Jul 29, 2008

The gathering 22/07/08
We reached Wunderbar around 15:00. We chose 2 beds in the eco-dormitory, a traditionally built hut. Kayla (New-Zealand) and Rob (England) were there, sleeping. Later, Erika & Nick (Australia) arrived, the last of the 6 crew members of the Odyssey and other people, of the competing sailboat, among them the friendly motorcyclists, Jorge (France) and Cezar (Brazil) with our wine (thanks!) and other friendly people, when the key word is “friendly”. Our crew was nor friendly! Every time we tried chit-chatting with them, we got a bored “hmmm” and they were back reading.
While cooking the fish we bought down in the small village of Puerto Lindo, Leo (Argentina), our captain, arrived with his wife, Angela (Colombia), and talked about the trip.

Set sail 23/07/08
At 16:00 we were loading the luggage in turns, using the dinghy, up to the 44 feet sailboat. As usual, we, the bikes and the trailers were last. As opposed to our previous sailing experience, now the dinghy had an engine – the good life!
Leo carefully tied the biked on the deck and we covered them to protect from the salt water & air.
Leo magically made the luggage disappear into his Mary Poppins boat, gave us a quick tour (kitchen + salt water, toilets + manually flushing, etc.) and we were off.
We were impressed by the skills of our young captain (28), the ease in which he set sail and handled the boat. We sailed near the shore, 2 islands on our left, mountainous jungle on our right, leaving the bay of Puerto Lindo behind us. We were excited; the rest of the crew were back reading.

Going to the boat.
Don´t forget the beers!
The dinghy.
The Odyssey.
Excited. Safety first!
Lulu and the bikes.
Leaving the bay.
Passing a nice sailboat.

Quite quickly Gal got seasick. Later, Erika threw-up on the front deck, where Lulu and Mandela, the 2 small (too) friendly dogs usually littered.
Rami fell asleep on the mattress on deck, while Gal was sleeping on a small bed, inside (we arrived last to the boat, all the ‘good’ big beds were taken). She woke up sweating in the middle of the night, barely managed to pee in the moving toilets, and joined Rami outside, with the wind and the stars. Turns out, this was the best spot to sleep (when it didn’t rain).

A short remark about peeing on the boat:
Being seasick, standing in a small moving booth, searching for the light, while the door bumps at you, with the boat movement, one minute of pumping/flushing with salt water, feeling you’re in a sauna… makes you want to drink less water.

Gal, half dead, sleeping on deck.

Rami woke up very early and helped Leo, as we entered the San-Blas Archipelago. We waited for the Panama immigration to open, everybody still asleep, Gal too tiered to move, so Rami joined Leo & Angela for a visit to one of the islands/villages. It was very interesting, anthropologically speaking, and very poor. The whole village was as if improvised from wood. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the camera with him, so best search for pictures of Kuna people in the internet.
Leo took our passports through immigration and later we sailed another hour between many small islands, till we anchored near ‘our island’ for the night.

San-Blas Islands.
Lulu, sleeping on the deck.
Towards our island.

Our island.

What can we say? The water was turquoise, the sand white, the sun up in the sky and nothing but coconuts on the island (and one small wooden shack). It was more than just beautiful; there was something else that intensified the feeling, maybe the thought that it was our own private island?
Rami jumped and swam to shore and walked around the island in 30 minutes.
We spent the day on the beach. In the late afternoon, on the way back to the boat, while walking near the hut, the fisherman called us, offering the 7 langoustines he caught (still fighting in the net). We bought them and 40 minutes later they arrived, on his canoe, cooked with coconut rice. Buen provecho!

Cold beer on our island.

Enjoying the hammock.

Buen provecho!
Playing with the dogs.

This night Leo & Angela slept on the deck and we slept in another place outside. We enjoyed another morning on the beach and set sail towards the tiny Colombian village of Sapzurro, just on the border with Panama, in the notorious Darien Gap.

Gal, on the helm.

Gal sleeping.

