Trip Start Sep 07, 2011
Trip End Dec 22, 2011

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Flag of Honduras  , Atlántida,
Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The chicken bus is always the appropriate option for starting out any bon voyage with today being no different.   Some loud reggae/salsa type music overwhelmed this bus as we took our places for the hour and a half ride over to Miramar.  Somewhere along the way the music very randomly changed from the more local variety to full on American 1970s disco.  Surreal is the only way to describe Panamanians grooving to Double Dutch Bus and Funky Town, both fitting songs for a psychadelic bus rolling through some strange ass towns.   Even stranger and more disturbing is watching old men bouncing their heads to It's Raining Men.

The Darien Gapster is a speedboat that will carry 12 of us all the way across the San Blas Islands to Sapzurro, Colombia, a town of 2,000 whose only link to the real world is by boat.   A 5 day sailboat trip is the most common way for backpackers to bridge the Darien Gap between Central and South America, and the thought of 4 nights on a cramped boat appeals little to me.   The boats vary in legitimacy and safety and really only take in a small part of the islands before heading directly up to Cartagena, Colombia.   Two nights on land and the entire coast between Miramar and Sapzurra are part of our trip and we will mix with the Kuna Indians as well.

After stopping at tiny Porvenir Island for an octopus lunch and Panamanian immigration exit , we cruised another 20 minutes over to the island of Nalunega.   This island is so far off the beaten path I highly doubt the average tourist will be lucky enough to stop here.   This is pure Kuna territory with thatch roof homes, sand streets and a collision of their native culture with that of the mainland.   Their land, Kuna Yala, along Panama’s eastern Atlantic coast is autonomous, and though they seem to dislike visitors, they will gladly take our money to help support their subsistence lifestyle.   A large and in charge woman with seemingly no stature within the community except to be an attitude filled pain in the ass followed us around and warned us pictures are forbidden.

After settling into our very basic hotel (and I mean basic with bamboo walls and minimum infrastructure), we decided to take a quick swim at the beach.   This idea was cut short as we discovered two rather large aquaturds bobbing in the waves only feet from us.  Picture 10 people fleeing the water as if Jaws was lurking somewhere in the surf.   We soon noticed the Kunas take care of business in outhouses at the end of the docks, and this island was a bountiful minefield.  With swimming  crapped out for the afternoon, a walk around town seemed a safer bet. 

A basketball game and only steps away men and women dancing to gourd rattles and some sort of wind instrument held our attention for about ten minutes.   The Kuna have their feet in both worlds and I felt like an unwelcome outsider caught in the middle.   Big mama was still lurking nearby and much like the guidebooks say, the Kuna are eager to charge a dollar for everything…sodas, pictures, coconuts, you name it.

More interested in the music group than some basketball game I can see anywhere, I walked over and stood on the sidelines maybe two minutes before being rudely waived off.  Indeed, the only friendliness on this island were the dozens of children who wanted to play Frisbee and the nice family whose thatch roof house served as our dinner restaurant.  We settled in for a moonlit curry chicken dinner by the aquaturd laced waterside.

A little girl of maybe four was carrying around a small chihuahua like dog she wouldn’t allow anyone else to hold.   She seemed to take right to me and offered me her dog while explaining his name is Scooby Doo.   In fact, she entrusted Scooby Doo to me the entire evening and yes, even in remote Panama finding dogs named Scooby Doo is a same same but different experience much like Funky Town on the double dutch chicken bus where all things American collide with the more traditional.

How I got here:

Chicken bus from Portobelo to Miramar $3.25 - 1:30
Miramar to Porvenir by boat for exit formalities - 1 hour
Porvenir to Nalunega by boat - 20 minutes
Walk from dock to Hotel San Blas – 1 minute

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