Following is the diary that Riccardo wrote
during his visit with Paola to Blue Note in the San Blas Island.
This is a rough Google translation of Riccardo's diary.
SAN BLAS February 2018
February 16th - Friday
The mosquitoes made the few hours of sleep that were granted us
The days of intense cold have not been able to eradicate them and
the alarm of 4:00 catches me just asleep.
The desire for a shower is mortified by the total absence of water
from the taps and the long journey that awaits us begins with
physical discomfort mitigated by a very early breakfast and the
miserable satisfaction of the teeth wash at 4:45, on return of a
weak water flow.
The airport is alive and busy even at 5:30, so that our Lufthansa
flight to Frankfurt leaves already late, while the second flight,
Frankfurt-Panama City, there has already been announced with
another 2 hours delay ... there are no more Germans than once.
At 12:34, we are on the plane, almost ready for take-off. 12 hours
of flight await us and I have already tried before leaving.
Marco is waiting for us in San Blas, which we should reach
tomorrow from Panama City, Hilton hotel, with a tour operator who
will take us by 4x4 car, along a stretch of Panamericana and a
stretch of road through the jungle to the Atlantic coast in the
Gulf of San Blas.
We land in coincidence with a spectacular sunset over the bay of
Panama City, with the sun reflected on the Pacific and endless
skyscrapers against the light.
Shortly after 18:00 Panama City time, midnight for Italy, I call
In flight, for the first time, I suffered a bit 'heat, then the
cold, then discomfort, then headache, then a sore throat, symptoms
that I hope will dissolve falling to the ground.
The wet heat that blazes at the exit from the plane is a good
medicine that gives me relief while hurrying the formalities of
the ritual control passport.
A friendly Panamanian sent to the hotel takes us to our night
destination, along a wide highway and no traffic, perfect, which
runs parallel to the coast between the skyscrapers.
A gigantic room on the 23rd floor welcomes us, with an almost
aerial view of the bay.
A long refreshing shower and sleep, not after an exchange of
messages with our reference for tomorrow's car trip to San Blas,
conclude one of the busiest days in life.
17 February - Saturday
The alarm at 4:00 is not a problem, thanks to the time zone and
adrenaline for what awaits us.
The Bay of Panama City is illuminated by artificial lights that
reflect on the water of the Pacific; the aurora is still far away.
In the entrance hall of the hotel we meet a couple of young
Belgians waiting for us as the driver that will take us to Carti.
In fact, comes a small van, with 2 French already on board and we
start what I thought was already the journey to Carti and instead
is a tour of the city between other hotels and private homes,
until in the van that seemed already a bit 'inconvenient to 6, we
find ourselves in 12, with luggage even on the roof, crammed and
oppressed acoustically by the incessant Spanish high-sounding and
pounding Spanish speech of the last arrivals.
Finally left, at the exit from Panamà City, on the Panamericana,
the driver makes a stop in the parking lot of a large supermarket,
where the South American boys are full of beers and fast food that
they bring back on board and consume in the running.
The landscape of the urban suburbs is devastated by man: an
uninterrupted shantytown, dotted with building wrecks of old
abandoned commercial structures and new American-style mall;
miserable houses little more than luck and craft activities, while
at the center of the roadway endless pylons of a raised railway
under construction give the impression of the realization of the
impossibility of urban renewal, which recommended the definitive
abandonment of the zero level, placing the new infrastructure at a
height, almost resting on a post-war dump populated by survivors.
When we leave the Panamericana, we take a winding road that rears
and falls on the hilly area of the Isthmus, where the van,
overloaded, is struggling in certain points to go up even in the
first. Big holes on the asphalt force the driver to sudden slalom,
alternating with terrifying juxtaposts on the right to allow the
passage to the most powerful off-road vehicles and vehicles in the
Near the internal border with the Guna Yala territory of the
indigenous Kuna we change vehicles and get into 6 on a Toyota
off-road vehicle with a Kuna driver authorized to transport
tourists to the territory.
The vehicle is much more powerful than the first, but the engine
on the hardest climbs seems to be exploding in an interlock of
little oiled gears and exhausted by the repeated effort who knows
how many times.
In fact there is a bustle of tourists to and from San Blas, in
fact, which evidently lives on a tourism for lovers of places
still virgin and immune from the contamination of the
technological civilization; even if all this is possible thanks to
an intense use of internet and whatsapp, essential for contacts
You pay $ 20 per person for entry and $ 2 for boarding, as you
will pay $ 2 to access the endless islands of the archipelago.
