Tag Archives: kuna indigenous tribes

Kuna Tribe Story #2

The second time we spent with the Kuna tribes was actually never supposed to happen…  I’ve already written about the storm that I thought would literally claim my life and that we ended up having to stay an extra day on the islands, taking shelter nearby one because of the storm.  Well, it was because of that storm that we got to have some more time with the indigenous tribe.

In the morning after the storm I remember waking and getting out onto the deck.  Circling the sailboat in canoes were tribesmen.  I went to alert one of the crew and after a chat with them, we all learned that we had been invited onto the island for a look-see.  Apparently not far from where we had docked for the night in the storm another boat had been, but sadly had suffered a different fate… For it ended up sinking and having seen this occur the Kuna people had been busy all morning going back and forth from the sinking boat collecting goods aboard it.  Since we were on the way, they stopped in to say hello!

The funny thing here is that unlike the previous island and tribe, this second island was much more advanced!  The first island only had a few shelters in the “town” which were basically just the homes of the tribe.  The second island by comparison basically had a proper town with a school, several houses with yards, shops of sorts, and even roads (albeit unpaved:))!!

We canoed our way onto the island where we were invited on by a very chatty native.  He was young, only about 20 but was already married with a couple of kids.  You could tell this guy really knew business and how to work people!  He was charming and proud of his home and his village and he knew how to get what he needed or wanted to support his family and village.  He showed us around the village and even showed us inside his own home.  Now, in order to take pictures even of the people or the village, we had to ask permission.  It is considered very rude to take pictures of the people and their homes or villages without their consent first.  So while I did ask permission to take pictures and was granted permission, I won’t include any that may have people in them to respect the tribes people.  However, I do really, REALLY with I was able to take a picture of the inside of the guys house… The outside was basic, just cane tied together to form walls and leaves as a roof… However, when you stepped inside you noticed a dirt floor, several hammocks hanging (one for each member of the family) a chest of drawers and on top of the drawers…. A 50″ flat screen TV!!!!  Not kidding either!!!  The place was absolutely basic to the bones in every respect and then there was a brand new flat screen TV…. Seriously made me laugh!!  And once again supported that the guy knew business!!  Apparently he would go onto the mainland of Panama every so often and pick up supplies for the village…

Anyway, that was that.  We wandered the island and village, had some coffee at the house of our host then got canoed back to our ship so we could travel on.

 

On to Capurgana, Columbia

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Time with the Kuna Tribes

The fist time we spent some time with the Kuna indigenous tribes was on our second or third day.  We were invited to have a lobster dinner on the island with the tribe.  Before dinner we basically spent our day wandering the island and snorkeling the waters.  I found a shell that I wanted to keep, so I kept it with me to later ask the chief if it was ok that I kept it (he said yes:))

Now, while most of the islands are absolute paradise, one must also keep in mind the currents.  The currents tend to bring trash from the ocean and basically dump that trash onto portions of the island.  The tribes basically just burn all their trash (since they don’t make much of it to begin with) and to my knowledge don’t clean up the trashed areas from the currents.  So not to get back up on my soap box here, but really if any of you reading this make it to the San Blas Islands, please be cognizant of the waste you produce and leave behind.  Otherwise some of that waste that is neglectfully dumped in the ocean could ruin an otherwise perfect island vacation…  I’m just saying lets all do our part!! 🙂

Ok, I’m done with that rant… Anyway, so as night came we went onto the island and had a lobster dinner caught fresh and prepared for us that evening!!  Of course we did have to pay a small fee for the dinner (another way the tribe makes money) but it was worth it:)  Just to have the experience of that nature, it was worth it!!  The people of the tribe weren’t necessarily very social by any means, rather they were quite shy in a lot of ways, but they were very courteous and pleasant!  The island chief ate a little distance away from us sitting near a campfire and an old TV set.  I don’t recall it actually being on, but there was an old radio nearby that was…  There was a game on that night… LOL!!

Anyway, the evening was basically spent enjoying the food and the company.  At one point I wandered off to the water and once again became mesmerized as I watched little waves crash on the shore, each one lit up by that ever beautiful phosphorescent algae!!  I wandered in a bit as well just to play my hands in the water, disturbing the surface to make my own glowing shapes in the sea.  So peaceful and beautiful!!  And talk about a night sky!!  My goodness!!!!  So brilliantly full of shimmering lights… I thought I was impressed with the night sky of Puerto Viejo, but my goodness, literally being in the middle of “nowhere” with no lights coming from anywhere except a bonfire, that night sky really glows!!  It was just a very awe-inspiring moment for sure.

