It’s a little blurry right now. Oh no, it’s just white sand and crystal clear San Blas water?
Sometimes when come to travel, especially if you are on the road for several months, you find yourself in situation where you have to make decisions. In my case, the options here were two: flying from Costa Rica to Colombia for a total of 4 hours or, for the same price, taking a boat trip from Panama and reach Colombia by sea in four days. Literally the choice was between a normal international flight and a new adventure during which I could have met new people. You’ve already guessed, right? Little I knew but my fingers were already typing at full speed on my phone booking my ticket with the San Blas Adventure!
Maybe I wasn’t consciously convinced but I heard so many travelers I met along my journey talking about it. They literally told me that it was kind of a lifetime experience: “Giorgy you couldn’t miss it for anything in the world”. So I had two options but only one was the logical one and my G-Extreme heart knew exactly what I would have choose. So for once, and this doesn’t happen often, I put aside my stubbornness and listened to those more or less unknown travelers, trusting them (yes, because trusting strangers sometimes leads to the “funniest” story, or at least to interesting anecdotes to tell at Christmas dinner) and ended up wit a ticket for a Boat trip in my pocket.
My San Blas adventure was going to start in Panama City, but I was still in Boquete (north of Panama) when I booked my pass to wonderland. It took me almost the entire day to get all the way to Panama city. Indeed around 3 pm I finally made my way to the hostel where I could finally chilled and chat with other travelers who had recently arrived like me. I was still on crutches from my recent scooter accident, and the long journey up here, including the fact that I was still tired didn’t help. I barely had the energy to sit around and chat.. let alone venturing out into the city,the only thing left to do was sleeping.
Around 4 am (early bird again) I woke up, my bags were packed and the shuttle was waiting for me at the hostel. Finally we set off for the San Blas Adventure! It took us 3 hours ride until we reached the harbor from where we would soon set sail. Well, I don’t know what my luck or misfortune is with drivers around the world but I always end up traveling with people who thinks of being on a roller coaster and causing them adrenaline of Fast & Furious and every time I plan to sleep on the way I always end up fighting with the gag relfes hanging from the seat in from of me…
Once at the port here are 20 people more sleepy than me with their suitcases in an oversized plastic bag and embarked towards our first stop! It is a small island about an hour boat ride from the coast on which we had lunch, swam and snorkeled. And you’ll see this schedule repeated over and over again during this adventure. Kind of like the phrases on those souvenir shop t-shirts “eat, drink, sleep, repeat” here it was more like “eat, swim, snorkel, repeat”.
Around 4 pm we left for a new little island where we would then spend the night. I have never felt more in paradise than here. The beds were actually hammocks suspended under a wooden roof right on the beach and when we woke up the only thing in sight was the bay.
Once, everybody got their new sleeping place, we all met back to the main hut where the San Blas game begun… A game that you will probably understand better when you try to play it instead of reading it. Basically it consisted of drawing 3 cards each from different bowls. On the first card were names of people, on the second were objects and on the third a place. The sum of the three would give the indications of who one should “kill” and WHERE. For instance, I had to “kill” Markus by using a frisbee on the beach. From that moment for the duration of the trip it became a game of trust: “Would I be able to trust my friends or at the first oversight would they hit my back?”
I have to say that I never expected that such a simple game could ignite in everyone this competitiveness and end up running around the beach trying to kill each others. Well, I, on the other hand, was still tired and on crutches, so I decided to sit under a palm tree and enjoy the view and the follies of my companions.
Right after dinner and the initial madness created by the San Blas game, we found ourselves sitting around the bonfire. Some of us were bathing in a sparkling sea of fluorescent plankton. Almost impossible to capture in photos but a fabulous show… If you do not know what I am talking about try to google “fluorescent plankton” (you’re welcome :)) and trust me, you will be amazed. It’s a magical show that comes to life in the middle of the night when walking through the waves these single-celled algae begin to glow under the bare feet of us who still thought we were living in a dream. That night was amazing, I still remember it for one thing: you know that fabulous feeling of when you find yourself feeling so good that you completely forget that there’s a whole world out there but you don’t care because you’re fully living in the moment? That’s the one, completely forgetting that you have a watch or even what a watch or smartphone is. I love that feeling.
We woke up the next day (definitely after sleeping a few hours) with a light breeze swung our hammocks and breakfast was already waiting for us. Well I can’t tell you the fabulous feeling of being able to eat breakfast with my feet in the sand and a shell sticking out of the big toe of my right foot (thanks, as if crutches weren’t enough).
It took us around 3 hours to reach the next island on our itinerary. Due to rough sea I thought we would never make it out alive. Oh Land.. my beloved mainland! Usually you only see it in movies but I guarantee I would have loved to kiss the sand too… Don’t do it, it doesn’t feel good unless you’re hoping for a stomach’s peeling LOL…
New island: new hammock.
Once I had taken possession of my nocturnal hammock, it was time to implement my killing plan.. where are you Markus? He was still unaware of the brutal competitiveness that had been growing up inside me since yesterday… Brutal and diabolical. But you know what women are made, don’t you? Sneaky and only vaguely manipulative. So to disprove these stereotypes at breakfast that morning I decided to confide in Markus telling him that my victim should be Janine and so if he wanted to help me win the game of San Blas… hehe I was lying. The excuse was to pretend to casually play frisbee on the beach together. Out of nowhere throwing it too long next to where Janine was; she would kindly throw it back to us thus letting me win. Markus, poor innocent soul, was ready and willing to be my partner in crime. I retrieved a freebee from the game box and cautiously approached my victim with the intent of handing it to him as if nothing had happened to begin our game. Poor puppy.. like a chicken was caught in my trap and happy with the frisbee still in his hand I screamed to the world “Oh tho, you’re dead!”. I’m a terrible person I know. I think at that moment he wanted to punch me…you could see it in his face that he felt betrayed. Hehe ups.
