Orientation La Gloria is an indigenous community conveniently located about halfway between Almirante and Changuinola in Bocas del Toro. Although close to developed areas, the community itself does not have electricity and has preserved the culture of the indigenous Ngäbe people. From the early morning thwack of clothes being beat against stones by the river, to the […]
La Gloria is an indigenous community conveniently located about halfway between Almirante and Changuinola in Bocas del Toro. Although close to developed areas, the community itself does not have electricity and has preserved the culture of the indigenous Ngäbe people. From the early morning thwack of clothes being beat against stones by the river, to the thatched roofs and warrior shouts ringing out from all corners of town, La Gloria is all Ngäbe.
The community itself is situated in a valley with two thousand people sprawled across an expanse surrounded by picturesque forest and hills with regular sightings of sloths, poison dart frogs and toucans. The community is primarily made up of sustenance farmers who cultivate bananas and cacao, selling the latter outside the community.
There are several hiking options, including an intense two hour hike to the top of a mountain where you can see a large part of the province and local wildlife. You can also spend a day on a finca (farm), assisting in clearing space for crops, or learning about plants and their cultivation. Prices vary below the $20 range.
Contact Nico Smith at 6010-5748 (Spanish only) to get set up with a guide.
There are several places to buy the traditional bags known as chakaras in the community. The bags are made from either a plant called pita that looks like a relative of the aloe vera plant, or from plastic that is formed into sturdy thread. They come in many colors, the pita bags dyed from other local plants. The bags are extremely durable as they are used by the Ngäbe to transport anything from a large yield of bananas, to buckets full of mud or stones. Traditionally, women carry the bags with the strap placed over their forehead and the bulk of the weight carried on their backs. However, they can also be worn over the shoulder like a messenger bag.
You can buy chakaras in almost any household. The best option is to ask someone where Celia Abrego lives, but you can ask any community member if they know who is selling bags. Prices range from $8-$18, depending on quality and size. Haggling is encouraged.
La Gloria is conveniently located a little over one hour from the Bocas island. There are also lodging options in Changuinola and Almirante, although we recommend you do not stay in Almirante overnight.
Dining options are limited however, Ngäbes are typically hospitable when you are visiting in their homes and will offer coffee or cooked banana dishes. It’s not rude to turn down food, so long as you have a legitimate excuse (e.g. “I just ate, I’m full” “I’m allergic”). The water in the community comes from a mountain reservoir and is potable with the worst effect being mild diarrhea. The Peace Corps volunteer also has filtered water. However, it is recommended that you bring your own water, just in case.
From David ($9.60) or Almirante ($0.90): Get off at the stop designated the town of La Gloria. You may want to tell the bus helper just to be sure they know someone is getting off there, although they will usually call it out. From the bus stop, walk back towards the direction you came until you see the paved road on your right sloping downwards. Go down the road until you reach the community (about 20 min. walk).
From Changuinola: Take the Almirante-Changuinola bus ($0.90) and request to be let off at La Gloria. Walk in the opposite direction of where you came until you reach the paved road on your right.
Taxi: Taxis from either Changuinola or Almirante will cost anywhere from $8-$13 dollars. There is also a shared taxi that leaves from Almirante at set times from the piquera (bus stop) next to the Chinese store on the same road between where the David bus lets you off and the port, where there is also a schedule of times.