Posts Tagged San Blas

Back to Reality… Almost

Posted on October 3, 2010 by No Comments

Another full day of island hopping between empty beaches and Kuna villages marks the final day of our trip. Quite a trip and probably the most scenic route to Colombia.

At the end of the day we were dropped off in Sapzurro, Colombia.  Adam asks for volunteers to snorkel around the boat and look for the boat  tie-down underwater. Bode was the first to volunteer. He and a few others don their snorkels and jump in looking for it.

We unloaded all of our luggage and trekked in the now darkness to our soggy campsite with the promise of dinner waiting… only nobody told the cook in Sapzurro. And, at 8 pm every night the power goes out. So, no dinner tonight.

Bode gets some old crackers. The rest of us pass around some left-over rum… it’s almost food.

There is one place in town with a generator, though. A bar that pumps out dance music until 5 am. LOUD! It was a tough night in the tent. For some reason I didn’t remember I brought earplugs until morning.

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Filed Under: Kuna Yala

The Crew

Posted on October 1, 2010 by 4 Comments

Part of the fun was sharing the trip with an interesting bunch of fellow travelers. This area of the world seems to be a funnel for the adventurous. Meet the crew.


a.k.a. The French Guy on a Bike. Started in Alaska and is still riding South. Owner of one of the coolest tattoos I’ve seen in a while. He fills it in as he goes.


Former gay porn star and will tell you all about it. Can say absolutely anything with a huge laugh and get away with it. Quit a job on a cruise line in (over the top) style and literally jumped ship in the Virgin Islands. Has been there ever since.


The silent partner. Wryly provides comic asides to Tyler’s shenanigans – for those lucky enough to be included. The yin for Tyler’s yang.


Huge smile on her face 24 hours a day. One of those genuinely nice people you’re always happy to meet. Every group needs her.

Linda-Lou and Jaring

The Dutch Couple. For such a small country, the Dutch seem to be everywhere! Both really nice folks who sold everything they owned and started traveling looking for a new place to live. A familiar story?

Kyle and Jesse

Our buddies we met way back in Guatemala. They are also driving to Argentina. Both are Canadians who don’t let the tropical heat deter their excitement about the upcoming hockey season. Prone to back-flips. Always travel with their own stash of Frank’s Red Hot sauce.


The so-called leader of the expedition. Seems to be in a permanent haze with no idea what’s happening or what will happen. Can’t trust a word he says. We all put our lives in his hands.


The dread-locked back-packing single Dutch girl. Super nice. Rolls her own.

The Brazilian and his wife

I met Dennis at the police station when trying to get the car paperwork arranged. He’s driving to Brazil in a giant truck with two motorcycles. He has a hotel near Río de Janeiro and invited us to come stay. Nice guy, but his wife is a piece of work. A chain-smoking Italian, she had the deepest voice on the boat. If we were ever waiting for someone, it was always her. For some reason, we have no photos of her.


Filed Under: Kuna Yala

Island Camp

Posted on September 30, 2010 by 10 Comments

We spent the day visiting some different islands and picked a nice place to pitch a tent on an empty beach. The pictures say it all. Camping in paradise.

After a while, some Kuna’s came by in a canoe and we shouted “langosta!?” They had nice ones and were happy to come make a sale. Fresh lobster on a deserted island.  A few hours later another group paddled by and we did the same thing. We literally bought them out.

We also asked them to climb up and grab some coconuts for us. The Kuna own all the islands collectively and it’s illegal to take a coconut if you are not a Kuna. We hear it’s a $500 USD fine.


Filed Under: Kuna Yala

Kuna Village

Posted on September 29, 2010 by 3 Comments

The Kuna are nice folks and didn’t seem to mind having their village disrupted by a group of gringo tourists. Mostly, they just want to talk. They have their own language and we learned a few phrases, but some of the younger folks speak Spanish as well.

All of the girls traditionally start wearing the Kuna dress at age 16. They make their own beads for their legs and arms and are free to design it as they like. Apparently there is a little bit of fashion competition among them.

The men and the younger kids are free to wear whatever they want and it’s usually modern clothes. Despite the location, it feels a little less remote when you see guys wearing Chicago Bears T-shirts and kid’s drinking Pepsi.

But, one of the signs that you are a bit off the beaten path is when the locals don’t have anything to sell you. There’s always fish, of course.