Once fulfilled my mission, all I had to do was continue to “kill” companions and enjoy the rest of the trip. Yeap, because the game doesn’t just end like this… Once Markus was “gone”, therefore out of the game, I automatically had to take care of his target: Cassandra. The idea of the game is to end with only one winner, the one who would remain alive once all the others had lost the game.
The weather that day was not really on our side: a classic weird day in the tropics during which it rains, it’s sunny, then windy and rainy and hot then cool and sunny again…. well, all the season in once. We ended up playing beach volleyball, swimming and playing cards all day…. Cards? Of course you never travel without a deck of UNO cards in your backpack! How do you play UNO? Obviously with different rules for each game such as: do not talk when there is red on the table or you can put the special cards only with your left hand, etc.. As I told you before I’m an angelic person, in fact my favorite part of having different rules is that there are always forgotten by everyone else by having to draw for penance so that I always win… hehe
For dinner? A delicacy of the area: Lobster Burrito purchased freshly from the fishermen of the area that as a rule once the day’s fishing is over you can meet on the beach on their boats with the catch of the day that can be purchased by those staying on the island.
The few of us who decided to travel sober ended up spending another evening playing UNO and laughing like children and ending up late… very late. Fantastic moments with wonderful people but I couldn’t understand how it was possible that nobody had tried to kill me yet… probably they lost my name in the sand…
In the middle of the night a strange noise woke us up: some of our dear travel companions was peeing on the floor in the middle of everyone’s hammocks… lol ok…did you remember me mentioning above that we sober people were playing UNO? Well, not everyone probably has the same travel philosophy and their tired faces the next day confirmed my doubts.
Last day = last island. When we arrive at the last resort, half of us were enjoying the wonder of this lace, taking thousands of pictures, while the others, still drunk from the night before, were sleeping.. leaning badly against coconut palms.
How to spend your time if not paddling around the Caribbean? Well, let’s put it this way: Andrea, Frencise and I are apparently not very good captains LOL. Even nowadays there are discussions about whose fault was whether ours or of the typical Guna’s boat which, damn, are really difficult to paddle. Halfway through the trip, I don’t know why Frencise and Andrea started arguing about the route while, I comfortably seated back, relaxed and simply enjoyed the surrounding’s around me while the two ladies worked out their dramas. I didn’t even pretend to row sorry the landscape relaxed me way too much.
Just before taking off on our misadventure on the Guna’s boat, I found out who was my killer and his weapon! Here he shyly approached me with an innocent proposal: “G do you want a piece of bread?”. Of course, with my usual calm and elegance “Hell no, you’re not gonna kill me that easily bro!”. I am NOT sorry guys, to smart to be killed.
As you probably know by now, our last stop is Guna Island, the capital of the San Blas Islands. Here, they didn’t have the hammocks! Beds guys, beds!!! Okay now, can I have my hammock back please?
Exploring Guna Island was definitely an atmospheric experience. We were lucky to arrive here on a day of celebration. You should know that here the birth of a new member of the community is considered an extraordinary event and is celebrated throughout the night with dances and celebrations in traditional dress.
Walking through the village while being invaded by a horde of little human kids curious to meet the strangers who have just arrived in their island. They were screaming, laughing, smiling, jumping and running… in a kind of happy and pleasant chaos. Even photos can’t fully describe what was going on.
The day at Guna ended with an escalation: once we had had dinner and played UNO as usual we went back to one of the main huts where the caos reigned. There were people dancing, screaming, vomiting or staggering around struggling to stand: pure madness. They were all drinking a traditional liquor made from a fruit easily found on the island: sweet but extremely strong (alcoholic). Overall, they all seemed so nice to us and happy to have us among them… I wonder if they would have been the same the next day…
Once back at the hostel some of us went to sleep while others, including me, decided to take a dip in the sea. Taking a bath became my way of showering. My eco friendly version of being clean. The sea, so warm and pleasant, helped to clean everything away.
Once again, sunrise was about to approach us and we were only counting the hours of sleep on postcards… Does NOT sleeping count as accumulating hours of sleep?
Our trip was coming to an end, but my mission in the San Blas wasn’t over yet… Cassandra was still to be killed: I had to finish the game! In this case I had to “kill” Cassandra with a watermelon at the bonfire. I had already tried once without being successful… Well, it must be said that this mission was much more complicated than the one with Markus, here more inventiveness was needed! There was no bonfire during the day so I needed an accomplice: a smoker with a lighter, ah brilliant! Now the watermelon… Coming with a whole watermelon from anyone would have aroused suspicion so why not use the peels… Okay yes, you’re right, of course this was not my best idea… why would anyone accept the scraps of my snack. Well, let’s pretend that the idea was genius (also because I was in a hangover and my head was still in my ass, so I thought it was) and let’s also admit that Cassandra was more tired than me (which she wasn’t) and that the guy with the lighter didn’t almost set me on fire: success! Not really… Cassandra didn’t fall for it. F. (from Fail, don’t think bad of me).
As we boarded the boat again, a strange feeling began to rise inside my bones. Today was the last day in San Blas and there was something special in the air: as if something extraordinary was about to happen, as if my soul knew it already. Just as these thoughts were materializing in my mind, a few miles off the coast, two dolphins appeared in the waves, jumping and frolicking around our boat as if to say goodbye as we were leaving Panama behind us.
The other crazy people who I had shared this adventure whit, cried like children as we hugged farewell leaving each other to follow our separate ways in Colombia.