Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | January 21, 2013

A Panamanian Jungle Christmas

N 9° 35.2′ W 78° 52.7′

Chichime, Kuna Yala.

jungle christmas

Traditional Kuna village on Isla Pinos

12/26 – On Christmas day we awoke to thunderstorms, finding unwelcome stowaways still with us. Thousands of noseeums had visited the Mar Azul during the night and we were going to be their Christmas dinner. The bites were mildly irritating with no lingering aftereffects but still annoying as the tiny critters were everywhere inside and out of the cabin. They seemed immune to insect repellant.

The jungle insects we have encountered so far are more tranquil than their counterparts back home. A huge moth, big as a bird, had gotten in the cabin and allowed Bob, wearing heavy gloves, to scoop him up and put him outside. Swarms of slow-moving carpenter ant-like bugs were attracted to the deck lights one night. Dragonflies and long skinny wasps gracefully flew around and if one strayed into the cabin it was usually amiably shooed to the exit.

We had hoped for good weather to travel since the seas were down. Good overhead sunlight seemed the biggest priority now with so many uncharted reefs to spot. The published charts here are very inaccurate and at this spot the chart plotter showed us anchored over land. We overlaid the waypoints from the Bauhaus guide into our chart plotter but even with that detailed resource there were still too many underwater hazards to make their way into the guide. We were going to have to be exceptionally careful to avoid a grounding.

In the afternoon the sun came out and we decided to make the 5-mile trip to Isla Pinos. It was a lovely afternoon and we passed Kuna groups in motorized pangas on family outings. We settled into the anchorage with its palmed fringed beach and anchored farther from shore, hoping the bugs would not be a problem here.

We had Christmas dinner solo – just the two of us and canine crew and the few remaining noseeums – a pressure cooked chicken with traditional accompaniments. Late in the day, a sailboat appeared on the horizon and anchored well behind us off the sandy beach, the first cruising comrades we had seen in a week.

The day after Christmas we went ashore to visit the town and were met by a friendly young man, Perez, at the dock. Perez took us to the Saila, the chief, a thin man dressed in long baggy trousers, a loose long-sleeved shirt and skinny tie. Surprisingly, he looked just like the photo of a chief in my book on Kuna culture. We were quickly surrounded by a group of curious and friendly Kuna men who were enjoying the holiday which included beer drinking. The festivities were well under way at 10 am.

The Saila explained that the island was celebrating the Navidad today and we should come back tomorrow when we would be welcome to visit, shop in the store which advertised supplies like sardines, macaroni and rice, and pay our “impuesta”, or tax, for visiting. We figured that they wanted to put their best foot forward for visitors and today’s somewhat loose atmosphere was out of the ordinary. We left, intending to return the next day which didn’t happen as the sun came out in the afternoon and we decided to move on with the good weather. We hoped the Saila would not be mad about the impuesta. Perhaps after the day’s party ended he might not remember the Mar Azul’s visit.

We said hello to our sailing neighbors before we left, a French couple on a small sailboat with engine-less dinghy, traveling with two toddlers. They had their sails spread out on the sand and were trying to repair several large rips. I offered my sewing machine, but they said they had one aboard and hand stitching was needed for this repair. I hoped they were not going to have to cross an ocean with those tattered sails.


photo update 3/6/13:

jungle christmas_1

Isla Pinos is called Tupbak in Kuna, meaning “whale”, which it resembles from a distance

jungle christmas_2

Anchored near the sandy beach at Isla Pinos

jungle christmas_3

One of many Christian churches to be found in the San Blas, with a long history of missionary efforts. We saw Catholic, Methodist, Baptist & Evangelist denominations represented.

jungle christmas_4

An e-book, Colombian coffee, plus a little insect repellent were the formula for a relaxing if not unusual holiday

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Sunset over the mainland. Hazy days and silvery skies were typical during our time in this part of the San Blas.


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