The town authority, Eduardo Mejía, made use of the microphone handed to him by journalists from El País and the EFE news agency to request a paved road on the eleven-mile stretch that connects Sinaí with Playona, another village in the province of Darién, situated along the banks of the Chucunaque river. This road was promised to him by politicians nearly five years ago, he says, but the promise has yet to be fulfilled.
The youth from 53 countries who are going on this year's expedition of the Quetzal Route had to travel the distance between the two settlements on foot. Their journey retraces the steps that Vasco Núñez de Balboa took across Darién nearly 500 years ago.
Arleny Marcos from Veraguas Province, the national representative for the 28th year of this educational program, complained about the miserable road conditions.
The youth arrived in Sinaí with mud up to their knees, and the villagers offered to lend them clean clothes and sandals. "We do not walk down that path during the rainy season; we have to wait until summer to use it," explained Mejía.
The indigenous village had been spruced up for the occasion. This was the community's chance to show the world that they can provide good tourism services. The setting was idyllic, indeed: nature and river right outside the front door, with no cars in sight and only the sounds of nature.
Several wooden houses had been turned into makeshift restaurants to feed the young trekkers. The women who cooked the supper acknowledged that they had never before served so many diners. The local authority calculated that the visit of the international expedition would bring in more than $4,000 dollars for the village people.
After the long jungle hike, which took them nearly 10 hours and covered 11 kilometers, the youth set up camp in the village. The following morning, Litzandar Louda, a youth from Darién participating in the adventure, served as the guide of his people's traditions, explaining, for example, to his European companions in a workshop what it meant to cook over a wood fire.
The Wounaan people strived to teach their culture and open themsevles up to the world during the visit. They put on workshops on biology, body painting with the tagua palm nut, fishing and hunting, cooking, and folk dances. When night set, the youth settled down to listen to stories and enjoy folk dances, such as the gallote dance, around the campfire of St. John, a popular festival held in Spain every June 23rd at midnight, on the shortest night of the year.