Live #55, San Blas Islands, Panama
16/02/2015 I’m back from the Brazilian Pantanal, feeding Caimans and Eagles on a Boattrip and spotting countless animals along the road. The area around the capital of Brasilia is next for me, but first it is time to release the last update from Panama and thereby wrapping up all of Central America! Cruising the San Blas Islands towards Capurganá in Colombia is probably the best way of crossing countries, just after going on foot through the Gap of Darien of course; this true adventure seemed to be a bit too risky at the time though and I promised my mom to stay safe. If you are in the mood for some photos of picture perfect isolated beaches, check out this update! 🙂
Getting to the port village north of Panama City took a little while. First, the 4×4 Jeep came half an hour late at 05:30 in the morning and then struggled to find the last missing person, which turned out to be someone I actually met months ago in Nicaragua climbing Volcan Telica! Everyone else in the vehicle booked the 5 days sail cruise and I was the only one with the 4 days speed boat cruise, which focuses more on staying on the islands. Luckily it was all sorted out and I later changed into another jeep, getting me to the right departure spot of the speed boats 🙂
The ride in the boats was very bumpy, resulting in a lot of splash water in my eyes and a painful butt after a while. Our first ride luckily didn’t take too long, after around 45 minutes we reached a tiny island to relax, play volleyball and go snorkeling. Lot’s of clouds were hiding the sun sadly but everyone still had a great time getting to know each other – we were actually a group of about 28 people or so, split down in two speed boats. We continued the ride to a bigger island, on which we would spend the night as well. It featured a few huts on the sand with a bunch of hammocks for us gringos, as well as some more the people living there.
Did you know that every coconut on the San Blas Islands belongs to a person and you can only get one if you pay a dollar? Well, now you do. 🙂 I was not really interested in coconuts anyway. The actual food provided for us from our tour company was created in a joint effort of our guides and the local family and I have to say: It was pretty damn impressive! We would get a huge all-you-can-eat buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner and not only was it much more than we could possibly consume, it was also amazingly fresh and delicious! We also got rum punch every night, followed by more drinking of stuff that everyone bought on the mainland. Add a guitar, really nice people and you don’t want to leave that place anytime soon again!
The second day welcomed us with a lot of sunshine – the last thing that was missing to make this trip perfect! Everyone was in a great mood, sunbathing, chilling, playing games and socializing. It felt a little bit like being on the island from LOST – just without all the drama and mystery 🙂 We were not alone on the island either, more and more sail boats anchored around us and paid us a visit. One group was actually a Kite Surfing tour, doing some kind of documentary. Although the weather was really nice, the forecast regarding the wind actually made us stay for another day on the island.
The evening was perfectly commencing with the rum punch after dinner and I got to know three new drinking games (I liked “21” a lot), which resulted in hilarious situations once everyone was pretty much drunk. I will spare you with the details and am sure the people involved will agree 🙂 We had a lot of fun, some actually a bit more than others and causing a little bit of a problem. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but the tour operator felt differently and actually removed one Australian dude (joined by his girlfriend) from the island for bad behavior while he had a bit too much to drink. It was a shame because I was actually getting along with them very well and would meet them afterwards in Colombia again.
On the next day we had to catch up on some ground after being stuck on the first island for 2 nights. The resulting two hour boat ride was not really comfortable but despite all the splash water in our faces, everyone was still in a great mood because we spent two amazing day on a beautiful isolated island. We had a nice lunch break on the island that was supposed to be our home for the second night and spent about three hours there. Enough time to take the snorkel and swim over to one of the nearby islands. There are actually about 365 islands in the San blas and only 49 are inhabited. It was great to be able to swim to another tiny island and go exploring.
One problem we were all facing I suppose was the fact that there were no fresh water showers around. Even my short hair started to be sticky after constantly being in the salt water without having a way to get the salt off afterwards. Well, certainly a problem everyone would like to have I guess – at least if it’s not for weeks or even months 🙂 Eventually, it was time to move on to our last destination: A Kula village with roughly 800 inhabitants. Houses are built on stilts along the waterfront and married women wear traditional clothes and jewelry, which actually looked really nice I have to admit! Especially the kids were really excited to see us, being very happy and playful.
Experiencing how the local indigenous people on the islands live was a great way to end the trip! The last dinner at a local restaurant, though, was not nearly as good as they stuff our guides prepared and also the portion was pretty small. At least for my appetite 🙂 After partying a lot in the last nights, everyone was a bit tired now and took it easy in the last night. We were sleeping in the village and had rooms full of (uncomfortable) hammocks as well as a really cool outdoor bathroom, in which you can see how fish take care of your business as you just poop into the water. Sounded strange at first but I have to admit I was never entertained more sitting on a toilet!
We ended the (amazing) trip by arriving in Colombia’s northern border town Sapzurro, which can only be reached by boat. We got our passports stamped, luggage checked and eventually arrived in Capurganá. I did not know much about this place first but luckily found out that it was supposed to be one of Colombia’s most remote and best diving location, making me decide to actually spend two nights there before heading onwards to Cartagena. The next live update will show you if it was really that good as I took down my first fun dives after the PADI Open Water Certification in Utila, Honduras 🙂