Gabriel, Angela’s son, swam to the boat. He was there with friends, on vacation, waiting to join us back to Cartagena. We all went down to the shore, to explore our first Colombian excursion. Gal’s head hurt, so we relaxed on the beach and later cooked dinner on the boat with Rob & nick. The other girls stayed on shore and drank themselves to death in the village. It’s O.K. to get drunk, but, 8 people living on a small boat; it raises some problems, like shouting: “Don’t flush the water, do it tomorrow”. Or parking the dinghy too close to shore after Leo explicitly explained us how to tie it so the waves will not smash it.
In the morning, Gal saw that “someone” didn’t flush the toilets (again) and shouted at the girls. Later, we took the dinghy to shore. The girls told us that crazy Leo yelled at them about the dinghy. Gal explained the girls that if the dinghy is gone and we need to use the inflatable rescue boat, they get on it last!

Sapzurro, Colombia.

We hiked through the jungle an hour & a half, to Capurgana, a bigger village, connected by crummy boats to Turbo (the ‘big’ city, 8 hours, no road). The village was charming, sleepy.
The tiny port was more alive, with one bar filled with men & empty beer bottles and one waitress, luring them all. Goods were unloaded from a tiny cargo boat; mainly beer, but even bananas!

The bay of Capurgana.
The tiny port.
The bar.
A donkey, taking the goods.

We set sail around 15:00, towards Cartagena, about 40 hours away. Gal finally felt good and enjoyed the sailing. She even took her turn on the helm. Angelas’ salsa music was playing and we were happy. Rami elegantly suggested to Rob & Nick to try holding the helm, actually participate in the sailing (instead of playing cards all the time), and they even did night shifts that night. Obviously, the girls (excluding Gal) were dismissed (not to scratch their hands, god forbid).

This is a good time to discuss the “all included sailing tour”. The ‘others’ came with an attitude of “we paid money, we don’t want/need to do anything!”, not cook, wash dishes, help with the sailing, flush the toilets, etc. Irrelevantly, they were antipathies, to us and to the captain. And the cost, $300 ($50 extra for the bikes, if anyone is interested), for 6 days + crossing to Colombia, is not that expensive. It’s not like the cost of a luxury cruse and not supposed to be.
This attitude is part of the general attitude of backpacking. It’s becoming less & less about learning & experiencing, and more about fun-fun, drinking beer with other travelers every day (not that there’s anything wrong with this, but, you can do that back home), not learning the language, not communicating with the locals, maybe even condescending. Most don’t put and effort in learning Spanish. Nick learned Spanish, in one of the Spanish schools in Guatemala, but, didn’t even try talking with Angela and spoke only English with Leo!

What about jumping on the opportunity and learning a bit about sailing and living in a sailboat (not so simple to cook in high seas) and get to know nice interesting locals Latinos (our captain and wife). And even more basic, 8 people on a small boat for 6 days – wouldn’t it feel nicer if people were more helpful and friendly?
Maybe due to our previous sailing experience, 4 months ago we knew that help will be needed, even in washing the dishes.

Gabriel, Angela´s son.

Finally, the perfect position.
With Angela, Leo & Gabriel.

And… we’re back!
On the first night we had good winds and our heavy metal barrel was ‘flying’ at 6 knots (with the help of the engine).
The next day passed with 2 incidents: at one point we had a small group of dolphins, about 20 playing with the boat. The other was Leo being a bit worried about the lack of diesel and no wind.
The day passed quickly. It was cloudy, so not too hot.

Rob on the helm, raining.

Land ahoy!!! 29/07/08
Around 02:00, while Gal and Leo were on watch, tired, very tired, they saw lights, and more lights. Cartagena!
With her eyes half closed, Gal had to steer the boat towards the harbor entrance, 2 blinking lights among millions. As the boat came closer, Gal went to sleep and Leo brought us in.
We woke up around 06:00 to see the big city around us.

We were kicked off the boat with only our backpack. We disembarked to the dinghy to find out that its’ engine didn’t work – row, row, row your boat... ♬

Rami and Leo, rowing.

Leo & Angela – thanks for a great sailing experience.
Leo y Angela – gracias para una buena experiencia de navegar.

For those looking for sailing trips Panama to Colombia or Colombia to Panama:

Our captain, Leo (who was very gentle with our bikes), highly recommended:
Email - LeoEnAmerica@hotmail.com
Cellular - (Colombia) 3103008161.

Or, for other boats and dates: Silvia at the Wunderbar.