Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lynn's Unscheduled trip to Panama City

San Blas Part II

Jan. 13th
We are pleasantly surprised when IMSIM arrive at San Blas. To celebrate they share their Wahoo.
Unfortunately Tonny has a jaw infection. Her husband Ton is a Doctor and has been administering antibiotics, but says she needs to get to a hospital. As luck would have it, our water supply pump has stopped working. So, the plan is to see if Tonny and I can get a plane to Panama City.
Erno and Frieda go to find David to see if he can help out with the dilemma. Before we know it they are speeding by in their dinghy to Mulatupu where there is an airport.
A plane will leave within two hours so Tonny and I quickly throw overnight bags together as an ULU arrives to take us the 45 minute ride to Mulatupu.

We must stop first at the Mulatupu Medical Clinic before proceeding to the island of Soskandup Murro (where the airport is), in order for Tonny to see a Doctor who will give Tonny a special form making our trip a medical emergency and our “ticket” on to the plane.
The young children love their pictures taken. These two young girls had me take 10 pictures of them. Finally I had to say “no mas”.

This bridge attaches the mainland where the hospital and school are to the Island of Mulatupu.

What a beautiful parrot. We were amazed at how tame it seemed.

We then were taken to a local family home which we found out was David's girlfriends family home.We were told we were to wait here until the plane arrived. Of course with our poor Spanish we could not understand why we could not wait at the airport.

Her mother Maria is in charge of the large family. The women wear the family’s wealth; gold rings on fingers…many with rings in the nose and ears. David’s girlfriend was in charge of the family finances. We watched the women paint a thin black line on the bridge of their nose….a sign of beauty. Many had on nail polish and wore sandals which were taken off before entering the sleeping quarters.

By now it is noon and for one dollar each they will prepare us a lunch which included fruit, rice, beans and thinly sliced wieners.

We keep asking for the plane and finally at 1600hours we are told the plane has been cancelled for today!!!! So, it’s back in the ULU for the 45 minute trip back to Isla Pinos at a cost of fifty dollars. We are told tomorrow the plane will come a 01000hours. The ULU will come back at 0800hours to pick us up. We tell them only come at 0800 hours if the plane is definitely arriving.

Sure enough the ULU shows up at 0800. We confirm; the plane is coming at 01000hour??? Si, Si… So off we go.

Not exactly a flat calm transit. We again are taken back to Mulatupu…WHY???? We are told we have to wait on the main island and when they get a phone call that the plane has left Panama City then the ULU will take us over to the airport….Again we are welcomed by David’s extended family.

We patiently await the planes arrival now with this new knowledge.

We now know we’re in for more bad news when again we are offered lunch. We ask if we can help with the preparation and immediately are put to work. Tonny on rice duty----and me, well I get to peel and slice the wieners. Two days in a row---YIKES—I can not remember the last time I ate a wiener. We are told the good news is the plane will arrive at 1300 hours.

All of a sudden excitement is brewing….It’s time to leave?, what, the plane is cancelled again? No, no. the plane is coming. We give hugs to our hostesses, jump into the ULU which travels under the bridge in more protected waters. We arrive on SOSKANDUP MURRO with no less than one hundred other people. We wait, wait and wait…..By 1600 hours another group of KUNA arrives for a plane. This is not a good sign. Now there’s approximately three hundred of us all waiting and we are told not only has the 1300 hour plane been cancelled, but that the plane that is supposed to be arriving will only have room for 9 passengers. Of course we assume we should be on this plane. How silly of us. Everyone is shouting, It is bedlam. We are told emergency or not we have not got a ticket so we will not be on the plane. We say of course we have a ticket, the one from the Doctor. No…this is not good enough.

The plane arrives and before it comes to a full stop, hordes of people run out to it. There is absolute chaos. The man who seems to be the decision maker on who gets on the plane starts literally throwing people into the plane. The plane is dangerously overloaded. One very large male get up in the cockpit and tries to sit in between the plot and co-pilot where of course there is no seat.. He is finally taken off the plane. I said to Tonny: we do not want to be on that plane Tonny….There is way too many people.

So, of course you know what happens; back in the ULU, back to Mulatupu where we are asked if we want to stay the night. We say no thank you, we want to go home. We are so upset; we just can’t get over how dis-organized the whole situation has been. By the time we leave MULATUPU we’re in eight to twelve foot seas and it is getting dark.. The ULU runs like a charm. We paid another fifty dollars for the rides and are asked: Tomorrow?? We say no, enough is enough. We arrive at IMSIM to find everyone there celebrating as they saw the plane take off and assumed we were on board.

