The San Blas is an archipelago of over 400 islands and cays that are the home of the Kuna Yala, an indigenous people who govern the area as an autonomous region. The Kuna have their own system of governance and decision-making while maintaining their traditional language and culture to an extent seldom known in the Americas. This is no small feat as they have resisted assimilation by the Spanish Conquest since 1502 as well as more recent western influences. They only inhabit about 40 of the islands, living in close groups of small huts. The islands contain coconut palms and are circled by white sand beaches, incredible coral reefs and turquoise water. Foreigners are prohibited by Kuna law from owning land which has done much to preserve the pristine quality of these islands. Getting here is a bit difficult, but the Kuna Yala are welcoming of visitors.
Part II–The San Blas Islands
We were going to sail together with Carlito’s boat but he apparently started out the evening before when we had originally planned to go. Sunday morning and afternoon, the seas were still a bit rough, peaking with 10 foot waves. That may not sound like a lot, but it is more than enough to make a 42 foot sailboat pitch and roll. Fortunately, nobody got sick. We arrived and anchored in Isla Waisalup that evening.
Carlito’s boat had only arrived 2 hours before. Their trip had taken 22 hours compared with our 14 hours. They had a really rough trip and all aboard tossed many cookies. My appreciation of Humberto’s skill was growing! After that we always sailed together. Oh yes, a few hours before, Humberto had bartered some goods with 2 Kuna friends that had intercepted us on a traditional cedar log canoe powered by an outboard. This thing had roared out of an islet and come alongside our boat which was under full sail with highly choreographed skill. Fish and lobster were tossed aboard and we tossed them wire and some other supplies that Humberto had purchased in Panama. Once again we ate well and had no trouble sleeping.
The next morning we awoke to find ourselves in paradise, think Fantasy Island without the swanky hotel. We moved onto the island. Humberto had tents for us and we made camp. Both boats camped there two nights. A five hole golf course was set up as was a volleyball court and soccer area. In the mornings we had fresh fruit and coffee. The Kuna chief, Julio would bring us coconuts. We mostly just snacked during the day. Dinner was usually fish and fresh vegetables. Giant bonfires and smaller cooking fires, guitars, rum, beer and lots of fun and laughter completed the picture.
Check out the Abuello Rum bottle goal posts!
As another night falls on Waisalup, we crank up the fires and roast fresh fish and veggies.
to be continued