11 March 2011 | San Blas Islands, Panama
Today we visited the Kuna Hotel & Restaurant on Kuanidup, the other island in the Los Grullos lagoon. The day had dawned dark and overcast and never really burned off. I did my usual morning thing of writing yesterday's blog, checking email, and listening to the SSB net. Deb slept late ( a good day for it.) Later we had pancakes (with REAL maple syrup thank you Mary) for a late breakfast and then launched dinghy (I'm getting much better at this one handed bit) and went over to the island. The island itself is your prototypical tropical isle, beautiful tall palms on a sandy beach with waves breaking on the surrounding coral. The hotel consists of about a dozen bamboo and thatch cabanas on the beach, each about 10' x 12'. Inside a dirt floor and a couple hammocks, nothing else. This is a KUNA hotel and you get to live like Kuna. There is a shower/bath house in the middle of the island. This is actually very non-Kuna as they always build their banos out over the water on the lee side of the island so that they have a natural sewage system, but I guess for a hotel some plumbing is necessary. Speaking of plumbing, they had an elevated water tank and thus gravity feed running water. There was, however, no apparent source for the water. The must bring it from the mainland in 50 gallon drums. The restaurant was a long thatched roof building with open sides and two long picnic tables. I would guess they could seat about 20. There was also a separate bar with a pool table and a hammock. We inquired at the Oficina if we could get a meal there and they said, Si. Not knowing exactly what to expect, we decided to eat lunch there. The man in charge offered us the choice of fish or chicken. Deb, of course, chose chicken and I, of course, chose fish. We agreed to return @ 12:00 to eat. As we were returning and pulling our dinghy up on the sand, we heard them ringing the dinner bell and about a dozen guests at the hotel came in for lunch. They were all in the same group and French I believe. Most spoke no English but we exchanged pleasantries anyway in a combination of broken Spanish and broken English. To our surprise, Deb & I were served first, the chicken and fish as ordered with coconut rice, sweet plantains and a lettuce salad. The chicken was a breast that had been butterflied, no skin but with bones still attached. The fish was probably barracuda, a meaty fish with lots of spices. It did not appear to have been a very big barracuda and the natives probably know about cigatura so I figured I was safe eating it. So far no problems. (Cigatura is an orgainsm that lives on coral reefs and is eaten by reef fish. As you work your way up the food chain with larger fish eating smaller fish, it becomes more and more concentrated. It is apparently harmless to the fish, but can cause a variety of ills in humans who consume it. Cooking does not destroy the toxin so if you eat a contaminated fish, you will get the toxin. It is a real problem in the Bahamas, but seems to be less so in the Western Caribbean.) Very shortly the others were served, but they all got pulpo in a red sauce. Since I am not fond of octopus, I was glad we were able to order separately. Beer (walk to bar to buy it) was $2.00 the most I have ever paid for a Balboa but ice cold and good. A slice of pineapple was desert. The total bill came to $20 for the two of us, $16 for lunch and $4 for beer. Because we ate there, they told us that we did not need to pay the normal $2 per person fee for walking on the other island, it was free as long as we stayed. We thanked them and returned to the boat where we spent a lazy afternoon reading and sewing (Deb, not me!). The weather was too cloudy for good snorkeling and there is always tomorrow.