The last time we were in Snug Harbor we were the only boat and felt like early discoverers. We could imagine Columbus and the many other adventurers who had come to these islands and recorded their discoveries. This time, only a week later, we were accompanied by six other cruisers. From our rally were Beyzano, Balance, Moody Mistress, Horizons, and Alembic, and two other boats were Lady Elaine from Sweden, and Black ——(I forget the rest of the name) from Bavaria in Germany. The two experiences in Snug Harbor were completely different, both completely enjoyable.
Sören, from Lady Elaine, had been in the San Blas for four months, and had Guna friends nearby. The Gunas were eager to share their beautiful area and culture with us, so Sören arranged a tour into the Rain Forest and throughout the village of Playon Chico afterwards. The two hour hike into the forest was very hot and buggy, but well worth the trip. One of the Guna men, Thomas, was born in Panama City, so he knew some English and could explain details about the plants, burials, animals, and water supply as we passed.
Thomas also shared so many details about his culture as we wandered. I couldn’t help comparing him to Kenny, as he was the same age, and had the same temperament, very friendly and gentle natured. Thomas married at age twenty and already has a 5 and 2 year old, so Kenny has some catching up to do!
After a soaking rain as we left the waterfall, we were escorted to Akin’s set of huts at the far end of the village. He lives with his wife, her sisters, and many children. Just as all Guna women we have met, they set out their art work all over the ground, even though it had just poured and the ground was muddy. I had already purchased 5 molas, so I declined this time. Luckily, one woman in our group bought a few. I had purchased a Guna flag from Akin’s wife the night before, so I felt okay about helping them out financially a bit. My heart breaks every time I decline to buy molas; both because the work is amazing and I would love to have more, and also because I know it is their primary family income. But at $20-$100 each, I can’t afford more!
Walking around with Akin and Thomas, they showed me 7 churches on this tiny island. Many evangelists have come to set up Christian churches and the locals seem okay with this. The original Guna church is not Christian, but they seem to welcome newcomers who help the community. We even met two Mormon missionaries who you could spot from across the island; wearing black pants, a white button down shirt and tie makes you stand out here!
I wish I could have taken a picture of the Guna men working on three ulus. One was nearly complete, while the others were closer to looking as they did, standing in the forest. I didn’t have the camera at the time, and the people don’t like being photographed.
At this point, we decided that we should head back to Alembic, as the downpour we had experienced in the Rain Forest surely must have drenched our cabin. We had left open most of our hatches and were preparing for a long evening of mopping and hanging things to dry. Surprisingly, after our mile long dinghy ride back to Snug Harbor, we found Alembic dry! We see why they call it the Rain Forest. It only rains there!
Sören continued to educate us at Snug Harbor. He arranged a bonfire party, to burn all garbage. Disposal of garbage is a problem in the San Blas. The tiny islands do a poor job of this, often tossing it into the sea. Many Gunas will come to your boat, offer to take your garbage for a dollar, promising to dispose of it properly, only later to be seen throwing the whole bag overboard. Luckily, we and the Gunas don’t produce much garbage, as we eat mostly fresh fish and veggies, and there is minimal access to packaged food or goods. But we all have some, and burning it is the best option. Sören showed us how to gather dead palm fronds and build a thick base layer, place the garbage on and top with more fronds. He also made sure we did not do this on the pristine beaches, which would leave a black scar. Surprisingly, the lush green canopy didn’t burn, or even brown, as our huge bonfire leapt upward. We burned the garbage from our seven boats in a half an hour with zero trace of any remnants, even all plastic was gone.
We will remember Snug Harbor fondly for our many experiences there. Thank you, Sören for making our experience most enjoyable. Hopefully, you will visit us in Maine in your travels.