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San Blas Islands Mini Tour
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voyager
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Joined: 24 Nov 2007
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Location: Freeland, MD

PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2009 11:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brought back some memories Tim. The Amazing Grace also graced the San Blas islands on its repos to the west coast of Panama. Mulas and tshirts were made portraying her.

I was nearly charged for the parrot that graced this pic. Instead I bargained for one of the shells in the picture which graces my nite table.

Fred Voyager

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calsailor
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Joined: 24 Nov 2007
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Location: Sacramento, California

PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2009 10:37 am    Post subject: Thanks Reply with quote

Thanks for reviving the memories. I spent a total of 3 weeks in San Blas (2 weeks the first year Mandalay sailed Panama and then the last full week sail on Mandalay in San Blas just before she stopped sailing). It was and still is one of my favorite itineraries ever. I found the Kuna very pleasant folks and very friendly. And, I found their islands wonderfully unspoiled.

On the last sail, the Mandalay bar ran out of cold beer just as a large group of us including Casey were totally enjoying our floating beach bar in the water. (We had all the blue cushions from the ship lined up in the water with the cooler on top and all of us circled around.) I was able to ask one of the residents if he had any spare beers and he took me into the thatch roof hut that was home to see what was in the frig. Of course, he was about 4' 10" tall and, although I am NOT tall (5'4"), I walked right into the ceiling beam of the hut with my forehead. Not a good thing to do. But it gave him a great laugh and he sold me 12 or so beers for $10 total, which kept us going until Mashup found more beer on board to send ashore on the launch.

The waters in Kuna Yala were so beautiful and clear and full of sea life. And, although some did have generators, etc. the nights were so full of stars. Destin was also with us on the first trip and the photos on his CD were outstanding.

I think the Kuna guide's name is Gilberto. I have his email and business card. He is a sub-chief of the Kuna and represents them in the Panama Tourist Board. His father is/was one of the main chiefs but not on the islands we visited. I believe Gilberto was schooled in France and has a doctorate or two - a seriously intelligent fellow. When I was marooned in Panama City for the first week, he invited me to go to stay with his mother for the week until I could sail the second week. He and his friends were going to 4 wheel over the mountains from Panama City to the coast and then villagers would have picked us up on the beach to go to his home island. However, we couldn't arrange for me to board the ship in Colon for the second week sail so I never got to do that. Casey would not let me board the ship in the islands. It was regretful as I think it would have been a wonderful experience.

On the first visit, no one asked for a dollar for a photo - I really think that happened because passengers started paying the kids for a photo. I also remember going to that school on the first visit. The children first learn to read and write in Kuna, then Spanish, then English. Their culture is really interesting and ancient. And, according to much of what I read, it is little changed from the time of Columbus.

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Tim
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Location: Glen Arm, Md

PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2009 11:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kay thank you very much for reminding me the guides name is Gilberto and not Roberto. Old age has bit me in the butt. I will make the corrections. Your story adds so much to the tour. I wish more knowledgeable travelers would contribute to the reports. I loved your beer story.

Tim

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voyager
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Location: Freeland, MD

PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2009 12:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let me assure you Mom was out in front of the kids soliciting dollars for pics. No mula, no picture, no pun intended. In fact she pushed the second child with the parrot in the picture for that second dollar. I think part of that drive was associated with our one day visit. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may...

Fred

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calsailor
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Location: Sacramento, California

PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2009 2:26 pm    Post subject: I love Molas Reply with quote

I love the molas. In fact, if I ever get it completed, I am making a quilted wall hanging for my office. It is composed on 8 of the small molas with the colorful birds on them that I picked up at the various San Blas islands for a couple of dollars each, bordered with a beautiful dark green fabric and then black dotted swiss outline border. I just have to finish the binding. Now that I am learning quilting and aplique techniques, I have an increased knowledge of how much work goes into making the molas and how long it takes to build up the ability to be really good at it.

I also have several of the larger molas, which are quite beautiful framed. But, alas, none by the master mola maker who was the man Vincencio (?spelling of his name) - his were 60 to 100 dollars each and really were master pieces. He was Captain Matt's buddy and really made the most intricate designs on his molas. Molas are made by the women of the tribe, but also by certain men who have very feminine characteristics but dress in the usual male attire.

San Blas was a wonderful place. In fact, I adored all of the Panama experience. We also went to the Embara Indian village up in the mountains via a dugout canoe. They specialize in basket weaving and wood carvings that are really wonderful and are interesting because while many of the young folk have day jobs in Panama City, they remain true to their heritage and dress in their tribal garb when in the village. They also still marry in the traditional manner with the ceremonial dancing and music that has been handed down for generations. The women's attire included necklaces that covered the entire chest and were made of coins from the time of Columbus to current Panamanian and US coins. (Good thing for the guys with us because the only other thing that they wore were very short traditional skirts of a woven cloth. The necklaces had a functional use besides the very beautiful use as jewelry.) The men and young boys dressed in traditional loin cloths that had tails which hung almost to the ground.

The one other thing I did there was to go Zip lining in the rain forest. But, that happened while I was stranded in the hotel in Panama City and is a whole other story.

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