A few years ago, I was sailing in the rich waters of the Gulf of Panama and decided to spend the night anchored in the wild tropical coast of Darien. The sun was setting on the memories of an intense day in the waters of an ever generous sea, which had opened up to show me its treasures: marlin, dolphins, manta rays and even a humpback whale that frolicked near its young in the tepid, tropical Pacific waters.
Under the violet blaze of the Panamanian sunset, the dense Darien jungle drew itself mysterious and wild. Between the green and turquoise lace that forms the thick mangrove, I thought I saw something move. Spurred by my curiosity, I threw the ship’s little kayak into the water. Suddenly, I found myself face to face with Ngobere, a smiling member of the Emberá tribe. It was dark now and the sounds and primitive aromas of the impressive jungle awakened; some were sweet and kind, others were brutally aggressive.
The image of my native friend set against the light of an improvised bonfire made me travel 500 years back in time. This man, I thought, could be a direct descendent from that Pankia’kó who guided the conquistador, Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, through this very same jungle in 1513, all the way from the Caribbean so the Spaniard could discover the Pacific Ocean. Even today it is fascinating to make the journey from one ocean to the other, and discover the rich and different forms of life these coasts harbor.
The next day, the whistle of the ships at the entrance of the Panama Canal welcomed me back to civilization. An enormous container ship passed by me, on its way to Asia, no doubt. But I could not get the memory and the experience I had lived in the restless loneliness of the rainforest out of my head. The city with a New York feel about it towered in front of me and I thought of the unique essence of this country that offers so many different and distant places, cultures and worlds as these, within reach of each other in just a few hours.
I believe it was then when I decided that it was worth working so that other people could experience equally intense moments. This can only be done in a place like Panama, where so many different histories, lives and events entwine imperceptibly and coexist in the same time and space, weaving a plethora of forms and cultures that inhabit the thin strip of land that shapes the waist of the Americas.
Today, I am pleased to share my experiences with you, through an extraordinary and intense journey….The Journey Between the Seas.
Jose R. de la Guardia
Panama Marine Adventures, Inc.