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universidad de monterrey | rafting accident | chagres panama | International School of Panama | ISP |  

January 2012


 I Trip Reports   II News  III Agenda  IV Suggestions V Picture

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I. Trip Report    


The Chagres Challenge on Nov 20, 2011


It had rained non stop for almost five consecutive days. In the news many towns along the country were reported flooded. It was not an easy call on deciding weather or not to cancel an already scheduled  day trip. With a last look to the online weather satellite I forecasted that the rain would stop hours before we would get to the river put in (this trip starts at 5:00 am but the river is not reached until close to noon). I decided to take a chance and do the trip.

And we did not regret it ! When we arrived at Rio Piedras around 11:00 am the river was still high but safe to raft and quickly coming down from a 20 ft flood.

It was one of my best journeys in Chagres National Park. On this occasion a group of seven teachers from International School of Panama joined us, ISP (Denise Crlenjak, Kate Meininger, Amy Ward, Amy Rhee, Sharon and Leightnon Duley, David Swartwout ), two guides from Canada (Kevin and Diane Tessier from Northwest Voyageur), and two people from USA, Craig Goldberg and Ephraim Austin)

As we started to raft so did the rain ,the rain would continue for the next 5 hours until the trip ended. It did not matter that all participants where from up north, we all were freezing! But the amazing scenery, splashing, and friendship kept us warm.

This trip was also the first one in which we took our SPOT GPS satellite messenger device, and put it to the test. . It worked as expected. Thanks to it I can share with you the following spot adventure  


Scouting New Put In for Mamoni River River Rafting   Jan 2012

While rafting in the Mamoni River it is hard to inmagine how desolated the nearby hill are. Their thin fertile soil gets flushed out of its steep slope by rain once the forest is cut down and set on fire to make room for new pasture land for cattle.  In few year their soil degrades up to a point that it wont hold enough nutrients  for even pasture.

Still some spots of jungle remain on the steepest hills by the river shore and on it we usually see monkeys, tucans, slots and many other animals even more often than rafting in the virgin jungles of Chagres National Park.

There are a couple of initiative that are betting on "sustainable farms" and I congratulate them for their effort to turn around human devastation and seek an equilibrium with the enviroment.

I witness these landscapes while searching for a new put-in on the river.




 II News                                                                                      TOP


The Chagres River All The Way descent aborted due to an almost fatal accident by Javier Romero


I had always wanted to include a expedition style trips following the Chagres river from source to sea within our journeys. If there is a river that can provide tales about the country, it is the Chagres River. On it, you will find most of the flora, fauna, history, and the wonders of the Panama Canal, indigenous culture and of course adventure.

I was contacted by the Department of Leadership of the University of Monterrey Mexico. They were searching for a one of a kind trip in which team building would be stressed. I immediately suggested the Chagres source to sea expedition trip. We joined teams in making this trip a reality starting on Dec 12, 2011 13 students would take on the challenge.


It was an 8-9 days journey that had to be aborted on the 3rd day...


On Wednesday Dec 14, 2012 at 4:30pm  Aventuras Panama personnel started to receive on their cellular phones the prerecorded text message "Life in danger… immediate evacuation requested... please inform operations". The message was sent by a guide in the field using a SPOT satellite messenger recently acquired for this trip and previously tested on other Chagres day trips. So I knew there was no mistake. All the company was put in alert.

I called our helicopter provider and ask them to have a chopper ready to take-off in the next 15 minutes with a flight plan to reach the received coordinates on the rescue text message. I was in the air 15 minutes after hanging up the phone at our office. The pilot, Kyle, questioned the probabilities of being able to land in the upper mountain region of Chagres National Park at that time due to visibility problems since heavy clouds were ahead. I had recently consulted the weather satellite and I was able to assure him that poor visibility was not likely to be a problem.

We flew for 20 minutes on a straight path and right when the river valley became visible we left the heavy clouds behind us. We reached the position. Just when the pilot was starting to doubt the given coordinates, I signaled him where to land... the group was at a river shore. They were expecting the chopper and had prepared an area where it was possible to land. Not an easy landing due to the narrow area in between steep river sides and high threes but that is why we work with Helipan chopper company, they know their stuff.

I found one of the girls, Goretti Hinojosa, lying in a raft, looking pale purple, with swollen lips and barely conscious. She had become trapped under water and was rescued and resuscitated via CPR administered by the guides. Using an inflatable kayak as an stretcher and with all the groups help we moved her from the raft to the chopper and assisted on putting her in the back seats with her sister, Fatima. I went back to the copilot seat and flew back to Panama City. While In the air I was communicating via instant messager with Aventuras Panama office personnel to reconfirm that the only hospital in the city with a heliport was a public one, Hospital Santo Tomas for which our arrival was already announced.

We landed at Santo Tomas heliport on top of a parking building and no one was in sight. I ran down and found someone with a walkie talkie confirming with the emergency room that we had arrived. We did not wait for a stretcher. Recruiting everyone around us, Fatima, the pilot and hospital cleaning personnel all took turns to carry Goretti from the chopper to the arriving stretcher.

Minutes later Goretti was in the hospital emergency room with a group of doctors on her. Later on, the head doctor came out to speak to us, "we are doing all we can but it does not looks well, I do can tell you that she is here alive due to the first aid care and rapid evacuation. If she would had arrive two minutes later brain damage would be certain."

