It was the first part of my ‘holiday’ to Panama. After leaving my laptop well and truly at my new home in Colombia, I was disconnected for the first time in months and to be honest, I was actually enjoying the freedom of no emails, no internet and, no checking Facebook.
I had travelled to Panama for a festival, and being a lover of tribes, Geo Paradise – Tribal Gathering promised indigenous tribes, creative workshops and shaman ceremonies, all on a Caribbean beach in Panama. This festival in Panama sounded just up my street.
So, I arrived, and this time I was travelling light with just a pull-along suitcase for company (cheaper for the airfare with Viva Colombia). But as soon as the bus pulled up and a forest entrance beckoned, I realised that wearing a long black dress and pulling a suitcase over a dirt track was not the wisest idea. I instantly felt out of place.
Bronzed chicas wearing hippy clothes and dreaded dudes sat around as I walked past in black pumps wheeling my suitcase over dirt humps with my blow up mattress, sheets and tent in tow. Being in the middle of nowhere meant that there was nowhere else to stay except in a tent. This was first time I’d camped since Albania and I was excited. Excited to wake up at sunrise, to go to sleep with the sounds of nature and to have my own little room (even if it was a tent).
There was lots happening here too!
It turns out that I was the only person wanting to provide Reiki treatments, much to my surprise. So on my second day there, I set up my little Reiki parlour which comprised of my blow-up mattress, incense sticks which I had carried with me and a couple of make-shift signs announcing ’20 minute sessions for a donation.' In truth I had no idea how long each session I gave was, not owning a watch but as I scouted the festival for people who could benefit from a Reiki treatment, I managed to gain a bit of interest and my little Reiki business was born. I even gave Reiki to someone who had been bitten by a scorpion and others who had done a shaman ceremony the night before and needed to re-balance.
By the end of five days, I had made enough money to pay for my tent for the week, exchanged Reiki for food tokens, home-cooked meals and even a massage, plus I met some really interesting people and had a few deep and meaningfuls along the way. Not bad for a week’s work.
Always one to try something new, I signed up for the Acra yoga. Not being the most flexible person in the world, I watched in awe as the instructor taking the class span his partner over on his feet to reach a lotus sitting position, gulping in the realisation that this was completely over my head (literally!) After an hour’s very hot and sweaty session with the feet of a dude that I’d never met before, settled deep in my groin area, I managed to get lifted up and fulfil the flying position before I wobbled and fell off. Needless to say, I won’t be trying that again. But.. at least I tried.
Take Part in a Shaman Ceremony
Shamans from Colombia and Peru travelled here to share their spiritual practices. And whether you were into ayahuasca, peyote or even chocolate, which in certain amounts is a hallucinogen, there was a ceremony for each. Being into spiritualism, I took part in an ayahuasca ceremony.
Take Part in a Workshop
If I had ever wanted to learn how to make a spike to kill a monkey, how to make a hat with feathers, or just get my body painted, then this was definitely the festival to do it. Being into energies, I opted for the Mayan Mudras, learning more about this tribe's twenty energies. As a group we moulded our bodies in the form of animals, ready for the Mayan Fire ceremony which was to take place on the last Saturday of the festival. The Mayans believe that life does not end, and that each one of us is able to evolve and transform ourselves. Even if you weren't spiritual, just watching the Mayan Fire ceremony and listening to the flute music was moving.
Learn About the Tribes
There are several tribes in Panama and a percentage of the ticket price paid helps sustain the lives of some of these indigenous people, some who live in paradise but have hardly any drinking water, such as the people of Guna Yala.
One of the projects is helping to raise money to buy, install and train a local crew to maintain a desalination plant Nalunega, one of the islands. This will result in supplying them with 1000 gallons of drinking water each day.
The Boruca are known for their arts and crafts, especially their arts and crafts and their weaving. A famous artist in ayuas-ca painting and traditional arts in Amazonia gave lessons in art to the kids and adults in a Boruca art school project.
Another project involved taking three expert chocolate makers from one tribe to two others to teach them how to make organic chocolate from the local cocoa trees to enable the Guna Indians to produce healthy chocolate to sell to the tourists that vist the islands.
Buy Hand-Made Gifts
In Geohaven, I got a chance to meet the tribes who sell their arts and crafts such as purses and bags. The Mayan lady was even offering readings to the festival goers.
Two festivals in one, Geo Paradise turns into a dance festival after the first week when most of the tribes pack up and leave, and a psychedelic trance festival takes over with ultra violet lights and funky designs hanging from tree branches. The djs, mostly from Europe all sleep in the wigwam area then party during the day through to the night with 24 hours of music.
Everything here is eco friendly. Showers are just water cans or buckets that precariously hang from above on pieces of string. Toilets are decompsoting, bars and take-away food places are made from bamboo, and even the cutlery and plates are re-usable bamboo – genius.
I even met one of the talented artists who posed for the picture in front of one of his creations, and a natural builder who built some of the infrastructure.
After spending nearly a week here, listening to the sounds of the wind, waking up to the sun beating above me and praying that my rain cover would be enough to deter the rain from coming in my tent, I was ready to leave. Rested, relaxed and ready to reconnect with the rest of the world. Hello Facebook!
Geo Paradise is held annually and this is their second year in Palenque, Panama. To get there you can take the bus from Panama City to Colon then wait for another bus to Palenque which drops festival goers at the entrance which is hard to find otherwise.