour companies", p.71) and the website was easy to access. Ahhh, the "Chagres Challenge" - it was exactly what the 5 of us wanted and we were very excited at the prospect of it. I was fairly timid about booking and paying for the trip through the internet and emails. Speaking to Javier on the phone reassured me especially as he was so professional and pleasant, and we quickly agreed on the trip we could do and the amount. The payment procedure through a website in B.C. was pretty scary, the amounts didn't seem to match the amount we had discussed, the deposit went through as more than twice the amount I had intended with a click of a button. Emails to Javier and the other site quickly reassured me again, and even though the amounts didn't seem to make any sense, I felt comfortable that it would be worked out once we hooked up in Panama.

Chagres River Drop, at Chagres National Park


Early pick up, Rafa provides a briefing


Unloading cargo horse at end of hiking trek


Fresh water coconut


Tastes so good, that I can hike all over again for more !


Communication once we arrived was messy. We were away from the resort for the first 2 days so missed Javier's call and the front desk at the resort told him there was no one staying there by that name, no party of 5, even though I had left specific contact instructions with them about our whereabouts. On our return, I thought a quarter would be the charge for a local call so my calls to Javier were strange, me plunking in quarters and running out of time and coins before we were clear about the details.

But 5 a.m. Friday arrived and we waited for the pick up at the lobby - no show....wondering if it was all a scam....back to the room to find Javier's cell phone, not knowing the name of the guide picking us up....feeling sick with guilt for not paying better attention to the process of booking the trip.

Piedras River, upper tributary of Chagres River, Chagres National Park

and now the river trip rafting and kayaking...

Then at 5:30, a fully loaded 4x4 was there, raft, kayaks and tents on top, a sight that was so good to see. And Raphael, lively and friendly, there with the visa slips to sign, still the amounts were strange but we figured it out and put off paying the balance until the end of the trip. He was not only a naturalist and very knowledgable about Panama, but he was also a very accomplished birder complete with big heavy bird books for us to use. Wow!

The road ahead passed through Panama City urban sprawl and traffic jams into winding mountainous mixed forest and farms, getting smaller and smaller until it was just a track, steep and deeply eroded. And there at the bottom of a steep hill beside a river were the 5 horses tacked up and ready, and men to help us. We explored the river while the horses were packed up. We left two small bags as instructed in the vehicle, clean dry clothes to change into at the end.


At the confluence of Chagres and Piedras Rivers



Rafa and Nelson discussing who is the best camp´s chef


frog visiting camp of invaders, us.


We hiked for a long time (1 1/2 hours?), up and down steep hills, through forest and farm, birding and soaking up the surroundings. One of the highlights of this part of the trip was that we all walked over a quiet little brown snake that was identified as a young fir de lance, still curled up and stiff from the night. At one point Bree became a little faint and so the horseman cut us all some coconuts for a drink. And after crossing yet another river, we stopped. We swam in a deep crystal clear pool in the river while Raphael and Rigo made our lunch. The rafts and kayaks were inflated and packed and we said goobye to the horses and helpers and set off on the river.

We were to stop around 4 to camp. We crossed many small sections of rapids, often having to push our kayaks a bit as the water was low, getting used to the boats and enjoying the beautiful water and scenery. The river joined the Chagres and the last part of the day was in deeper water, moving fast and much more challenging rapids (still only class II ). All beginner kayakers, it was a great way to learn how to manage the rapids.

Small 12' NRS raft use for cargo, the rest paddle kayaks





Class II river rapids at Chagres River





Around 4 we pulled over onto a sandy beach and stopped for the night. It was paradise. We were surrounded by steep hills covered with primary rainforest. A little tributary joined the main river at this beach and the lighting from the sparkling water and overhanging trees was stunning. The beach was thick with tiny frogs that leapt for safety at each step. We floated in our life jackets down the stretch of river in front of us. We had learned our lesson about snakes and stayed on the sand and rocks, exploring, napping, reading. Raphael told us why the bird life was so quiet, that when the forest is climactic, there isn't the busy-ness of disturbed areas. We absorbed our surroundings while Rigo and Raphael set up the tents and cooked dinner. At dusk we found a huge spider behaving strangely. As we watched, she slowly emerged from her old skin into a be-jeweled new body that hung limply and gradually swelled with some secret fluids. We played with the giant frogs who had arrived for the evening. We dined on beans and peppers, potatoes, sausages and chicken and wine.

I found myself thinking of my father's four years on a wild river in Thailand and Burma. He was a Japanese POW in WW II. It must have been a little like this place. Did they eat up all the frogs, spiders and other creatures there? As they moved on did they leave behind ravaged nature that would gradually send out new life and remove all traces of their stay? What part of him did that experience become?

