This picture says a thousand words…..
The Guna are the indigenous people of the San Blas islands and sailing into their stunning coral cays is jaw dropping. We were greeted by a pod of seriously large dolphins and then by the warm and friendly faces of the locals, happy to share their beautiful home with us. They are quick to greet us in their canoe boats to sell fish, lobster or the “molas” that they carefully design and embroider to make a few dollars from us the tourists…we must however, follow their strict rules – no scuba diving, fishing by either rod or spear, no removal of conch shells or photographing their people without authority, but we are willing to comply and grateful for this opportunity to share their space where we can BBQ on the beach and enjoy the serenity of their world.
The Tour Operator in James is alive and well as he organised with a local man, Eldafonso, to take a group of us on two interesting expeditions – one to visit another island and attend a ceremony for two girls who were making their life commitment to live the Guna way which coincided with the only day of the year that the women can drink and smoke. We were herded into the local community hall and encountered a large group of women of all ages, dressed in their national costume swigging out of bottles of rum and smoking baskets full of cigarettes! A bit like Friday night drinks with the girls…Our second adventure was a river cruise into a Panamanian rain forest – that was what we were led to believe! We headed up the river for about 500 metres before disembarking and following the river by foot up to a waterfall. Most of us were wearing flip-flops so it was a painful 3 hour return trip in difficult conditions. To add insult to injury James collected a couple of ticks that were only discovered 2 days later, one of which had buried itself into the back of his thigh and which required surgery with a kitchen knife to dig it out.
Our last days in the beautiful San Blas Islands we marred by cut feet. I was first after a beach walk and was quickly followed the next morning by James who has done a particularly good job of cutting into the pad of one foot right up into his toes – he should have had stitches and due to the warm sea water and tropical climate, it became infected so we literally limped into Shelter Harbour (our last stop before the Panama Canal transit). His foot has been heavily bandaged, a good dose of antibiotics prescribed and a crutch for support has him on the mend. Many thanks to both doctors who helped and Nurse Lindy (again) who has become a regular and much appreciated visitor to Miss T to mop up the crew!
The activity is frenetic around the marina as many sailboats call in here before or after the Canal transit. Last minute fixes, new parts to be ordered and provisioning is essential here to get us through to French Polynesia. Our closest supermarket is about an hour away in Colon which in not a safe place to go alone. There is a marina bus twice a day but if you miss that, which Mike and I did one day, you have to get a cab…I did feel very vulnerable I have to say.
A group of us decided to spend a weekend in Panama City – long showers, fast wifi, shopping, cocktails and fine dining were all on the agenda! We took the train from Colon to Panama along the original line and in a classic old carriage and headed to our hotel in the old part of the city. The regeneration of this area is having a profound effect on the nature of the “old town” and it is very cool and fabulous to visit…the hotels, restaurants, roof top bars and music scene is helping to create a vibe that draw in many visitors both local and international. A local jazz band, led by one of Panama City’s most accomplished jazz divas, entertained us with a medley of songs in English and Spanish – some of the best live music we have ever heard…and there were only 40 people in the bar!!
Time is flying by and it is hard to believe that in a weeks time we will be in the Pacific Ocean! Thursday will be the start of our transit through the Panama Canal – a feeling of excitement and anticipation best describes the current mood of the fleet!