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Published: November 13th 2011
So, next destination was the San Blas Islands, and what we had been told was paradise…perfect!. As previously mentioned, in order to book our San Blas tour, we had a bit of a nightmare, and things didn’t run too smoothly. We finally booked it however by skyping a guy we tracked down on the internet who organised tours to one of the islands. We were taking a bit of a leap of faith on this fella, as he had already been a little difficult to get hold of a few times, plus we had seen no previous reviews or feedback on the company. This was a potential risk!
He asked us whether we would like the driver to pick us up from our apartment at 5am or 6am in order to take us to into Kuna Yala territory, which of course was a no brainer for us…. So, by 6am, we were ready and raring to get in the drivers 4x4 and get to paradise (you have to have a 4x4 in order to get through Kuna Yala territory due to the road being awful, and due to some of the steepest hills I have ever driven on) So, there
we were, sitting outside the apartment on the curb, with all our worldly belongings ready to go. Then we waited. 15 minutes, 20, 45, an hour….this was looking like yet another promising trip! Luckily, we hadn’t paid the man yet, so we wasn’t at any loss for cash, however our time was being wasted, and we didn’t have any other plans in Panama city or a place to stay if this went tits up, so we were a little concerned. By now, we were starting to look like tramps, as several people passed us walking their dogs, jogging etc, and we were still perched outside on the curb with all our bags. My pathetic attempt of a beard probably didn’t help our ‘We are not really tramps, but are waiting for someone honestly’ cause!
Eventually, I managed to get a Wi-Fi signal on the laptop, and got in touch with the guy who organised the tour. He skyped me back, and told me that the driver was at our Hotel at 5am in error, and decided we had bailed, and therefore, he buggered off. Here we go again! The organiser then said another driver could take us instead, but
not until 10am….. We were pretty miffed by now, but we knew that paradise awaited if we just be patient, and therefore agreed to a 10am pick up. We left our bags with the caretaker of the apartment (I think he said his name was Phyllis, although maybe I misunderstood?. Awesome if that was his name though!....I digress….) and grabbed some breakfast. When we returned to the apartment at 9:45am, there was another message waiting….was 11am OK? By now we were both fed up, and fuming, and started to wonder if this guy was simply taking the piss out of us and having a laugh at our expense. But we gave them one final chance, and said 11am was fine, no later or the deal was off!
10:58am…… A 4x4 creeps down the road, and finally picks us up. We really were minutes away from telling them to stick their tour. But, after 5 hours of looking homeless (which technically, we were) and getting more and more annoyed, we were finally on our way.
When we finally got to the shore after a crazy ride up and down the hills of Kuna Yala territory, we were told to
go with this guy who would take us to the island on a boat. Fine. We were still pretty annoyed at this point due to more stops we hadn’t been told about, like picking people up who had no concept of time it seemed, and stopping for 30 mins for breakfast when you are already late and the drive is only 2 hours anyway….Not happy!
This was of course right up until the boat left the jetty.
It was almost like a smoke screen was lifted, and we went from being fed up and annoyed, to as cheerful as kids in a sweet shop. The sun was out, and we were cruising through the water past some of the most spectacular scenery we have both ever seen. The San Blas Archipelago is made up of around 400 islands, only around 60ish of which are actually inhabited. So, on route to our destination, we were passing dozens of tiny islands all with perfect blue and green waters and pure white sand surrounding them. Some had several shacks on them, and others had one small hut and one family living in them. Our previously glum faces were now a distant
memory, and we were now grinning from ear to ear. This really was the best cure for ‘the hump’ and was pure paradise.
We had booked to stay on an island in a tent for two nights, but we had no idea which island this would be or how many tourists, or locals would be on the island. When we finally docked at our island (Panadu), we were delighted.
Panadu had only one family on the island, and we were the only tourists there, taking the total inhabitants of the entire island to around 10. On arrival, we put the bags down next to our tent that overlooked the water (it was hard not to overlook the water here) and set about exploring the island. This took all of about 4 minutes in its entirety! There were no hotels, no restaurants, or no vehicles on the island what-so-ever, just two large huts, a kitchen, and our tent / tent shade. Within the price, we had three meals a day cooked for us when it was time for the family to eat, that generally consisted of Fish and rice, fish and plantains, Lobster and rice, and more fish….I suppose
when the ocean surrounds you, the sea is clearly the best place for food!. When we wasn’t eating, there was a barrage of things to be done such as snorkelling, reading, drinking and chilling in the hammocks admiring the beauty that surrounded us…a lot to be getting on with! To keep us from getting bored (like that was an issue!?) each day we were taken by one of the guys to different islands, or areas to snorkel, and spent our time spotting Starfish, Conches, and dolphins, as well as snorkelling round an old shipwreck on Dog island. Certainly beat being in the office at home!
Of an evening, once we had eaten our last delicious meal of the day, we simply sat at the end of the jetty to watch the Sunset with a couple of cold beers, until the day turned to night. Once this had happened, it was time to star gaze. Out here it was simply incredible, by 10pm the little light that was on the island (powered by a small generator) went out, and with no obstacles to spoil the view, we laid down on the jetty, looked up, and stared for hours in amazement
at the beauty of the star filled sky…..there are very few better ways to spend an evening than this in my book.
So, after a stressful time booking the trip, we were both so glad we didn’t bail out, as its one of the highlights of the trip so far, and one of earth’s most beautiful spots.
What a fantastic way to end our incredible journey of Central America. There have been so many highlights, and memories to take with us already, and we are only a couple of months into the trip. If South America can match Central, then I think we are in for an amazing 6 months. Our schedule for Central America was pretty full on, and I don’t think we realised this until we started to travel about. Having managed to get to all 7 countries in Central America, and Mexico was hectic, and we still only scratched the surface, therefore we plan to slow it down in South America, and see more of places, but visit less, as the continent is just so vast.
Next stop, Colombia - South America
To quote Frank Turner again
‘’ I see the horizon,
everywhere that I go,
I see the horizon, the horizon is my home’’
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