After more than three hours since we were picked up at the hotel
and after entering the territory Kuna, guarded by strict natives
in military uniform in place of customs, full of flags of the
"revolution" in which stands in the central yellow horizontal band
an ugly, slim , menacing black swastika, we arrive at the point of
boarding fluvial Barsukun, not far from Carti.
Miraculously our names and our destination, Blue Note anchored in
front of the island with a sort of welcoming place called Cabanas
Nalunega, in Salardup, appear on hand-written notebooks.
We climb up 6 on a "Mad Max" style, use in resin-laden glass,
driven by two tiny smiling natives, who quickly cashed the $ 40
each for the ride and loaded our luggage on board.
The French couple who traveled with us are waiting for a boat from
Italians in Rome anchored not far from Blue Note, while the two
Belgians, also on board with us on the boat, on another boat in
I understand immediately that the transfer will not be a walk: the
sky is overcast and the day is windy. The trade winds from the
north east stretch at least about 15 kn and I imagine that as soon
as you leave the edge of the embarkation point, we will find a sea
almost rippled in the bow. The suitcases are covered in two
lockers, while my backpack and the bag of Paola are between my
feet and I protect them with a trash bag providentially on board
Once out in the open sea the feared rodeo begins, impeccably
tackled by the Kuna to the engine, at a high speed to jump on the
ripples limiting dents and splashes.
We get wet, but less than expected, in the journey that lasts an
exact hour, but the real suffering is given by the compression and
blows of the seat on the wooden table that serves as a seat.The
French lady at my side, at the second experience, is in fact
premature of a shock absorber pad that saved her, while Paola sat
on an extra life jacket that was on board, in addition to those
that we all wear.
The shape of Blue Note reassures us at the arrival of a very long,
interesting and very original trip, which has seen us stop in
Germany in Frankfurt, fly for 12 hours to Panamà City, sleep on
the 23rd floor in a luxury hotel overlooking the Pacific, travel
the Isthmus from the Pacific to the Atlantic crossing the Central
American jungle and sail on a spear for 15 miles between the
atolls of the Gulf of San Blas, until you reach our dear friends
anchored in front of a peachy beach covered with palm trees,
protected by a long reef where white waves break.
On board we meet besides Marco and Yael, also Etienne and Lucia,
the two boys who have made the crossing with them from Antigua.
They are two very young, French Etienne, 27, Spanish Lucia of
Tarragona, born in Uruguay from where shortly after his birth the
family moved to Spain.
18 February - Sunday
At 4:00 am awake for the jet-leg, but we resist until 6:30, after
collapsing soon after dinner.
The wind has blown hard all night and still pulls, but in the
right direction for our purpose to reach Narganà, where we hope to
supply water and kambusa.
After a breakfast based on crêpes prepared by Etienne, also a
young twenty-seven year old surprising for the seriousness and
experience already experienced around the world, we leave in
search of supplies.
We sail at 6/7 kn with a single border towards the east, protected
by a large reef above the wind, between the islands, the shallow
waters and the green coast of Panama.
Narganà, where we land in exploration with the dinghy, announces
from afar showing two large pylons for mobile telephony, on the
western tip of the island, which together with the TV TV dishes
and the noise of the generators of the power plant are the only
technological evidence present in the village, which consists of 2
islands joined by a newly built pedestrian bridge (2008), a series
of small masonry buildings, at most on two floors, very crumbling,
a square with the monument to Christ the Redeemer of 1954, a
basketball court, the church, the refectory for children, the
aqueduct office, the dock for refueling, but everything is
consumed by time, the sea wind, the salt, which have prematurely
aged everything , left to itself as a decayed Macondo after the
banana company's investments.
Around the few masonry buildings has developed the current
village, made of shacks with earthen floor, tin roofs and wooden
walls and reeds, served by flying power lines and inhabited by
women sitting outdoors on the inevitable plastic chairs in
traditional clothes, smiling children, kids playing basketball,
someone barefoot, someone with flaming Nike shoes, cats and dogs
desperately thin and men, young as boys, all dressed in sports
clothes never practiced and apparently idle, even rightly seen
that today is Sunday.
We find the clerk and the aqueduct that confirms the possibility
to supply water and indicates a store where we will find food for
We do an unexpected expense: mangoes, papayas, bananas,
pineapples, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, limes, potatoes,
peppers, pasta, eggs, bread ... all brought on board under a
merciless sun that bites the skin, finally gone out to color the
landscape as in advertising photos.
