Week 37. San Blas Islands & Panama City. Panama

The San Blas Islands are located on the Caribbean coast, a total of 226 km long. A popular option is a trip from Colombia to Panama ( or visa versa) and take a sail or a speedboat passing through the islands. These islands are the most idyllic place I have ever seen and I don’t think anything will ever compare.

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San Blas Islands

I decided to go with San Blas Adventures where they take you on speedboat ( thanks Lucie and Rhys for the best recommendation). It meant we spent less time on the boat and more time on the islands. We visited two different islands each day.  The turquoise water, white sandy beaches and palm trees were on the agenda for 4 days.

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Home for 4 days

We met the group in Capurgana in Colombia also a stunning place where the jungle meets the sea with a cute little town. I couldn’t have been luckier with the group, really sound people. Our first night we went for a delicious seafood dinner followed by far too many beers. That night I was really sick obviously not over the vomiting bug from Minca. I got really worried when I started vomiting up blood. I genuinely thought I would have to cancel the trip it turns out I had actually eaten a beetroot the day before so happy days I set about packing my bags.

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Afternoon strolls in Capurgana

The sea here is notoriously rough and puke inducing. We were also warned to waterproof everything that most likely things would be soaked. At the dock there were local children selling ludicrously expensive black plastic bags which I had no option but to buy. Seconds later they all ripped not able for the weight of my stuff. To add nicely to my load I was carrying  6 litres of water and a litre of rum( worth it). My bag was a mere 15 kg overweight so that resulted in a hefty fine to get it onto the boat. Anyway  all abroad we made our way to meet the rest of the group. I felt like Santa Claus carting around all the black sacks. We were all very relieved to arrive at the first island ready for some relaxing after all the heavy lifting.

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Coconuts coming out of our ears
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Playing cards on our first island

After a few intense games of volley ball I did a spot of snorkelling where I got a nasty jelly fish sting on my bum. With my right cheek completely swollen I decided for a risk free activity of reading on the beach instead.

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One of many volley ball matches
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Palm tree heaven

That evening we visited a local village home to the Kunas, the local indigenous people who live on the San Blas Islands.

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The local Kuna dress
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The children don’t get to wear the local dress until they have their first period.

The Kunas are legends to put it very simply and I fell in love with them immediately. They have their own unique culture of dance, language, music and some crazy traditions. They are some of the happiest people I have met on my trip so far.

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Every single Kuna child we met had the biggest smile
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They loved getting their photo taken

In the past the Kunas never had any money and used coconuts as their currency. They are very welcoming  and open to absolutely everyone and are not prejudice against anyone ; tourists, homosexuals or transvestites. They welcome everyone to the islands as long as you respect the Kuna culture. One of which being whenever a girl is born, on her 7th birthday and when she gets her frist period there is a 3 day celebration aka piss up. The whole village must attend the party (this is compulsory) which goes on for 3 days where the locals just drink their lethal chicha drink. Failure to attend the party results in a fine.

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Drunk Kunas post fiesta
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7-year-old Kunas having a casual game of cards
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Another local Kuna village

I absolutely loved meeting the Kunas and we were treated to some traditional music and dance. Interestingly the children never once begged for presents or sweets off us and seemed really content just playing. Afterwards we played some 5 a side football with the locals which was brilliant and extremely sweat inducing.

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5 aside football against the Kunas
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Traditional Kuna dance

My genius idea of drying my clothes on the balcony resulted in them flying into the Caribbean sea. Not in a position to lose any more clothes I went for an evening snorkel to try to relocate my wardrobe. It was a complete success! Our neighbours that evening were treated to a surprise visit from a huge rat. We were all warned not to be harbouring any food that rats were v common. I begrudgingly threw out some stale bread I had been nursing for quite some time.

That night after  a dinner of sea-snail, ample amounts of rum and a few aggressive games of ping pang pong  I took to the leaba ready for our early wake up call.

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Island hoping in local boats
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Dolphin spotting
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Having an awfully hard time

Still a bit ropey from the vomiting bug the boat was testing. Lucky me I got front of house the next morning during  a massive thunder-storm where I almost got wiped out of it. I genuinely thought I was going to get frost bite unable to feel my fingers or toes by the end of it. Presumably a first on a Caribbean island. We were all dreading the storm would persist for the day. After multiple hot chocolates and coffee we all settled down for an intense game of taboo (similar to articulate) waiting for the storm to pass. As per usual I got carried away and ended up insulting a few people in the best possible nature.

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Smiling on the outside dying on the inside
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Tensions high during Taboo

Luckily the sun made an appearance. After a delicious lunch of different salads we made our way to the next island for more coconuts, volleyball and snorkelling. That evening we slept in hammocks  in a different Kuna village.

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Just casually playing on some boats
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The local pig

Day 3 and we arrived in the most picture perfect island. Paradise personified. Our last night consisted of exquisite lobster, a bonfire and of course plenty more rum.

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Freshly caught lobsters

We were sold rum by a legitimate pirate. Doesnt really get much better than that. That night a performance of your so vain went down like a ton of bricks. I didn’t realise that the non native english speakers had never heard of the song. After a crowd of confused and blank faces I quickly decided total eclipse of the heart wasnt going to be a goer. An extremely uncomfortable experience for everyone involved.

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Picture perfect paradise
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Boat made by the Kunas getting us from Colombia to Panama in 4 days
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The captain

The next day we had time to chill on the island and soak up the last of paradise before making our way back to Panama city.

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Rough….
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Caribbean style basket ball courts
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The best San Blas crew
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The boys!!!
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The girls!

We all met for dinner that eve and celebrated arriving in Panama with some roof top drinks and bar hopping. The next day was a write off with a trip to the supermarket being the activity for the day.

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Rooftop drinks in Panama city
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Rueben, Jiltu, me and Jules back to civilisation

A trip to Panama city isn’t complete without a trip to the Panama canal. I’ll be honest I had never even heard about it but it is one of the man-made wonders of the world. Apparently it is one of the worlds great engineering marvels. The canal connects the pacific and the atlantic together and worldwide ships are constructed using the Panama canal dimensions. It is quite impressive seeing huge ships marginally pass through this narrow canal.

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This little fella in his element at the canal

A gang of us from San Blas went to visit the famous landmark and waiting a mere 4 hours to see a ship pass through ( and a military submarine). The highlight of the Panama canal for me was definitely my bottle of rose wine. It really was delicious. Advice anyone going to the Panama canal go early that’s when all the boats pass through.

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4 hours of waiting and there she is!

That evening we all decided to check out the famous Mercado de mariscos. The place was buzzing with locals and tourists. For me I found the place to be ridiculously expensive (like everything else in Panama). 20$ for fish and 2 beers. Especially when your expected to eat with plastic knives and forks. Shock horror the fish is deep fat fried. I think my body is craving a long overdue salad. Anyway it was a lovely way of saying goodbye to the remaining San Blas crew. I absolutely loved the trip. The food, people and islands were top-notch and in the last 10 month it is definitely up their with one of my highlights.

Next stop Santa Catalina for whale watching.

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