Jan17) Next morning we touch base with IMSIM and TARA and all decide to head for USTUPU, nine miles away. USTUPU is not only the largest village in San Blas but we have read they have a busy airport useful for medical emergencies. Why did we not read this before???? GADS!!!
We arrive at Ustupu by o1000hours. Tonny and Ton have already been ashore and we can get a plane within half an hour.

Instant replay; throw things in a knapsack and zoom over to the airport. Good news, the plane arrives on time; the bad news… room for us. We must return at 1400 hours. Back to the boat where Randy and I immediately jump in the water for a very necessary bath. I repack the knapsack as I was sure I had originally forgotten items.

We all head back to the airport with TARA’S support and wait and wait….We along with one young boy are the only ones waiting…Not again???

Thankfully by 1600hours a plane does arrive and we cannot believe it is empty. There is more staff than passengers. Two more stops and we’re finally on our way to Panama City.

Arriving in Panama City of course had its own challenges as we had not yet checked into Panama. Unfortunately the Immigration officers did not speak English. We are told first to stand in the line up to pay for our flight and book our return flight. One hour later we’re at the wicket and told we cannot get a return flight for ten days!!! At this point a wonderful customer service” woman comes to our aid and helped us through Immigration. I being from Canada was to pay five dollars, Tonny being Dutch no cost. The kind woman lead me away to pay the fee and sure enough the office was closed.. She said don’t worry. .By the time we got back to Immigration I was taken directly into any office, completed basic forms and we were on our way.
By the time we got to Patilla Hospital it was 2000hours. Tonny dealt with emergency and I started looking in the yellow pages for a hotel. I met a very nice local lady in the waiting room and explained our dilemma in not being able to return to Ustupu quickly. She said we may be able to hire a rugged 4x4, a friend of her husband to take us to the coast. As it turned out we needed the full ten days.
A dental surgeon arrived and took us to his office across the street. Tonny got excellent care and I managed to find a hotel close by albeit very expensive.. The dentist, Dr. Toledano kindly drove us to the hotel. We had to go back to his office the next day. We asked if he could recommend a more reasonable hotel. He was shocked at what we were having to pay. So the short story is: he contacted his mother who had a friend with a spare bedroom/private bathroom who would take us in. People really are wonderful!

Ruth is a wonderful lady. She took us under her wing. Originally from Holland she has lived and worked in Panama for many years. Ruth was so helpful; making phone calls then driving us for marine supplies.

One day Ruth took us to the Panama Miraflores locks which were fabulous.

Ruth and Tonny.
RUTH, Thank you for your incredible hospitality. You made our first stay in Panama City such a positive experience.

After ten days we’re definitely ready to head back to our men! Our flight is to leave at 0600hours. We decide we best call the airlines the night before just to confirm our flight will leave on time….IT HAS BEEN CANCELLED…..Are we to be surprised???? We are told the flight will in fact leave at 1400hours. We have heard that before---so we ask are we scheduled to be on the flight? Si, Si…
Looking down on Panama City

One of the many small Kuna Islands and airstrips.

Back on the boat we have unexpected but pleasant company. Turns out I owe five dollars airport tax.

Ustupu is a great island. Randy introduces me to Tom who he has befriended while I was away. Tom is very worldly having travelled years in Europe. He enjoys the magazines Randy has given him. Ustupu is the largest village in San Blas.

Ustupu has a number of strong current streams running through from the Caribbean sea making bridges necessary.

School is out until March

Randy found this gorgeous river while I was away

Besides the beautiful oasis we have a task in mind…Fill our jerry cans with fresh water. A bit of a challenge I must say and then we had wonderful showers.

A sacred burial ground…the potent fragrance from the flowers surrounded us.

We passed many ULU’s along the river, all welcoming us

We had one last lunch at Anayka’s family restaurant. We sure will miss her friendly smile and dynamic sense of humour….she trying to teach us Kuna…we teaching her English.
Good-bye Ustupu

1 comment: said...

Lynn and Randy,

How wonderful to hear from you and read your adventures. What an experience and a lot of frustration. We sometimes forget to appreciate the "givens" in our travelling in this part of the world. It's great to experience how other cultures live and to appreciate why they are probably extremely patient and kind people.
The scenery is very beautiful and very different to other pictures we have seen of your travels.
We have two more days in our paradise and looking forward to going home. I always thought I was meant to live in a warm climate all the time, but realize that 2 weeks of sun is enough and I'm ready for some cool for awhile. I wish there was a balance.
May you continue to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience (for most a never in a lifetime experience) and fill your hearts up with all the wonderful people and memories you continue to make. Know that you are missed always and we look forward to you coming home one day, or maybe you have found that your hearts are truly that of a nomad and you can never stay in one place again. I'm sure this happens to many, many people in your situation. You guys have certainly discovered your bliss and we honour the courage it took to take that first step.
Stay well, our dear friends,
Kate and Brian Fitzgerald