Sunday, August 29, 2010

San Blas....the islands....

I'm going to warn you now...I'm going to go a little crazy with all these San Blas Ioannis said, everywhere I looked I felt like I was on a calendar or postcard. As the blog title says, I'm going to focus on the fun we had at all the different islands we stopped at in the San Blas chain.First stop after getting on the boat was to Provenir to register our trip in the San Blas waters - since we were going from "Kuna water" to "Panamanian water" we had to register our trip.After that is was off to play volleyball against some of the other sailboat "residents" - some of these island were barely big enough for a volleyball court - crazy!Then there was exploring the islands....and showing off our amazing balance skills (until Mike broke the tree!).
I probably wasn't supposed to get in this Kuna boat...
These are what the Kuna people still use to get from island to island and to do their fishing.
TONS of starfish everywhere!!
Sunset view from the boat...Another day of island life...could get used to this!Sophia enjoying the view...On some of the bigger islands - bigger meaning that there were a couple of huts on it, the Kuna would sell their woven goods.
Playing bocciGorgeous end to another great day!

San Blas...the sailboat...

Have you ever felt like you were in a Corona commercial? If not, I suggest you head to the San Blas the Northern Coast of Panama.We rented a sailboat...the High Spirits with Captain Dave (Houston native) and First Mate Elizabet (Panamanian native).Me doing my job of taking the anchor up and down...
...Mike helping out with captaining the boat.
Our close sleeping quarters.Crazy nights on the boat doing the best of everyone's iPod.Yes, I know, hot robe, right? The sun was INTENSE and I did not want to become a tomato :-) Instead I look like a crazy lady, oh well.
While the boat did have a shower, it was close quarters and hot, so a quick bath in the saltwater and then being quirted off in freshwater was a preferable option.
Sophia and I clearly know that Havainas are the best deck shoes :-)Elizabet got bananas at one island we stopped that we have a bunch of bananas hanging from the boat!!

Off to San Blas!

After a short week, I headed off with Daron and the Greeks to the San Blas Islands (for those of you Mana lovers...yep...just like the song "Islas de San Blas"!). Our departure was set for 4:30am - yikes! We were all on time...unfortunately the Panamanians were not, so we were sitting out on the street with all our stuff and groceries for the week - not a great start....
Once we finally got started we stopped halfway to switch cars with a group that was headed back from the coast. We arrived a little earlier, just enough time for Sophia and I to get a lesson in making patacones!Patacones are the french fry of Panama - fried plantains - yum!The San Blas Islands...and the trip to San Blas are through the Kuna region of Panama. The Kuna are people indiginous to Panama and they fought for their independance in 1925 - and won. Now they have their own representatives in the Panamanian governments and rule a state that enjoys vast coastlines and jungle. (you'll see more Kuna in subsequent posts as the San Blas islands are also owned by the Kuna.)
Our trip through the jungle was filled with adventure. (Good thing Sophia and I both had our cameras ready!!)
We were a few hours late getting to the short, and found ourselves with boats but no drivers to take us out to the sailboat we had rented. Luckily everyone is an entreprenuer and $10 got us on our way to the sailboat which was hiding behind this Kuna island.

Panama Canal...Greek Style!

Last time I visited the Canal I was I was very quick to recommend that the Greeks head there to do some exploring and then Daron and I would meet them for dinner as soon as we got back from Contadora. Watching the ships go through at night was just as cool!
Who are the Greeks? Mike, Sophia, and Ioannis. I had met Mike in Copenhagen...he had come to visit Daron who was visiting me. Mike and Daron had met on a Black Sea cruise the year before (I should have been there, but I had work trips to the the US (MC's wedding!) and Moscow).Then I had gone to Athens to visit Mike, where I met Sophia as we celebrated Halloween in Santorini (best Halloween ever!). Ioannis is a friend of Mike and Sophia's and who could resist a trip to Panama and Costa Rica??

Island Paradise

Back in January, when I had a free weekend in Panama, I headed to Isla Taboga. It was amazing, so I figured I couldn't go wrong with exploring another Panamanian Island. This time it was off to Isla Contadora.
Daron had left earlier in the day and he warned me about the small small plane...thankfully! This was my boarding pass - seriously - I guess I should applaud the "green effort" of reusable passes!

After a rocky start (the window few open so we had to abort takeoff and try again), we made the 25min flight to was worth it!Daron had booked at the Contadora Island Inn,which I highly recommend, and our friendly inn keeper picked me up in his 4 wheeler. He took me on a brief tour of the island...a very extensive tour, but when the island is only 1.4 miles long, it doesn't take too long. He saw a guy out on the street with a "fresh fish" sign he asked if I minded if we stopped - of course not! I had just finished "Vegan February" so I was all for some super fresh island fish!!
The Inn was lovely and the inn keepers and owners were there, along with a couple from England who was renting next door. Our hosts invited us to dinner and it was incredible. The meal was great, but the real treat was the company - these people had led such interesting lives. The owners were an American man and his wife who was Scotish but had been raised in Swasiland (fabulous accent!) - their stories were incredible!!! Daron and I have both traveled our fair share of this world, but we were put to shame that evening.
Exploring the island at sunset....
...and by day....
...and for some great snorkeling on a private beach that the inn keepers had told us about...
Dinners overlooking the ocean...can't beat it!Typically trips like these are hard to return from...not this one, it was fantastic, but we were off to meet the Greeks for dinner at the Panama Canal!!!

Panama...Round 2

What is more "quintessential Panama" than a Panama hat and maracas - nothing! Make a mental note of these fun'll see them resurface :-)
For the first two weeks of March I was back down in Panama for a mostly work, but also pleasure trip. And this time, friends joined me...from all over the world...literally. Daron came from Alaska..en route to Honduras and Mike, Sophia, and Ioannis joined from Greece!!!
Daron was the real winner of the trip as he came for both weeks in Panama and then went on with the Greeks for a week in Costa Rica after I had to make my sad departure back to the working world. And...what better place to celebrate your "platinum birthday?"
What is a "platinum birthday" you ask? Well, it is a gold birthday when you turn the same age as your date of when Daron turned 33 on 3/3 we dubbed it his platinum birthday!!!
The rest of the week was pretty least for me since I was working....but plenty of fun to be had on the weekend, right??!!