I, Marco and Etienne carry the expense on the bottom with a
valuable portable sounder Marco is equipped with and we calm down
by detecting 25-30 feet constantly up to two, three hundred meters
from Blue Note left at anchor.
We go back to the pier and we realize that the bottom of 12 feet
was right in the area closest to Blue Note that we neglected to
check, but fortunately we pass and dock.
The fresh bread combined with the ham bought at the Duty Free of
Fiumicino waiting for the supply of water seems to us a heavenly
We depart with sail and motor and anchor in front of an island
surrounded by slums and reefs (Green Island) in the company of a
few other boats.
It is about 4:00 pm and the sun starts to fall. The water is warm,
the sand of an extended shallow sea attached to the bank slopes
towards a good anchorage point, already occupied; the waves from
the north stop on the long reef that protects this group of
islands, creating a background noise of rough sea, very familiar
The supply of water allows us a shower.
Lucia, very good, cook for dinner a substantial amount of pizzas,
full of seasoning in American style and in the meantime I talk to
Etienne drinking gin and tonic, while a large leopard race runs
around the boat looking around other fish attracted by our lights
in the night without moon.
The wind has dropped, the sea is flat. A peaceful night awaits us.
19 February - Monday
We are the first to get up shortly after 6:30.
The sky is cloudy and the wind has started to blow more tense.
Etienne and Lucia wake up a little later but start working
immediately to prepare breakfast with the crêpes and the
preparation of the fruit bought yesterday.
Marco sends Yael's phone to the head of the tree and picks up a
powerful internet signal coming from Narganà.
After the hearty breakfast we wait a few hours before deciding
where to go, buying in the meantime a box of beers from a Kuna
approached with the characteristic canoe made from a trunk,
narrow, long and heavy.
We ask him if he has lobsters and he leaves promising "por la
Too late for us that after lunch with ham sandwiches and a
wonderful salad prepared by Etienne, we sail in the canal
protected by the reefs up to Combodia.
The islands are all similar, in their smallness, but the sandbanks
and coral that surround them make them unique for approaching and
anchoring; they are also owned by individual Kuna families, who
manage them for a sort of tourist reception in exchange for 2
dollars per person for the landing.
This is very beautiful, with a beach on the south side that falls
into a depth of many meters, so as to allow the anchorage of some
sailboats with the top on the ground and the stern almost close to
We buy for 25 $ 4 lobsters 2 fish for dinner by three boys on a
canoe that comes close shortly after our arrival, filming and
photographing the moment.
Paola and I go down to the ground first.
Despite the cloudy skies and the 100 protection that I had spread
on my neck, at the first exit of a ray of sunshine I feel the skin
burning; I save myself with a pareo of Paola worn like a scarf and
we begin the walk around the island.
I offer the $ 4 to a native who flips through a magazine sitting
at a table with benches of big dark wood; he thanks me and
introduces himself (Uribe) asking me where we come from; I had the
impression that he had no idea what it is and where Italy is.
We turn clockwise and meet women and children in a hut on the
eastern tip; dubbed the extremity we discover the north slope,
beaten by the wind and we have proof of how much plastic is
transported from the sea and deposited on these banks together
with fragments of coral, shells, sponges, fragments of posidonia.
Looking to the north you can see the white crashing waves on the
far reef and the other small islands similar to ships laden with
palm trees. The slums are colored in patches greener, clear of
sand, dark posidonia and seabed and as soon as a ray of sun comes
out, everything explodes in a palette of postcard colors.
The walk takes us to the small indigenous landing on the western
tip, with a few huts and tables for an improvised welcome to a
group of tourists who feast on lobsters and food prepared by the
The bottles of wine on the table and a certain attitude, even
before the rumors, reveal their Italian provenance.
Meanwhile, the others have also landed and we repeat the walk in
the opposite direction, until we return to the beach where we stay
in a long bath enriched by the idea of Yael playing with a small
pink ball; the launches and the voices recall two local children
who shyly look at us first, but soon, invited to the game, they
unleash themselves in the fight for the possession of the balloon
and lose all privacy.
It is a moment of magnificent forgetfulness of every adherence to
city life; we are in the Caribbean Sea thousands of miles from
home, playing in a natural dream pool, among people from many
parts of the world, including boats, canoes, reefs and welcoming
natives .... is this the reality ?! Right now it's all true,
better to write it so as not to forget you've really experienced
Marco explores the surroundings with the drone, which is noticed
by another boat, whose occupants approach asking if we have a
spare propeller for them.
