Friday, January 3, 2014

Wasting away in a Panamanian paradise

21:00, 29 December 2013, Anchored at Salardup, San Blas Islands

It has been a while since my last entry and apart from Christmas and a few outings, there hasn’t been much going on. Our daily routine consists of relaxing onboard, after attending to any projects that need to be done, snorkeling along the reefs and playing bocce ball with the other cruisers on the closest island to the anchorage. Most of the group, that was in the East Lemmons, stayed for Christmas and set up a Christmas pot-luck on the beach with the exception of the Italians. They tend to stick to themselves and had their do on Christmas Eve as is the tradition in Italy. They were nice enough to invite us all but didn’t tell us until the following day. We reciprocated but none showed up, strange….
We also did our Christmas Eve traditional dinner with Fran’s tourtiere. We invited one of the single guys, Gord (Island Dreams) whose wife was away. Fran outdid herself, as usual. As Fran was cooking up supper one of the local Kunas came alongside selling lobsters so we had a “surf and turf” Christmas Eve.

Cruisers' Surf & Turf
The pot luck was a roaring success with about 65 people participating.  As pre-arranged, one of the late arrival boats brought 2 turkeys from Panama City, and, like all pot-lucks, the variety of food was outstanding. Kuna family that lives on the island was also invited. They are a shy people and spent most of their time by themselves but did partake in the dinner. One of the pre-requisites of the dinner was that each boat bring a gift of non-perishable food for the Kuna family. It is difficult to say if they appreciated the gift as they are not a demonstrative people.

We have been anchored off this small island of Salardup for two days. We moved here to be closer to the mainland and Rio Sidra, the home of Lisa, the master mola maker. One of her sidelines is tours up the river and, with 2 other boats in the anchorage there were 6 people for yesterday’s outing. Before we left, however, Fran had to do some surgery. She had left a bilge hatch opened and I stepped into it, cutting my ankle, about a half-inch cut but deep and bleeding profusely. Thank God we have a well equipped first aid kit. Fran took out a suture kit and made her first 2 sutures. Didn’t hurt a bit and 18 hours later it looks great.
The tour with Lisa began with a ride from the anchorage to Rio Sidra, about a 2 mile ride in a panga. We were set ashore about ½ mile upstream and began our trek inland. The well-worn path took us past several Kuna cemetery sites, including the one where Lisa’s parents are buried. The graves appeared to be shallow with a built up mound on which they place the coffee cups and drinking glasses that the dead used. There was also a clay incense burning pot. The entire plot of several graves is covered by a thatched roof with open sides. Lisa said that the more work that goes into the structure, the more the dead appreciate the effort. She showed us her parents’ graves and went into a long explanation of how her people honour their past relatives as often as they can. Lisa actually comes once or twice a week and spends the day making her molas by their gravesite and talking to her mother. Several times a year the family will come and spend the day and cook a meal close by. She also explained some of the local Kuna traditions including the puberty ceremony for the young women that will occur in early January, a 7-day event in which the girl has her hair cut off, she is blackened with charcoal and serves a local hootch to the assembled. There is also a time honoured custom of determining whether the girl is still a virgin. This involved the father doing something to a leaf. Apparently it is quite accurate.

The hike continued for another hour and ½ upstream to a beautiful set of pools and waterfalls inhabited by a mermaid of Kuna legend. We all dove in to the pools, didn’t see any mermaid but the small fish teeming in the pools must be part pirana. Fran was the first to cry out that something was nibbling at her butt. The remainder of us swam for the shallows at that point and the guides had a good laugh. One of the people we were with described the fish as similar to the ones they use in spas for exfoliation.

 The girls posing with flowers called "Marilyn Munroe Lips". 

Mermaid Pool
 For the next hour we made our way down the river, a hard slog over boulders and slippery rocks. Half way down Fran slipped and injured her wrist but it seems to have been just a bruise. When we arrived back to the boat yesterday afternoon my ankle and Fran’s wrist were in pain so we spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening licking our wounds and watching season 7 of Burn Notice.
This afternoon we had a visit from Chris and Doreen on a boat from Vancouver called Tagish, also in this anchorage. We last saw them in Manzanillo in 2009 as they were setting out for their circumnavigation. They have just arrived from Colombia and are going through the Canal in a few weeks on their way to the Pacific and home to Comox by the summer.
15:00, 2 January 2014, Anchored, East Lemmons

It is a relatively calm day for a change. For the past few days it has been blowing anywhere from 15 to 25 kts here in the anchorage. It lay down a bit New Years Eve but piped up again yesterday but that didn’t slow down too many people from visiting and a good bocce ball game on the beach, which Fran and I won….
We arrived here on the 30th after a day-sail from Salardup to Soledad Miria for water. The Island village of Soledad Miria has a small dock with a water outlet. It has good deep approaches and Fran did an outstanding job of coming alongside. It took about 2 hours to fill our tanks and so we had lots of locals come to the boat to say hola, including the local congresso chief. Popular items here are magazines, which we are very poor in but we did manage to find a few. The chief asked if we had any reading glasses and Fran found him a pair that she was no longer using. Fran went into the village on a quest for fruits and Vegetables but found none which begged the question of what these people eat.
We got back to the anchorage at the East Lemmons to meet up with a few boats that had been on the hard with us at Shelter Bay. Lion’s Paw, Rio Nimpkish and Diva had arrived the day we left for Salardup. There seemed to be a sense of apathy for New Year’s Eve and only one boat announced that they were setting up for whoever wanted to come. As it turned out, most of the attendees were back on their boats by 21:00, cruisers’ midnight. We are definitely getting too old for partying. Onboard Gosling we had a quiet evening with Tom and Shirley (Rio Nimpkish) and played Mexican Train until, we too, were yawning too hard to continue. We packed it in about 22:00 (real night owls, we are), Fran went to bed while I stayed up, curious to see a San Blas New Years Eve. Apart from a few hoots and hollers and some distant fireworks it was quiet and calm. I didn’t even wake Fran up….
22:00, 3 January 2014, still at the East Lemmons
Time to move on. We have been here way too long and it is time to make our way to another of our favourite places, the East Hollandaise cays and the “swimming pool” anchorage. We are heading out tomorrow. Had we not arranged for some fuel to be delivered today from Carti we would have departed this morning. Most of the other boats we know have already left. Looks like we will be staying in the Sam Blas area for a while longer. The weather for heading north doesn’t look to promising for the next few weeks and, besides, we just learnt that Optical Illusion left Shelter Bay this morning and are on their way here.
Today’s fuel delivery was quite an ordeal. Mike, on Gilana, knows a chap in Carti who will deliver barrels of diesel or gasoline but you have to commit to a full 50 gal barrel and the boat can carry 5 barrels. We only needed 20 gals but managed to find another boat to take the remainder of our barrel. The big dugout canoe with a 9.5 HP Yamaha arrived about 8AM, thankfully, in fairly calm seas. The process of siphoning the fuel from the barrels to jerry jugs was messy but we only spilled about a gallon of it in the end.
With the move tomorrow we will again be out of telephone and internet coverage.

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