It feels a long time ago now that I was setting sail from Cartagena, Colombia heading for the San Blas Islands in Panama. The passage was by no means fun, with 2-3metre waves rocking the boat and the constant feeling that I was going to vomit. I spent two days lying down, sweating, feeling sick and wondering why on earth I hadn’t taken a plane instead. I had paid $300 for the trip with the hope of learning a bit about sailing and a chance to visit some beautiful islands at the end. I was beginning to go off the whole boat dream idea rapidly and even more so when the engine completely went bust and our useless captain hadn’t the right sails to get us out of the situation. We steered past a reef and weighed anchor just outside a Kuna village called Mulatopo on the Panamanian side of the Darien Gap. Two days and that’s how far we’d reached! I came up on deck finally feeling my legs back beneath me expecting to see the postcard perfect San Blas Islands only to see the worried faces of the crew. After three days of discussions with locals and figuring out a plan, the captain and I took a speed boat that lasted 7 hours and took us all the way to island El Porvenir where the immigration office was. That journey was pure hell. Each time we crashed down over a wave, my entire body would lift off the seat and then I could feel all my internal organs smashing down on top of each other as I descended into my seat. We were last to get on the boat so got the worst spot at the front of the boat where you feel the full force all the more and get completely soaked through to the bone with water. I was terrified the entire way and nothing would ever make me go through that experience again. All the other passengers were locals from the Kuna villages and half of them were children! This is how they commute between the villages on a daily basis to visit friends, families and get supplies. I realised then how lucky I was to be making this trip just the once. They are a strong tribe of many numbers, that govern the state of Guna Yala independently almost as if it were a separate country. It was really nice to see such a powerful indigenous community maintaining their traditions, language, arts and culture where so many others have been wiped out of existence.
We finally arrived at the San Blas Islands and although battered and bruised, I was just happy to be alive. The islands did not disappoint either and I spent three nights camping, swimming, snorkelling, and swinging in a hammock. This gave me the perfect chill time to prepare for the next step which was to get myself and Phat Feathers to the GeoParadise Tribal Gathering Festival.
Geoparadise festival spanned over 18days of workshops, ceremonies, awesome music, making new friends, dancing, swimming and exploring the jungle. I did tons of hairwraps, face and body painting, and custom feather pieces for the happy hippies that attended.
It was a really successful festival and I may even be back next year with Phat Feathers. It was a tricky event to find in the jungle and we didn’t arrive till dark but it was certainly worth the journey! The festival was full of art installations and it felt like a little village with everything handbuilt using bamboo, wood and palms. The next day we built our little stall using all natural materials from the jungle also. It was really fun creating the display and everybody loved the feather earcuffs as always and the rare selections of cruelty-free feathers that I have. I also brought a variety of mochila bags and crotchet bikinis from Colombia. I brought these handmade bags from the indigenous Wayuu people that live in the desert of La Guajira Peninsula which borders Colombia and Venezuela. The art of weaving is a central tradition of the Wayuu people and each bag can take many days to complete. The making and selling of these bags provides financial stability, thus enabling them to preserve their way of life. It has been a way of storytelling and skill building throughout generations. Wayuu women pass on the art of weaving to their daughters, who use the skill to share stories about their environment and culture through colours, shapes and patterns. I’ll be putting some for sale on my website soon at www.phatfeathers.com
The rest of my time spent in Panama was wonderful and fortunately Phat Feathers enabled me to continue and stay for the full three months of my visa. I stopped and sold feather jewellery, mochilas and hairwraps at every opportunity. It’s hard work, but each time I sold something and it covered the costs of my bed that night or my dinner tomorrow. It’s a lifestyle choice and I wouldn’t trade it any day for an office job. I love being able to travel and move freely where I want and when. I always find plenty of time for exploring and having fun so it feels like the perfect balance really.
After three months in Panama and totalling one year, six months and 22days since I embarked on this trip, I boarded a plane to take me back to my hometown Bristol, U.K. It felt like the right time and I desperately wanted to catch up with my friends and family whom I missed so much. The summer season was fast approaching back in the U.K also and I wanted to bring my crueltyfree feathers back home and trade at some music festivals. Keep and eye out in my Facebook page or follow me on Instagram to find out where I’ll be this summer! Big love 🌴☀️💗😄⭐️