This is our yacht that we had around the San Blas Islands.
Darren and Emma hit the road
This is our yacht that we had around the San Blas Islands.
11.04.2011 - 18.04.2011
So we set sail and I’m not going to lie. It was a horrible 36 hours and was really rough and everyone was feeling ill accept for Hannah who had found her sea legs quite early on. Germans record for getting to the San Blas Islands was 40 hours from Cartagena. We beat it by 5 hours I think- that’s how windy it was!!
San Blas Islands is a group of Islands off the coast of Panama. There are 368 of them and they are slowly disappearing due to global warming. Only a handful are inhabited and one of them is just big enough for a tiny runway!
Our Yacht Eucalyptus dropped anchor inbetween 2 small islands where it was a lot calmer. We took a load of tents over to the island and set up camp. We had met up with another yacht run by Umberto so his 3 passengers joined us on the island too. Apart from the hut and the 2 fisherman who lived on the island there was nothing else on the there. No electricity, no running water, no gas and no sewage, just a tiny bore hole which filtered the sea water sort of! The only food available to us was coconuts and the fish in the sea. We figured quite early on that eating the coconuts was calorie negative because it took absolutely ages to get into them!
Food was mostly lobster, crab and fish BBQd at night over the open fire which was gorgeous. The fishermen didn’t want paying in money, in fact they looked quite insulted when we offered money- they wanted alcohol or smokes!!!
There was a funny little dog who was also called Umberto who lived between islands. The first time we saw him he was swimming between the 2 islands to greet the fishermen, when he got to the boat he hauled himself up into the boat and got a lift with them back to the shore! There is a little story about him that he was out with the fishermen in the middle of the sea miles and miles away from land when they got into difficulty and the boat ended up sinking. Him and the 2 fishermen had to stay afloat for 2 days until a passing ship spotted them and brought them in. He was ill for quite a while because he had swallowed so much sea water but slowly he recovered. He was with us on the island one day and started barking all of a sudden and right out in the distance you could see the fishermen coming back in. Quite a cute dog!!
We spent our time making things out of the coconut shells and catching rays, quite relaxing really!!
After 3 nights on the island we then headed off to Portobelo but had to stop off at another island to get stamped into Panama.
Then the fun begins……..it’s a race against the clock to get up to Mexico in time for our flight…..
06.04.2011 - 10.04.2011
Salento to Cartagena gobbled up some miles for us. We took a 50 min bus to Pareira for 5000 pesos then got a bus to Medillin which took about 4 ½ hours and cost 30000 pesos. We did toy with the idea of stopping in Medillin but it was chucking it down when we got off the bus so we thought we might as well get back onto another bus if the weather is rubbish. So we went onto Cartagena- 13 hours from Medillin and cost us 100,000 pesos!!!! Ouch!!
A shuttle bus got us from the main bus terminal to the centre of Cartagena when we got there quite early the next morning. It didn’t take us long to find somewhere to stay in the old town. The main hostel street is Media Luna but we stayed a few blocks away in La Casona. 18000 pp/pn. Really pretty hostel with a central courtyard and spiral staircase.
Cartagena has loads of gorgeous buildings with old peeling paintwork and balconies full of flowers and painted really beautiful colours, it all adds to its charm. The old walls are definitely old and wide and there are lots of domes, churches and plazas around.
One of our aims whilst here was to sort out a boat to take us all over to Panama. There are no land crossings to take you from Colombia into Panama. You can cross the border into the border town but then you have to take a flight to Panama City, or you get a boat to Portabello or one of the harbour towns around there. Or fly straight into Panama City from wherever. We did find a Captain called German Perez of 361 sailing. On our yacht called Eucalyptus there were 9 of us in total, a little cramped but we managed.
So then we were eventually off on our sea adventure!! First stop was the San Blas Islands but first we had to stop for petrol!!!....
Salento. Looks 4 hours from Bogota to here on the map, looks can be deceiving however!! We had timed it just right to get to the bus terminal in Bogota and had about 10 minutes to grab some food before we headed off. We thought we’d go for the almuerzo which is like a lunch special with soup and chicken with rice. However we were a little put off when the soup came and it was actually chicken FEET soup…….yuk…….