After a moment of English they turn out to be Italian, Venetian or
so, one of whom has been living here in the boat for a few years.
The dinner this time is prepared by me and Marco, for the
preparation of the fish, while Etienne cooks a good rice to
accompany the curry.
Final food and rum are the best sleeping pill to sink into the
February 20 - Tuesday
6:30 am wake up with coffee and mini banana with the captain.
Following breakfast with bread, butter and jam, finishing the
sandwiches bought in Nargana.
There is a beautiful sun and I protected myself with long sleeves
and neck scarf.
Paola makes the last bath in the morning and reaches the beach
just in time to be picked up by Yael with the dinghy and brought
back to the Cicconetti-style departure towards Cayos Holandes,
about 7 miles beyond the internal coral reef.
In about 1:30 h we are in Cayos Holandes, in a large bay protected
by an island to the north and from slums all around.
Many boats have preceded us, but this is the most external place
to anchor in the whole San Blas archipelago; beyond the coral reef
that protects Cayos Holandes extends the Caribbean Sea to the
Lesser Antilles, a thousand miles to the east and then the
Paola prepares a tortilla de patatas and Etienne a salad of
watermelon and cucumber, garlic and onion with a really good cus
cus, to be flavored with soy sauce.
Before lunch, however, we refresh ourselves with a propitiatory
beer and a nice collective bath under the sun.
Marco on several occasions, and even after lunch, launches his
drone with camera and makes virtual exploratory excursions around
the boat recording beautiful images.
A few minutes of rest after lunch and soon we are on the dinghy,
to reach the new beach; we land on the south side, well sheltered
from the wind, but then we head towards the east tip, where comes
the flow of crystalline water coming from the great waves that
crash on the outer reef a few hundred meters from us, which
creates a strong and fast current impossible to counteract.
The bath, long and fun, sees us play with the current and then,
with mask and fins, look for the coral fish on the rocky area.
I see crossbow fish, acanturidae and pomacantids, as well as
beautiful bicolor Coris.
We stay long in the water, hypnotized by the beauty of the water
and the place.
Before returning to the boat we go to explore the small island on
our right, towards the east, where we notice the presence of
glades and huts.
We meet a Kuna family and we talk a lot with Patriarch Gonzalo,
with Lucia who is our interpreter; we are meeting for tomorrow's
lunch, based on fish, octopus and lobsters for the whole group.
The only condition, which we bring a little 'seal', such as rice,
Back on board cooked by the sun and the whole day, but aware of
the privilege of being here.
We focus on dinner, after the aperitif with gin and tonic, tuna,
tomatoes and pitas prepared by Yael, which will be a pasta with
bottarga that we brought from Rome, not perfect but not too bad.
Etienne in the wait is practiced with the sea knots and I can give
him some advice on the knot Savoy and the gassa.
The company is harmonious and the days pass in a crescendo of
discoveries and pleasures.
The early Caribbean night envelops us as suddenly as usual.
February 21st - Wednesday
The awakening is enlivened once again by the crêpes that prepares
Etienne in large quantities and at 8:45, after a first taste of
collective crêpes au sucre, we are all again in the cockpit around
the table for the official breakfast.
The thought goes home, thinking of Ludovico, who was here two
years ago and wanted to reach Cayos Holandes, without being able
to do it. He likes to conquer the farthest horizon.
And to Vittoria, taken in a completely different way, that within
a few days could formalize his work more stable.
A bit 'of nostalgia, perhaps also due to the presence of Etienne
and Lucia, belonging to the generation of our children, here with
us, already so experienced and owners of their lives, to live the
day but with the knowledge that day by day something it will
happen if you do not stand still and if you are ready to say yes
to the destiny that offers you your chance.
The women bring the rice, oil, salt and some greens for lunch to
the land, precious goods for those who live on these islands far
from everything, much more precious and rare than octopus, fish
Then, when we return and wait for lunch, I help Marco clean the
seawater intake pipe, before a refreshing bath that prepares us
for the transhipment to land shortly after 1:00 pm.
The ladies Kuna and the husband of one of them welcome us smiling,
Gonzalo, who is clearly the head of the micro community.
