Diary Entry

In the morning after the night full of spiders, snakes and other poisonous animals, the program continues straight away. I found out that it is possible to visit a village of the indigenous Embara people and I really want to do it.

I persuade Sara and Uwe and fix the day for which the people of our hostel organize a guide and boats. Two other women from the hostel are also interested and join us. The guide Deder picks us up from the hostel and we walk to the village.

Before we get to the boats, I suggest buying fruit that we can bring as a gift. With a bunch of grapes, pears and apples that I didn’t expect to find in little El Valle, we arrive at the motorized built-in boats on the banks of the river.

In a dugout canoe to the village of an indigenous people – what an adventure!

Sara is only moderately enthusiastic when she realizes how shaky the narrow means of transport are.

In two boats we drive through the labyrinth of rivers and tributaries. The jungle surrounds us and we see many waterfowl. While the river bed is very wide at the beginning, it quickly becomes narrower and more difficult. The water is very shallow and the brown sludge is becoming increasingly transparent, revealing half a meter down to the gravel bottom below. The engine man and the man with the pole often have to get out of the boat to heave us over the shallows.

There is also a lot of deadwood that blocks the river and that the men have to get us past without capsizing. The water is not deep, but it would be very unfavorable with Leon. I am very reminded of my adventures with Uli and the kayak in Siberia, only this time we are close to the equator instead of the Arctic Circle.

There are still mosquitoes. And caimans. And snakes. And jaguars.

The journey is more difficult than expected and it takes almost two hours to reach the Embara village. Leon slept through the drive.

We have to walk the last kilometer through the shallow river bed and through the bush on the banks until we reach our destination.

The Embara are an indigenous people living in the mountainous regions of the Department of Chocó in western Colombia. They are known for their traditional craftsmanship and close connection to nature. Embara society is matriarchal, which means that women are in charge and make decisions. They live from farming, fishing and gathering fruits and herbs in the jungle. The Embara are also known for their music and dances, which play an important part in their culture. However, they have faced many challenges in recent years, including threats to their livelihoods from rainforest destruction and illegal mining.

The nation of the Embara

There’s a lot going on at the river. Women wash their laundry, boats are loaded or unloaded and men prepare to go fishing.

An ancient-looking woman slowly trotts to the water, only to suddenly leap into the cool water and splash around like a young mermaid.

People don’t walk around with feathers and bamboo skirts, but I can tell that life here is heavily dependent on the resources of the environment.

“Always” – is the answer to the question of how long our host family has lived in this place.

We follow our guide into the village and are invited into one of the wooden houses on stilts. It’s very hot and the shade of the huts helps. The house doesn’t really have walls. We can look over the village and into the other houses where women hang laundry or cook food.

We get to know the family of this house, which consists of several generations.

The father of the family cannot tell me how many generations his family has lived in this village in this place. “Always” is his answer.

We get coconut to drink and explore the village. The father of the family shows us around and shows us the school and the meeting house. There are many celebrations here, he tells us. Children look at us with big eyes and come straight up to Leon and give him gifts from small folded leaves.

An elderly lady made us a lunch of tuna, rice and patacones. A few other women from the village take the opportunity to sell us jewelry.

Sara wants to go to a toilet and asks for it – people look at each other in amusement and then Deder says: “The river”.

“Toilet?” – “River!”

In the afternoon we leave the village again. Leon doesn’t want to leave at all. The strong current of the river quickly brings us back to El Valle.



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