I cross again the Colombia and I reach Panama passing through the archipelago of San Blas (Kuna Yala)

Hello friends, here I am. Sorry for the delay but for several days I couldn’t access the internet, apart from Panama City. These two weeks were very intense with lots of movement, often by sea with speedboats.
I crossed quickly again the Colombia, until Panama, where I arrived on the Atlantic side, passing through a fabulous place: the archipelago of Kuna Yala (or San Blas). From there I went on the Pacific Ocean in Santa Catalina and Coiba National Park and now I’m back on the Atlantic in Bocas del Toro, near the border with Costa Rica.

I tell you quickly my last few days. From Pasto I returned to Medellin, where I stayed one day, and after I went to Turbo, a sinister place where I took a speedboat that, after a stretch of river, took me after about 3 hours of sea in Capurgana, a beautiful village on the border where I would have stayed definitely at least a week if I didn’t find an excellent opportunity: for only $ 200 a boat tour of three days in the archipelago of Kuna Yala in Panama.
An opportunity because you can go from Colombia to Panama only by air or by sea, then the alternative would have been spending $ 100 to fly to Panama City and then from there take the tour in Kuna Yala, costing much more.

So I joined to the group of Fabio, a Napolitan guy that has a posada in Capurgana since a couple of years and from time to time organizes these tours (link: www.capurgana-sanblas.com).
In the group there was me, Fabio, Aparicio, a French couple and eight Israelis. We reached Caledonia, a village of indigenous Kuna, where we remained for three days while visiting the deserted islands around. After, the others returned to Capurgana, while I and Aparicio stayed two more days in Caledonia and then we went to an island about 4 hours by speedboat, Franklin’s Island (or Tuba-Senika). There we met a Colombian couple very gentle that from Cartì gave us a ride car to Panama City … but from here I will tell you the next time.

The islands of San Blas are property of the Kuna and in the village of Caledonia, besides us, there was a group of South Korean Christian missionaries completely crazy. And rude, the worst kind of scum, I don’t want even spend words about them. And actually the fact that they are missionaries seemed to me just a cover for some shady trade or business.

Ok, now the photo-story, however just until Kuna Yala (San Blas), otherwise the post comes out too long. Very soon I will write the second part.


Colorful boats in the lagoon in the village de la Cocha, near Pasto in southern Colombia.


The lagoon de la Cocha, under the fog.


When the weather got better, I took a ride on a boat. The only problem was that little filthy dog (look the legs) that jumped continuosly on me and made my jeans totally dirty. It makes to think that there are people in the world so weird that prefer them to cats. Never seen a dirty cat in my life (apart, a little, Rasputin), in fact they always clean themselves.


As mentioned in previous posts, I pleasantly re-passed through Colombia, from the spectacular cliff roads around Pasto, to those beautiful of area Cafetera …


…and again in Medellin which, I repeat, it will seem strange, it’s a pleasant city, though still a bit ‘dangerous, for example in 2009 there were 2899 cases of very violent death. However, the neighborhood where I stayed both times, El Poblado, is quiet.
This is the Botero park. Botero was born in Medellin.


Sweet candy seller.


Girls in the university area.


Finally I reached Capurgana, in the northern border with Panama, on the Atlantic side. As I said, I reluctantly left it after only one day to join the boat tour with Fabio in thearchipelago of San Blas or Kuna Yala, in Panama.
Behind Fabio (forward) Aparicio, the Brazilian with whom I am traveling now and an Israeli.


We reach the kuna village Caledonia, with about 1000 inhabitants, where I will stay 5 days.
The Kuna are an indigenous group of about 70,000 people who live in the archipelago for centuries with very little interference from the Panamanian government. The nearly 400 islands belong to them, but prefer to inhabit only some, leaving others uninhabited.
It was the first group in Latin America to achieve such independence, even if, at a guess, it seems to me that right now are along the reverse path to almost all other indigenous groups in Latin America and especially Central. If the latter, almost disappeared and culturally destroyed, in the last two decades are rising from the ashes – claiming their origins, their culture and their languages, the Kuna, after having for centuries preserved their customs are losing them suddenly in recent years .
It will be also difficult for them to continue to resist the pressures of tourism multinationals that are offering astronomical sums for permission to build holiday resorts on their islands. But maybe it’s just an impression and they probably know how to protect their costumes in the coming centuries.


