After spending the majority of the past day on traveling, auto maintenance, and bridge survey we were exhausted and went to sleep by sun down. Following day we woke up bright and early to the sound of chickens. After a healthy breakfast of fried plantains and eggs we headed out to meet Juan, who would guide us in the 2 hour hike to explore the discussed bridge site.
The hike turned out to be a little more cumbersome than I had imagined, given I was in sort of a less physically active state (considering I preferred to drive from from my apartment on Carlton St. to Fritz Lab during my MEng days). Turns out San Jan de Pequene is located on the other side of a hill so most of the trip comprised of steep uphill hiking. Plus the recent downpour didn’t help, making conditions muddy and slick. Every step I took required an extra effort since my rubber boots were getting sucked into the mud. Halfway through the hike and I was exhausted, while Juan showed no signs of slowing down. In order to keep my legs dry I decided not to wear my socks in the boots. Bad idea!!! The blisters that formed as a result were quiet painful. We finally stopped for a breather and I sat down to see the damage to my feet. First bad sign was when I drained my boots and the all water that dropped out was red. Juan saw this and made sure I would get socks at the village for the hike back.
However rough the hike might have been, it was a worthwhile experience. I got to visit an isolated native village and the view of the hillside during our hike in the early morning dusk were amazing. When we arrived at the bridge site we met up with a few local leaders to assess the need for this bridge. The river, even in the end of dry season was impassable so we had to use a canoe. The situation worsens significantly in the monsoon downpours, leaving a community without access to crucial medical care.
This hike made we wonder why these people choose to live in such isolated communities. The answer is simple…because its Home. Home is where they have lived for generations, feel comfortable, have family/friends nearby, and can make a living. An impassable river might cause burdens but won’t make them leave. And Home is also something I miss right now.
After somehow making the hike back to our boqueron river bridge site, first thing I did was lay down on the river bed. And I was offered an ice cold drink, let me just say I’ve never been so glad to have a grape soda before.
Soon after, I learnt that people from San Juan de Pequene will be regularly making this hike to help with Boqueron bridge construction! It made me realize how horrible it must be to do that 2 hour hike only to come to the Boqueron river and realize that it is flooded and impassable. Today was an eye opening day and I am glad to be in Panama and to be able to help these people the best way I know how.
Below are pictures from our hike:
Below are photos and videos from the bridge site: