We visited the Rambala Jungle Lodge last December just before Mother’s Day. At that visit Javier helped us get our things to our cabanas and then took off so I didn’t see much of him. He and a couple friends have a years old tradition of serenading every mother in town for the occasion, so he was anxious to get on his way. I did, however, get to see and explore his house a bit which I posted about in this blog post. I had never seen such a basic and simple house up close and found it extremely interesting.
On this visit, the house is basically unchanged. But, this time I was able to talk with Javier quite a bit and learn more about his life. I’m not sure how old he is but he has three children in their 20’s, one grandchild and another on the way. He is from Nicaragua where he worked as a tour guide taking people around in carts drawn by water buffalo. Next, he moved to Costa Rica where he was also a tour guide, this time leading horseback rides. From there, he came to Panama. The people in Costa Rica want him back but he is very happy where he is now and wants to stay.
Javier has a nice block house in town with electricity and indoor plumbing. He says he goes there to do his laundry and watch TV – documentaries on nature and wildlife. But, it is noisy in town – neighbors, babies, dogs, etc. He is happier at Rambala. He has his radio and his reading material (again, nature and wildlife), and loves the quiet and being so close to nature. He says he often goes out hiking at night just to see the different animals that come out after dark. His passion has always been the outdoors and wildlife, and he loves sharing this interest with others.
I only took a few photos this time since Javier was on site and I didn’t want to be a pest. Check the previous post though for many more photos. I should have asked him what he eats and what he cooks. This time, like last time, there didn’t seem to be any food around that I could see. It certainly doesn’t look like my kitchen where you could probably live for a month if you had to!
None of it looks like my house. He has a roof that protects from the elements. He has a water hose, gas for cooking, and an outhouse. This, and his radio and reading materials, and the jungle, and he’s happy. Of all the things I’ve seen so far in Panama, Javier and his house have give me the most to think about. I’ve passed many similar homes on drives around, but I’ve never had the opportunity to get to know the people or look at the homes up close so for me, this was a big part of my experience at Rambala.
As aside – I have to mention too that the people in the countryside are amazingly strong. The lodge and cabanas are all built with wood from trees that have died and fallen naturally in the jungle. The lumber was cut on site and carried out by hand. It was challenging for me to hike around out there, and I know how heavy that wood is. I cannot imagine carrying lumber through the jungle! I saw a little of this when I saw the guys carrying lumber on their shoulders as we were hiking out of the area.
I also got to feel Javier’s strength first hand when I was making my way up a steep and slippery spot and lost my footing. He grabbed my hand and hauled me up about 4 feet like it was nothing, and I’m a lot heaver than he is.
He may not very big but he’s tough, and smart, and has a passion for life, and a kind heart. I don’t think I could live that kind of minimalist outdoor life myself but I can certainly respect those who do. “The rich are prisoners and the poor are free”. I’m not sure where I heard that but there is truth in it. We strive for so much but where does it really get us?
Thanks Javier for sharing yourself, your story, and your time in the jungle with all of us.