While our son was visiting us in the San Blas islands, we took a tour of the Rio Sidra with Mola Lisa. We rode in a long and fairly narrow boat with an outboard across from the islands to mainland Panama. The waves broke over the shallow entrance to the river and fallen tree debris partially blocked the way. The outboard was shut off and we were pulled in by a long stick. That was all well and good, but would we make it back out the same way? Those were some pretty good waves. We decided to worry about that when the time came.
Mola Lisa’s assistant had definitely done that before. He guided us perfectly around the obstacles and safely into the river.
Once inside, the water deepened again and the outboard was started up. The river was not very wide and turned fairly sharply in some places, so the stick was used to help steer us off the banks.
There were few signs of civilization. We didn’t see any houses built along the riverside, which made this dugout canoe all the more interesting. There must be a trail from somewhere to get to it.
The first thing we saw after leaving the boat behind was this hawk-like bird. Wish I knew what it was. Searching images the closest I can find is a peregrine, but this didn’t have the breast coloring and was larger. My guess is a kite. Any birder friends know?
After following a trail for a bit, we came across a burial ground. Mola Lisa said these were familial graves.
I think she said this was her mother’s grave. She took some time to say prayers or chant something we couldn’t understand.
The trail we followed was shared by leaf cutter ants. The ants are always so busy and fascinating to watch, but the soldier ants have a painful bite, so we hopped and ran and frequently shook off our feet in some places. Finally, we arrived at a small water fall. The water was cold and shocking to enter. Even more shocking were the fish that came up and bit at our legs. For the most part, they just bit the dead skin off. People pay good money for spa treatments like this. The problem was that some of these fish were much bigger than the others and took a little more of a mouthful. Ouch! And, because the water was cold, I had goosebumps that were just the right size for the bigger mouths. No blood was drawn, though. Devan distracted them from our skin with a granola bar and some bread. They went nuts over it!
After hiking the trail upriver, we were able to swim and wade most of the way back. That was much more pleasant than the hot, sweaty, ant-filled trail! We came upon a spot where some trees were cleared. There were two dugout canoes being built from the felled trees. Looked like a lot of work and this one looked barely wide enough to sit in. However, Lisa said that a family of five would fit in it.
I apologize for the blurry pictures, but everything was wet. Devan was leaning on the stump of the tree used for one of the canoes.
This larger canoe could fit eight or so. A small, curved hand axe was used to carve out the inside.
Lisa didn’t know the English or Spanish word for the type of tree, only the Guna word — which I didn’t catch.
We were happier than we looked. Everyone was just chilling and listening.
Can you see the curved axe? I wish I had taken a better picture of it. I would have liked to give it a try, but wouldn’t have risked ruining someone else’s hard work.
We reboarded the boat for the ride back to our boats anchored at Salardup. The waves at the mouth of the river were still big and now we had to go into them without a motor. I had doubts we were going to make it and could foresee a swim in our near future. But we were pulled through by stick and as soon as the water deepened, Lisa dropped the outboard and started it up. We made it. The entire ride was windy and wavy and it was a very wet ride! Lisa was prepared with an umbrella to duck behind. It looks like we were on the Log Ride at an amusement park.
The serenity of these islands does something to your soul. The people are friendly and peaceful. The islands are green and picturesque. The sunsets are dramatic.
And only get more beautiful as the sun sinks below the horizon. Fun. Adventure. Beauty. Peacefulness. This is why we do what we do.