June's Sabbatical travel blog

Thias morning was my first excursion from the Black Watch cruise that I am now on.

its so different to the boat trips that I have been taking until now. We were loaded into the lifecrafts and taken ashore, rather than in zodiac dinghies.

The Carti Islands are a group of Island in Panama, about 200 in all of which only 39 are inhabited.

In fact Christopher Columbus, when he arrived in Panama and saw the natives, thought that he had arrived in India, so the indian name has stuck. The people of these islands are a tribe that have their own dress, culture and religion and are pretty much left to their own devices and way of life. I suppose it helps with the economy when small cruise ships arive though. They are known for their needlework and artwork that they attach to their arms and legs.

It is so hot there though! I arrived and got off and we were steered towards the village, which consists of straw houses covering the island and narrow dirt streets where the locals show their wares. The needlecraft there is beautiful but a little overwhelming with the amount to see. You cannot make up your mind which to buy. I thought that it was cute that the children had little parrots sitting on their heads as we were walking by. It took me a while to work out that they were in fact trying to be cute so that you would take a picture of them and give them a dollar. In fact I think that they are taught as babies, after mum (or its equavalent) to say 'one dollar'. Some more advanced children cut straight to the chase and chant money, money, money!!

These canny kids (backed by mum) have all sorts of props apart from birds; put the kid in a bowl of water, tie a string around a small scrawny kitten or alternatively a tiny piglet and wait for the dollars to roll in!

I suppose they have to make money, but I feel sorry for the animals. I did see one studious girl, who must have been about six or seven, sewing the applique displays by hand. Their craftwork is painstaking and good.

I managed to pick up three large shells for one dollar each, which would be a fortune elsewhere, one of the pieces of craftwork and two pictures of hand paintings on small feathers.

Then I did probably one of the craziest things that I have done on this trip. I went out solo in a tree trunk with an outboard engine and had a trip around some of the islands. The boat (lets call it that) rocked from side to side quite alarmingly. I did however sit next to the lifejackets that were thrown on just as we left, so felt reasonably safe.

The views were amazing and I saw how the locals live on the other islands, just going about their business, swimming, fishing etc.

The water around one small island, where some of the guests had travelled to was so clear you could easily see the fish in the water.

After my trip I decided that I would stop in the local bar for a can of drink. There were a couple from the boat in there and we kind of attracted more people so it got quite full in there. The beer and coke was - one dollar. You could have fish and plaintains if you wanted but the way that my stomach is, I couldnt take the risk.

Back on board I got ready for my palm ritual - a hand massage and manicure to you, and dinner with my fellow shipmates

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