Our last day near Salar started with a boat coming over containing Idelphonso and his brother Venancio, a master mola maker. It was like an art gallery had arrived at the yacht. I saw an amazing number of molas, and they were incredible. I finally picked one but it was a hard decision. After they left and cleaning the bottom of the boat in beautiful clean water we watched another 3 yachts pull into our little bay and decided it was almost time to leave. So up with the anchor and we followed a dolphin out of our bay and towards Isla Maquina a much more traditional town. We dropped our anchor in a mangrove hole they call Gaigar, deep but good holding and right beside a nesting colony of pelicans. Then we decided to venture into town. Well, talk about sticking out like a sore thumb. We arrived in this village on a tiny island and there were huts everywhere, with tiny paths between them. We saw some guys near the dock and asked them where to go, they pointed over their shoulders and then looked away, so we had NO idea what to do next, so we wandered. We saw the congress where we figured we would have to meet the chief but the only one there was a very old man sleeping in a hammock. We both wanted some more fruits and vegetables and bread and figured we’d be able to find a shop like on the last island but no luck at all. We wandered bare paths with children staring at us and no sign of anyone else. So we gave up and just as we were untying the boat we heard whistles blowing. You should have seen my face, I thought they were whistling at us to gather a meeting…. Oh I was red. Anyway, we tried again in broken Spanish to ask for permission to go to the river and finally someone spoke English. He took us into the congress and waited with us for the chief to come. We handed over our $5.00 to anchor and $5.00 to go to the river and told the chief we just weren’t sure when we were going to the river, little did we know the uproar that would cause. Then Rudolfo took us home with him, back on those barren paths, but suddenly a door opened and we were in a much larger compound. We met his beautiful wife and daughter (I put their picture up on the blog) and then the “ladies” came in, 3 older Kuna ladies in traditional molas with all of their molas to show us. Overwhelming, lots of smiles, I think lots of them laughing at me, and then decision time all over again! We managed though and headed home to our boat poorer but richer at the same time. While I was leaving I asked the ladies if I could take their photos, 1 said no, 1 said for $1.00 (I told her I had already given her all of my dollars) but rudolfo’s mother let me take her picture. Then somehow we were back in the punt with our receipt for the river and back to the yacht. Not an hour later we heard an engine, It was Idelfonso telling us we needed to decide when he was taking us on our tour of the river, not quite sure how that happened, but without wanting to upset any elders or chiefs we told him we would meet him at 6:45 the next morning.
Bright and early we headed to pick him up, watched as his family went out working in their outboard boat (one of 4 on an island of 250 people) and families paddled past in their dugout canoes heading ot work in the fields up the mountain.
The river was much smaller and less impressive than Rio Diablo, but the amazingness of the trip was getting out of the dinghy and hiking into the hills. Talking to Idelfonso about his people, answering his questions about if there were coconut trees in Canada was incredible and the views were amazing, we would never have climbed as high or seen as much on our own. It was well worth the money and was lovely company, plus he brought us some of the most delicious Kuna bread we tried.
Once again it was up with the anchor and Phil took me to perhaps the most beautiful anchorage we’d been to, very different than the others, a bay surrounded by Mangroves, no villages near by and 2 rivers. We settled in for a first explore on the river, it was incredible, flocks of birds taking off and calling, so peaceful (little did we know that wouldn’t last) and then, back to the boat to try to cook the Yucca I had bought earlier that day. I don’t know if we weren’t fast enough with the bug screens or if cooking the yucca which took forever made to much CO2 but we were invaded by a herd of No-see-ums and man can they bite. The worst part was they hurt every time they took a nibble. Our lovely anchorage had turned into HELL and it was the first time either of us had been kept awake all night by biting insects. By the next morning I looked like I had chicken pox and we were both scratching away but we managed to gather our strength (and tuck our socks into our pants) for one last river visit. I love the rivers, they are so quiet and magical, we didn’t see anyone else other than birds, a giant gold fish splashing about and 2 small fish that leapt into our boat!
We were finally ready to check out so we headed back to Porvenir, got our Zarpe (leaving permit) and got the boat ship shape. We calculated it would take about 12 hours to sail to Colon so we had to get up at 2 am to leave, luckily we stopped off at one of the villages and bought some Kuna bread provisions. The sail was not so much fun in the middle of the night but beautiful by the next morning, cruising along the coast of Panama. The last hour you could tell we were getting close, we had watched two ships go past us, quite a ways away but we were keeping an eye on them and over the horizon 30 boats came into view. It was amazing in such a different way than the river. More in the next post.