Curse of the Eclipse…or Survivor, San Blas? Episode 1


Resting on my hammock, looking out at the turquoise water of the Caribbean, I eagerly awaited the sunset—and “la luna llena.” Sleeping on a tropical island during a full moon was something I’d always wanted to do and now it was actually happening.

The sky slowly took on shades of crimson, gold and fuschia and then gradually darkened, and the moon, like a looming giant, illuminated the path from our side of the island—where three other travelers and I were camping—to the other, where our tour guides and a handful of Kuna were. We walked in near silence, passing by living and dead palm trees and heard some inexplicable rustling sounds along the way.

Was it the ‘calm before the storm’?

Everything seems perfect, I thought, as I sat down for my lobster dinner. Imagine an opening scene in Survivor, San Blas, when all is well and the contestants are in the ‘calm before the storm’ phase. No one’s even thinking about the upcoming challenges and who’s going to be thrown off the island. Frankly, I didn’t have a worry in the world.

Of curse–I mean, of course–I had no idea that mysterious forces—some of them, dark—might be at work behind the scenes…

“I’m happy to be here during a full moon,” I said in Spanish to Nixia, the female half of our tour guide duo and couple. We were in the Cayos Hollandeses, one of the most pristine, private and remote San Blas islands—one of the best out there. “The energy feels so wonderful, you know?”

She didn’t know. In fact, her experience was the complete opposite of mine. She frowned and shielded her eyes with her hand, blocking the moon, and looked terrified.

Moon over San Blas (shot with tripod, btw)

“I will not look up at that moon,” she said, her eyes glancing downward. “It’s bad luck anytime and especially now.”

“What? What do you mean?” Despite the balmy air, I felt a slight chill run over me.

“Kuna don’t like the full moon and we’re terrified of any sort of eclipse. It makes the bad luck worse,” she said.

Kuna, which means “people,” are one of Panama’s indigenous peoples, an autonomous tribe in charge of their own lands. They still live in traditional huts, fish in dugout canoes, etc. The Kuna live life according to a Gaian-based philosophy, one that respects Mother Nature and the interconnectedness of everything.

“The light of the moon is reflected sunlight and we don’t feel right seeing it (the sun) at night. And eclipses are worse.” Her voice was shaky and her eyes looked haunted by something. I don’t recall if she used the word for curse–but I do think she implied it.

“Tell me more,” I said. I was now intrigued.

Childhood tales of past full moons and eclipses

“When I was a little girl, my parents warned us about it, and a couple times, something bad happened,” she said. Her partner, a French Canadian named Matteo (or was it Matteus?), sat at the table with us sipping on a beer, looking like a cross between a fisherman and Odysseus. I was doing the same. The beer drinking part, that is.

“And it’s not just the night that bothers us. The next day, when the sun is out, we usually stay inside,” she said,” because that is usually when the luck is bad .”

“What kind of things happen?”

“Once, we woke up after an eclipse and found all of our animals dead…from worms,” she said, her voice shaky. “I was really afraid, too.”

I chugged some beer and dug into my lobster, trying not to focus on the visual image now in my mind. I then recalled some mysterious tree roots I’d seen earlier in the day. And then, of course, I felt something touch my foot. “What the hell was that?” I asked, now ever-so-slightly paranoid.

Trippy tree roots that reminded me of worms...just a little bit.

I pointed my flashlight down on the ground to get a better look and noticed something that would scare and haunt me for the next two days. Red crabs. And lots of them. (Sorry I don’t have photos of them.)

“Um, what’s up with the crabs?” I asked Matteo. “Oh, them? Están bién. They’re OK,” he said. “They come out during the rainy season.”

“By the way,” he said. “Look at this white crab I just found!” He was as excited as a little boy who’d found a salamander in a stream.

White crabs freak me out just as much as red ones...unless they're on a plate and I'm eating them.

“I see,” I said, shuddering at the thought of one of them—red or white—entering my tent. “Speaking of rain….do you think we might get some tonight?”

