Building a thatch roof is not in the least bit easy. It is a task that should only be left to the Ngobe or someone that resembles the same characteristics as George of the Jungle. It requires trekking through waist high mud , climbing penca trees, cutting down these trees machete style, and dragging the cut palms back to the boat without a motor that now needs to be paddled out of the jungle for another two hours. This is what our local friends do in order to have a roof. We fortunately had our guide Elvin who helped us during this mission and were in possession of a motor boat.
Interesting Facts about Thatch Roofing in Bocas
1)It is tradition to only cut the penca leaves until a few days after the full moon. It is said that if you cut them at a different time the roof will not hold up. Whether or not this is true we did not raise an eyebrow as the Ngobe have been perfecting this task for thousands of years.
2)There are only a handful of penca trees in all of Bocas del Toro and they are near impossible to find without a guide. It requires trekking up a curvy, narrow creek for an hour followed by a mud walk then a tree climb.
3)Many of the thatched one room homes have families of 10 plus living in them.
4)Machete is the go to method for chopping these suckers down, but I am curious what they used in the past because these leaves are thick and strong at the root.
5)These roofs last upwards of 25 years. Better than homes in America.
6)One day after cutting the leaves and the palms turn brown.