I arrived in El Porvenir (the only airport in the San Blas islands) on a small Air Panama plane very early Saturday morning. The sailing boat Andiamo was supposed to pick me up in the early afternoon. El Porvenir, the capital of the Comarca de Kuna Yala (a semi-autonomous region within Panama populated by the indigenous Kuna people) is on a very small island. The landing strip crosses the whole island! There is one basic hotel. I was glad to have a book to read.
I hung out around the hotel and the beach for hours, waiting for Andiamo which didn't show up until 3:00 pm. I was pretty much asleep in a hammock by then (due to the motion sickness pill I had taken earlier). As soon as I boarded the boat it started raining. There were 7 other passengers, the boat captain, Tony, and his assistant Gilligan, euh I mean Dino. :) The boat was 50 feet long. I freaked out a little bit when I realized that I had to live for 2 days in that cramped space with all those people. Being on my own, I didn't even have a cabin to put my stuff in. I chose to sleep on deck, which turned out to be a good decision because the inside of the boat stayed hot and stuffy all night. On deck I had a nice breeze (which turned into a strong wind on the second night). I sort of got used to the cramped space. We were also responsible for preparing the meals in the galley but I lucked out because some of the women seemed to enjoy preparing the food. As a result I spent very little time in the kitchen.
We sailed to three different islands. The first one was a tiny uninhabited cay. We anchored there the first night. I swam from the boat to the island and back. The second day we sailed to another island for lunch. That one had a restaurant, shop and some tourists. There was a 1945 sunk boat to snorkel around. It started pouring rain not long after I got in the water. One of the other passengers bought me a beer on the island, which I ended up drinking under the pouring rain. The skies cleared up in time for lunch, but then it got very windy. Our sail to the third island was partially in open water, and with the wind, the boat movement was significant. I knew for a fact that without the medication I would have been sick as a dog at that point. This was a very good test for these pills I bought in NZ last year. On Monday morning, we finally woke up to a perfectly clear an sunny day. I swam near the island in perfectly turquoise Caribbean water. This could have been a perfect beach day, but unfortunately by 11:00 we had to set sail and return to our starting point.
I returned to Panama City in a 4x4 on a road that would put most roller coasters to shame. It was partially surfaced in places, but still a dirt road in others with sharp turns, constantly climbing and dipping. Another good test for my medication, although after an hour and a half, I was starting to feel something in the pit of my stomach...
That same night, greatly in need of a real shower, I flew to Cartagena. Although the flight was only an hour and 20 minutes long, I had to show up at the airport 3 hours in advance. I was so exhausted by this point that I was afraid to lie down. The flight had been delayed, so we didn't arrive in Cartagena until past midnight. Fortunately, everything went pretty smoothly, including immigration and the short cab ride to my hotel.