Isla Wichudup Bipi

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    • Day 117

      San Blas - 3 days in paradise

      January 28 in Panama β‹… 🌬 27 Β°C

      I have spent the past 3 days off-grid without cellphone service or internet but in a very beautiful location. Everyone with whom I talked about what to do in my few days in Panama was recommending this place and they have been all soo right 😌 The San Blas islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama are as close to paradise as it gets.
      On Sunday morning, I and 3 other people from others hostels and hotels were picked up between 5 am and 6 am before we made our way to the gulf of Guna Yala.
      „What is Guna Yala?“, you might ask. πŸ€” Guna Yala is a territory autonomously governed by the Guna. The Guna are an indigenous group of people which is native to parts of the Caribbean coasts of Panama and Colombia. Their territory consists of a narrow strip of land on the Caribbean side of the countries as well as an archipelago of more than 300 islands 🏝️, of which only 50 are inhabited. That archipelago is also known as the San Blas Islands. In the past there have been many clashes πŸ’₯ between the Guna and foreign cultures trying to colonize them or steal their natural resources. Because of this, many of the leaders of the community are resistant to the pressures of globalisation. For example, they have refused many large hotels proposing investment πŸ’° in the islands because they take great pride in their way of life and wanted to keep access for tourists limited to a reasonable amount of people. It was certainly better this way so that this paradise can be preserved and does NOT become another example for over-tourism. 😩

      On our way we had to pass a checkpoint to display our passports πŸͺͺ and pay 20 USD entrance fee. We were there well before 7 am - the time when the checkpoint opens - but there was already a 1 km long line cars πŸš— πŸš— πŸš™ πŸš— This is because it was the weekend and many day travelers also wanted to go to the San Blas islands. It took quite a while until we could leave the checkpoint behind us. Some people in one of the cars in front of us even took the opportunity to change one of their tires πŸ›ž while we were waiting. πŸ˜… Once we had moved past the checkpoint, we continued on our way to the port where we changed into a speedboat 🚀 that took us for approximately an hour to the „Kon-Tikki III“ (see which was our home for the next couple of days.
      The water was quite choppy due to the wind and thus this part of the journey was very bumpy - nothing for weak stomachs 🀒 Later I found out that one of the guys on the boat had transported a tray of eggs (as our supplies) which had been of course completely smashed πŸ˜‚
      The Kon-Tikki is really nice in many aspects but the cherry on top was that it is designed for 8 passengers and we were only 3: Pia and Nicola - a young couple from Switzerland πŸ‡¨πŸ‡­- as well as me. So we had lots of space. I even had a private cabin with a double bed to myself. And Jonathan - our captain from Colombia πŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ - made sure we were feeling well in a relaxed and cozy atmosphere. It also helped that our small group shared a common taste of music. Jonathan played a lot of old-school hip-hop songs when we came on board. 😜
      We spent our first day as well as the night at the Lemon Keys. After inspecting the boat and receiving a briefing of what to do and what NOT to do from Jonathan, we went to the island „Nugnudub“ to have fresh lobster 🦞 with coconut rice for lunch - already the first of many culinary highlights of the trip. When we arrived, there were still plenty of people on the island but after 3 pm all the day tourists left and we had the island for a few hours to ourselves. πŸ₯³
      In the late afternoon, Rodrigo from Argentina - a fellow captain and friend of Jonathan - joined together with Claudia from the Netherlands and Michelle from Düsseldorf (both were working as volunteers on his boat). 12 people from another Catamaran which was bound for Cartagena came also to the island. Pia and Nicola played volleyball 🏐 with the others but I was only watching due to my strained right middle finger.
      After sunset we returned to the boat and had dinner. In the darkness of the night, we were able to see a neon green glowing school of bioluminescent jellyfish πŸͺΌ passing by our boat. It was a fascinating experience. We also opened the bottle of rum, that I had brought from the mainland and turned our attention to the clear sky full of stars 🌌 while we were chattering about our off-the-boat lives. Since I got up so early that day, I called it an early night and went to bed at 10 pm. 😴 the others followed soon after.

