Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Year’s Eve in Kuna Yala

The year 2013 is already two weeks old and Mark and I have been as busy as ever, dealing with boat issues and entertaining family in the beautiful San Blas islands. A unique area like Kuna Yala is fun and exotic to explore with and show off to people that are not used to sandy islands chock full of palm trees. We have sailed a lot, snorkeled a few times, explored a handful of islands and did an interesting river tour with mola maker Lisa. More about that in the next blog. First, I’d like to share our experiences of New Year’s Eve with the Kunas, before we are another two weeks later…

After our tough time in the boatyard, Mark and I couldn’t wait to get back to the paradise-like San Blas islands. We took the first opportunity to get there – under motor – right before the strong trade winds picked up. We might have missed Christmas with friends, but we were sure to make New Year’s Eve! We met up with Michele and Mark from SV Reach and with Lizz and Charlie from SV Kaya in the Central Holandes. I finally managed to do a bit of yoga again and working on the boat surrounded by clear water and tropical islands became all of a sudden much more pleasant!

One morning, the girls and I walked over to Prado on Miriadiadup to have a look at his handicrafts and molas. He invited us over for New Year’s Eve and we agreed to bring food and alcoholic beverages. He would provide coconut rice and a gorgeous Kuna setting. By the end of December 31st, we had welcomed Becky and Denny on SV Kokomo and Vicky and Larry on SV Rocinante to our anchorage, so we had a nice group of cruisers to spend the last evening of the year with. With dingies full of food, drinks and people, we entered Prado’s compound right before dark. All the “western” dishes were displayed on a covered picnic table and the Kunas offered us delicious rice and smoked fish. They even provided a light under the thatched roof and joined the party. First reluctantly tasting some of the food, then enthusiastically gulping the beer and rum we brought for them.

The more the evening and the drinking progressed, the merrier everybody became. This resulted in some fun and funny moments and scenes. Becky had brought some light sticks for her female friends, but soon enough most of them were claimed by our hosts, who were delighted by the lit-up effect in the dark. Each time they went into their huts, we could see bright flashes of light moving about. To conclude the evening, a big bonfire was started and a man-sized “doll” representing a Panamanian thrown on. Kunas are very proud of their independent status and the days of the revolution are still fresh in their minds.

Cruisers’ midnight being 10pm made it hard for everyone to stay awake until midnight. Around 11pm we all went home to our respective boats. Lying on our trampoline, Mark and I tried hard to stay awake until 12. When we saw a few boats shoot off expired flares, we kissed each other “Happy New Year”, relieved that the old year had passed and happy that we made midnight. Once inside, the clock showed 11:50, but we called it a day.. Happy New Year to you all!

Kuna woman making food on the wood burning stove inside her hut

Prado attaching a string with beads around my ankle, the Kuna way

Mola maker Prado bringing out the coconut rice

The Panamanian "enemy" before his hot fate

Listening to the "car" radio, hanging out with the girls 

One of the men dressed up as a Kuna woman caused some laughs!

Group picture - who's the tallest, and who's the smallest? Kunas are known to be the second shortest people in the world, after the Pygmies.

One day a pet, the next day...

Transport of the Panamanian "doll" to the bonfire, in a traditional way

(Thanks to Michele for some of the pictures)

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