Class III river rapid, a 4 ft drop, Chagres National Park

no way back so I better be committed to it

The night was long trying to sleep on the hard sand with only a thin mattress. We laughed the next morning finding out that we had all been longing for the morning to come quickly as we lay there looking at the sky through the tent vents. Who needs to sleep at times like this. Four sunbitterns were having a morning across the river as we packed up. They didn't seem to realize we were so close, with the sounds of moving water and the shade of the overhanging trees obscuring them.

As I sat on the stony beach looking out over the water I had the thought that this is the only place in the world where I feel totally safe. There is nothing that is impending here, it is all done, and we are there just to be in it, to experience it. No one is making use of it, forcing it into some kind of human purpose, it just is. That was the most important moment of my whole trip to Panama.

drop approach by Rigoberto, Chagres River

succesful rapid pass with a Sevylor white water kayak

Back on the river we spent our second day scanning the forest for wildlife and playfully racing, splashing, capsizing and floating as the river took us with it. The surroundings were stunning and the water clear and inviting. At lunch time Raphael and Rigo made us rice and squid and we worked on finishing the wine. We discussed Panama's history and politics gaining a richer understanding of this country.

In the middle of the afternoon we saw our first signs of human activity and a piece of my heart broke. I said to Raphael," We are leaving the wild?" And he said,"Yes." And the river gradually became busy with Embarro homes and finally we changed from our kayaks to dugout motor boats. We passed tour boats coming up the river with more folks like us. I felt very grateful for our entended and personalized time on the river.

swimming in crystal clear waters of Chagres River

navigating in embera wooden canoe

Back to the incredibly complicated human way of life. Home to the resort, visa chits finally signed, goodbyes and thank yous to Raphael and Rigo. John's sandals missing from the bag we left in the vehicle. Check the room to see it we forgot them. There must be a security break in the system somewhere as nothing else was taken and the bag must have been searched. Probably won't see them again. Better let Javier know and tell him how much we loved the trip.

So, it sits there for me as a very special experience. Thank you again for the trip and for your professionalism.


No, I didn't see the peccaries but the others did. I think Rob spotted them first then the big raft , I was last at the time. Yeah, that was amazing so they said, the disadvantage of going last.

 News                                                                                TOP

1. Dare to Live, "Atrevete a Vivir !", has turned to become an english written ezine due to popular demand.

Almost everyone in Panama, its market, speaks english and every day more and more foreigners requested an english version.  Hopefully we can satisfy everyone.

2. The Rainy Season has started

Yes, It has been raining as never before in a regular April.  It seems we will have an excellent paddling season 2007.

Althought rivers still low, hopefully by May we will be able to run rafts in all our rivers.  Right now we are taking both, rafts and inflatable kayaks on each trip to choose the best option or combination at the moment. 

3. Plan Ahead with Year Long Scheduled Trips

Aventuras Panama has incorporated an online booking system that will allow everyone to know ahead of time about its scheduled trips through out the paddling season. Check this feature at the "BOOK NOW" button on their tour descritpion page HERE

Very close to these dates you might receive a "last minute call" email to offer you available spaces at a discounted price or you can secure today your participation on any given date by booking at regular prices.

III. AGENDA for April 2007                                   TOP

DATE TOUR Regular price, per person Your  Price
Sunday 15 Mamoni B/.  125.00  B/.    95.00
Sunday 29 Rio Grande B/.  125.00  B/.    95.00

For reservations please call us at Phone 260-0044/774-3434 Cel 6679-4404 or email us at . Payment is required at least a day prior to tour date.

 Note:  Listed prices for above dates are good only for residents of Panama that had joined "Atrevete a Vivir !" Ezine prior March 2007.  Tour participation is subject to availability and our own Terms and Conditions.

If a member is interested in a particular destination or activity we welcome suggestions. This ezine is also available to post members available preplanned trip into the outdoors. 

IV Suggestions                                                           TOP

Patronato Amigos del Águila Harpía Patronato Amigos del Águila Harpía

The mission, objective and goals of this ONG are focused  on preservation of the Harpy Eagle and its natural habitat.

Currently it manage the Harpy Eagle section at Jardín Botánico Summit (Tel. 232-4850, 232-4854), Panama City´s Zoo.

harpy eagle, aguila arpia


Do not monkey around, help save the rainforest

Aventuras Panama's  Resources  around 2,000 links to websites related to adventure, paddling, Panama, and the outdoors.

V Picture                                                                                           TOP

Unloading horse at end of hike on Chagres National Park, now rafting

" GREAT ! End of the journey for me. This is where YOU get YOUR cargo and dissapear from my sight downstream"

Picture by Jackie Jenkins, March 16, 2007



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Join Atrevete a Vivir Ezine to be aware of our activities, news, suggestions and much more on oudoor and extreme activities.  If you like to travel on a small budget catch our last minute call for availabe spaces on our regular tours.. Join here:  Atrevete a Vivir  

Frommers | Chagres Challenge |Chagres National Park | peccarie | duckie | harpy


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