Monday, March 22, 2010


Urgent Medical voyage to Mulatupu

Relax - no medical emergency for us two! During our stay in Isla Pinos, our friend and tour-guide David's youngest child was ill with brochitis. The water taxi had already left for the day and David only owns a basic canoe with paddles. He asked us if we could take him and his family over to Mulatupu to get treatment for his son. Sure thing!

So, here's a pic of Jonesy in the crowded dinghy bringing 5 Kuna people to the boat - David, his wife, his 1-year old son, his 3-year old daughter and his 13-year old niece. Did we mention that David is only 20 years old himself? They grow up fast in this culture. We quickly raised the hook and motored over to the larger, and much more commercial village of Mulatupu. It was a rough trip because we had to travel across a stretch of ocean that is not protected by any reefs or islands. I can't even imagine paddling a canoe on this day through these sea conditions. Mom & the sick little boy were not doing so well...Mom had been up all night with a hacking kid and the little one wasn't feeling well either.

Malutupu has some concrete & cinderblock structures, schools, and the Hospital/Clinic built by the Panamanian government.

As soon as we got to shore we all trekked over the the Clinic. Isn't it a nice building? That's David and his family walking up the path to the clinic. It was culture shock coming from a tiny village where people live in cane & thatch huts with dirt floors and then going into a well-supplied medical clinic! We met the doctor and then Jonesy and I walked back into the town center to wait.

We came to a spot in town where the folks were building a new Congresso - the central community meeting place. We sat on a log and watched the men tie up a framework of cane poles to make the roof. We got plenty of "looks" from the locals as this is not a tourist island. But soon, we were "chatting" with a fellow who wanted to practice his English and then we were approached by the chief for a chat thru our new interpreter. This "chat" was a long involved narration about the village (I think?) which ended with a solicitation to contribute $$$ to the building of this new congresso. All we had were $20 bills.

Well, we now are proud partners with the Kunas on Malutupu! The chief made an announcement to the workers and they all cheered Jonesy for his contribution (he probably said something like, "look! I got 20 bucks off of these funny-looking gringos").

Before too long, we attracted a group of little boys who were facinated by Jonesy's flip-up sunglasses. Yep, he wears those things over his prescription eyeglasses and looks like Johnny 5 on the old movie "Short Circuit". This little fellow stared at Jonesy for about an hour. He just couldn't get over the flip-up sunglasses and would laugh every time Jonesy would flip them up and down, which was almost constantly.

Even in Kuna Yala, Panama, the little boys want to flash "gang signs" when having their picture taken. I'm sure they don't know what it means though.

As we sat there, and later when we went shopping with David, we saw quite a few albinos. The Kuna people are noted as having one of the highest rates of albinoism in the world. On this small patch of earth, we saw 4 in that one day! Later on in our travels through the islands we met several more. Sunscreen is badly needed by these people so we've been handing out all the bottles we have which visitors have left onboard.

We also noticed a few "Lady-likes". These are men who prefer to dress and act like women. Quite acceptable.

After an hour or so, the family returned from the clinic carrying a BIG goody bag full of medicines, vitamins, and nutritional drink mixes. The Kuna diet is high in starch with few vegetables. We were pleased to see how the Panamanian government takes care of their people.

Finally it was time for shopping. I bought some print fabric for a Kuna skirt in a funky, dark, general store. Here they had all the cloth and thread for making their fabulous molas. Kuna islands are hard places to shop if you don't know where to look...we bought madu (Kuna Bread sticks) at one thatch hut and bananas at another. Neither place had any signs or anything to indicate that they sold goods. Unfortunately, there was no chicken to be found on the island after David checked 4 or 5 potential huts. He told us that chicken comes in by airplane every few days and if you really want some you should meet the plane at the landing strip.

Whew! Shopping is hard work! We motored back to Isla Pinos with enough time to enjoy the sun-diminishing event at the end of the day.

After a few more lazy days of swimming and wandering around Isla Pinos, we were ready to move on to a new adventure. We had planned to sail on to the island of Ustupu, but that was a no-go. The night before, there was a drug raid by the Panamanian Army and 2 people were killed including a child. The village was in a state of unrest, and not a place we should be at the time. So, instead we motor-sailed (sorta-sailed) over to Achutupu. It was a beautiful day with winds out of the North and relatively calm seas (3 foot swells). Very nice indeed for knitting. As we sailed into the anchorage we found our friend Kevin on s.v. Amiramina – a junk-rigged schooner. He had been at Achutupu for a week already and was just sailing off to another island. We'll catch up to Kevin, and his boat chicken, Polly another day. Yes, a live chicken keeps Kevin, a single-handler company.

You guys are soooo cool! But perhaps not as cool as Kevin...
Nah, she's cool, she's a knitter. Jonesy is cool too, he's got the 20's.
Kevin is indeed very cool! He is handsome, 40-ish, and very easy going.
Great post! Really enjoyed reading it. Such the adventurers, you two are!

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