Annalena and Daniel flew to Panama to meet us for two weeks holiday. And where better to spend a two week holiday than in the San Blas Islands? These are an archipelago of low lieing palm islands where the coral reef rises above the surrounding sea. No two sources agree on the number of islands but it may be about four hundred- or more. It really depends on how you define an island – at least one grass hut, or at least one palm tree or a rock with crabs on?
The whole area is a maze of coral reefs. The pelican may fly a mile but we need to weave between the reefs with an eye on the depth gauge and at least two eyes at the bow spotting the coral. The direct route is a guarantee that you join the wrecks that litter the area.
The local Kuna people live in bamboo and palm huts and still use dugout canoes to travel and fish. If the wind is blowing in the correct direction, they hoist small sails and lean far out upwind using their single paddle to steer, Vincent paddled out to us to swap some of his limes for our sugar and then charge us the village anchoring fee of ten dollars for a month,
It is very surreal when you anchor behind a reef in totally flat water but with the sight and sound of the swell breaking nearby. And when a sail driven dugout passes you from palm island to palm island, you know this is some where special.
At the west end of the archipelago there is tourism but as we sailed further east it became more lonely. When we visited the twin towns of Nargana and Corazón de Jesús there was no sign that tourism plays any part in their economy. The two towns each cover their respective island and are joined by a footbridge. Here we saw schools, shops, a court house and churches. After over a week out in the islands we felt we had arrived in the big city.
Our guests only had two weeks holiday so we returned to Port Linton with only a tiny part of the islands explored but with beautiful memories and a hand sewn picture bought off a passing canoe.