Firstly there are no land routes south of Panama, no roads, nothing. The Darien gap is trekkable, but considered far too dangerous as many guerilla types inhabit this area and involves trekking through mountainous forest unguided alone... not recommended.
Secondly it appeared that flights anywhere South were also too expensive... cue remarkable strike of genius inspiration. Sail from Panama to Colombia! Upon investigation this is completely viable and so I booked a place on a boat that would sail via the San Blas archipelago and onto Cartagena, Colombia on the 6th of September. Exit planned, lets explore Panama.
Obvious excursions were to the Panama Canal and Casco Viejo where we accidently attempted to walk in to the Presidential Palace. Panama city is an odd mix of classic colonial buildings being renovated and towering skyscrapers, including one twisty one owned by Mr Trump. The food was also excellent, in down time we drank, ended up in a bar establishment where apparently one goes to pick up hookers... we were completely oblivious to this and the Hostel owner laughed at us the next day (apparently everyone ends up here because it is the only bar that allows people wearing shorts and flip flops in)
We made one trip to Panama Viejo, the old ruins of the city burnt down by a welshman, a one Captain Morgan, yes that guy, the one you all know from the rum. We spent any other remaining time learning spanish from the hostel workers, swimming in the rain in the pool(I'll add here that before Panama it hadn't rained on us since Florida, Panama also gets 9 months of rainy season) and eating tasty Panamanian food; think fish in coconut sauces with Plantains, a sort of potato version of a banana. (Weirdly I quite like Plantain, but it does taste nothing like a Banana)
|Container ship passing the canal locks|
|Panama Viejo ruins|
Our boat was called Ilean which was a loan and was a 54ft converted racing yacht(for the techies), the usual boat would have been the Delfin Solo, captained by a turkish couple called Rengin and Tahsin, plus a ginger cat called 'Minoj/Catalito'. We set sail for San Blas early on the 6th, It was hot and sunny the whole trip, in typical British fashion I got sunburnt on day one. We also saw some dolphins on our way to San Blas. For the rest of the time I doodled in my journal some designs and thought about what I will do with my life when I return to the UK, this ranged from pipe dreams to actual possibilities -such as an R&P Vancouver department to simple things such as buying digital frames.
|Catalito - The Boats Cat|
|Sunset from the dock|
|The open sea|
|Live lobsters for dinner ($1 each)|
Next day we headed off to another area of San Blas, I don't know the name. This was the best location for snorkelling, a reef on the edge where it dropped off into the sea. Again we saw lots of exotic fish, like a black and white eel like thing and one of us saw a Barracuda.
|Under way with both sails up|
I am now in Cartagena, Colombia. It is awesome, the bars are excellent, the music fantastic, the weather brill and old town is classic. I wish I could stay so much longer and see all the things I want, but alas Colombia was never supposed to be part of the plan and I am already behind schedule for time I wanted in Peru/Chile. Couple more things to do in Colombia, such as try the coffee and then I fly to Peru tomorrow which hopefully gets me back on track.
True to the subtitle, I may not have intended to go to Colombia, but I think I needed to.
Ciao for now.