Keith Irwin

Ailigandí

Mar 11, 2014

Latin America 2014, Travel, Panama, Hitchhiking


This is part of my story of hitchhiking from New York to Buenos Aires and back, which I did in 2014. I may publish the entire tale in a book someday. Until then, you can read it for free here. To see other parts, check out Latin America 2014. 

February 11

I was beginning to learn how it works. The cargo ships sell plantains and merchandise on the San Blas islands and buy coconuts. Local men go out in dugout canoes to uninhabited islands nearby and collect coconuts. They fill their canoes with coconuts and return to the island towns. There, they sell the coconuts to the ships, who sell loads of coconuts on the mainland.

A photo of some Kuna natives wearing traditional dress
Kuna natives on the dock at Playón Chico, wearing traditional dress

We lit out late that morning on Gandhi's ship, but didn't go far. The next island was called Ailigandí.

Pierre and I sat on the dock and played a game of chess. We had no white rook and had to use a little pebble. Pierre was not very experienced. A large man in jungle camouflage came and watched part of the game. I was about to win and was making sure I'd made no mistakes. “Checkmate,” said the soldier. I agreed and made the move. He then challenged me to a game.

He was a very good player. He played aggressively and traded queens with me early. After a little while, it seemed like he had a plan. I tried to see ahead as to what he was trying to do. He was only a pawn ahead of me, but he made fast, moves that seemed to serve no purpose. I couldn't figure it out. As I was considering what to do next, he stood up. “Tomorrow,” he said. “Tomorrow.” I took a picture of the board so we could continue the game the next day. But I never saw him again. 

A photo of an uncompleted chess game
Final position of the unfinished game, white to move

Tikantiki and Playón Chico Capurgana