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Is There a Hole in the Boat? Tales of Travel in Panama Without a Car [Paperback]

Darrin Duford
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: 10.95 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

16 Jun 2006
Darrin DuFord hikes, bribes, and barters his way across Panama, an overlooked filament of the tropics. Sampling barbecued jungle rodent and corn homebrew, DuFord encounters a land where the machete can slash through just about anything, —except the nation'’s spirit.

Product details

  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher:, Inc. (16 Jun 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159113997X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591139973
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 1.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,139,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Is There a Hole in the Boat? 8 Oct 2007
By Tami Brady TOP 500 REVIEWER
Oftentimes, I get a little frustrated with travelogues. Some contain nothing but funny stories about their travels. I read, I laugh, but not much of these stories actually stick with me for any length of time. When asked, I say the book was funny but that's about all I remember.

Conversely, some such books are incredibly dry. These books tend to be quite anthological in nature so they have a good deal of cultural information. I love learning about other cultures, beliefs, and lifeways. I also enjoy little tidbits of information or trivia. Therefore, I tend to enjoy the actual content of these books but truthfully they are hard to get through.

Is There a Hole in the Boat? takes the best of both types of travelogues and makes them into entertaining yet substantial whole. I came away from this book with more insight into Panama; its political and social issues, and most importantly its people. Panama is so much more than a canal.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Did Dr . Who go to Panama? 27 July 2007
Well.. Dr. Who may have accidently dropped into Panama during a Tardis malfunction ... maybe no, but I do know Tom Baker encountered both the gentle and savory characters of the universe.... characters which also co-exist right here on our planet. Panama may seem a long way from England.... but the people from Panama described in the author's narratives/ book are both complex , warm and giving, and doing the best they can to survive within their climate, resources, and intrinsic knowledge.Real-time travel to Panama was never easier, than with this author. What more can we say for any civilization, finally an accurate report of who the Panamanians are.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful, entertaining, informative book, highly recommended 9 Jun 2007
By Laurel Johnson - Published on
Whatever the genre, I enjoy books that intrigue my mind and engage my emotions in unexpected ways. This ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Finalist managed to intrigue and engage in the first page and didn't let up until the last word. Darrin DuFord shares a charming account of his Panamanian travels, through vivid descriptions of the country's topography, humorous details of his attempts to accept each new experience, and respectful acceptance of the cultural differences. As indicated by the title, this is NOT a dry how-to, where-to travelogue.

DuFord deliberately set out to travel Panama as the natives do. By land, he hikes, bribes and barters his way from place to place in colorfully painted buses, dilapidated taxis and pick ups. By river and sea he crams his American frame into dugouts made for natives half his size, forced to bail water from leaky boats. Other times, he experiences the unique flora and fauna on foot with native guides who take delight in pointing out poisonous snakes and spiders and rats as big as cats. DuFord meets all the biting wildlife you can imagine close up. For nourishment, he bravely eats and drinks whatever the natives offer, delicacies not found in the North American diet.

Except for the Canal Zone, most of Panama is a land without Western amenities. Potable running water is a luxury. Public transportation is a raucous adventure. Areas of clear cut rainforest deplete native food sources at an alarming rate. Still, Panama's people are hopeful and adaptable, cheerful, warm and welcoming. From native kings to sly guides to scientists, the stars of DuFord's travels are the people he meets along the way.

This author's writing style is personable, his book delightful. Readers will learn a lot about Panama and its people, and enjoy themselves immensely in the process.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars take a trip to Panama 14 Feb 2007
By book.of.the.moment - Published on
I'm not sure exactly what it is I was expecting when I started reading this book, but whatever it was, it wasn't what I got. I'm not saying I hated the book, because there were parts of it that I did enjoy. Other parts of it though, I found to be..well..boring.

The book is about the author's travel through Panama, and is filled with tales of politics, food, and day to day life in a tropical no man's land. Parts of the book made me laugh out loud, and there were times when the world around me seemed to disappear and I was there in Panama with the author, up to my knees in mud. Other times I found my mind wandering, completely uninterested in the story before me.

If you enjoy travel narratives, or are just interested in Panama, you should definitely check out this book. True, parts of it may have bored me, but just because it doesn't fall within my realm of interests doesn't mean you won't enjoy it. This book is full of information and description; those of you interested in Panama will LOVE it. The author also includes a pretty extensive bibliography at the end, for further reading pleasure.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Panama Culture and Cuisine 24 Feb 2007
By Rebecca of Amazon - Published on
Darrin DuFord's tales of wanderlust provide an invigorating read as he explores untamed lands and weaves in historical details to give context. Curiosity leads him to new discoveries in this travelogue filled with stories of hunting and fishing in a wild terrain. As he paints a vivid picture of life in Panama, his writing reveals an exotic tour of culinary feasts.

He drinks a lemongrass tea, quenches his thirst with sea grapes and samples exotic fruit shakes. The villagers' love of music gives him opportunity to exchange his band's CD for a boat ride and he learns how to barter and survive through creative means. The stories of fishing tilapia made me hungry as he describes everything from the boat ride to the final preparation and delicious feast.

Many of the most intriguing stories include details of the lives of the villagers and how they survive, even in places where they must find creative means to obtain water. A journey to find a fresh palm heart from a tree becomes as much an adventure as stories of medicine men, ancient curses, celebrations and trips to a famous hermit's beach hideout. Villagers must travel to the city to check their email and they seem to face their life challenges with a sense of humor and patience.

Darrin DuFord's powers of description glow with a precision that creates flashes of images in the mind's eye making this as visually stunning and creatively intoxicating. As an extremely talented travel writer, his articles have also appeared in The Panama News and Transitions Abroad. His latest recipes and articles can also be found on his website "Omnivorous Traveler." I can highly recommend this to you if you enjoy culinary adventures and vivid descriptions of exotic locales.

~The Rebecca Review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun read and very informative 29 Nov 2006
By R. MILLER - Published on
I throughly enjoyed this easy to read and fun book about the real Panama. If you're interested in Panama at all, it is a must read. Panama is so much more than the canal and this book proves it.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Travel like the locals do 9 Feb 2007
By Armchair Interviews - Published on
Is There a Hole in the Boat? is a book of travel stories about the author's visits to Panama. This is not a standard "go here and see this" style of travel book. DuFord takes you on his journeys through the country of Panama. On the way he reveals a great deal about the geography of this county that surrounds the Panama Canal. You are introduced to Panama's history, ecology and the indigenous people of the country, but DuFord uses stories that are both amusing and revealing.

Each chapter in the book takes you to a different area of the country. With titles like "186,000 Chickens" and "Hiking to the Bush Rat Buffet," DuFord captures your interest.

He writes in a clear, transparent style that allows the peoples and cultures of Panama to speak for themselves. He isn't above laughing at himself, but he doesn't let his ego get in the way of telling the story. The people he meets and writes about are as diverse as the country of Panama itself. Through the author we are introduced to people ranging from the last King in the Americas to the chef of the Bush Rat Buffet.

Though the stories are entertaining, DuFord also provides an education into what it like to live in a country where the average wage is $7 a day. He chooses to use public transportation and see the country from the same vantage point as the Panamanians. The diablos rojos, the wildly painted school buses that are the backbone of the public transport, weave in and out of most of his tales. The Panamanians, like their buses, are shown to be determined and colorful. DuFord never patronizes the people that he meets, but neither does he romanticize them.

Whether or not you are planning a trip to Panama. Is there a hole in the boat? is a worthwhile read. Darrin DuFord brings a country and its people to life, and in the process tells some very good stories.

Armchair Interviews says: Unique view of Panama all will enjoy.
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