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CENTRAL AMERICA!..via Kuna Villages on the Banana Boat!

Written on: Monday April 13th, 2009

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Across the Darien Gap for as cheap as I could, that was the mission !
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My bike and I, we went on 5 boats.
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I left Columbia on the 4th of April and I got to mainland Panama on the 16th.  > 13 days, 230 dollars
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...... and it was about 500 dollars cheaper than the other option I could have taken
 and actually wasn't that much longer because as I arrived in Carti so did the other more expensive option
(although it left Columbia much much later).
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1st
Turbo to Capurgana, on the New Jerusulum, 50 dollars
day and a half, I couldn't go with it.. cargo only.. (I went on a speed boat 20 dollars)
went well ....my bike arrived 
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2nd
Capurgana to Puerto Olbidia 40 dollars
Puerto Olbidia is just across the Panamanian border, 45 min trip
BOAT OF THE SALT WATER SHOWER OF TERROR AND ANXIETY..
Huge waves, small boat, I was soaked to the skin, so was bike
TERROR.. heart in mouth
and of course no photos of hellboat, and I cant talk more of it
..well actually I can, the boat in partnership with an evil wave broke the clutch lever holder
(Eh Joe ...you told me to bring a spare clutch lever but not the holder Eh eh ehhh!!!, well its welded now so all good.)
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3rd
Puerto Olbidia to the El Arfi in a small boat 6 dollars,
El Arfi couldnt get to the dock
Went OK.. still, it produced a tightness in throat and managed to slow my heart rate due to the feeling of possible doom.. all went well though. 
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4th
Puerto Olbidia to Carti in the El Arfi, 100 dollars
8 days it was to take, but it took 9. 
 
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5th
Carti to the LAND in small boat (lancha) 14 dollars
Think I could have gotten it for less but I was just so keen to get there at this stage..
Well, actually they wanted more, 20. HA !!! I thought! 
I only had 15 and told them that! And I also told them I could only give them 14 because I hadnt had a single drink in 4 days and had been for the last two days in fluctuating states of excitement, anticipation and disappointment regarding my arrival on Terra firma! Though it was simplified and translated into my own personal style of Spanish which gets the point across but is not half as clear as I believe it to be.
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So much happened in the last two weeks that I could never go into it all, but ill start with something good
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You all like stories where I get comically hurt, dont you, ...........dont you!.............
Hitting my head on the boat seemed to be a frequent enough occurrence on the boat, You know... when it was rocking back and forth. 
....but I do have to say that once or twice when it was sitting quiet still at the pier as well... but that was all nothing compared to the day that I was sitting on my chair reading my book unawares that one evil wave was about to force my weight a little too much to the right. I didnt feel anything till I was suddenly flipped on my side and smacked headfirst into the huge water container on the deck. and at that exact second the water came gushing out of the top of the open container and landed absolutely and almost exclusively in my previously dry crotch.. I was shocked and in a state of utter disbelief! Initially I was only annoyed and angry but with some reluctance through the laughing of my friends I saw the funny side and smiled.
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The boat swayed from side to side because the keel was shallow explained Bowen the vegan, as he ate his tinned vegetables.
The poor guy cant even eat fish! Should have flown..
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The sea here can be rough at times and before we set sail I wondered would there be puking and would it happen to me. Day two, the sea was crazy, looking out the side of the boat on the second level on which we lived the horizon almost disappeared at times. Baggage slide about and the pukers began to go down stairs and get to work. I was OK. It seems I have grown up a bit since my trip to the Aran Islands at the age of ten, with regard to my sealegs, but maybe not to maturity
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Most days on the banana boat broke down like this, wake at 630, read a bit, then take a stroll in whichever Kuna village we happened to be docked at for the night, buy bread, maybe eggs, make coffee and then read more. Swim in the sea, snorkel in the reef's depending on the size of the village and if there were any reefs about and the currents and generally the levels of dirty and rubbish of the shoreline.
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You see, the Kuna's throw all their rubbish into the water, which is all well and good back in the day when all was natural and biodegradable but now things are different. Modern western man, lets call him, say..."Mark Phillips". OK, well Mark Phillips came along one day and started trading with the Kuna's and selling them new exciting products sold in plastic and metal containers, Now Mark is the sort of businessman that will sell a tribe produce without educating them how to dispose of his new high falutin wares. In short the business practices of Mark Phillips are solely to blame, not the Kuna.
.... chem chem... moving along.
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They also have toilets which drop directly into the sea and despite the huge volumes of water in the sea I still have a problem swimming beside the toilets which at times can be everywhere. Yeah Paradise, as I was saying... So then a swim(depending), or snorkel (I saw Barracuda's and a manta ray and lots of other fish and sometimes other stuff, stuff being plastic and rubbish). Normally I went into town with Allison, the loco Brazilian Football fanatic to explore, play football or basketball with the kids, and try and walk on my hands like them with hilarious consequences.. hilarious consequences meaning falling flat on my back, hard. 
I likes to entertain!!
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Then maybe some lunch from the chef, mainly Rice and Bananas/Plantains and fish(the bony variety) and then some more chilling and then off we go another island to sell our bananas and other products (we were more of a floating market, really). So into the next Island we go...
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The first village we stopped at was the most traditional and as we went north they became more westernised (TV's etc).. but not that much. In the first village I went with Saulo to meet the Sahila(chief), he was trying to swap his handcrafts for food etc.. but they were having none of it,
They make their own. Saulo, one of the others travelling on the boat had no money so he worked on the boat and got free meals, which we all ate and in turn I shared my sardines in tomato sauce, bread, eggs and stuff that I bought in the village, until my money ran out.
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I was told there was a bank in one town, I didn't really believe it deep down but went along with it.. in the end there was a bank but not with ATM. So that meant that no more sardines in tomato sauce (quite fond of them now)  or bread for me. I still had coffee and all the bananas I could eat and rice and some other stuff. Sometimes nice but sometimes I craved something else. When I got to Panama city after a few days without money to spend and after a few hours of initial BANK TERROR and a subsequent call to BOI Fraud dept I had cash again and realised that the absolute absolute opposite of rice, bony fish and boiled Plantains (though Im not complaining about my free food) is a Quarter Pounder meal. 
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More fun on the boat...
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In the village also, I saw alot of albinos there.. and found this online...
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The Kuna have a very high incidence rate of Albinism . In Kuna mythology, Albinos were given a special place. The Kuna Albinos are considered a special race of people, and have the specific duty of defending the Moon against a "dragon" which tries to eat it on occasion...the Eclipse. Only they are allowed outside on the night of an Eclipse and use specially made bows and arrows to shoot down the dragon. In the 1920s, an American adventurer explored the Kuna area looking for the albino Indians. Richard Marsh also helped organize the Tule Revolution of 1925. He wrote about his adventures in a book.
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Now I'm In Panama City. Its 1.40am and after a good few hours in front of the hostel PC I'm finishing the blog. I was up at 6am this morning, I shall sleep well tonight. Today I managed to get my import documents sorted and my clutch fixed and a little bit of work on the pannier box's. So tomorrow I'm going north to a place called David and then the following day to the Islands in Boca del Toro for a few days relaxing!! OH YEAH !! They should be tropically brilliant.. and this time no bananas !

 

From Des on Apr 17th, 2009

That's a really funny blog this week :)

From Aine on Apr 20th, 2009

Great stories n pictures again - fair play. I'd say you'll never eat another banana again! Talk soon x

From Des on Apr 26th, 2009

I would hold off going into Mexico if I were you ;)