Published: March 17th 2012March 15th 2012
In the whole time we have been travelling i dont think we have had such a disasterous trip.... Disasterous but fun!
So we had booked to do a 3-night camping trip on a remote island in the San Blas islands of the Kuna Yala territory, Panama. It is an archepeligo of around 365 palm fringed islands, give or take a few that disappear at high tide. Its the kind of islands that you picture when someone says "Deserted tropical island paradise"...... Well!?!? We had met our fellow travellers at the hostel in Panama city. Two couples, Bruce and Laura from Canada and Julien and Tasha from Reunion Island and South Africa. We all got along really well. The trip started early in the morning and we headed to the Kuna Yala (Native indian territory not governed by Panama) from Panama city. We were cruising through the forest on the way to the coast and noticed the weather was horrible. Grey, rainy and windy. The driver assured us that it was only because we were high up in the mountain forest that the weather was bad and that it would be a lot better on the coast.
We arrived on
the coast, and were greeted by a boat to take us to Carti, the main island village of about 4 tiny but heavily populated islands. We had to go through a river before entering the ocean. First hiccup: we got stuck on the sand bank at the river mouth. We made it to Carti and met our tour guides. We were supposed to head out on the boat to Cayos Holandeses which is a remote island way past the touristy islands, but due to the state of the weather we had to stay in the village for the night. We were supposed to stay in the village on the last night but we decided to do it on the first night instead and have the following two nights on the outer island. No real problem there! So we went to the Kuna village museum and saw a traditional Kuna dance to get a taste of the Kuna culture. Hows this?, the cheifs of the tribe lie in hammocks whilst discussing important business in the congress huts. They also get married in hammocks and they all sleep in hammocks too..... sorted!
So rain, hail or shine we had to leave
the next day to Cayos Holandeses. Ofcourse, there was no change in the weather. If anything it was worse, dark grey, rainy and really windy. But we were so excited to get there we didnt care. About an hour into the boat ride we started having problems with the engine. At first we thought it was dirty fuel, but after a closer look the engine was overheating because water wasnt getting pumped through to cool it. So we were stuck in the middle of the ocean about 3km from the nearest island!! The tour guide had a plan, "Wait until someone comes past to pick us up". Ofcourse there is noone around. Luckily we had just bought about 30 cold beers before we left. So to liven the spirits we tucked into a few beers. Feeling not so bummed but humoured by our misfortune we decided to built a sail. We had rope, a tarp and some sticks. Thats all you need to build a sail! So we headed towards the closest island in our sailing range. Suprisingly, it worked really well and we made it to the island after about 2 hours. We were literally stranded on a tropical
island that you can walk around in under five minutes. So the plan now was to chill and wait for another boat to take us out to Cayos Holandeses which was still another hour away.
Waiting, waiting, waiting. There are definitely worse places to be stranded in the world. Although the weather was grey and windy the southern side of all the islands was calm and pleasant. So we made the most of it snorkling, a few beers, some coconuts and some lunch while our tour guide got drunker and drunker trying to organise a game plan. A boat came but wouldnt take us to Cayos Holandeses due to the weather. Apparently once you pass the outer reefs the waves become huge and the locals didnt want to take us out there. Our guide was keen but we just couldnt get a boat. After much confusion, as to what we were doing we decided to stay on the island for the night.
We managed to get a boat to come and pick us up the next day and give us a tour of the surrounding islands but not the one we were supposed to go to. We went
to dog island and snorkled an old ship wreck which was cool, had some fish for lunch, visited an island with only one palm tree on it and snorkled on a sandy weed bank where there were loads of star fish. All-in-All it was a great day and good to get off the island. To compensate for the loss of a day our guide suggested we head out the following morning to another island if the weather was any better. Wouldnt you know it..... the weather was still shocking. Not to mention, there were protesters blocking the road on the way back to Panama City so we had to leave early anyways so we didnt get stuck in the Kuna Yala.
It was an interesting trip, full of hiccups and adventure and we all had a great time despite everything. We managed to get $80 each back from the tour operator to compensate for the engine changing our journey plans. It is definitely an amzing place but it was not so kind to us!
There are more photos below