A Paradise Found

Sat 7 Jun 2003 04:43
The grips of the holiday township of El Rodadero on the Colombian coast
seemed to not want to let us leave. Between the need for fuel & food then
the hassles of a 4am Colombian coast guard arrest and the constant stress of
jetskis roaring around us and paddle boats crashing into us we were being
dragged into a serious state of depression!!

Finally at 2am on the 2nd of June we escaped. By 11am we were motoring past
the dreaded fast out flow of the 800 mile long Rio Grande Magdalena. From
avoiding the floating logs in the Magdalena it was a slow sail, motor and
drift 280 miles to the San Blas Islands of Panama. On the night of the 4th
(our 3rd at sea) we may have showed the first real prudence of our sailing
career, drifting 10 miles off the Islands waiting for dawn.

George's words of encouragement during a rolly night were "the San Blas are
pretty nice if I remember, I think you will like them". This was one of
those typical George understatements. As we slowly motored over glassy flat
seas into the panorama of islets, each topped with coconut palms and ringed
with white sand, I felt a pang and a strong reminder of the Solomon
Islands.The paradise of the beginning of our romance! George just flashed me
a cheeky grin.

Paradise is maybe not quite as perfect in reality as in ones memory. It's
plenty hot, no wind, lots of thunder and lighting and way to many biting
bugs, but we are making the best of it swimming, reading and washing off in
the rain showers!

One of our primary reasons for stopping in the San Blas is to buy some
"molas" from the Kuna Indians. These strong and confident people have
resisted modernising and still live in small villages, through out the
islands, in a style by far the most traditional in any part of the Caribbean
today. The Kuna move round the islands fishing and trading in large (25 ft,
nearly as big as Avalon) canoes caved in one piece from very sizeable logs.
The canoes are propelled by various means, paddles poles, sails and

Our first encounter was definitely spectacular. In the breathlessness of the
mid afternoon billowing cloth of an old banner refashioned into a large gaff
rigged sail came towards us. From under the sail poked an umbrella shading 2
very traditionally dressed women with a child and a man on the helm. With
considerable skill and grace the head women downed the sails and mast as the
man guided the brightly painted canoe gently along side us. After the
obligatory "Hola" the women began to spread out the many and beautiful

The Mola is a traditional art form that expresses images that come to the
women in dreams, quite often very similar to the paintings of Australian
aboriginals. These images are depicted using many different colours of cloth
and tread that are embroided and applicaded together with incredible detail
and skill. I only wished I could speak a little of their language to find
out what the significance of some of the images were as it was so hard to
choose a few from so many beautiful pieces.

Each Mola was about $10 USD which was probably a reasonable sum of money for
these people, but we felt no need to negotiate as every Mola had to
represent hours of labour and it was very pleasing to pay the artists
themselves for a traditional and individual piece of art. You can only hope
that these people will continue to hold on to they culture and their skills.