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.

6 thoughts on “The Voyage to Panama

  1. Nicola January 22, 2008 / 3:03 pm

    Wow Kev,
    You were hanging out with hottie…I’m talking about the guys. That picture of you behind ther wheel of the boat, then cut to the island shots puts me in the mind of Gilligan’s Island. Take care and be safe.

  2. DAD January 24, 2008 / 1:23 am

    Any lots for sale around there? Must be on the beach.

  3. Kevin Koski January 24, 2008 / 10:44 pm

    The Kuna don’t allow non-Kunas to own land in their territory but the rest of Panama has a lot of coastline and plenty of beaches.

  4. Debbie Black January 27, 2008 / 5:39 am

    Hi Kev –

    What a GEORGEOUS part of the world you stumbled upon! The beaches look absolutely pristine. And where are all the people? No one wanting to braid your hair, give you a massage or sell you some jewelry? Are these islands still relatively undiscovered?

    All I can say is I know where I want Jeff to take me in September for our 15th anniversary! What’s the weather like there at that time of year?

    The group of people you were hangin’ with look like a fun bunch. Hope you guys enjoyed some good R&R.

    BTW – I love the picture of the little girl with the red headress. If you can crop out the guy in the green shirt behind her, that would be a great one to frame and hang on your travel wall.

    You’re almost back bo N.A. — are you peddling downhill yet?

    Ciao for now!


  5. Kevin Koski February 1, 2008 / 9:28 pm


    The San Blas islands are still relatively unknown, although cruise ships are starting to make stops. There are few vendors and people bothering to sell you stuff. In fact, most of the islands are uninhabited, and for a couple dollars they will let you stay there.

  6. Sharon in Trinidad and Tobago February 8, 2008 / 2:56 am

    Holy Smokes!! You are really doing it. Congrats and good luck. I know you will be successful. Carnival was great!! missed you. Hope you get a chance to come back to Trinidad.

    New details… I have taken a less stressful path. and left corporate Trinidad. I have ventured out into the unknown and started my own strategic communications consultancy. Business is great and I only work three days a week. Working smarter not harder.

    I am soooo excited about your bike trip around the world. I have no doubt that you will achieve your goal . I love the fact that you are documenting your travels. This will provide excellent material for your book. (hint hint) Stay dry and try to stay cool.

    Take care,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *