San Blas Islands,  2010

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The San Blas Islands are very low, with people living only a few feet above sea level. 

This is a typical island, with a dozen or so grass roofed houses, each a single room with a family living in it.  There is an open fire in the centre for cooking, but no chimney.

All the residents are Kuna Indians, who welcome visitors, but do not like them staying on the islands overnight.

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Many of the islands have no fresh water, so the Kuna fetch every day by canoe, (known locally as "ulus".

This "water tanker" passed us when we were anchored off the island of Gerti.

We took the dinghy up the Torti river, where the locals obtain water, and met the guy below, left, heading up to the first small waterfall, which guaranteed that there would be no seawater in the creek.

   The locals are often skilful sailors.  They have to be because the ulus are very narrow, and rather unstable.
  Helen and Pam went to help a sick baby, and found the ulu ride rather exciting.  Fortunately, the owner was able to prevent them capsizing. 

The house in the background has virtually no surrounding land, and on rare occasions the sea comes into the house.  Some blame global warming and rising of the oceans for the problem, saying that the sea level is rising a metre or so every ten years.  Actual sea level rise is only a few centimetres in the past century, so it is apparent that the islands are sinking, which is not uncommon.
In any event, it is a serious threat to the Kuna  way of life.
  This guy is making an ulu.  It takes only a few days if he uses soft wood, but the boat will last only a few years.

They have some local hardwoods that require weeks of work to cut from the forest, bring to the island and make an ulu while will last many years.  

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  These youngsters are perfectly at home in their ulu, and have no interest in lifejackets etc.

One sign of the times is that they came to our boat to have their cell phone batteries charged, because they have no power on their island.

The government is installing power lines, bringing schooling etc, which will raise the Kuna standard of living dramatically, but will destroy the traditional way of life.

Already, most of the more educated and ambitious are leaving for the big city and propserity.
   The women mostly wear traditional clothes, while the men prefer "American scruffy" styles.
these ladies came to sell their magnificent sewing work.
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