The San Blas islands are some of Central America's most beautiful, but they are hard and expensive to get to. I decided to do it the last minute ghetto way, by taking a 4X4 (instead of flying) from a hostel in Panama City. The San Blas are completely run by Kuna indians, it's called the comarca kuna yala. They all live in villages of thatch huts with dirt floors and sleep in hammocks. A group of us were picked up at 5AM, then drove down three hours of bumpy, washed out roads. My knees were pretty much in my chest, we were squished in the truck. After a ride down a river in a canoe, then a half hour ride out in the ocean, we arrived at the most rustic place I'd ever seen. A cluster of junky bamboo huts - very much like the hilltribe villages in Thailand only much more crowded. There was a super ghetto hostel in the village of Carti, where we stayed upstairs in a dirty, hot bamboo house. The company was fun - three guys from Brooklyn, a girl from Canada, two finnish people and an irish couple. The package included a visit to the islands - we took another hour boat ride out into the ocean to the most picturesque island I've ever seen (pictured above) - isla pellican. And true to it's name, there were pellicans dive-bombing into the water for fish.
Along with the rustic accomodation was rustic food. Fish and rice (pictured above) - it wasn't too bad. The NYC guys had been there for three days, and ate fish and rice at every meal. We spent the entire day there, snorkeling, reading under the palm trees, swimming (we fed baby sharks our leftover fish - I was too scared to go out into the deep water where the sharks were, so I didn't see them!) After a perfect day, we went back to the hostel. I love camping, and rustic stuff, but this was too ghetto even for me. the mattresses were stained, and for a pillow I had a couch pillow. We were all so grossed out by the pillows that we had to put towels on them so they wouldn't touch our faces!
After a communal dinner and a couple of beers, we decided to go to the little kuna museum on the island. I learned that Kunas are a matriachal society, and they've battled with the Panamanians quite a bit (but the US helped them during the building of the canal) but they love foreigners. They also sleep in hammocks, get married in hammocks and give birth in hammocks. Really. They have their own religion - sort of like Chrisitanity (heaven and hell) but with a lot of mystcism thrown in, and a lot of hinting toward good and bad karma. It was interesting. Sort of like the hilltribe villages in thailand but a lot more ghetto and uncomfortable to visit.
I came back to Panama City today with the Brooklyn boys, and now I'm at a nerdy, expensive and super cool bird watching obervation-station hotel place. I had to take a bus and walk a half hour up a sweaty hill through the jungle to get here. I was completely soaked in sweat and everyone was sort of surprised that I walked from the highway. There are bird books everywhere, and the whole hotel is in a tower so there are killer views! I'm going on a tour in about 10 minutes (I think it's a bird tour) and supposedly we can see monkeys and more birds at dinner. It's so scientific and nerdy, my dad would love this place. well, I'm off to be a bird nerd... also check out the sloth pic I uploaded!