Thursday, October 29, 2009

River Watch

Each day as I hike to and from the site I follow the main road that is criss-crossed by the meandering river. Each day I watch the incremental changes as once isolated puddles start to meld together and once dry crossings become muddy and the outright wet. The past few weeks we've had near constant rain, and the river that was once confined to a few low areas up the valley is now running across the road in and out of town.

Dos Mangas (two sleves/arms) is so named because it's located where the rivers Culebra and Colin join to form the larger Manglaralto river. Though now a seasonal river, some of the older residents have told me that as recently as 50 years ago the river was permanent, an deep enough that comuneros would sail rafts laden with paja (a plant fiber used for roofing and the famous "Panama" hats) down to the coast.

Bundles of cut paja.

As the river rises, and my hike to the site become a slog through calf-deep mud, I watch the river with excitement and trepidation. Excitement to see what the valley looked like in it's recent history, when it was lusher and wetter. To be able to catch crayfish out of the river and eat ripening fruit right from the forest. Excitement especially to imagine what it would have been like for the people who populated my site and lived along the Rio Culebra. Trepidation because the only way in and out of the village is across the river. There is no bridge. When the water gets too deep you're basically stuck. Trepidation because in previous years the river, when it runs, comes all at once, and has taken houses with it.

The river road, in the dry season.

They say that there'll likely be an El Nino event this year. With the way it's been raining (unseasonably heavy, according to my workers) I wouldn't be surprised.

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