Before leaving for the night, myself and the German woman bought an anklet from the tribe women.  I still have mine on my ankle to this day, and it’s now been over 2 years since I’ve been to the islands!  I figured that when it fell off naturally that would be it but its still holding on strong!  On our way back to the boat the boys started a little bonfire for us to hang around as we waited for our “taxi” back to the boat:)

On to Kuna Tribe Story #2

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San Blas Islands

I’ve never seen phosphorescent water before.  Not until night time did we board our 38′ sailboat barefoot (no shoes allowed anywhere on board) and headed out of the harbor waters into Caribbean waters to the San Blas Islands.  We headed out at night so that in the morning we would be near to one of the islands and would be able to spend a lovely day there.  What seemed like light glistened from the ocean in the otherwise absolute darkness.  Only when disturbed did the water glisten and glow, so as the sailboat motored its way through the harbor it left sparkling and shimmering water in its wake.  Absolutely mesmerizing!!  Nature always seems to find a way to shock and awe me around every corner, and on this night once again it raised the bar!!  I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the beauty that stirred in the water as we coursed through it.  Now to be fair, it really is the algae in the water that actually make the water glow with light, not the water itself.  The algae soak up sun rays during the day and in a sense emit the light caught by the sun when they are disturbed.  So amazingly beautiful!!!

The San Blas Islands are 380 plus islands that run from the southern Caribbean coast of Panama to Columbia.  The people that inhabit these islands are called Kuna.  The Kuna indigenous tribes are and historically have been known as peaceful people.  Being peaceful people, only once did they ever in their history rise up and fight.  And that was a while back now when the Panamanian government tried to claim the islands as part of their government.  Up until that point, all the islands and the law of the islands were governed by the Kuna people.  A bloody battle ensued over rights to the islands, however when Panama tried to take control.  Ultimately Panama lost and left the islands to be governed by the indigenous tribe.  To this day, no other government has any rights or control over the islands.  They are simply governed by the Kuna indigenous tribe members.  There was even talk that the Kuna people were known for “harboring” drug smugglers on the islands; for as long as the smugglers were invited onto the island they were safe from any other marine government agencies waiting on the water in hopes of catching them once they left.  Permission granted was a huge deal there too.  No one was allowed to ever stay or sleep on any island overnight unless invited by the Chief of that island.  Just about every island had its own Chief.  Sometimes a single Chief would be needed for a cluster of smaller islands close by to each other.  And every so often the Chiefs of the islands would get together to discuss affairs.

Kuna fishermen could be seen going around in their wood canoes around the islands in search of conchs or lobsters or other fish to catch and consume.  Their way of fishing however only involved a homemade spear “gun” and being able to swim to very deep depths!  They were very adept at their trade however and the funniest thing to me about it all though was the bucket they each had in their canoes.  It wasn’t for holding caught fish but rather to scoop out water from their canoes!  You see, the canoes were wood and untreated wood at that, so they were constantly taking in water… hence the bucket!  Women of the area went around in their wood canoes (bucket in tow) to each of the tourist sailboats selling bracelets or homemade woven cloths with various images on them.  I eventually did buy an anklet from one of the women when we were invited for a lobster dinner that I wear to this day because it still hasn’t fallen off!!  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

We were warned well in advance about sea sickness.  We were all instructed to take sea sickness pills the night before departing and the morning and night of taking off.  While I believe we all did adhere to that advice, sadly the sea sickness pills did not quite work for all…  I was not a victim of sea sickness thank goodness though after a few beers and passing out in the front bunk for myself and the German woman, I did wake up feeling a little queezy… I made my way to the open air and just had to focus on my breath REALLY hard… and thankfully the nausea went away!  I could not say that is how it went for the rest of the crew…

Well, of course the crew themselves (3 brothers) were just fine.  But the new crew were struggling!  I honestly blame most of it on the booze consumed because as mentioned before there was quite a bit on board and the drinking started the second we got on board!!  After having my near sea sickness episode I opted to stay on the top deck in the fresh air just in case another episode arrived.  People seemed to be just fine that night.  Lots of jovial drinking around me and star gazing.  It was the next morning that the real “damage” began…

 

On to Warning!!

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