Sat 23/03-2013 Day 431

Kuna village on the mainland with many flags


Pos: here
Loc: beach before Islas Cabezas
Acc: tent
Dist: 47,8 km
Start: 6:35 End: 16:30


Best sleep tonight! The palm tree leaves were making nice sounds, almost like rain, but it was dry. I started in the day with new energy, and a slight bit recovered skin. I’d be paddling about 110 degrees today, this means with the due north wind actually pushing! And it was. Yahoo! Eventually a reasonable speed again, and I made a reasonable distance also.

Some not very attractive Kuna village on an island - with electricity.


I paddled past a few more islands, some of them also tiny and inviting to be private. But I can’t camp on all! My last one was just perfect. There were two large villages on the mainland, with an airplane landing and starting to dump a few tourists for the last hotel island. Soon came a few larger villages on islands with big population. I can’t say I was tempted to land, but waved friendly to the watching people.


The islands slowly disappeared for today, and I followed the coast again, still villages came up on the mainland. It must be much easier to populate the mainland close top a river with fresh water, than to organize the water to the islands. I heard they have already pipes going under the sea for fresh water supply.

Generally, the deeper I go into Kuna land, the villages become more and more authentic with mostly palm tree huts, and few modern buildings. Some of them had only one or two, probably school or church. And I fortunately also saw the last yacht around 9 am, then I was the only “gringa” they may have seen for a while! The cayucos become more and more traditional, but every village also has some motorboats, mostly wooden ones with a small engine, rarely a plastic one.

Active Kuna village fishing for the kids


The villages surely look quite poor to me, as what should those Kuna people live on than fishing if the tourism doesn’t reach until here? But they are all very friendly and happy! I happened right into a bunch of about 20 traditional dug out canoes without sail, mostly occupied with two youngsters. This headland had a very local village without electricity or sat dishes or antennas or modern buildings. I saw only two adults, and the whole thing looked to me like a cayuco paddling and fishing school! They were leisurely trailing single fishing lines, and eventually had their fun with me sitting right in the middle for a while! They talked to each other in Kuna which I really didn’t understand a word, but to me in proper Spanish and with even a few bits of English.

I'd call that a 'Kuna Cayuco Symposium'


If I’d be taking my time studying the local population, this would have been a good chance and village to stop. I wonder what they would have said if I’d have done an eskimo roll…I enjoyed being among them for a while, but camping in such a village? No, I’d rather have my peace at night and not do the gringa show. I do not feel comfortable in a very poor village with all my gear, not that I would be scared they’d steel it, no, rather I don’t want to show off too much. I may come by cayuco, but still have stored inside more household items and food a few families together may not be able to afford. Let them live their lives without me generating unfulfillable desires!

At a next village, also with no electricity or sat dishes, but amazingly with many flags waving fashionably over the roofs, I heard two motor chain saws heavily working, and a bunch of people watching. I assume they either borrowed or afforded them somehow to not only cut the trees, but the sound they made eventually made me realise they must be carving new cayucos! Ok… modern times don’t stop in this matter. What may have taken a few men a few days or even weeks in older times, is now done probably within one day…

A new set of islands came up, but I opted for a remote beach before them, being quite sure here would no one stop the motor boat (hopefully…) or walk by from a nearby village. This beach has a small reef with a small shallow entrance, and on top of the white sand is simply – garbage everywhere flooded up. Really ugly. Where does all the shit come from? If you have a closer look, it really seems like a whole house hold shop. Shoes, bottles, pencils, light bulbs, onions, forks, plates, gas cans and whatever.I found a horizontal spot where I could at least see the sand through the rubbish, and was able to kick the layer away for a reasonable clean campsite. No falling coconuts from above… I have camped already on worse places eventually! A nice breeze comes up here, no bugs, and I will probably stay by myself. All good for one night!


15 comments on “Sat 23/03-2013 Day 431

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How sensitive of you not to stay in the poor village to spare the locals of any perceived braggadocio. That must have been uncomfortable, as you say.


Great descriptions in this update. It sounds like a wonderful area to be paddling and camping. The heat & sandflies sound a bit tough though. In NZ did you use the anti sandfly liquid Dimp? It’s brilliant, unbelievably effective.


You’ll be leaving Panama soon.
You should stay an extra day in San Blas because I think they’re unique in the world.

Please take care in Puerto Obaldia. I saw no sand beaches there but reefs next to the airstrip. Also the population there might be like the ones you found in Nombre de Dios, not entirely kunas. Senafront is gonna be there too.

I envy you Freya. Take care.

Jörg Hofferbert

I´m anxious to see which country or island will be your second homeland beside Husum. The caribean sea is not to despise.

Richard Mason

Google earth has some wonderful pictures of the islands in the San Blas Archipelago so I am able to see something of what you are paddling through.
Once again thank you for the geography lesson.
Good luck with the wind.

Frances Price

I really enjoy this description of your surroundings, Freya. Glad you are able to camp where perhaps the sand flies won’t drive you (with your irritated skin) into a hot, sweaty tent!

Happy paddling!

Randall Lackey

It sounds like you are well rested and in good spirits today. I’m glad to hear it for you. enjoy your nice solitare evening. safe Paddling.

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