“No,” he said. “Definitely not.” And I believed him. He lives out there, after all, on the islands. And he looks like a fisherman (and sort of is one).

Curse of the eclipse or an episode of Survivor, San Blas? Stay tuned–don’t get off the bus yet!

After dinner and the next day, things got interesting. Now, I don’t believe in curses, but I do think that things can happen a certain way, leaving you wondering if you are being filmed for a TV show without knowing it. In our case, I felt like we were on an (unintentional) episode of Survivor, San Blas. Thing happened. Lots of things. The question is what, how and why.

Faces in the fire? Spirits from previous eclipses that went badly? Or just a fire...?

I hate/love to leave you hanging, wondering what’s next. And so, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I will leave you with a few questions, of course. PS: There will be some fun photos of me and the other “survivors” in the next post that I know you’ll enjoy.

1. How do you think the evening went? How about the next day? Uneventful or full of misadventure? :) Feel free to complete the story if you’d like, imagining how things went… Whoever comes closest will be announced as the winner in the next post.

2. Did a crab or several perhaps get into my tent? And if so, what do you think I did?

3. Did mosquitoes, sand flies or worms show up to torment me/us?

4. Did we have lobster again the next day? And how about beer? Were we at least able to get that?

5. Also, why have I included Survivor, San Blas, in this post? Was it just for SEO purposes or is there a real reason? :)

Click here for the exciting conclusion to this story!

(All photos in this post are © Chickybus, 2011, including those with no watermark. Those tempted to steal any of them should re-read this post carefully. There is such thing as a cyber curse, after all. )

31 Responses to Curse of the Eclipse…or Survivor, San Blas? Episode 1
  1. buddingspritelet
    August 22, 2011 | 11:20 pm

    ewwwwwww, I remember that crab! And the others! I can still hear them skittle.

    • CB Driver
      August 23, 2011 | 9:39 am

      Hi, Sprite. Skittle is a great word for it….and I’ll never forget that sound. The lobster, of course, was great. Did I tell you I saw 100s of those red crabs in the a.m. on the Pacific beaches, too? I’ve read that they’re much more common during rainy season. Perhaps I’ll try dry next time.

      PS: Have you considered returning to Panama? I have and am….despite things like the crabs and the humidity in certain places, I loved it. The people and places were wonderful!

  2. Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures
    August 23, 2011 | 12:28 am

    Creepy! And I’m gonna go with misadventures! Oh, and SEO… 😛
    Aaron @ Aaron’s Worldwide Adventures recently posted..Exploring the World Through GeocachingMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      August 23, 2011 | 9:40 am

      Hi, Aaron. Yes, I thought they were creepy, too–the sounds they made, especially. SEO, huh? LOL. No–I would never do that. It’s all about the misadventure, right? :)

  3. Barbara - The Dropout Diaries
    August 23, 2011 | 2:21 am

    Crabs don’t seem so scary to me. Now if it were SPIDERS — ewwww… *shudder*

    *more shudders*
    Barbara – The Dropout Diaries recently posted..Pretty Gur … GRRRRRRMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      August 23, 2011 | 9:41 am

      Hi, Barbara. What if you thought the crabs could enter your tent during the night? They were not tiny, by the way. They were the size of lemons, I think. And I met someone on the Pacific side of the country who had one enter her (cheap) tent (with a crappy zipper) when she was sleeping…said she screamed! :)

      I’m not a fan of spiders, either. If they’re small, I can deal. But when they’re large and hairy, I freak a bit.