On the second day, a few women came out with some beads and some bags made from their traditional fabric.  Hard to pass up.


Filed Under: Kuna Yala

Into The Gap

Posted on September 28, 2010 by 3 Comments

The 5 of us and our backpacks squeezed into a tiny cab and headed to the town of Portobelo. We checked in at the hostal and had a few well-deserved beers. This had been a very long hot day, even (or maybe especially) for those of us who were merely sitting in an open container waiting for the cars to be loaded. The hostal had a monkey pet (Cheeky) which seemed to love everyone but Bode. The kid was bitten by a monkey. Cheeky monkey.

Our cargo ship was scheduled to leave 2 days from now, and we had to get to Cartagena, Colombia to pick it up within 6 days. You can easily fly from Panama City for a few hundred bucks. You can hop on a sailboat and go slow for a few hundred more.

But, there’s now a new option that seemed pretty interesting too – we booked ourselves on a speedboat that would skirt the Darien Gap and drop us on the San Blas Islands to camp. The trip would take 4 days and 3 nights. We would get dumped off literally on the Colombian border at Sapzurro, Colombia. Then, we would have to find our way to Cartagena. It was half the price of a sailing trip that would take us all the way to our destination, and we’d heard lots of horror stories about the sailboat captains and seasickness. Besides, we liked the idea of camping with the Kuna indians.

Set to leave at 9:15, we finally got in the boat around 2:30. It wasn’t long before we were stopped by the military. They just checked out our passenger list, told us to be careful of pirates (what?!) and sent us on our way.

Our next stop was one of the San Blas Islands were we played on the beach and the captain took our passports and got us stamped out of Panama. For the next 4 days we would not be stamped into any country, sort of living in limbo. The Kuna Yala is completely independent, but not really a country. We decided we would not age any of those days either.

Just before sunset we got to our destination for the night. One of the inhabited islands of San Blas. We were to set up camp right on the sand, and the Kuna family hosting us cooked up some chicken and fish for the group.

We were a bit disappointed by the amount of litter and filth on the islands. The crystal clear water is the trash dump for these folks.It was an interesting place to camp and see how they live, but certainly not a place where anyone wanted to go swimming.

As we were all staring at their colorful clothes and elaborate beads, they were all starting at the blond 5 year old kid in town. We were told he is the first kid to take this particular trip, and he attracted quite a bit of attention.

All he had to do was walk by someone’s hut and they could see him through the gaps in the bamboo. We couldn’t see inside the houses, but we could hear the commotion and usually the ladies and kids would come running out to touch his head and try to talk to him. He wasn’t too keen on all the attention, but handled it well.


Filed Under: Kuna Yala

Jejenes are not Cool

Posted on March 9, 2010 by No Comments

Every guidebook mentions them. Phrases like “a great campground, but usually empty because of the horrible jejenes.”

My idea was to go to this town and beach but to get out before sunset. We didn’t make it, and Jason is not so scared of biting insects. He doesn’t have my track record.

San Blas is a beautiful beach town with some amazing history, great surf and nice people. It would be on the resort town list if not for the nasty bugs. In most towns around here, these buggers are around before and after sunset, but no longer. Here, they come out at 4, and it isn’t safe outside until 9am.

Why do people come and stay here? Then again, we grew up in Texas with giant mosquitoes. You can get used to anything.

I guess my real question is why I’m covered in bites despite trying to stay in the bus all night. Jason has only a few despite being out several hours around sunset and early this morning, and Bode has none. These voracious flesh eaters left only small marks on our bodies, but they have itched for days.

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These guys were having trouble with their VW bug, so we tried to help. But in true bug fashion, once we got there, the car suddenly started and ran just fine. They thanked us profusely and gave us some insect repellent.

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We headed further south and found a cool town at Playa Chacala. Muy bueno…but we had to move on. Jason wanted to stay. There is nowhere to camp, but you can generally park and camp outside the restaurants if you buy something. Everyone here is very cool and it is a neat little village crammed into just a few blocks on the beach.

Instead, we went and found an RV park with hot water, laundry and the works. Tough choice. It was absolutely packed full of Canadians and it was “hamburger night” too, so our complete lack of food wasn’t a problem. And, we got to do the macarena with the Geritol crowd. We thought we were sacrificing the cool happening beach town of Chacala for a quiet night’s rest here, but these folks partied late into the night. Watch out for hamburger night in La Penita.

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Filed Under: Nayarit