A ramshackle table and makeshift benches make up our table, placed
in a clearing among the palms, on a very clear coral sand plateau,
surrounded by incredible views from all sides, both towards the
sea and towards the interior of the island. , where a wood of
coconut palms provides one of the raw materials for survival in
Pans blackened by the wood fire are brought to the table: white
rice with some vegetables for topping in a pot, in another banana,
aubergine and jucca cooked without liquid and lightly toasted, a
pan with sliced octopus cooked with tomatoes, peppers, onions
and finally a pot with at least a dozen boiled lobsters.
We have brought wine and crockery, in addition to the pure joy of
being here, immersed in the absolute beauty of an unparalleled and
unattainable nature for almost all of humanity.
When the sun comes out the colors explode in a science fiction
kaleidoscope; under the palm trees at the edge of the island, with
roots in the water, a pink and golden sand spreads smooth and
virgin under the light pressure of diaphanous waves coming from
The barrier a few hundred meters blocks huge transparent breakers
that disintegrate into white foam until a very fast current turns
around the island, lapping the banks in two opposite directions.
Two girls of about 5 years, driven by an innocent curiosity, do
not resist the temptation to sit with us at the table, hugging
Lucia, Paola and Yael, who will be their baby sitter for all our
stay on the island.
The food has the taste of the situation, of the magic place, of
the colors and of the beauty.
At the end of the meal Gonzalo gets closer, who has in Lucia a
special interlocutor to whom he can communicate his evolved
thought, on Kuna culture, the relationships with Panamà, with
tourists and the idea that the Kuna Congress can be a place for
elaboration of ideas and useful initiatives for the community.
He was surprised when we told him that we had been warned that we
would be hosted by boat and that other people we met had shown us
the Kuna's next intention to limit nautical tourism in the
Apparently he does not show it is in any case would not agree.
We would not go away; wash the dishes in the clear water, collect
the leftovers, take baths, walk along the perimeter of the small
land that welcomed us.
I can not help but remember how much my father had dreamed of
places like these, so much so that for years he had reproduced a
corner in his home aquarium; I am here also thanks to his memory
and his ideal encouragement when I hesitated before deciding to
undertake this journey.
When we return to the boat we are all richer than the experience
of a day immersed in a reality of infinite value for a citizen.
Blue Note welcomes us at 17:00, just in time for a repair to one
of the two screws that block the outboard to the transom of the
dinghy, for a shower and to be enveloped by the warm twilight of
The evening is purifying and the dinner is replaced by a game of
Yatzi, naturally won by Yael who at the first dice throw
immediately makes Yatzi.
A small sip of rum should reconcile sleep, which instead does not
arrive for Paola, as she declares when she wakes up.
22 February - Thursday
We wake up shortly after 7:00 am.
Lucia is not too well fed and Paola has slept little and badly.
The operations begin slowly, with Etienne working with the mixture
of crepes prepared providentially last night.
Spend a chat with a nice Spanish named Mario, a former motorcyclist
who has been sailing alone for a year and a half in these parts.
From some advice to Yael on Cartagena des Indias, then at 11:15 we
turn on the engine and say hello.
We are heading to Lemmon Cayos, to the west and to El Porvenir,
which could also be the point where we will be picked up for our
return Sunday morning.
After 11 miles and about 2:30 h of sailing at sea on a sea initially
very calm, then a little 'wavy after leaving the seven miles
protected by the reef of Cayos Holandes, we slip between the slums
of the bay of destination, much more frequented of all the other
places visited until today.
At lunch I work for the community preparing a tuna sauce for pasta
bought in Narganà which has a good success.
We descend to the ground after 16:00, when the tourists on a daily
visit have already left.
On our left there is a small island equipped for visitors with a
dock and a bar and a little further on is another small island with
a real selling point of local souvenirs where the "molas"
embroidered by Kuna women prevail, but where there are tables and
benches for eating and even a volleyball net.
After so much purity admired in the past few days, this tourist
outpost, which would seem quite wild in any other place, actually
disappoints us for the lost virginity and for the contamination with
scraps of civilization in reality still very far, but that is
instilling its worst germs in the local community.
In fact, between two huts by the sea we notice two photovoltaic
panels and a television antenna, while the barefoot women and the
sun-dried skin traditionally dress and look like characters out of a
description of Melville in his explorations of nineteenth-century
But commerce works: Paola buys from colorful indigenous women unable
to talk in Spanish, a beautiful double molas, a sarong and two
colored bead cuffs; Lucia a sarong, Etienne an anklet of beads.
The landscape is also incredible here. The reef blocks the waves and
calms the waters, while the constant and unidirectional wind between
10 and 15 kn, blows undaunted and inexhaustible.
