Monday, 12 September 2011

But why is the rum gone? A Sailing Adventure Panama to Colombia...

Panama was the next stop in the adventure for both me an Savage, with him heading north and my aim to head south. Mainly due to the ridiculousness of the flights on offer when I booked my travels (to fly to peru from LAX the cheapest option would have been to fly up to seattle and then down) Panama seemed like a good compromise. However it turns out, mostly on my part due to some naivety that Panama is not such a good link station... but every cloud as it were.

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
Panama city over, Me and Savage headed our separate ways. In true lazy fashion I only too late realised it was a sunday and had to pay for a taxi for the second half of the trip as there was no bus. In Puerto Lindo, with no internet I stocked up on Rum for the Voyage ahead...

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
We arrived in what can only really be described as a tropical island paradise. Sandy, palm tree covered islands and bight blue warm water. First order of the day was a snorkelling adventure of the surrounding reefs. We saw a Stringray, some Lion Fish and countless other colourful specimens. After Snorkelling we headed to the Island for dinner, this consisted of fresh lobster with a lime and garlic sauce. In fact this was so good we had it again the next night, Catalito, the best fed cat in the world also got some lobster! Overnight we slept on the deck until the rains came and washed us all inside, a unfortunate victim of this rain storm was my mp3 player.
Island Paradise


Live lobsters for dinner ($1 each)
We stayed in this area of San Blas for two nights, after a trip to a shopping island to buy some food/diesel we did much the same, more snorkelling and lobster. In the evening we had a party on the island, where we drank all of the rum at our disposal. The title is therefore misleading, we know why all the rum is gone, because we drank it. That night again we slept on deck until we were awoken by a ferocious wind and lightning storm, luckily waking us before the heavy rain kicked in. These amazing storms only added to the 'excitement'. In fact often I would sit an watch the lightning in the distance.

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. 
Ominous Clouds
The next morning it was time to set sail for the mainland. The sun was out once again and for a time we even managed to get both sails up. This called for another set of reading and self reflection. I finished my remaining book in one day, and thought further about the future, more so the immediate future of how to get to Peru. (this decision has now been made, I'm flying). Back to the boat we sailed all through the night and eventually reached our destination at about half four in the afternoon of the second day.
Under way with both sails up
If travelling truly is about the getting there, then this is the way to do it. Obviously now I want to own my own boat and do the same sort of sailing trips for people (this falls in to the pipe dreams of future planning). This was the best 'border crossing' ever, tops flying without competition. The only complaint I could have, is that it wasn't windy enough to go properly under sail, but then thats nobodies fault.

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.

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