In the village. The Kuna are watching us between suspicion and disgust. :-)


At sunset.


Children locked out in their own village by the South Koreans. Among the many, in fact, with a padlock they closed the passage leading to the pier near their rooms because didn’t like children and other visitors. Aparicio and I, that the last two days had our backpacks there, often had to use a canoe from another dock to take our stuff!
The way in which South Koreans treated children was disgusting, but then at a certain time they turned from Mr.Hyde to Dr.Jekyll. maybe in their program there was “playing” with children. So they went in the central square with balloons and strings among children, with an hypocritical smile on face and small eyes. They were unwatchable, I swear, also a non-violent pacifist like me felt a strong desire of punching their faces!


Anyway, I was able to witness firsthand the tragic influences of the neo-colonization. One evening, the South Koreans assembled a canvas, like a cinema. I tought they wanted to show a movie but no… it was for karaoke! Luckily, after, the same children, when asked if they liked it, sayd naaaaaa, as to say we were short of crap.
Another time they distributed crosses, as to the guy on the right. In this case all the kids were excited about the gift and kept repeating something like “Christians”, “Christians”. So I said them nooo… Christians is a religion for losers! You have to become Buddhists! They liked the name, they started repeating with fun “Buddhism,” “Buddhism”. It’s a globalized world: South Koreans who convert in Christians, Italians that convert in Buddhists… And in between these poor children.
But nothing can describe the discomfort I felt when I saw that child on the left converted in an Inter football team fan! Let’s do something!


Another example of a pernicious influence of contact with the neoliberal civilizations. Until 1990, so 12 years ago, the currency of the kuna was … the coconut! Yes! And who was better than them: no tricks from shady banks that “create” money, no inflation, and every year it reproduced naturally.
But now they only think of dollars. So one evening a kuna man told us that their main task now is to look for loads of drugs that traffickers threw overboard when they are intercepted, by land or by sea, by the police. In fact that is now the main route on which passes the cocaine from Colombia to the United States.
Only a few months earlier they found a load that after, through some contacts, they sold to the same traffickers for $ 50.000, divided by the whole village.
So all the sea around there has become a sort of mega slot machine. Jackpot: it’s said that once a village nearby has found a load of cocaine that payd a million dollars!

Coincidence, right the day after hearing this story, as we were going to that delightful desert island, we saw from afar a large container, like a thermos, floating. I really at that moment I thought I had finally turned. And everybody on the boat. But the euphoria was short-lived, because it was just a floating mark used by a scuba diver. Even on the way back we saw something similar, this time we were all a bit ‘skeptical but the Colombian rider, Marcellino, still wanted to go to see. It was a broke bucket floating upside down. Never a joy.


Occasionally we saw dolphins, manta, fish jumping, flying fish. At one point I saw one great near the boat, I don’t know which one it was. An many when snorkeling.


At the village.


Little girl runs away because don’t want to be photographed.


But after she changed mind.


Other little girls.


And boys.


Fisherman returns after sunset.


Drinking rum in the shed where we slept in hammocks. From left, Fabio, Mary, Daniel, Aparicio and Ory.


A trunk on the beach.


A beach.


There are other interesting photos of Kuna Yala, but that’s enough for now. Maybe next time along with those of Santa Catalina, Coiba, Bocas del Toros and Costa Rica where I should arrive in 3 days, if I don’t go back definitively in a San Blas island to become an anarchist missionary.

One thought on “I cross again the Colombia and I reach Panama passing through the archipelago of San Blas (Kuna Yala)

  1. Giovanni, thank you for sharing! I’m thoroughly enjoying my journey with you (albeit from a long way away in Melbourne) and your photographs are sensational.