Thank God, today Goretti is out of intensive care back in Monterrey, walking, and it seems likely, that she will have her life back 100%.

How did all this happen? Goretti and Fatima were paddling a duckie in what looked to be a very easy Class III minus rapid. They were the last boat in a convoy of six to paddle in it, when they flipped approaching it with a wrong angle. While submerged Goretti´s life vest got caught in an underwater branch.

She was not visible underwater and it took three guides swims to find and grab her. The guides rescued her by tying a rope to her life vest and pulling her out from shore.

There was a sequel to this tale. The University of Monterrey Staff and the parents of the students decided to abort the expedition due to what was described as a nightmare instead of the experience we all were searching for. We ended up evacuating everyone in choppers two days later, while Goretti was still in intensive care with her future still uncertain. They were not in danger, but most of them had more than enough to continue.

I am very grateful to God, always present in our mind, for the fortunate outcome of this event. Also to Fatima and Goretti ´s parents, the University of Monterrey, the Mexican Embassy and everyone else involved on trusting Aventuras Panama knowledge, will and determination to execute this rescue operation.

There are many angles on this story. And I know of many active and passive participants that are writing their version of what may one day turn to be a book or a film. I just wanted to put it up to the general public and my colleagues, as the rafting industry usually does, to share experiences and learn from them.

The Chagres River All The Way Expedition still in our goals.  

Media releases about this accident (all coverage is in spanish):
 Interview with  Hinojosa Family

Published in Mexico on Sierra Madre, Monterrey, MX, Newspaper on January 27, 2012

Paid add thanking Panamanian Community

Published in Panama local news paper La Prensa on January 24, 2012

 UDEM thank you note Comments of Juan Carlos Tapia

Panama TV Program "Lo Mejor del Boxeo". on RPC January 26, 2012.  Check very last minutes of Video


 Copy of Printed Version

Copy of Web Version

Panama, Ranked the Number One destination for 2012 by NY Times
With the title "Panama: Go for the Canal, stay for everything else" this article provides many reason for you to schedule Panama on you next vacation.


It’s been 12 years since Panama regained control of its canal, and the country’s economy is booming. Cranes stalk the skyline of the capital, Panama City, where high-rises sprout one after the next and immigrants arrive daily from around the world. Among those who have landed en masse in recent years are American expatriates and investors, who have banked on Panamanian real estate by building hotels and buying retirement homes. The passage of the United States-Panama free trade agreement in October is expected to accelerate this international exchange of people and dollars (the countries use the same currency).

Among the notable development projects is the Panama Canal itself, which is in the early stages of a multibillion-dollar expansion. The project will widen and deepen the existing canal and add two locks, doubling the canal’s cargo capacity. For those who want to see the waterway as it was originally designed, now is the time. The expansion is expected to be completed by 2014, the canal’s 100-year anniversary.

Other high-profile projects include the construction of three firsts: The Panamera, the first Waldorf Astoria hotel in Latin America (set to open in June 2012); the Trump Ocean Club, the region’s tallest building, which opened last summer; and Frank Gehry’s first Latin American design, the BioMuseo, a natural history museum scheduled to open in early 2013. Even Panama City’s famously dilapidated historic quarter, Casco Viejo, has been transformed. The neighborhood, a tangle of narrow streets, centuries-old houses and neo-colonial government buildings, was designated a Unesco World Heritage site in 1997 and is now a trendy arts district with galleries, coffeehouses, street musicians and some of the city’s most stylish restaurants and boutique hotels.

Across the isthmus, on Panama’s Caribbean coast, the Bocas del Toro archipelago has become a popular stop on the backpacker circuit, with snorkeling and zip lining by day and raucous night life after dark. FREDA MOON

Read it from the source HERE

 III. AGENDA for January 2012                                                  TOP

Jan 20, 2012   The Chagres Challenge   Price for Atrevete a Vivir members : $ 99.00 per person
        Regular price:  $ 175.00 per person
Jan 31, 2012   San Blas Sea Kayak Expedition   Price for Atrevete a Vivir members : $ 700.00 per person
    (traveling by road & boat)   Regular price:  $ 1,350.00 per person

For reservations please call us at Phone 260-0044,  Cel 6679-4404 or email us at . Payment is required at least five days prior to tour date.  Trips departs from our office HERE

 Note:  Listed prices for above dates are good only for residents of Panama that had joined "Atrevete a Vivir !" Ezine previous to current month.  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

Spot satellite messenger make me a believer by just reading about it.  Now after the history narrated above in which we were able to save a life it turn me into a preacher.  To those outfitter that operate in remote areas with out communications... Convert to it !

Panama Rep: Jorge Luis Caceres / Globalstar 

Optibike was started in Jim Turner's Boulder, Colorado Garge with a simple vision: Make the Wold's best electric bicycle, with no compromises in quality, performance or style.

Its electric motor allow you to power pedal up hill.    Enjoy the ride !


Aventuras Panama's  Resources  around 2,200 links to websites related to adventure, paddling, Panama, and the outdoors.

V Videos and Pictures                                                                                    TOP

Gallery of worldwide pictures taken by avid fisherman and passionated white water rafting guide Matthew Podovinski

All credits belong to Matt


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universidad de monterrey | rafting accident | chagres panama | International School of Panama | ISP |  

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