Children of Playon Chico, Ukupseni
Three Kuna women waited for the plane in the rudimentary airport as I arrived to Playon Chico, a small indigenous village in Panama’s San Blas Islands. Each woman was dressed traditionally with a gold ring through their septum and dawning a bright red headscarf, colorful blouse and an explosion of colorful beads on their wrists and legs. The tallest of the three came half way to my torso and they spoke in hushed tones using Kuna and not the Spanish I’d grown used to in my 16 day stay in Central America. Several crabs scurried between their feet and a pair of white ibis flew lazily overhead. A man with a machete walked down the runway towards the three walled airport as children chased a soccer ball in the opposite direction. It was a different world that the frenetic Panama City from whence I’d come.
Local Guna woman in traditional clothing
I pulled out my phone to check in with my wife, but had no reception. The three women boarded the plane which took off over from the mainland over their tiny island connected to the airport by a footbridge. I patted my back pocket realizing quickly that my passport was still on the plane which seconds later, disappeared over the Caribbean Sea. “My passport is on that plane,” I said to Domi, a Kuna gentleman who was there to take me to Yandup Island, a local ecolodge, went minutes away by boat and run entirely by Kuna. I’d hoped to go to Yandup to relax, a goal which was thwarted by my own carelessness.
San Blas Islands
“Come to my village,” said Domi, in broken English. “I help you…”
Three days later, after an incredible trip and thanks to Domi, I got my passport back. Here are some of the beautiful people and incredible places I got to see along the way. Hope you enjoy!
While this is a new article, it has been several years since I actually had the privilege to hike into the ran forest of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda to visit these gorillas. I still remember the experience with such remarkable clarity. The musty smell, the way the rain seemed to stop as you came into their presence. The odd way that fear melts away to closer you get to a beast that could kill you in seconds. I remember asking a fellow traveler if there was a chance in the world we would see something in nature so profound. The answer thus far, despite many thousands of miles and adventures, is a resounding no. I hope in my lifetime I can make it back. Read more about the experience here.
Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Horses and Cowboys is downtown Pawhuska
Before I moved back to Oklahoma, a trusted travel writer and friend of mine said that among the most beautiful places he’d ever been was the Tallgrass Prairie in Northwest Oklahoma. In addition to the thousands of acres of blue stem and three thousand bison, several Prairie Chickens called this prairie home and it was a hell of a place to watch the sunset.
Sunset at the Tallgrass Prairie
Bison and the sunset at the Tallgrass Prairie
Eager to see it, I made a point to visit after doing a small piece on Ponca City, an hour or so away. After getting lost and wandering down several dirt roads for considerably more than an hour, I finally came across a cattle guard and a sign warning morons that it is best not to try and touch buffalo. I’d made it.
Barn outside Pawhuska
After a beautiful drive and a visit to the visitor center, I came out the other end (the correct entrance/exit) into the charming town of Pawhuska. Not only was this the (correct) entrance to the Tallgrass but one of the most soulful and up and coming towns in Oklahoma.
night sky at the Tallgrass Prairie
In and around this magic little town clouds dance, the prairies beckon and cowboys still walk their horses down the street. Bison graze and the sun and stars playfully try day and night to outshine one another.
Buffalo on the Tallgrass Prairie
Read more about Pawhuska and the Tallgrass Prairie here. And enjoy more photos below.
Cowboy working a herd at sunset.
Working cowboys outside Pawhuska
On the first morning of seven days and nights in the southern passages, I woke up to icebergs. Perched above the iceberg was an eagle and above the eagle on an iceberg was a rainbow… All of which was happening in front of a waterfall.
An hour later, while watching a brown bear bumble adorably along the shoreline, just off the bow of the boat, a humpback whale leaped out of the water. By day’s end, the sun made a royal departure, turning the night purple and gold for just a moment until everything was silent. Pics are below and link to my two stories are here for 405 Magazine and here for Lost Tribe.
Killer Whale just off the bow of our sister ship.
Nothing like waking up at 4am with the sun already up surrounded by icebergs. One of the most memorable mornings of my life.
Nothing rivals the EXPLOSION that follows as this glacier shed its primordial ice.
The view above Mendenhall Glacier
Salmon is always the best choice in Alaska.
An eagle perched on an iceberg looking for some lunch.
One of many waterfalls in the eastern passages.
an old volcanic plug
Dancing at Turtle Island
As our skiff cut its way across a remote, narrow channel from Turtle Island to a remote village fifteen minutes away, I was surrounded by beauty. Despite the bustling colorful coral reefs below us and the towering volcanic mountains that made up the surrounding Islands in all directions, I was less overwhelmed with beauty that surrounded me and more focused on the experience that awaited. Like a kid before prom, finally about to meet his first girlfriend’s parents, I was nervous. Read about what happened on that beautiful day here!