We both slept fitfully--maybe it was the darkness or the quiet of the island or the fact that the two of us were sleeping in an unlocked hut surrounded by the native Kunas! We wondered aloud how long we might be missing before our two husbands started looking for us. They only knew we were in the San Blas. Fortunately, the natives treated us warmly and wonderfully. After a hearty breakfast, it was time for our Aero-Taxi flight back to Panama City. We climbed in the dugout for the trip to the mainland. The small plane landed from Panama City not long after we arrived at the terminal hut. We traded places with a German family of three disembarking for a few days on Dolphin Island as we climbed aboard and said goodbye to Uaguitupo (Uaguitupu) and Achutupu.
It was a beautiful day, and the small plane flew low over the treetops. I thought to myself that the other three passengers looked like stereotypical drug runners, and the pilot looked about 15 or 16! We had only flown about 10 minutes when the plane slowed and started spiraling downward. We were going down into the jungle! Suzanne and I both looked at each other. I saw the terror on her face, and imagined that mine must look the same. Was my life going to flash in front of my eyes? Suddenly I saw another small air strip on the edge of the Caribbean. We were landing! NOW I knew why the airline company was called Aero Taxi! The plane stopped four more times on the way back to Panama City. Dolphin Island was near the southernmost point of the 200 mile stretch of the San Blas, and the Aero Taxi stopped at it first on its round trip loop from Panama City. That was why we didn't have any stops on the way TO the island. As we hopped and skipped up the Darien, the plane picked up passengers and mail. The pilot threw the mail on the dash of the plane, and we watched as some trickled onto the floor. Not exactly the USPS. At one stop, I thought passengers were going to have a fist fight. The number of passengers wanting on the plane exceeded the number of seats. Suzanne and I stayed glued to our seats. No way were we disembarking for any reason. We eventually made it back to Paitilla Airport in Panama City, filled with stories for our friends and relatives back home of our weekend with the Kuna.
If your cruise includes a stopover in the San Blas, be sure to look for the brightly dressed Indian women and their marvelous molas. The Kuna have tried to preserve their culture and their simple ways, while still venturing out to trade their unusual crafts with travelers from around the world. Let's hope they can continue to walk this line between the present and the past successfully.
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