Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The San Blas Islands in Panama

After our whirlwind trip of Columbia, things really settled down for a while.  We left the marina and anchored once again out in the Cartegena harbor.  It was so beautiful with a lovely breeze.  Great to be back out there especially with our cruising friends.  We ended up spending another 2 weeks in Cartagena just goofing off.  We walked miles, did boat projects, provisioned for the islands we would do next,  played games with cruising friends and had Wednesday pizza night with a bunch of cruisers.  P 

Lee Miles, SSCA cruising station host is a lot of fun so we were glad he joined us several times.  I hope if any more SSCA members come to Colombia, they will take advantage of his kindness and knowledge. Also, we had a really nice surprise.  A couple from Oregon that we met while traveling in Medellin, arrived in Cartagena for a few days and called us.  We had met them at the hotel in Medellin and really enjoyed each other’s company.  Anyway, we ended up spending the day with them, touring the “Old City” and introducing them to our boat in the harbor.  They had fun riding in a dinghy and sitting in a boat in the harbor.  They even joined all the cruisers the next night for pizza.

The resort we anchored in front of
3 boats decided it was time to go.  We had spent enough pesos and time in one place so we left for the beautiful islands on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.  Rosario was fantastic. We anchored right in front of a very tropic looking restaurant with a pool, sliding board and other fun things to do.

They had a bunch of beautiful birds but I captured him on film
Very friendly flamingos.  I videoed Harry walking right up to them
We all dinghied over to the next island to the  famous research aquarium.  Very large ferries bring in tourist every day.  We saw rays, dolphins, nurse sharks, turtles, caimans, and a ton of exotic fish and other sea creatures.  They put on a fantastic dolphin show. 

This is how these fish swim all the time.  Not sure what kind they are

Nurse Sharks

Sharks who are very hungry, diving for the fish including 1 bird

Dolphins putting on a fantastic performance

A dolphin showing off

Lion fish which have become a real threat to the sea environment.  They have no predators.  They are beautiful and we hear very good to eat but need to be taken out of the environment
 The water was crystal clear so we could finally swim again and snorkel.  Darrel on Alibi is a scrub diver instructor, so we took advantage of his knowledge and skills.  We went snorkeling with him and learn more about coral and fish then we ever thought we would know.  He really made the coral come alive and he loves teaching.  On the down side of that, Harry ended up with an ear infection which took me 10 days of treating to finally get rid of it, we hope.  Then I caught a devil of a cold which also lasted 10 days.  He couldn’t hear and I couldn’t talk so we were a fun couple for a few days.  I guess he had the best side of the deal.  What was interesting about this island, which was quite large, was the number of beautiful little hotels, ecolodges and villas all around the island, being kept in good shape but totally vacant.  What a shame.  Such a gorgeous location and perfect weather.  It’s their dry season but no one there.  You would think with the stinking weather North Am has had all winter;  people would come there on vacation.  They need better advertising.
Ecolodge in perfect condition, quite large and totally deserted

Another view of it.  Sleeps 25 people

Another resort in perfect condition and totally deserted

So for the next few days we island hopped from Colombia to Panama.  We saw beautiful islands, crystal clear waters, palm trees galore and calm seas.  The last place we stopped in Colombia was Sapzorro, a charming in village in the mountains on the mainland.  The town was so colorful with brightly painted houses, very neat and tidy walk ways.  They have no cars or roads and their only mode of transport are boats even though they are on the mainland.  We would have loved to make conversation with the locals and learn about them but none of us spoke enough Spanish to make that happen.

A piece of drift wood where a dolphin has been carved out of it.

Another deserted resort in Sapzurro in perfect condition

Macaw in the wild

Our first Kuna village from far away as we entered Panama. All thatched huts 
So onward to Panama we sailed.  Then we started our new adventure with the San Blas islands and the Kuna Indians.  The Kuna call these islands the Kuna Yala because they don’t approve of San Blas, the name given to them by the Spanish pirates many years ago.  These are an archipelago of 350+ islands going from east to west along the Caribbean side of Panama.  Some inhabited, but most are not.  The Kuna Indians who have lived here for 10,000 years, live very traditionally with a chief, who is their spiritual leader.  They are not allowed to marry outside their tribe, they have what’s called congresos every night (everyone in the village meets in a town center) to get spiritual guidance and also to talk about issues of the village.  They speak both Kuna and Spanish.  The women and children wear molas (beautiful handmade blouses) and very colorful wraps on their legs. 

 We are not allowed to take pictures of them or their villages but they are just so friendly and are very willing to help you with anything.  Some of the larger villages now have solar panels outside their huts and cell towers so they have cell phones.  We were told they will come to our boats in dugout canoes and ask for us to charge their phones in exchange for fresh fruit do to the lack of electricity on the islands but so far that hasn’t happened.  We have stopped at 4 Kuna villages so far.  The islands that are inhabited are just very crowded with thatched roof huts so the beauty of the islands is gone but the uninhabited islands are gorgeous. P

We hired a Kuna guide, named Frederico, to take us up the Rio Diabo.  We took Bruce’s dinghy (on Celtic Rover) and had a great 3 hours trip up the river.  We saw a lot of birds but no wildlife except a 3-4 ft caiman that swim by so fast we couldn’t get his picture.  Frederico told us the monkeys eat the mangos and then throw the big seeds in them at the Kunas and then laugh and run away.  I really would love to see that.  The Kuna all go up this river to get their fresh water and do their laundry.  I had forgotten to take mine along.  O yes, I forgot to mention.  This is the first time in 12 years of cruising that I have ended up doing my laundry by hand.  I have been very spoiled.  We have always found a laundry mat or a person who does the laundry.  But now I am on my mine.  Harry is a big help and we are saving money.   I now wear a bathing suit every day and no longer permit Harry to wear a clean shirt each day.   Just one more experience to our trip.

Amazingly they do have fresh fruit and vegetables for us to buy and right now we have internet.  That is few and far between though.
Coco Bandero Islands, so far the prettiest islands in the San Blas

Ok, so I don't do boat projects all day!!!

 So we will take our time and continue sailing these gorgeous islands for at least another month before we head north.

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