These small islands of Lemmon Cayos are much less extensive than
those of Cayos Holandes, but they are scattered over a huge shallow,
rich in canals that are clearly visible because they are darker
between very pale spots of sand and coral.
On returning home, the octopus bought two days ago, which ends up in
the pressure cooker and will be served with steamed potatoes and
mayonnaise, while Marco prepares the usual aperitif gin and tonic.
We are anchored completely in the open and it is almost fresh more
for the speed of the air than for the temperature.
The octopus at dinner turns out to be a real delicacy, unanimously
declared superior to the lobster.
You make plans and organize the last two days, hoping to be able to
make an excursion on the Rio Sidra on Saturday.
Tomorrow we will then return to Salardup, our initial starting
point, where at 8:00 tomorrow, Saturday, we will come to pick up and
the day after tomorrow, on Sunday, Paola and I will leave for the
long journey back.
The night game at Yatzi won Etienne, after a series of throws that
saw me in the head for most of the game.
Marco, overcome by sleep and defeat in Yatzi, goes to sleep first,
while Yael organizes the decorations for the celebrations of
tomorrow with Etienne and Lucia, in honor of Marco's birthday.
23 February - Friday
Today is Marco's birthday, celebrated for breakfast with salted
omelette of onions and aubergines, complete with candles and waxing,
carefully removed by Marco.
It starts a bit 'slow motion and I feel in the final stretch of the
holiday, with lots of anxious connected status.
I will try not to think about the return and enjoy these last two
In the end we give up going to El Porvenir, because in the opposite
direction to Salardup, where in any case we have to stop tonight.
Yael in the study of the book on the San Blas has identified a
beautiful anchorage to the island Gunboat, 5 miles south of the
What he could not have imagined or read about the guide, is that the
owner of the island is anything but kind and welcoming. On the
contrary, he is an asshole.
When the others reach the ground to swim in fact, asks Yael where he
comes from and why he is here and to Yael's answer that we arrived
by boat, he asks her $ 20 for the anchor.
Meanwhile, I was engaged in a ride on the corals looking for some
sighting of interesting fauna, in fact present, even if in limited
While I go back to the shore, walking a few meters, I hear the local
asshole, of whom I did not know anything yet, but the wide gestures
of others who invited me to join them make me understand that it is
better not to stop and talk.
We decide to go back on board and leave, but first Marco, a little
provocatively, throws the drone and, to the brim of bad luck, just
before the hostile Kuna reaches us with his boat and begins to
threaten the sending of the photo of Blue Note at the Kuna Congress,
because the launch of drones is prohibited.
It also comes close to the other single boat arrived shortly after
us, with the Swiss flag and obviously also asks him the 20 $ toll.
After a few minutes we leave both. Hostility and rude aggression do
not produce anything good.
Another 5 miles and we are again, maybe just a little earlier than
expected, at Salardup, the starting point of our Blue Note cruise.
Evening dinner at the restaurant on the island and return at 20:00;
preparations for tomorrow's trip to Rio Sidra with Lucia and Etienne
who cook cold pasta and more for everyone.
In bed early waiting for tomorrow.
Lam Tours has not yet responded to Marco's whatsapp for the
confirmation of our pick up on Sunday .... hopefully good.
24 February - Saturday
A memorable day.
At 6:00 Yael begins operations in the kitchen, kneading and cooking
an unknown number of pitas.
Ready backpacks, shoes, telephones and gadgets from Marco, life
preserver for boat transfer.
We will be 11, accompanied by the crew of the Majorcan boat that was
with us at Cayos Holandes and last night anchored here in Salardup
next to us.
Lisa, a famous transvestite named Kuna Mola Lisa, arrives at 8:00,
punctual, with a boat too small for 14 people, including the two
crew and for more equipped with a miserable 9.9 hp Yamaha, but we
leave with wind in the stern and without splashes.
After 35 'sailing towards the coast, we reach a beach where the
Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea end together, where a tiny river
flows; it is Rio Sidra, where our excursion begins.
To overcome the sand bar at the mouth we have to go down to the
ground, until the hull, crawling with difficulty on the sand mixed
with gravel of the bottom slips into the transparent channel that
goes into the jungle.
It is immediately exciting this total immersion in a virgin natural
environment, in which without the local guides, who reassure us on
the absence of crocodiles in this area, we would never have entered.
