Rio Congo Panama

Rick Thompson’s Trip to Rio Congo, Panama. January 2009.

NOTE: I am not a writer or a professional traveler. This was written when I had few moments during my trip and posted when I had access to the internet. I am dyslexic and you will notice that as your read. Much is written as a stream of thoughts. Do notice that I have problems with some words: NOT/NOW, FROM/FORM, YOU/YOUR. You get the idea. If a sentence does not read right, see if I switch a word. Enjoy. The trip was wonderful. I was LUCKY. I could of died. I made many many mistakes that could of cost me my life. I was ill prepared.  Please contact me if you have questions or comments.

I grew up hearing my grandmother telling me of stories from her time in Panama. She would tell us of living in the jungle, being the only children there, ocean voyages, German Submarines, giant spiders, becoming a young women courted by dashing  sailors, the Panama Canal, her brother being friends with the Panamanian President’s son, etc.  She remembered some spanish well in to her 90s.  I liked nothing more than sitting and listening to her amazing stories of adventure and danger, of young love and coming of age in another time and in another place.  A place far far away from growing up in Flint, Michigan.

Her Father moved the family from the mountains of western Pennsylvania to the remote jungles of panama. Its was World War I. My Great Grandfather, C.A. Gates of Pleasantville, Pennsylvania built and ran sawmills for a living. He loved it and was good at it. Somehow and no one remembers how, he was offered to moved to Panama and run a sawmill there. The trip by boat would be dangerious with German Submerines hunting the waters. Once there there would no schools or hospital. Her and her brother were the only children.  The nearest city would be more than a days journey by boat. There are no roads to this place. There are still no roads to this place.

I was the first person from the family to return to Panama in 90 years.  Still today is it remote and dangerous.  Few people dare to enter the Darien Jungles of Panama.  I wish I would of gone here years earlier.  Grandma would of been so excited for me.  I went 5 year to late to bring her news and photos back from her beloved Panama.

I decided to return to this place, to see what remained. This is my adventure. A trip of a lifetime.

Sawmill 1920

Where I went

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