Last day at Nalunega; and back to reality

By Ali Karim
This post is part of a series called Panama City & Guna Yala Feb 2017
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We slept well in our hut in the night; no strange surprises. Since the sides of the hut are built with cane sugar stalks, they don’t fit very well, so there are small gaps between the stalks, resulting in good air circulation and breeze, from the steady breeze on the islands. To provide privacy, they installed cloth along the walls inside. So that provided privacy, but still allowed the breeze to come through. Simple, smart and efficient. The LED lights worked well also.

After breakfast, we were taken back on the boat to a nearby island; El Porvenir; which was actually the capital of Guna Yala autonomous region. The sea was a lot calmer than the previous day, so the short ride was pleasant.

View of Nalunega

Fisherman against dark sky on one side of the boat

This island of El Porvenir appeared to be about 2.5 times the size of Nalunega, and had 2 small 1-2 room buildings which housed the Panama Frontier forces; we did not see anyone that looked like a Govt official. I guess there is not much to administer. The island was sparsely populated, and featured a lot of coconut trees, including very short ones which had a lot of green coconuts within reach.

El Porvenir idyllic island

Literally, low-hanging fruit

There was a small museum here, but we did not go through it as they wanted $5 per person and most of it was in Spanish. So instead, we crossed the airstrip (after looking both ways 🙂 ) and went over to a very nice beach on the other side.

El Porvenir airport runway and control room

Beautiful beach on El Porvenir

Beautiful beach on El Porvenir airport

Beautiful beach & lady on El Porvenir

Went back over the airstrip after some relaxing time at the beach, and asked for coconut water at the Panama Frontier Guard building, and they got someone to cut us some coconut from the low hanging fruit trees. The water and milk was so sweet, that we ended up having 3 coconuts. Fanny then posed for us in her traditional Guna outfit

Fanny and her friend


By now, it was getting time to get back to Nalunega, as our boat was supposed to depart at 3PM for the mainland for our journey back. However, Rodrigo had been called back to the mainland while we were at the beach, to pick up some passengers.

So we waited for him, but no sign of Rodrigo. Tried calling him, but the service my cellphone locked onto (Movistar) would not work; the soldiers informed me that service would come on at 1PM. So after 1PM, tried again, but with no luck. I asked several soldiers if I could use their phone to call out; but they had no calling minutes left; they were using low speed data to connect on FaceBook. Before I could panic, Rodrigo appeared and explained that he had to stop at several islands on the way back; hence his delay.

Busy fishermen

Yet another small island

We went back to Nalunega, and by this time, had missed the lunch communal meal of soup that was prepared in honor of the visiting chiefs. So we asked the hotel manager about the soup, and he smilingly walked over to the communal kitchen hut, and brought over a pot with chicken soup, complete with boiled yucca and plantain.

Hotel owner/manager and his wife

Delicious soup of chicken, yucca, plantain, and home made hot sauce

After devouring this, we walked around the village again. By this time, Luchin had arrived from the mainland. So spent some time talking with him and catching up with him, and walked a last time through the village. There was a small well in the village, with slightly salty water that was used for bathing and washing etc.

Bathtime, straight from the well in front of the boy

Note the ornamental stringed beads around the lower legs and arms

We visited this grandma’s house, where she was babysitting the grandkids, and embroidering her mola. She showed us around her family’s hut; again plain, basic, functional and simple. We asked her age, and she said she did not know her age. We noted that she did not have any grey hair on her head.

We visited this grandma’s house, where she was babysitting the grandkids, and embroidering her mola

It was now time to say goodbye to Nalunega and our gracious hosts after settling our bills, and catch the lancha back to Corti port on the mainland, with Luchin and Rodrigo. This time, since the sea was calmer, we did not get wet. Once we arrived at Carti, Luchin asked around for a car to take us back to Panama City. We finally found someone to take us back, said our goodbyes to Luchin and Rodrigo and after the driver waited and collected more passengers to make this trip worthwhile, we left for Panama City.

Saying goodbye to (from left) Luchin, Rodrigo, and the other boatman. Note that all the GUna men are slightly shorter than me (average height); and the Guna women were even shorter

We once again had to cross the “border” and drove onto Panama City; and got off at an airport hotel, as we had an early morning flight back to DFW and reality.

A great visit to Panama City, Sara’s wedding, and to the wonderful indigenous Guna people, who showed us how life can be lived very simply and humbly.

This entry was posted in Central America, Panama Feb 2017

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