      • Barbara - The Dropout Diaries
        August 23, 2011 | 9:00 pm

        Isn’t that funny? I don’t think I’d be particularly bothered by a crab in the tent. Although, I’d scream if any small creature touched me in the night — cos I’d be scared it was a spider!
        Barbara – The Dropout Diaries recently posted..Pretty Gur … GRRRRRRMy Profile

        • CB Driver
          August 24, 2011 | 7:53 am

          So cool that those crabs don’t freak you out like they do me! But imagine one of them (or some spiders) nipping at you feet during REM…would turn into a nightmare perhaps! :)

  4. Maria Alexandra @latinAbroad
    August 23, 2011 | 9:48 am

    Wow, that *is* very interesting! I think I want to research superstitions of indigenous people now for the series I have on my website at the moment. Btw, I wrote a post about Mexican superstitions last Monday and discovered that they believe that if a pregnant woman goes outside during an eclipse, that could be bad for the baby! I am always intrigued at how people that live so far from each other had similar beliefs, especially years before all the technology that we have today existed. Comes to prove that all humans are very similar after all
    Maria Alexandra @latinAbroad recently posted..Hurricane Katrina: A special travel taleMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      August 24, 2011 | 7:40 am

      Hi, Maria. I’ve heard about that particular superstition re: pregnancy and I also find it interesting how people have often believed the same thin and/or made the same advancements at various points of history. I recall learning that wagon trains were designed here around the same time as they were in South Africa and finding it interesting.

      Anyway, thanks for reading. The conclusion is coming soon! PS: Your series sounds great!

  5. Sarah
    August 23, 2011 | 1:42 pm

    Great story. I’ve never been to San Blas or Panama but want to go. What you experienced does remind me of the TV show a little bit. I can’t wait to hear what happens next!

    • CB Driver
      August 24, 2011 | 7:43 am

      Hi, Sarah. Are you thinking about going? If so, that’s fantastic. I hope you can! If so, please feel free to ask any questions. Meanwhile, I promise the next part of the story, the conclusion, will be a lot more like the show! :)

  6. Sue Lazar
    August 23, 2011 | 4:18 pm

    Looks like a beautiful, peaceful place!!!!! Or is it
    at night?????? like the photo of the moon,very creative. far as the red crabs, would not want them anywhere near myself or my tent, not a fan! Interested in the Kuna’s beliefs and culture.

    • CB Driver
      August 24, 2011 | 7:51 am

      Hello, Sue. He, he, he…yes, there are appearances and reality–not always the same thing! Glad you like the photo of the moon. It was a tricky one to take. And those crabs–yup–not fun. I was very careful to zip and unzip my tent right for fear they might come in and join me.

      Thanks for reading along…the exciting conclusion coming soon! :)

  7. Francesca
    August 24, 2011 | 3:45 am

    I love the photo you took of the eclipse … looks like something out of National Geographic! I don’t believe in a curse …it surprised me that a nature-based culture would make a negative out of a natural occurrence.What’s up with that????

    • CB Driver
      August 24, 2011 | 7:58 am

      Hi, Francesca. Thanks for the feedback re: the photo. I’m very pleased with it!

      Re: nature-based cultures…I think that quite a few explain things via what happens in nature, just as many people did way back when. Perhaps it’s an easy explanation for things that are hard to cope with? Do you ever see something as a sign or “omen” before something else happens? Maybe it’s a little bit like that.

  8. Lauren
    August 25, 2011 | 9:19 am

    That’s so interesting… And so creepy! I hate any kind of stories about curses, so I would have completely freaked out. If a crab had touched my foot, I’d have died! Can’t wait to hear what happens next!
    Lauren recently posted..One Month of Travel – Summary and statisticsMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      August 26, 2011 | 12:44 am

      Hi, Lauren! Do you get freaked out by these stories? Wild…. Well, this was slightly creepy. Such a beautiful moon and then seeing the woman’s face turn sort of dark and gloomy. The crab thing was a bit intense as I’m not a fan. These guys were red and the size of a lime (I think). Definitely not the tiny sand-colored ones that hide in the sand mostly. These were different.

      What’s wild was when I saw mini armies of them on the Pacific Coast! PS: They allegedly don’t make that much of an appearance during the ‘dry season.’ May keep that in mind if I return. :)

      Conclusion coming soon! :)

  9. Steve
    August 25, 2011 | 11:48 pm

    Now I’m all in suspense. What could it be? I certainly hope it wasn’t crabs entering your tent. There are probably worse things that can happen to you, but that would just be unsettling to wake up to. I bet it rained out of nowhere despite being told you wouldn’t get any and somehow made your night terrible. It’s just a guess.

