The Voyage to Panama

I left Cartagena on a bright sunny day, a passenger aboard the Da Capo, captained by Max, an old Swedish guy who acts like a man 20 years younger. The other passengers were Lucas and Julia, a couple from Argentina, Miguel, Francisco and Joao, three Portuguese engineering students who were studying in Buenos Aires, and Rebecca, a New Zealander who just finished four years working in the embassy in Chile and was enjoying her vacation time.

The 200-mile trip took about 36 hours. That´s two full days at sea and one night. For me it was a difficult trip. the constant swaying and pitching of the boat made me queasy, and I could not sleep at night. Here I am just as we started, before I felt bad.

We finally arrived in the San Blas Archipelago off the coast of Panama. The 400 islands plus a strip of the mainland are the home of an interesting indigenous group called the Kuna Yala. In 1925 the Kuna were granted permission to implement their own system of governance and economy. They run San Blas as an autonomous region with minimal interference from the Panamanian government. Their success is a result of their remarkable tenacity and zealous efforts to preserve their culture and traditional way of life. As a result, their ways have changed little since the days of Columbus, which is no small achievement.

I camped on the beach on the island of Chichime for three nights. It was incredibly peaceful, just the wind through the coconut trees and the waves crashing on the distant reef. You really do forget about the rest of the world out there.

My tent on the beach

Here’s the group of people I traveled with, who also stayed on the island for a couple days.

Here are some of the local Kuna children we met.

Here is a Kuna woman and girl in traditional dress.

When I finally left the islands and got to the mainland I was ready to ride. But the heat and humidity were brutal. Plus I was a bit out of shape after not riding for a week. Here, a group of people were curious about my trip and helped me get all my things together. Then we had a group hug and they said a prayer for me.