After a few hundred meters we leave the boat and enter the
vegetation following a narrow path, up to two modest Kuna
They are small earthen tombs covered by leafy roofs and decorated
with a few objects and some plastic flowers; as in all cemeteries,
cured and other abandoned burials alternate; a pair of sheds are
made of modern materials, concrete pillars, squared wooden roof
warping and corrugated roofing. It seems that the new model has not
been successful among the Kuna, because it does not respect
We continue the walk by touching a small pineapple plantation next
to the cemetery, and then enter the most impassable stretch of the
The vegetation is very rich, varied, lush and powerful, fed by a
humid environment even in this dry season, which tells us that Lisa
has not experienced any climate change.
Between highs and lows, the path takes us an hour to look out over
the river, in a point where after a few jumps and small waterfalls,
there are narrow deep pools between the rocks.
Less insects than feared and no perfume have accompanied us up to
here, but we are hot and then the dive from the highest rock, in the
pool dark but transparent below us, it seems a celestial cool.
One by one, we jump into the water; Paola from a slightly lower
point, hand in hand with Lisa.
The Catalan group also contributes to the goliardic climate of the
trip. The skipper tells that for twenty years he spent the summer in
the Balearics with the boat hosting tourists and taking courses for
boat license, while winter passes it over the Atlantic, because the
navigation in the Caribbean is much cheaper than the station in
Beginning to think that it is a choice of life for nothing absurd
and even easier than an anonymous and stunted city survival.
We climb slightly upstream from the jump and enjoy the natural
whirlpool in the highest pool after the rapids, before the lunch
break, which we also offer to our guides.
The real hike starts here, with the second dive and the descent
along the river that winds through the jungle; we are in the
diaphanous waters of the river of Macondo.
Other jumps, other rapids, other fords with neck water and even
higher; for an hour we go down the river almost to the cemeteries,
which we reach again by following part of the path of the going.
Going back to the boat is like finding the technology, even if the
low tide, luckily a few centimeters, forces us to push the hull for
a few meters up to the waterline.
Even the exit at sea is more laborious than the entrance, because
the waters now widen on the shoreline in a thin layer and the boat
has no chance to gain the sea, if not thanks to the effort of 12
people who force it on the gravelly shore, while Paola and Yael
resume the scene.
If we came only 6 of us, I do not think the company would have
The first stop from the mouth of the Rio Sidra is the island-village
of Lisa, where we descend to the ground accompanied by the two
guides, because she prefers not to show too much in the company of
The country is very neat, clean and dignified; show us large huts
used for spaces for collective use, such as the sessions of the Kuna
Congress, shops, the inevitable basketball court, which seems
superimposed on the main square of the village.
We pass in front of huts inhabited by small women in traditional
clothes, who sew molas in the dim light of the entrance door or that
come out in our passage showing cuffs and bracelets of colored beads
The population seems mostly composed of children, who smile smiling
in the streets and alleys, provoking us with touches and laughter;
they all greeted with a welcoming air.
We can not "tomar foto", I think rightly, not to show a primitive
condition that must be respected and that needs its privacy.
In a sufficiently stocked emporium named Frank, we find food for the
kambusa now dripping, but not the Balboa beer, renouncing the Panama
Light that just "has no taste".
The experience of the visit to the village was not less strong than
the descent of the Rio Sidra.
The 35/40 minutes of the return journey, after taking over Lisa,
pass in joy, in a mixture of languages and voices, which end with
the arrival on Blue Note and greetings to the Catalans, happy to
return on board where they had left only their swimmer dog, which we
have seen several times in recent days launch from the dinghy.
Lisa, after a long stay by the Spaniards, returns to us with her
merchandise, made mainly of "molas" and sarongs that are bought by
Paola and Yael.
Marco is soon hungry and before 8.00pm he has already prepared three
parcels of pasta seasoned with his pepper sauces, to which we
celebrate with bis and tris, as well as two bottles of wine,
pineapple and final rum, which give me a immediate headache that
will last all night and the next morning.
The suitcases are made and everything is ready to leave Blue Note,
with the sadness of those who leave their friends, the awareness of
having lived extraordinary days, of having seen impossible places to
reach for almost all of humanity and to have increased the
experience of nautical tourism to which we have had access thanks to
our friends on all occasions.
Lucia and Etienne were wonderful throughout; communicative,
cheerful, generous and always at work; surprising cooks for their
youth; full of joy.
They suffered our arrival by giving us the first-class cabin and
adapting to sleeping on deck, with sleeping bags, sheltered only by
an anti-rain and anti-humidity awning; I will think of them in their
imminent trip to the Pacific and certainly we will not forget them.
