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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Across the isthmus, on Panama’s Caribbean coast, the
Bocas del Toro archipelago has become a popular stop on the backpacker
snorkeling and zip lining by day and raucous night life after dark.
Price for Atrevete a Vivir members : $ 700.00 per person
(traveling by road & boat)
Regular price: $ 1,350.00 per person
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available preplanned trip into the outdoors.
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
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 !
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