      The 2nd day started with jumping into the clear and turquoise water from the boat - right after getting up; a suitable replacement for a refreshing morning shower. 😊
      After a delicious breakfast with fruit, musli, eggs on toast and coffee, we went snorkelling - first at the reef and later at a shipwreck. There were many fish 🐠 and the water was so clear - it was really good fun.
      Pia even met a small (but not dangerous ) shark 🦈 during her snorkeling adventure which caused some excitement on her part. The shipwreck was close to the island „Pero Chico“ where we stayed until lunchtime when we went back on the boat to eat chicken πŸ— and potatoes πŸ₯” (Colombian-style) for lunch - again well seasoned and prepared by our captain Jonathan.
      After lunch we lifted the anchor, βš“οΈ set our sails and steered the ship ⛡️ into the direction of the open sea. Jonathan explained the intricacies of sailing to us and let us try ourselves - everyone of us had been at the helm. We have been a disciplined team and reached speeds up to 7 knots (13 km/h) while sailing. ☺️ We carried out 2-3 manoeuvres and then returned to the Lemon Keys where we celebrated our new achievement with a couple of tequila shots πŸ₯ƒ
      The later afternoon we spent again on „Nugnudub“ island playing (respectively watching) Volleyball 🏐 It became quite the competitive game because the crew members of another „Blue Sailing“ ship coming from Cartagena (Blue Sailing was the company I did the tour with) joined and obviously everyone was playing for the win.
      Initially, I had also planned to sail from Cartagena to Panama πŸ‡΅πŸ‡¦ but this route was completely booked out for weeks to come.
      Some of the passengers from the other ship described their first day on their boat as challenging because of the rough conditions on the open sea 🌊 between Cartagena and the San Blas island - many had been sea sick 🀒 I was glad that I was kind of forced to do a round trip from/to Panama and could skip this unpleasant part of the journey.
      For dinner, Jonathan took us with the dinghy to a small restaurant on „Banedup“ island were we had fish. After dinner we returned back to „Nugnudub“ island. The group from the other ship had already started their Karaoke 🎀 night at the small bar. I chatted briefly with Lisa from Stuttgart. She wanted to convince me to join but Karaoke is not for me. πŸ˜… Instead I joined my fellow passengers and captain on the beach where we stayed well past midnight. On the boat we ended that long and exciting day with another tequila shot πŸ₯ƒ before we went to bed - it was already 2 am.

      After a short night, we spent our 3rd and last day on „Chichime“ Island. According to our captain Jonathan is this the island 🏝️ where some of the photos for the Microsoft Windows desktop wallpapers were taken. In the morning we walked around the island. It was pretty hot πŸ₯΅ so that half-way through we jumped in the refreshing turquoise water before we returned back to the port for lunch. We had really tasty lobster again (see photo). „Chichime“ is truly a beautiful island but a Spanish couple πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ, who was staying there and sitting nearby, also deemed it similar to Formenteira (part of Balearic Islands) in the Mediterranen Sea in Europe. So, maybe there is no need to fly to the other end of the world to relax in a heavenly setting like that. Definitely something to check out in the future 😜
      In the afternoon we just chilled in the hammocks on the island until we returned to the boat to watch the sunset. To our surprise a dolphin family 🐬 visited the bay that evening. They came quite close to our boat so that we could see them very well. It was yet another spectacle on that amazing trip.
      For dinner, we had grilled octopus πŸ™ with pasta and white wine. Jonathan had bought 3 kg (6 pounds) of it on the day before - which was way too much - and prepared it on the boat. As all dishes we had on this trip, it was delicious and a fitting meal for our last evening together. πŸ˜‹
      After dinner we went to „Chichime“ island again to attend a bonfire that the Guna had prepared for us. But before that we went to the beach and Jonathan showed us some bluish glowing plankton in the sand (see I didn’t know that even plankton (algae) can be bioluminescent. What a nice surprise at the end of our trip. πŸ€“

      The next morning we had to get up quite early again since the pick up for our return to Panama City was scheduled between 7.30 am and 8.00 am. After packing my small backpack and a quick coffee as well as some fruits for breakfast, we were already picked up by the speedboat 🚀 that brought us back to the Panamanian coast. This time we didn’t have to go against the waves which made the ride less bumpy and the journey felt much shorter than into the opposite direction. However, the drive in the car πŸš— back to Panama City felt still quite long due to roadworks and traffic. It took almost until noon to arrive again where that wonderful trip had started 3.5 days earlier.

      I will keep the San Blas islands in good memory as peaceful and relaxing place with stunning views πŸ“Έ, friendly people πŸ‘¬ and amazing food πŸ₯˜ but the hospitality of Jonathan on his beautiful boat as well the kindness of my fellow passengers (Pia and Nicola) contributed at least to half of the perfection of this trip. Thank you so much for this wonderful time! 😎
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    • Day 50

      San Blas Island

      February 26, 2022 in Panama β‹… β›… 26 Β°C

      Cartagena - Panama

      Woow was für en Boots Tour πŸ˜….
      First of all, vo 14 Lüt sind mir und 2 anderi nit Seekrank worde - ZUM GLÜCK 😁.
      Nach 2 Nächt uf offener See, simmer denn im Paradies ahko #San Blas Island.
      Kurz zämme gfasst: Super feins Ässe,
      Mega tolli Gruppe und mega schöni Insle.
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