Published: July 5th 2007July 5th 2007
Hi! I hope everyone had a great 4th of July. To all of the Canoe-Trippers...I hope it was as fun as always and I want to see pics and hear stories!!!
Apparently, in Ecuador, booking a plane ticket and paying in advance doesnÂ´t mean you will get on the flight. We were at the airport 1 hour and 45 minutes in advance and while in line at least 20 of us were told that our flight to Panama was full. We were like, "are you kidding me"?? We had a hard time grasping this concept. They eventually put us up at the Hilton in Quito for the night and gave Dan and I each $500 vouchers for the airline. ItÂ´s a Colombian airline, but we found out they fly to Aruba and Mexico, so we might actually be able to use them! If not, at least we got to stay in a super nice hotel for free and got 3 free meals there. It was funny because we ate at 6pm, 10:30pm, and 3:45am in order to get all of our free meals. Not to mention, we sat in first class and were greeted with MimosaÂ´s.
to Panama City the following day and went to see the Panama Canal. We were at the Miraflora Locks. There was an enormous container ship passing through and the cost was over $200,000. The average ship pays $35,000. I guess itÂ´s a lot cheaper than going all the way around South America.
The next day we went to a city called El Valle, which is about 2 hours outside of Panama City, to go ziplining. At the site is also another gorgeous waterfall, which we hiked down to, and a mountain fed spring for swimming, which we swam in. We were so happy to go swimming! After that we did the ziplining and it was very fun to fly through the jungle.
I had been reading about the San Blas Islands and we were hoping to visit them for a few days. Making reservations to go there is not easy, especially if you donÂ´t speak spanish. I was told to wait to book a place until we got to PC. When we were able to get info from local travel centers, the prices were outrageous. We ended up talking to a guy who worked at the hotel we
stayed at and he said he could book a trip to the islands for us, only we would be staying with a Kuna Indian family. The Kuna Indians are an indigenous tribe with their own laws, religion, language, etc. They own the San Blas Islands, which consist of almost 400 islands, mostly unihabited. Up until 10 years ago they were still using coconuts for currency! Most of the women dress in traditional Kuna outfits with their wrists and calves decorated in beads. They also have gold rings through their noses. The women sew something called Molas and are very proud of them.
We were told by guides and travel agents that the only way to get to San Blas from PC is to fly, but through our arrangements we were going to be driving through the jungle in a Land Cruiser. We were definitely in the jungle and it was quite an adventure! It took about 4 hours. At one point we came to a river at least 100 feet wide and as deep as the windows on the Landcruiser. Dan and I looked at each other like, yeah, right. Then, we headed right into it and made it
to the other side pretty easily. Our driver entered the river by going with the current and then made a sharp turn to get us across. I was impressed. Next, we were picked up by a motorized hand dug-out canoe and taken to the island where we would be staying.
The island where we stayed is part of the Carti cluster. It is the size of a football field. There is no electricity or running water on the island. There is one light that is solar powered. We had our own little hut with a sand floor, a small bed, a hammock, and, let me think, uh, thatÂ´s about it. The bathroom was at the edge of the island. We had to walk across rickety, uneven boards to get to the "toilet" which was a make-shift wooden seat that had a hole going into the water. (I seem to have this theme going with using large bodies of water for bathroom duties when I travel to third world places.)
It was a pretty crazy experience to stay with an indigenous tribe! They cooked us 3 meals a day. The first dinner they served us was some type of
mystery meat. We didnÂ´t want to offend them, so Dan and I were conjuring up a plan to put the meat in a hand wipe and throw the meat in the ocean. We were saved just in time when Aaron (our Kuna tour guide) came over and asked me if we were vegetarians. The next night we got king crab and fish. They cooked the fish whole...head, eyes, everything, and put it on a plate. It was a good thing we brought Ritz crackers and Fruit Loops with us. Although, like Dan said, the food they eat must be okay because there is a woman who is 104 years old living on the island.
That first day we were taken by boat to a small island and left there all alone. What a great feeling to be on your own private island! It was sunny and we snorkeled and relaxed. The only thing we had to worry about were falling coconuts (150 people were killed last year from getting hit on the head). That night we played travel Scrabble (thanks, Terri) under the solar light and it was a hit with some of the Kunas, especially the kids. The
kids would pick my letters from the bag for me and then read my letters out loud so that Dan could hear. It was pretty funny.
The following day Aaron took us to Needle Island and it was the most picture perfect island. Again, we had it to ourselves, except for 3 kunas minding their own business on the other side. We got a chance to snorkle again, but shortly after that a huge storm hit. We had a big hut to hang out in for shelter. ItÂ´s amazing that absolutely no wind gets through the spaces in between the bamboo. Even in the hut we slept in, no wind got through. (We plotted to cut a window in one of the walls of our hut because it got so hot at night, but we decided that might be disrespectful.) Anyway, we were entertained by a guy paddling in a canoe and he was making absolutely no progress. He could have easily let the current pull him over to the island we were on, but for some reason he kept on trying to go somewhere.
That night 2 more tourist arrived, Anna and George. They are from Spain
and only speak a little English, but we had a good time with them playing Pass the Pigs. We were sitting at the table playing and all of a sudden one of the Kuna women put a rabbit in the middle of the table dressed in pink satin! (see photos) We were laughing so hard. Then, another woman brought over a duck that was all dressed up. Aaron translated that they have a "dressing up the animals" contest. This explains why earlier I saw some women trying to put a dress on a cat.
After watching the stars, we went to sleep. We were leaving the following morning. Dan woke up feeling terrible, but was a trooper during the Landcruiser ride. It was so bumpy for him :( We told them that we had to leave early to get to the airport to catch a plane to Bocas Del Toro, but time doesnÂ´t seem to be of much importance around here. We missed our flight, but it actually was okay since Dan was sick. We were able to change the tickets and we will leave for Bocas tomorrow instead.
I hope you are all happy and enjoying summertime!!
There are more photos below