Marco and Yael welcomed us once again with friendship and affection,
outside any bourgeois citizen scheme; with them the appointment is
in June, in San Vincenzo.
The night passes into a state of agitation made invincible by the
headache caused by the wine.
The half-sleep stops when I open my eyes on the phone at 5:59, a few
moments before the alarm sound.
25 February - Sunday
A banana, coffee, a piece of bread mitigate the headache.
Needless to hide a bit 'of sadness for departure.
We are ready, in the cockpit, waiting for our water taxi Kuna that
will take us back to the mainland to Carti.
A lance already loaded with returning tourists, with the only bow
bench available, arrives in advance at 8 min.
The luggage ends up under a waterproof cloth, as well as the
passengers, even if a long first section runs in favor of wind
After 20 minutes you turn right, towards the west and the crosswind
forces us to disappear under the plastic sheeting. In 45 minutes we
are at Carti, which compared to Barsukun, the small river landing
from which we left, appears in all its squalor.
Hundreds of off-road vehicles bring and collect groups of tourists
heading or returning from the islands; two, three lopsided landing
docks, connected directly to the earthy beach, unload and load
An invisible organization miraculously keeps human flows under
control, in the absence of tickets and identification documents.
Upon arrival we have to head "to the restaurant" and there we move,
where a willing driver that we discover is called Jesus, calls Judy
of Lam Tours, who tells me the imminent arrival a "wine cart" led by
Angel and we will have to to repay the race, despite our attempts to
explain what happened when we arrived at Barsukun, when the 60% of
my return paraded with Neapolitan skills.
Angel really arrives on a Toyota bordeaux and takes to heart the
issue of double payment, returning twice from Carti to Barsukun and
interrogating the Kuna workers at the pier.
In the first trip, fortunately a couple of hateful Russians descend
from our car, he with a killer face who has scornfully refused to
let Paola sit on the front seat and his companion with a face
largely altered by plastic surgery, which nevertheless kept some
features vaguely Trans-border Mongols too typical to be deleted.
On the second return to Barsukun, the driver of the first leg seems
to have been identified, but not the "Latin" his friend who has
taken the money. But at least the story is clearer and apparently
are all very busy trying to understand the incident, which throws
discredit on the entire organization and should not be repeated.
Finally we leave and in place of the two Russians rise 4 German boys
who do not open their mouth in the 2.30 h trip to the airport
Tocumen of Panama City, under a tropical downpour altogether unusual
for the dry season, where the friendly Angel, who instead he talked
for a long time with Paola, he was rewarded for his kindness with 20
$ of reimbursement.
The airport inside is frozen; the Americanization of Panama is shown
by the use of the dollar, the US electrical outlets, the deadly air
conditioning and finally the strict security checks that seize the
dangerous tweezers for eyebrows and two sewing scissors to Paola. A
country with little soul and not very welcoming, considering also
the various bans on the sea and the verbal aggression suffered by
Marco by the livery Kuna of Gunboat island.
At about 12.45 am the long wait for our 18:30 flight begins. The
Lufthansa desk will open at 15:00 and although we are the first in
line, we can not get anything better than row 38, but at least it is
a double seat near the window.
After about 10:30 am flight, we are in Frankfurt. With the European
telephone connection, we are flooded with messages and images of
Rome under the snow.
Marco's shaman prediction has come true on time! The historical
snowfall of 26 February 2018 was really there and we note that the
first flight to Rome was canceled.
Even our Roman driver Gianni sent us a message canceling the pick-up
on arrival and we have the prospect of an even longer trip.
Paola makes an attempt to find a hairdresser here at the airport,
but after having wandered without finding it, we understand that it
is located in the outer mall, which is well outside the arrivals and
We fold over a Germanic meal, based on roast potatoes, vegetables,
sausages and schnitzel and Franziskanen Weissbier in a bistro just
outside the control area.
At 15:00 we are at gate 64 waiting for boarding.
There is a certain weariness.
The last flight is a short walk, which leads us to admire a
snow-covered Rome, to the sea of Fiumicino and around the landing
Fortunately for us Ludovico is waiting for us and with the shoes
that Saturday have traced the path in the jungle of Rio Sidra, now
we reach the parking lot outside where he parked, feeling crunch the
frozen snow beneath our feet.
The intense cold will not erase all the warmth and beauty we have
absorbed these days.
On the highway we return to the reality of our metropolitan village.
Thanks Marco and Yael.