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Kuna Indian ladies wait at the airstrip (Mamitupo) that serves the San Blas Islands for the daily plane from Panama City. The leggings indicate they are married. The plane and its various stops are also in a video. The Kunas are perhaps most famous for their molas (reverse appliqué). The background for this web page is an example.

 

We finally decided to go Panama and Costa Rica after people on our last mountain biking trip in June 2007 between Zion and Bryce raved about a Bike Hike Adventure trip to Costa Rica. Since we didn’t want to go all the way to Central America for just one week, we combined two multi-sport trips, one to Panama and one to Costa Rica. We were the only people who signed up for the Panama, tour.

 

From Panama City (green dot below) we flew to the wonderful San Blas Islands for a couple of days. After returning to Panama City we started our tour by biking and kayaking in the Panama Canal before flying to David and driving to Boquette. There we white-water rafted in the Chiriqui River, hiked the famous Ketzal trail  in the rainforest (8-hours over 8000’) and visited an amazing orchid farm. We then drove to Bocas del Toro where we had some wonderful snorkeling.

 

We combined various video clips into a 15 minute video showing both Panama and Costa Rica.

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From Panama City, we flew to the San Blas (or Kuna Yala) Islands, the semi-autonomous region of the Kuna Indians.

 

We stayed at the Dolphin lodge on Uaguitupo Island which is adjacent to Achutupu, a major island of the San Blas archipelago. The lodge’s nine individual cabins (ours at left) are comfortable and spacious with porches directly at the water. Below are views from the restaurant.

 

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The San Blas archipelago comprises some 350 islands (only a few are inhabited) and is as close to a tropical paradise as one can imagine.

 

Most of the boats are sail boats with trapezoidal sails made of various materials (above and below).

 

Our lodge had one of the only boat with an engine in the area.

 

Imagine the quiet! Wonderful!

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Our local guide on Aligandi island poses in front of a statue of his grandfather (1840-1929) who is a local hero (part of the resistance movement that forced Panama to grant semi-autonomy to the Kuna Indians).

 

The Kuna Indians lived on the mainland but migrated to the San Blas archipelago to escape the Spanish. They’re a matriarchal society.

 

Below is the matriarch (appropriately named “empresa”) on Achutupu island with whom Yvonne hit it off very well. Empresa is an accomplished potter. On the right, she just finished putting color markings on Yvonne’s face.

 

Note the molas is both pictures.

 

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Little girls are highly revered in the Kuna society. They remain nameless until puberty when they’re officially initiated into womanhood. On the right is a depiction of part of the ceremony (cutting hair, painting and naming her).

 

Women run everything here. Their education and disciplined training is more important than the men’s.

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This piece of Kuna art recalls their treatment during the Spanish time.

 

 

 

Back in Panama city, we admired one of the locks (Miraflores).

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Back in Panama City we started the Panama

 

“Rumble in the Jungle”

multi-sport tour that was arranged by

Bike Hike Adventures.

 

We kayaked in the Panama canal on Gatún Lake.

 

It was fun to see the big container ships go by (below).

 

While kayaking, we saw the sloth in the tree and then swimming (below). They are good swimmers.

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We biked along the Amador causeway.

 

Our guide was amazing the way he could spot birds while we biked. Here is a parakeet.

 

From Panama City we flew to David and stayed in Boquette. From there we did our first white-water rafting adventure (we also had one in Costa Rica) on the Chiriqui river which is near the Costa Rica border.

 

The Chiriqui river has pretty good rapids (class III-IV). We rafted for 10 miles descending 550 ft. We were joined by one other couple.

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The raft had to be dragged down to the river where we stared the rafting trip.

 

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We stopped for a hike to a water fall (above) which required some “climbing”- note Yvonne slipped in the mud.  Below right is an example of fossilized seashells that we found.

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Picnic on the Chiriqui river.

 

There was a little waterfall in every direction from this spot. Amazing!

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There were quite a few fish traps along the river. The bait inside are ears of corn and the front gate is closed if fish are feeding.

 

In Boquette we started up the famous Quetzal trail. Portions of the trail require some balancing acts….

 

The trail is 6 miles long, starts at 3200 ft goes up to 9300 ft before dropping to 6500 ft. It rained the last several hours – luckily it was warm.

 

Unfortunately, we didn’t see any quetzals but the hike was nevertheless spectacular.

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We stayed in Guadalupe and visited an orchid farm. For us, the most unusual orchids are the so-called Dracula orchids shown here.

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From Boquette, we drove and boated to the Bocas del Toro island in the north-west of Panama. We stayed on Isla Colon. The picture top right shows us moving in. It’s quite a laid back place…Our hotel was built in 1905.

 

We took a boat to Bastimentos island where we snorkeled (the pictures are in the snorkeling section of this trip) and admired the cute little poisonous and endangered 1” long frog on the right.

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North of isla Colon is Swan’s Cay (Isla de los Pajaros -  bird island) which is home to many bird species. Especially graceful is the bird above with its thin, long tail.

 

Star fish are visible in the shallow waters close to the beach.

 

From Bocas del Toro we flew to San Jose in Costa Rica and joined our co-travelers for the Costa Rica trip.

 

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The end