I’m always inspired by beautiful creations that come from something that is otherwise everyday, and in this case, considered mundane, growing with abundance in Nature in Panama. The indigenous Indian tribes got smart and decided that they could use the nut for carvings as a “elephant safe ivory” and no longer cut down this tree because it has become so resourceful for their economy. The reason the nut is often left as the base is not only to show a single carving; although some do use two nuts, but to let custom officials know that this carving is not from elephant tusk.
These tagua treasures that I discovered on our Panama trip exemplify this concept of exceptional mini sculptures from the everyday nut that take quite an artistic talent to carve and even paint. We saw all of these animals while there, btw. Including three coatimundi (a raccoon type animal) that reminded us more of lemurs as they went bounding across our path on our way to the jungle to see the howler monkeys.
Taqua is an egg size nut that grows nearly everywhere in South America. We saw the tree whenever we were walking in the rainforest. There is no shortage of supply for creating these beautiful creatures. There is also tagua jewlery that can be carved. The hand dyed and woven basket above is another one of the treasures that I purchased from the Embera. I love the colors and keep all the taguas inside — truly a basket of treasures.
We learned about them at the Embera Indian village where we visited. Each family had tagua figurines and wares for sale. I purchased something from each family but ran out of funds to get an all white armadillo that caught my eye. Consequently, I’m on a search and hope to find one to finalize my collection. These are the closest I’ve found to the one I saw with combinations of both figurines — small nut base with this top armadillo style and the ribbed armadillo tail of the second one. This site seems to give credit to the Embera Artisans and has carvings more in keeping with their intricate style. Whatever I find, it won’t be the same unless it comes from the village.
White carved tagua armadillo via Where on Earth $40
Armadillo tagua from Where on Earth $30
I like how One World Projects supports the Indians from which these figurines were created because as you can the price can otherwise get awfully inflated. If only they had an armadillo like the one I’m looking for…Excuse for another trip?
Where does one find love this Valentine’s Day or any day for that matter, in the heart of Panama. Evidently, the producers of show The Bachelor think so too.
My husband and I celebrated his milestone birthday recently by going back to “his glorious roots,” Panama City, Panama, where he was born. He was only a newborn when his father was stationed in the Panama Canal zone so he doesn’t have memories from this time but we had fun visiting where he and his family had connections and created some new reflections on a modernized Panama.
We started our trip in the heart of the Gamboa Rainforest at the Gamboa Resort – pretty nice and really the only place to stay on the Chagres River right at the point where it cuts into the Panama Canal. From our observatory perch from the jungle tram, we were able to see many cruise liners, tankers and various other sea-faring vessels pass through the Panama Canal. We learned what a major engineering feat it was to build and how thousands of lives were lost in the process. Panama is currently widening the canal to further increase traffic and commerce.
We passed Noriega’s new home on the way there. He was our neighbor, just down the road from where we were staying.
We had to go over the railway which had been converted into a one-way bridge by covering the tracks with tar. Gamboa is a birder haven and they were everywhere, including in the jeep in front of us, going very slowly, scouting for rare birds.
Then there are the leaf cutting, worker ants that we came upon while walking on a forbidden trail — without a guide, “because it can be peligroso – dangerous.” Well, oops…good thing we didn’t venture too far on another path at night. We actually got scared to go further on that one after we saw bats and thought we hear growling. There are jaguars in the jungle here.
We did however, wander upon a two-toed sloth which was very close to us near the ground. He saw us and then he started slowly but faster than you think a sloth could go right back up the to the top of the tree. We later found out that two-toed sloths can be very dangerous and they only come down from the tree about once a week to do their business….Poor guy. I’m sure we left him in a bad fix.
Tarzan goes jungle vine climbing
I could go on and on about this trip but I just want to give you a few more highlights with pictures and suggest that the secrets that we discovered in Panama may no longer be secrets now that The Bachelor was filmed right where we were for last week’s episode. They stayed at the Trump tower (see the last couple of posts). It was uncanny seeing on TV the same indigenous Embera tribal village that we visited in the jungle and even the same Las Clementinas restaurant that I thought would be lovely to return to, for it reminds me of New Orleans and is also a B&B. We had the best food of our trip there and the most friendly service. Our waiter even knew Peter’s godfather in Panama. Here’s the nutshell of our remaining Panama trip (without even cracking the full nut) in pictures.
Embarking on a trip to Embera Village
Swimming hole on the way to the Embera Village
Being served lunch at the Embera village - baked fish in home-made hibiscus/ leaf cups
Getting Tattoos -- not only an art form but the dye helps to keep the mosquitoes away.
Las Clementinas Restaurant in Panama. They had their own custom wallpaper of family and historical portraits. Very cool!
On our tour back in the city we got to see where Peter was baptized as well as a day in the life of living in the San Felipe or Casco Viejo, old city of Panama.
St. Luke's Episcopal Church
Path to San Felipe - the Old City in Panama
A parrot fish is a proud catch at the fish market in Panama, where we had the best ceviche.
Panamanian Indian with beaded socks
Colorful building in the area where Operation Just Cause took place
Just one of the many lovely homes we saw in San Felipe, with a water view
It was hot while we were there — about 87 – 90+ degrees and humid in the rainforest. We were forced to cool off — many times and Balboa was our refreshment of choice.
Balboa beer is our favorite pick in Panama
You can’t beat the sunsets in Panama, particularly poolside.
Panamanian sunset, pool side at the Intercontenintal Hotel
I’ll leave off where I began with a look at Panama City — our final view before leaving — until we return for it’s a romantic spot to leave your heart in Panama.
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