After the rollercoaster 4×4 ride through the mountains of Panama bruised both my knees and my ego, we arrived at a lagoon of sorts, with docks for smaller boats out towards the islands (I noticed that Europeans call these boats ‘launchers’, which seems more NASA-like than makes sense to me, but after a good majority of the ride was spent airborne the name began to develop an entirely unintended meaning).
The ride was rough. A smaller boy, probably an older teen that just looked very small, stood on the front of the boat, somewhat directing the man steering in the rear, clad in neon green crocs and barely hanging on at all. I began to put my faith entirely in this boy, trusting that if he could stand on the front of the boat with minimal effort and not be launched into the waters, then odds were in my favor I would arrive without making use of my life jacket.
San Blas Islands are an archaepelagio of “approximately 365 islands” (I consulted Wikipedia) so cruising out to Chichime meant riding past dozens of tiny sand mounds with only a palm tree or two, a really picturesque sight if you aren’t simultaneously crossing every part of your body in superstitious hopes the boat doesn’t flip. The islands are inhabited by the Kuna, an indigenous tribe that fled to the islands from the mainland during the Spanish invasion and carries their own culture, language, and dress. These are the people quite literally, “running the ship,” and with whom I am currently entrusting with my life on this launching, airborne, prayer-inducing boat.
The ride took about an hour and with much disappointment arrived to cloudy skies and a misting of rain. Having proclaimed to the world that I was “going to Panama to get my Vitamin D”, there was nothing romantic about the weather, and after being showed the beachfront hut in which I’d be staying just a few steps from the water, I had to talk myself off the ledge just to maintain optimism that indeed “the sun will come out, tomorrow” or even better, just later on today. Conditions on the islands can be moody, clouds one minute and sun the next. “You got this!” I told the skies, and myself, unsure which I believed in more. I decided to take a walk around the island perimeter just to get an idea of exactly where I was and take it all in, find what the island had to offer, become somewhat grounded in a place where I could easily be washed away, to seek out the beauty that brought me to this island in the first place.