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.