Panama City to San Blas Islands

16 - 18 Nov 2005

Kuna Indian villages

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It was lucky we had decided to stay the night in Panama City because, checking the entry requirements for the Central American countries, we discovered that we needed overflight permission for most of them, and Nicaragua needed 3 daysí notice. Flemming tried in vain to send faxes to the authorities in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. None of the fax numbers given in the Jeppesen charts worked. Fortunately there is an FBO (fixed base operator) at Marco Gelabert airport, called Mapiex. They agreed to get the permission for us, charging USD 25 per country. I also happened to spot that the oxygen bottle in the plane was practically empty. Flemming admitted he had forgotten to have it refilled before we left Geneva. Luckily we hadnít needed it up to now. Mapiex looked after this too while we were away in the San Blas islands.

Clouds hugged the mountains as we flew over Panama to the Caribbean side, so Flemming filed IFR and then cancelled it to descend over the sea to the short airstrip. There was a rain shower on the approach and for a moment we thought we might have to land at another airstrip nearby, but we were out of it in time for the landing. The local airline makes the flight early in the morning for a good reason Ė the weather conditions are generally better. But our preparations for the flights over Central America had delayed us by several hours.

Although we had phoned the Sapibenega Lodge office in Panama City to advise them we would be late, the message had not filtered through to the lodge manager on the island, who has to take a boat to the nearest island and phone the office to receive any communication from them. So it was fortunate that the employees were still waiting for us at the landing strip with the boat. We were introduced to an elderly man whom we paid USD 30 to look after the plane for 3 days.

The approach into the short Playon Chico airstrip with Playon Chico village in the foreground

Kuna woman at the airstrip 'terminal'

Sue (=Rainbow) took us across to the Sapibenega lodge in a dugout canoe

Argelia and Elviana were fascinated by the digital photos on the pocket computer

Dugout canoe is the main means of transportation in the San Blas islands

Two of the Kuna girls working at the Sapibenega lodge

Dance show at the Sapibenega lodge

An inter-island dancing competition was to be held soon

JAlbum 6.0 Copyright: Angela & Flemming PEDERSEN

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