The Emberá village of Mogue (MOE-gay), up the river that gives it its name, welcomes visitors and in fact has become a tourist destination for the area. It’s about midway between Punta Patiño and La Palma.
It takes about a half hour by boat from either Patiño or La Palma to get to the mouth of the Río Mogue. It’s a potentially bumpy boat ride on the ocean. The Mogue is a beautiful river, in a slightly spooky, Conradian sense. It’s swampy, still, and serpentine, with towering black mangroves on either side.
Boats have to take it slow up this murky river to avoid damaging the engine. It’s about a 25-minute cruise from the mouth of the river to Mogue village. On the river and the trails around the village birders might spot white ibises, willets, whimbrels, mangrove black-hawks, roseate spoonbills, red-throated caracaras, laughing falcons, black oropendolas, orange-crowned orioles, and other gorgeous birds.
You’ll know the village is near when the mangroves give way to plantain fields. It’s a 15-minute walk from where the boat puts in to Paraíso Mogue (Mogue Paradise), as a welcome sign in the village puts it.
The Emberá established Mogue in the late 1960s. It’s a relatively pretty little village that caters to tourists, putting on traditional dances and opening handicraft stalls when tour groups arrive. But it feels relatively “traditional,” given that the Emberá do not traditionally live in villages at all.
It’s possible to spend the night in Mogue in relative comfort. There’s a huge version of a tambo, a traditional Emberá open-sided thatched-roof hut raised on stilts about 15 feet off the ground, where visitors can pitch tents and relax in hammocks. It’s breezy up there and has an eavesdropper’s view of the surrounding village, as well as a vista of the forest-covered hills in the distance. If you stay here, drown yourself in insect repellent and be prepared to be awakened early by roosters and crying babies.
Primary forest starts 15 minutes from the village. An hour hike from here leads to a harpy eagle nest. An hour hike in the opposite direction leads to the nest of a crested eagle. You’ll need a guide to show the way in either case.
A big festival in these parts is held on November 14, the anniversary of the building of the local school.
Getting to Mogue
Because of Mogue’s proximity to Punta Patiño, most visitors come here with Ancon Expeditions (tel. 269-9414 or 269-9415, fax 264-3713, www.anconexpeditions.com) as part of a stay at Patiño. Ancon Expeditions brings in food, which the villagers cook. Depending on the itinerary, visitors either spend the night or just pay a short day visit.
Mogue has showers for tourists that may actually work, and a rather scary-looking latrine.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition