Getting Iced

So, it iced here last night. Before last night, I did not know “ice” could be used as a verb. I’m slowly learning that in the same way the Inuit have seventeen words for snow (false?) or the Sami have 180 snow and ice related words (truth), the higher you go in latitude, the larger the vocabulary to describe chilly, cold and overall hostile environments. What do you say? Let’s get back to balmy Panama…

San Blas title 3

Oh San Blas! How do I even begin to describe you? You were our backup plan, or coincidental trip, a tossed to the side recommendation. You were the most stunning water I have ever seen. The most picturesque seascape I’ve ever known. The beach to my Corona, the deserted to my island, the… you get the picture.

San Blas bienvenido

Our plans to head up to the northeast portion of the country for some surf and relaxation were thwarted once we realized it would cost a lot more and we’d be able to spend a lot less time there than we had wanted. Luckily, our new friends in Panama recommended another place where we could enjoy the beach that was also, reportedly, very beautiful. Before we knew it, they had talked to somebody, who knew someone, who called a friend who was connected to a group offering rides with 4-wheel drive out to the port on the Atlantic side of Panama. Not having much more to go off of than that, we said our gracias and planned for the day we’d arrive at the pickup spot for a ride to the coast.

San Blas palm

After some confused negotiating on my part (note to self: once you arrive in a secluded port town and are already standing on the pier awaiting a boat ride, backpacks and all personal belongings in tow, your ability to negotiate with nonchalance and a take-it-or-leave-it attitude has gone out the window; the gig is up and you clearly want to buy), we boarded a little rig with an outboard motor and cruised off into the ocean. At least, that’s how it felt. Until we came across the first out of 365 islands that litter the Atlantic coastline. The first island was populated with Guna, the indigenous group to Panama that autonomously lives on and owns the San Blas, or Guna Yala, islands and coastal territory.

First View of San Blas

{standard view while cruising by in a boat}

You can imagine our awe. Combined with thoughts of pinch-me-this-can’t-be-real and where-in-the-world-are-we were other thoughts of How was this not the FIRST thing anyone mentioned to me when we landed in country? and You mean you don’t have to fly to southeast Asia for this type of water? also ran through my brain. The water was the clearest and most turquoise I had ever seen.

Guna boatmen

{Guna boatmen after a morning catch}

San Blas boat

{in front of our cabana lodging}

San Blas first day

After arriving at our destination, and organizing to speak with our boat person the next day about a day trip to another island, we gleefully dropped our bags in our cabana and dove into the water.

San Blas water

Boats drifted by. Wind kissed our skin. Water lapped at our legs. In all, there were a handful of people on the island our first day. It would be the most crowded we saw it during our 3-day stay.

Boatman and Fishing Net

San Blas boat in the water

San Blas from the water

San Blas sand

Molas on San Blas

San Blas rig

Guna mola and girl

The day would end with the sounding of the conch shell (I’m serious) indicating dinner was served. We’d shuffle the ten meters from our sleeping hut to the dining hut. Usually, dinner was fried fish that had been caught that day. The second night we were excited to eat some lobster we had seen that morning being offloaded from a little rig. As it turns out, the lobster had already been devoured. Perils of island life, I suppose.


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