    • CB Driver
      August 26, 2011 | 12:46 am

      Hi, Steve. In suspense? Excellent…I did my job well then. :) Sounds like you would not be pleased to be awakened by a red crab in your tent, either!

      Your guesses are good, by the way–he, he, he…. Tune in for Episode 2 for the exciting conclusion!

  10. Natalie
    August 27, 2011 | 12:03 am

    I think number two – The crab got into your tent and settled to sleep in your backpack!
    Natalie recently posted..Ramadan – An Outsiders Experience of the Islamic Month of FastingMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      August 27, 2011 | 1:31 pm

      Hi, Natalie. Great guess! Part 2 coming in a day or two–and all will be revealed. And then the question will be: curse or Survivor? LOL :)

  11. […] Blas? Conclusion Written on August 28, 2011 by CB Driver in Cultures, Humor, Latin America In part 1 of this series, I began the story of my stay on on a remote Caribbean island (in San Blas) off the […]

  12. Cynthia Scarborough
    September 25, 2011 | 7:45 pm

    You should check out the land crabs here in central and south Florida. Freaky. They climb palm trees and get under your car. It’s a horrible mess when they don’t scuttle out of the way.
    Cynthia Scarborough recently posted..Hurricane Precautions For Kayakers and PaddleboardersMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      September 25, 2011 | 8:13 pm

      Hi, Cynthia. I’ve been to West Palm Beach, but haven’t seen them. Are they there, too? They climb trees? OMG…no! :)

      • Cynthia Scarborough
        September 25, 2011 | 9:50 pm

        Yep. They’re down there in Palm Beach County too. They are really active in the summer months. Think they migrate from about June to December. I don’t know where they migrate to. They are supposedly really active around a full moon. It’s rather startling to catch one in your headlights as they run across the road at night.

        Thy’re pesky, big critters and they can get about 6 inches across. They pinch like crazy so you need to be careful if you handle one. They burrow into lawns and places. They don’t live in the water at all although they will burrow in and around ponds.

        Some people eat them. I’m a native Floridian but can’t say that I’ve ever tasted one.
        Cynthia Scarborough recently posted..Hurricane Precautions For Kayakers and PaddleboardersMy Profile

        • CB Driver
          September 25, 2011 | 11:34 pm

          Are they? No kidding. I have a friend down there whom I visit every other year. Must ask her about them. I think the reason I haven’t seen them is that I go in the winter. Wild to know ‘they’ are there! :)

  13. […] bags being slammed onto a plastic coffin-torture chamber. (To read the complete story, click here.) Eventually, I had to remove it and the put it back on when the rain […]

  14. Alan Horton
    December 11, 2011 | 6:33 pm

    A very atmospheric post, the lobster, the petrified guide, the full moon, the crabs – I could almost have been there. I really enjoyed this, thanks very much. I’m posting this before reading part 2 – which is what I must do next!

    • CB Driver
      December 11, 2011 | 9:33 pm

      Glad you got a sense of what it was like there, Alan. That’s exactly what I was hoping for readers to feel!

  15. […] Because of a certain ‘skittling’ sound they made. Here’s a two-part story about my camping experience in San Blas. For me, a non-camper, it was a bit intense. At times, I felt like I was on an episode of […]

Leave a Reply to Sarah

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

CommentLuv badge

Trackback URL

Like this blog?

Get my book!


follow the bus

Join Our Facebook Fan Page



don't miss the bus! sign up for the monthly newsletter
Chicken Busology
Learn more about chicken buses by checking out these links:

Chicky Bus: The Real Story: Join me on a wild 12-hour chicken bus ride through Central America. Meet cheese smugglers and other characters. 

Chicken Bus Q & A: I answer all the questions you might have about chicken buses, but were afraid to ask. 

Want the quick fix
Watch the YouTube video to the right of this box. Vicarious thrills guaranteed!

come ride a Chicken Bus