I’ve had a bit of time to make some updates. Got around to adding some more photos from the Cricamola River Exploratory to the Panama Photo Gallery. Click the photo above to see the updated gallery.
Part Two: Recovering from Blindness
I was ready to go at dawn. Fishermen were already trolling close by, and the sounds of livestock wailing and townsfolk awakening drifted from Mamitupu. Goat yelled at me from his hammock as I packed my Kayak; â€œAre you not going to cook breakfast here?â€�
â€œNO,â€�I growled, grumpy and wanting to eat. â€œOnce we reach Mamitupu, Iâ€™ll cook. I donâ€™t want a repeat of yesterday morning.â€�
“Are you madâ€¦? Do you realize how miserable itâ€™ll be, the whole village swarming around our stoveâ€¦â€�Yelled back Goat from his Hammock. â€œYou know, it took that police unit till noon to get off their ass and inspect our scene.â€�
Goat had a point of sorts but I decided to ignore him rather than argue further.
The inevitable Kuna greeting party was there to meet us on the shores of Mamitupu. It consisted mostly of women in their gowns of intricate geometric patterns (called Mola) cradling, without rest, their small children. A man, presumably the most fluent Spanish speaker at hand, stepped through the crowd to decipher our needs.
Goat carefully related the terms of our predicament including how we had spent much of last night searching the nearby bay for our friends.
“Ah, so it must have been you guys who were scaring the hell out of all the boatmen.â€� our helper said with a grin. “Everyoneâ€™s afraid of the eye robbersâ€¦ Have you heard about this?â€�
â€œWe have heard.â€� I answered, “and we are terrified.â€�
Part One: Out of Sight
Goat was in the lead. More accurately he was far ahead of the pack, and completely unaware of the span of choppy sea separating him from me.
With my left foot I pushed in the rudder control foot peg as far as it would go and paddled till my front made the 180 degree change. The Kayak rotated with the grace of a battle ship, yet still responded better than the muscles in my back, which cramp and spasm every time I turn my head to face backwards. For some time I squint directly into the setting sun, searching for the two miniscule figures of Jacob and J.
Minutes later two paddling figures emerge, unfortunately from the opposite direction. Two young Kuna men in their Cayucos were returning it seemed from a deep sea fishing trip. Their Payloads however told a different story.
â€œNuedie!â€� I greeted them with the word that encompasses all variations of salutation.
Neither of them responded so I shouted louder.
â€œAre those Rocks in your boat?â€� I asked. Curious about the huge mound of broken corral heaped within their boats.
â€œYeah, rocks.â€� They replied, politely smiling.
My head buzzed with questions; how the hell did they dig up all that coral? What would they use it for? Does the entire Kuna Yala Comarca plunder their reefs like this?â€�
Usually fishermen in the Comarca are baffled by the sight of our small gringo boats weighed down by dismantled bicycles of all things. Nearly everyone weâ€™d encountered had paused and made an effort to figure out where we came from, where we were going, and why we chose to travel unassisted by motor. These rock gathering boatmen, however, were in a major hurry. They bolted right past my idle vessel and continued on to the town of Ustupu leaving me to admire the fluid form of their oar strokes propelling them so swift and straight.
â€œDamn, where are theyâ€¦?â€�
Though the sun was softened by low-lying clouds, still my search was directed into the center of its brilliance. I pulled off my sunglasses, rinsed the sweat streaked lenses in the ocean, looked again, but could not find the characteristic flash of paddles arcing through the air.
Here is a little vignette of our kayaking trip from Panama to Colombia. The music in the background is from a Kuna Villager who invited us to stay in his house. Enjoy.
Before setting out on our kayak expedition to circumvent the Darien Gap, it was necessary for us to receive the blessings of the Kuna Yala congress. We would have to meet with the Central Indigenous leadership that presides over Tourist activity in the Kuna Territory – a section of Panamanian Caribbean Coast that stretches from the San Blas Island chain to the Frontier of Colombia.
Luckily we had befriended Nemesio: a native of the Kuna Yala, a veteran Kayak guide of the San Blas Islands, and a businessman accustomed to negotiating with the Kuna General Congress. Nemesio already had scheduled an appointment with the Congress to discuss matters relating to his Solar-panel installation business, and had no trouble coupling our petition onto the same visit.Â Â
Our appointment was for one-oâ€™clock sharp but we rolled into the secretarial offices a little after two.
â€œThe Congress is at lunch.â€� Asserted a grave faced secretary.
I assumed from her tone that the legislative body suffered the burden of a bloated agenda and wouldnâ€™t have time to reschedule. And yet within seconds we were summoned into an upstairs office to present our case.
We’ve been hanging around the Canal Zone, marveling at what a tremendous industrial miracle it truly is. Â The crazy things humans do: like making water flow uphill (which is what the canalÂ effectivelyÂ does); creating a river that flows from sea to sea across a mountain range, which would be an impossible feat withoutÂ the “locks” that are setup throughout the canal. Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Locks are surprisingly simple, though pretty darn impressive to watch; basically they are 2 sets of giant double doors whichÂ separateÂ one section of the canal fromÂ from another, each section is higher than the last –Â untilÂ the mountain is crossed and the canal startsÂ descendingÂ (section by section). To change levels and pass through the canal, a ship first enters through one set of the double doors into the lock chamber (the section of canal between the doors) where the doors close, sealing the ship off in a little section of the canal. Â Water rushes in and the level of the water in the lock rises (the ship with it) until it is even with the next section of canal. At this point the second set of doors open and the ship moves along the canal until it reaches the next lock. Going down simply reverses theÂ process:Â the ship enters the full lock, the doors close, water is let out until the ship reaches the level of the lower canal, the second set of doors open….
Â Here a few facts for the trivia buffs:
The most expensive regular toll for canal passage to date was charged on May 16th, 2008Â to the 964-foot (295 m) Disney Magic Cruise Liner,Â which paid just over US$331,200.
The adventurer Richard Halliburton paid the lowest toll, 36 cents to swim the canal in 1928. Â (No one else has ever been allowed to swim the entire canal; it’s apparently too dangerous).
The average transit takes 8 to 10 hours. Continue reading
Â Â Â While entertaining the notion of getting on a bridge over the Panama Canal to take photos, the police drove by eyeing me suspiciously.Â Their expressions encouraged me to look elsewhere.Â Further down was a gated entrance to an overgrown patch of land with some abandoned houses.Â
Â Â Â Â I lifted the heavy chain and guided my bike into the old road, covered with jungle vines and grass, put the bike into a lower gear and pedaled up a steep grade.Â As I wound around a bend, I began to feel that eerie sensation that I was not alone.Â
Â Â Â Â I soon came upon one of the abandoned houses and felt dozens of eyes watching me from the bushes.Â I could see movement all around me as if the plants were a bit more terrestrial than I would like.Â Something was definitely out there, watching me.
Â Â Â Â â€œHolaâ€� I yelled out, cupping my hands over my mouth to carry the message.
â€œBuenas Tarrrrddddeeess.â€� I called out.
Â Â Â Â Â Nothing.
Â Â â€œBuenos Tardes.â€�Â I called out again, looking around for any sign of el dueno de la casa, y nada. I jumped at the sound of two animals crashingÂ through the foliage just a stoneâ€™s throw away.
Â Â Â Â Â Then out of the house and from the bushes, the eyes that had been following me ran out in front.
Here we are packed up and read to go!!!!
A crew of FIVE!!