The Archipielago de San Blas, Rat Eats My Backpack
Trip Start Sep 29, 2007
215Trip End Dec 20, 2010
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Where I stayed
San Blas Hotel
The islands are home to the Kuna who run San Blas as an autonomous region with minimal interference from the national government. What a fascinating people they are. They have their own system of governance, consultation and decision making while maintaining their own economic system, language, customs and culture. Given that the Kuna have been in contact with Europeans ever since Columbus sailed along here in 1502, this has been no small achievement
There are Kuna merchant ships and Colombian vessels that travel the Caribbean Sea picking up and dropping off people and goods
The only practical way to visit the San Blas is to fly. We checked onto Panama Air at Albrook Airport with double the allowance of weight in our luggage. We paid for the excess and got on a noisy, 20 seater plane with an open view of the cockpit. The plane does a kind of milk run landing and taking off from airstrips on various islands with people and goods. The birds-eye view over the islands surrounded by the magnificent contrasting blue and turquoise hues was pleasing to the eye We had a relatively smooth flight in to land on the short palm tree lined runway of El Porvenir and checked in with the Kuna Yala police.
A Kuna guy who we referred to as ´Pixie, wearer of Monkey Tooth´ collected us in a lengthy, motorised dugout canoe and took us to Nalunega Island. Outsiders cannot buy land in Kuna Yala so the rustic accommodations are all owned by indigenous Indians, we stayed at The San Blas Hotel on Nalunega Island in a village. Nalunega is a small with many simple thatched huts with no electricity or running water. The village looks fragile, as though the whole island would be blown away in a big bad wolf of a strong wind. The village surrounds a central, full-sized basketball court. They are very proud of their basketball team. There is 49 families and 200 people, so many children live there. The first time we ventured out for a walk around the village, a lady appeared with her five kids (one of the daughters pregnant), four new puppies and a few strands of the beading. The woman wrapped up my wrist in a beaded cuff using a long strand of beads coloured orange, green, black and brown, the whole piece completed in one minute flat
The San Blas Hotel was simple but adequate and the staff were awesome fun. You fall instantly under the island time spell as soon as you hit a hammock swinging anywhere in the San Blas. Each day the staff would take us to two different un-inhabited islands for playing, swimming, snorkelling and harpooning fish. The coral reefs were great and one day we did a ship wreck snorkel. We visited the islands of Diablo, Pelican, Dog and Grass (no marijuana there) where you would pay the chief of the island $US 1 for the day. The islands were surreal and ridiculously beautiful. The shores were lined with white washed coral, shells and empty sea urchins . Grass Island looked like the perfect place for an outdoor psytrance party and would have been if it wasn´t for the danger of coconuts falling on your head. On arriving on Grass Island, the very old traditional Kuna woman took our $US 1 then asked us if we had a cell phone she could use
There are no restaurants, each hotel provides all the meals for it´s guests. We had three meals a day. The dinner usually consisted of fish or calamari, conch or even lobster that the staff and guests had caught
Another highlight of this little vacation within the travelling lifestyle was meeting Tom and Tania. Tom, from London and Tania, a Kiwi living in London. Great company and loads of fun they were. Tania gifted me with a bikini (not the Brazilian style). As a bonus it was Tom´s birthday on one of the days and Nadine arranged for a cake to be made. We had a corker of a rum party with all the staff and other guests (only 4 others) and presented Tom with ´Tiny Tom´, a replica of Tom made out of a seed pod, coral, shells, duct the miracle tape and two tubes of super glue. Tom adored the gesture and everyone loved monkey. When i requested rum for the party, the boys took off in the dugout canoe to get some from another island..... service. There was also a movie guy from Los Angeles who we called ´Hollywood´, a girl named Jessica from New Jersey and a couple from Argentina who were jewellery makers. We bought some gorgeous pieces from them and Adriane the guy went all the way through our South America guidebook marking all the insiders tips with notes, a saint
We were sad to leave at 6:00am back to the city to wait for our Brazil flight. We saw some acquaintances on the flight home who didn´t seem to have the same experiences we did but good all the same. We got a good deal from The San Blas Hotel. On the flight home i noticed what i thought to be a knife stab attack to my day pack. On closer inspection, i realised a rat or mouse had chewed it´s way through the bag and nibbled on some granola muesli i had stashed there for emergencies. Jessica shared a taxi with us to the Voyager Backpackers and we scored the private room. We had a lazy few drinks for the Friday night and met Eric who is a sweet, hilarious guy who wears two hearing aids and collects the joker cards he steals from decks of playing cards (eerily a habit i also have). Nadine cooked a lush dinner for everyone. Another hilarious night with the backpacker crowd. We´ll just make the most of the slow time here by tying up loose ends like laundry and buying any supplies we need.
Feliz Navidad (Merry Christmas) to all for the silly season. xxx