Gamboa News

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Paradise Found!

chronicled by
Lyla "Lou" Womack

A paradise in the that's the ticket! We've all had getaways but not many like this one nestled and hidden in the heart of a tropical jungle. We stumbled accidentally up itšs location, we...meaning my Dad and I.

It all began one crisp morning when we got into our favorite boat nicknamed by my parents, the "Bubalou"...Bub for my brother and Lou after me. It was unusually painted with black and white striptes resembling the skin of a zebra. Anyone could spot it from quite a distance away because it certainly didnšt blend in with any of the jungle decor for a camouflage.

As Dad and I boarded the Bubalou and untied the rope from the dock I wondered where our expedition would take us to this time. We had gone up and down the Chagres River many times and occasionally across the Panama Canal to explore the Mindinga River. It was down the Mindaga, I believe, where we anchored our motor boat near the shoreline to peer down a few feet beneath the water only to see the iron crosses which bore the markings of what used to be a French cemetary. Before the canal was flooded many towns existed below the waterline but when the canal was flooded with the waters of the Chagres River these towns that once had people living in them were buried forever underneath the water.

This time, after cranking up the 3 horsepower motor I noticed after passing under the Gamboa Bridge that we turned to the right to head up the canal past the Dredging Division. Dad always added a mystery and intrigue to our expeditions. I was on the edge of my seat waiting in anticipation for "the something unusual" to happen or be revealed. Questions began to arise in my mind such as, "Where are we going this time? What does he know that I donšt know?" And naturally as a kid, I wanted to know how long it would take.

Once could see the huge cranes, Hercules and Atlas, as high as skyscrapers docked at the Dredgin Division and the long row of beautiful palm trees past the office. The put-put sound of the motor and and the smelling of the fumes from it became very montonous after about a half and hour however the anxiety that was aroused o see some new territory compensated for this inconvenience.

At about the same time that boredom was creeping in Dad turned the boat sharply to the left and crossed the canal. Fortunately for us there were no big ship transiting at this time and leaving a huge wake for us to struggle across in our tiny motorboat.

The greenery of the lush jungle appeared on the other side of the canal dotting itself against a dark, billowy, clouded sky. As we rounded the bend of the jetting out peninsula, we could see an inlet leading to somewhere that had been totally unexplored by us. We both agreed that this would be good hidden and secluded place to go exploring. Dadšs second home had always been the jungle so I felt secure when I was with him.

We traveled up the inlet for several minutes while we automatically observed the overhanging branches of the jungle carefully for one never knows what they might see. It could be a macaw parrot, a spider monkey, an iguana or even a boa constrictor.

As our motorboat led us further up the inlet, it eventually narrowed into a wide stream that was big enough for us to trek up for a little while longer. When we finally arrived at much to our amazement at a beautiful, shaded pool surrounded by the tropical jungle. Immediately we took possession of it as we cried in unison together, "Our swimming pool!"

Now we really needed to look over this unexplored paradise! Banana trees were growing among the manyh tropical plants and trees which proved to be invaluable as a flash of lightning turned everything white for an instant followed by the sound of the thunder indicating that it was not too far away. Dad knew that in no time we would be soaked if we didnšt run for cover...but we had none! With much haste he went to work with his machete and started to cut the broad leaves of a banana tree and lay them across some branches he had cut to make a lean-to. As the torrential rain shower began to pour down upon the jungle forest, from an aerial view one could see two figues nestled underneath a makeshift shelt of banana leaves in the heart of a hidden, jungle paradise.

As Dad and I sat there we talked about how this would be an ideal place for us to come on the weekends with our friends and spend the day. We taled about the swimming pool, having barbeques, fishing and taking walks in the jungle.

Tropical rain showers disappear as rapidly as they come so in no time we were out from under the shelter and walking to a clearing in the thick jungle. "Ah! An ideal place to build a cabana," Dad said with glee. I couldnšt have been happier at that moment except that eveing when we got home and shared the good news with Mom. Why even Skippy my dog would enjoy it I thought.

In the months to follow a wooden hut was constructed along with a concrete barbeque and grill. In no time all of our friends took outings with us to this jungle retreat. On the day that we were going, Mom would feverishly make sack lunches and the very important bait for catch the perch. Išll never understand how fish could like a bait made of flour and water called doughballs...but they did.

When we arrived on the scene the men would go into the jungle with their machetes and hunt for fruits of all kinds. Many were the times that I would follow Dad on a jungle trail into a dense thicket that one could not go through without a machete. I would always love to watch Dad start to swing the machete from right to left and walk right through the thicket with each swing of it with me of course following behind at a safe distance. It was always easy to find our way back as we looked for the newly cut branches on each side of our path.

The women were always anxious to go back down the stream into the inlet and start fishing for perch while my friends and I would go swimming in "our pool" and hunt for tadpoles and minnows that we could put into jars to take home. Alongside the stream there were plants growing that had beads on them that we would pluck and make into necklaces. All in all we worked up a hearty appetitie for the wonderful barbeque awaiting us.

Many times we regretted our parting time from this paradise in the jungle, but as dusk settled in, the mosquitoes became unreal as they would dive bomb into our delicate skin. No one needed coaxing to leave "right away" as the drone of mosquitoes got louder and the swatting increased in momentum.

In the years to follow we spent many enjoyable weekends at our "jungle getaway." I've often wondered if anyone ever found our secluded spot and...if I had not written about would have never known about our treasured paradise hidden from the world faraway in a tropical jungle.

P.S. Don't tell anyone!

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