From Bogota we needed to go to Armenia fist which cost 30000 and took 7 hours. But we didn’t get to Armenia until 0020!! We had a couple of options here;
-A taxi would cost 200,000 to take us to Salento.
-Get a hostel in Armenia to sleep for a few hours and then get the first bus to Salento (Wasted money we thought on the hostel front)
-Sleep in the terminal and get the first bus at 0530.
So we slept in the terminal taking it turns to have a doze, felt quite safe actually. Soon enough 0530 came around and we all piled into the first bus which cost 3500 pesos
Eventually we get to Salento. 4 hours turned into 15 for us!!!! It paid off though. The hostel is a Coffee Plantation and lovely. We had a room for the 5 of us now (we had a new recruit, Hannah) and the views were amazing. Really quiet, gorgeous setting, friendly staff, proper coffee on tap, good kitchen and really good book exchange. It cost us 18000 pesos pp/pn. Salento is really easy to get around. At the weekends its really busy with the main square packed with food stalls and people from the neighbouring towns come by. There is a lot of traditional dress here and men-only bars!!
The best value café is Lucy’s café, trout almuerzo is 6000 compared to 13000 for the same meal on the square. But we also made good use of the kitchen and had some really nice meals in for a change. It was nice to cook actually.
One day we went on a walk in the Carora national park. It’s a short jeep ride from the town and takes about 5 hours to do the loop. The walk takes you along the bottom of the valley crossing the river a good few times. As we got higher the views got better. At some points the climb was quite tricky as we clambered up the steep slopes. We finally got our reward (but don’t know if you can class it as a reward!!) of a cup of really sweet hot chocolate with a huge chunk of really salty cheese in the middle of a humming bird ‘sanctuary’. The last half an hour of the walk was really good view wise. One side of the valley was really jungle and full of vegetation, the other side was grass with these soaring palm trees that were poker straight but so tall!!
7 hours from Neiva and 18000 each gets us to Bogota. Our hostel is in Candelaria area and is called Quevado, right on a lovely square. Loads of people are hanging out here, juggling, drinking, smoking- a bit dodgey but nothing threatening. The hostel is locked at all times so it’s safe enough. The guy who ran the place was lovely, did so much for us, made us coffee every morning, did our washing for nothing, let us use the internet for free. He was really helpful. Candelaria is a lovely area with lots of old buildings and quaint balconies, lots of cute little places to eat or drink in. We found a great place for really healthy food just 2 minutes from the hostel called Pitawok, dishes were so fresh and healthy. There was a bakery opposite it which did good brownies and choc chip cookies too, especially if you get them straight from the oven!!
We went to the Museo de Oro which had loads and loads of old gold. It showed you how the old statues were made with wax and clay. 1st they would make a wax statue of what they wanted and then put clay round the outside of it but made sure that there was a line of wax from the statue through the clay so that when the statue was put into the oven the wax would melt and run out of the channel where the line of wax was. Then the molten gold was poured into the mould and left to set. Chip away at the baked clay and you have a solid gold statue. Quite clever really.
We also went to the Modern Art Museum which had a Nazi exhibition on. It wasn’t what we had gone there for but it was interesting all the same if not very sad actually. Some of the photos were horrific and Anne Frank was threaded through the museum along with a few more stories. There was a basement which had a little bit of modern art in which was quite good.
We were most aware of keeping ourselves safe and safety in numbers here but really it was fine. We had no bad experiences here accept the odd loon which you get in all cities we have discovered!! We were in fact so relaxed in the hostel that we sort of forgot to plan the next bit of the trip. We looked at the map of where we were going and thought that by gauging it on the map that it would take maybe 4 hours to get here. So we were in no hurry when we got up the morning we were leaving and loped about, then decided to just check the website of this amazing hostel we had eyed up. It was about 1pm and to our disappointment the website said they were about 9 hours from Bogota!! Very annoying. But anyway we got our things together and headed down to the bus station with fingers crossed that we would somehow get a good connection with a fast bus…….