23rd April 2004

We’ve made it to Panama where we have been cruising some islands called the San Blas that lie just off the coast, a little to the east of the canal. They are pretty amazing, mostly just low lying lumps of white sand with a few palm trees on top, and the occasional Kuna Indian running around (more of which later).

The main other news is that I will be flying home next week, I’m going to be in London from Thursday to Sunday, then back to Devon for the foreseeable future. Really looking forward to catching up with everyone over the next few months, but in the meantime if you’re looking for a place to stay in Devon let me know, either by email or on my mobile (number’s the same 07974 707932). I’m also hoping to arrange going out for a meal and drinks in London on Friday night, if you’re going to be about let me know

A descriptive account of the past few months is work in progress, but for now:

A couple of days ago we were anchored next to an island called Uchutupu Dummat. Although it has no permanent settlement several Kuna have temporary residences there, huts with sticks for walls and roofs of palm fronds, from where they sell goods to the yachts that anchor just offshore.

Travelling 600 miles around the South American coast has bought us from the incessant heat of Trinidad ‘s dry season to the heavy showers of rainy season Panama . A mid afternoon bright patch seemed like a good time to go for a walk around the island, so I swam to shore and headed west. The strong trade winds carried woodsmoke with them, and before long huts were visible on the north west of the island, washing lines outside them strung with the woven molas that the Kuna sell to visitors. A few cheerful holas and a ckuple of waves later, I jumped into the sea with mask and snorkel on, letting the strong current sweep me around the western shore of the island, fish and sea grass rushing beneath me. As the current headed out to sea, I rejoined land, ready to continue the journey on foot.

On the deserted south side of the island a Kuna woman played in the sea, and as I walked past she offered to show me some of the medicinal plants of the island. Always keen to learn about these things, I followed her towards the centre of the island and a large bush with plump leaves. Unfortunately the language barrier prevented her from explaining what part of the body the plant was good for, so she started pointing at my stomach. Then undoing my swimming trunks. Almost simultaneously I remembered the guidebook description of the easy integration of transvestites into Kuna villages, and noticed that ‘Dorothy’ could quite easily be a David. I rapidly stopped him/her undoing my trunks, and started to walk back to the beach. Not to be put off by something as simple as rejection, Dorothy followed me, occasionally darting in front of me and grabbing what he had earlier been attempting to view. Obviously slowly realising that this approach wasn’t working, we returned to the topic of medicinal plants, and I am now pleased to know that if I eat this particular plant I will be able to fucky-fuck and sucky-suck all day and all night (his words, I wouldn’t be so crude). I think my rapidly quickening pace transcended cultural and language differences, as Dorothy soon dropped back, although a forlorn question about whether I liked girls did reach me as my little Kuna friend dropped behind the horizon.

Anyway, as ever there is a lesson to be learnt, and what I took away from that day was a certainty that I will never again allow a transvestite pygmy to lure me behind a bush for a lesson in botanical medicine

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