Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Captains log - Greetings from Isla Pinos

We spent 4 days in Isla Pinos - well, really 3 days and 4 nights as we motored over to Mulatupo, a neighboring village our first day there. This came about because we were visited early that first morning by a young man named David who paddled over in an "ula" ( similar to a a large dugout canoe) with 3 other younger lads. It seemed that they were headed to Mulatupu so that David could visit his wife who was in "hospital" with abdominal pain. It quickly became apparent that David was hoping we could ferry him in our dinghy, but Malatupu was 3 miles across the bay and there were 6 foot swells remaining after a tropical low passed in the eastern Caraibbean. David who spoke english very well was beginning a carreer as a San Blas "guide", We decided to visit Malatupo with him, pulled up the anchor, and motored across. The other young men paddled back the 3 miles on their own - I was afraid to tow the ula as it might have overturned.

(Picture David on bow) - pictures that will come later with that thing called internet!

We met his convelescing wife and 2 children, and toured the village and school. Of course, I couldn't resist going to the hospital with him, and meeting the local doctor. The hospital seemed more like a well stocked clinic, and was staffed by 2 doctors and 2 nurses.

(picture hospital)

Mulatupu is now the fourth Kuna village we have visited, and they all are different in terms of how traditional they are. Remember, we are starting in the eastern San Blas where the more traditional villages reside, but most visitors and cruisers approach from the western San Blas and the canal region, where there are more options in terms of transportation, and where the water is famous for it's clarity and reef life. We will be there soon, but we could not resist the opportunity to see this part of the San Blas.

Mulatupu is a larger Kuna village, and has a mixture of wood and thatch, and concrete homes. There are several tiendas (little stores), a restaurant, and a hotel with hammocks. We were able to find some cheese (American cheese slices - this is not the French Caribbean) but the restaurant offered hot dogs as it's blue plate special, and there were no other choices on the menu so we passed. The Edge, it was not! The town did have a discotech - sort of. I think that it meant a bar that plays music and serves beer, and if I understood correctly, it was there in part because of the doctors and nurses that come to work on the island.

Ulas tend to appear the moment we anchor off most any Kuna village. Natural seaman, the ulas are invariably filled with two or more children; the curiosity is astounding. While the first inclination is that they are interested in the boat, it is really we they are interested in as we are often followed in a smaller village by an entourage, or at least accosted serially by children who run up to be with us. The braver ones stay when we say "hola`" but most giggle and run away. I must admit that I could not resist some games of hide and seek with them. All the children also like to have their photos taken so that they can see themselves in the digital display. Our boat is also visited by spear fisherman, hopefully with pescado (fish). The Kunas dive to spear a mackeral type fish, barco rioja (red snapper), and catch langostino. On Sunday we bought 3 snapper, and Berez, the fisherman, asked us if we were interested in langostino (Caribbean lobster). He took our order and returned yesterday with 4 langostino and another nice size snapper. Who can complain?

Our first stop, Puero Perme (see previous post), was one of the more traditional villages. We understand that 300 people lived in the village, 200 of them children. Most every home was wood and thatch, with minimal concrete. Vertical wood strips form the walls, and the waterproof roofs are constructed of dried palm fronds shingled and tied over a framework. It will take 6000 leaves to form an average (small) roof. The homes have a hard packed sand floor, hammocks for sleeping or sitting, and a small fire pit for cooking. There is sometimes a covered outside hut adjacent to the home. The Kunas have been described as well proportioned people of relatively short stature, and the entry doors may be quite low.

(picture with pineapple)

People live off the land, farming small gardens, coconut, plantains, and fishing. It is a matriarchal society, and the men might work in the fields one day or fish another; work begins near 6 AM, and is usually over by mid-afternoon. Children are revered and there is much time for family. There is no electricity in Puerto Perme except for solar panels at the "congreso", a hall where Kunas gather (nightly and mandatory in the most traditional villages) to discuss their concerns before their neighbors and the chief, or Sailis. Each village has chosen one chief sailis and there are several assistant sialis' (saili?).

(picture of homes)

It is customary and appropriate to ask to meet the Sailis when one arrives at a village. The sailis will be accompanied by at least one translator (Spanish to Kuna)and perhaps an assistant sailis. The village will have likely already sent a "secretary" out to collect their "anchoring fee" which has varied so far from $8 for the boat to $5 per person, good for 1 month. We will then ask permission to visit the community, walk or hike around, etc. The Kunas seem particularly interested in our ages, and in no way hesitate to ask Jo, or Gram or I how old we are. I suspect that judging anglo age is hard from their perspective.

The village color comes from the women, who dress in traditional garb called "molas" and beaded wraps around their arms and legs i forget the Kuna name. Unlike children, photos are discouraged, or sternly allowed only for a fee. Young ladies are not so adorned until they elect to leave school; when they decide to stop schooling, they are told to cut their hair short and wear the appropriate dress of a woman. The granddaugther ofthe sailis in Pinos had just cut her hair the day before we met with him, and her pony tail was hanging outside their home.

(picture mother and son and picture mola)

Isla Pinos was somewhat in the middle - traditional but with electricity (note that these opinions are quite objective and only my own). I think I became the official island photographer. A local man named Horatio spoke enough english to be quite helpful. As he spent time with us, he was not shy about asking for things, however. He asked for pictures of his grandchildren, and soon handed us a greasy old fry pan with a spinning handle that he asked us to bring back to the boat and fix. We tried, but couldn't. A grandchilld then brought over an old an old broken discman to be fixed, but I did not even try. We bought a coconut from him which he sliced and diced with a ease and a machete, as well as a small basket he weaved. I printed 5 grandchild pictures for him (we brought photo paper and ink just for that purpose) and were given a gift of delicious mangoes in return, which felt great from this end.

We left Isla Pinos this morning after early rains and thunderstorms. While we had planned an early departure, the admiral advised against it. As usual, she was right and I correctly delayed our anchor up time from 0800 (8 AM for you landlubbers) to 0930. The good news is that the delay plus the intermittant and heavy morning rains allowed me 1 1/2 hours to scrub the decks with what we cruisers call water free-o. We motored to one of the largest Kuna towns called Ustupu - the most "industrial village yet. Gram, working with Davids advice, found a sim card for the unlocked cell phone. Score!! We do not know how expensive the calls are yet, but we will soon find out.

After Ustupu, we motored to a small inlet pool named Bahia de Golondria by Eric Bauhaus in his cruising guide. Beautiful and calm, surrounded by mangroves and rimmed with mountains, the inlet is small but deep enough. A Kuna just canoed up and offered to sell us langostino, and who could say no? Not us. We leave to hopefully get to the area where we will be able to snorkel and dive tomorrow.

(Picture Bahia Golondria)

No comments: