<< Nicaragua 

Travel Days: 60 – 61

Location: San Jose, Costa Rica

Accommodation: Hostel Aldea, 7150 colones

With Alejandria by our side, we made our way to San Jose on the public bus. It cost $12, but it was luxury in comparison to the chicken buses. It was a coach with TVs, air conditioning, reclining chairs and a toilet. Four hours later we arrived in San José.

Alejandria was working for a restaurant connected to Hostel Aldea which suited us to the ground. All we wanted was sleep! We got a bite to eat in her restaurant and hit the sack. It gets cold here at night. Not hypothermia cold, but second blanket cold!

The next morning was an early start, we had every intention of seeing as much of San Jose as possible before moving elsewhere that afternoon. All intentions went out the window when I discovered they had hot water and spent too long standing under it. This alone was worth the extra few dollars!!

Eating out is quite expensive, so we head straight for the grocery store for breakfast. It was cheaper, but still quite expensive in comparison to where we had come from.

We strolled around the town, trying to get a feel for it. Parts are very western and others very Central American. The architecture around the area is a mix of colonial and old 80s style office blocks.

It does have a charm about it though. Alejandria had explained that it’s a city made up of lots of barrios – some are safer than others. We got as far as the bus station to buy our tickets to Puerto Viajo for 7150 colones and decided to head for what we could recognise as city centre (it had high rise buildings). At the old post office building we were warned by a local lady not to trust anyone – it seemed a bit extreme, but a man had just tried to sell me an avocado (yock!) by grabbing my wrist and pulling me towards his cart. A simple “no gracias” usually works, but he was persistent, so we just walked away and the lady witnessed it. It’s a good example of how nice the locals are, but how you kind of always need to keep your wits about you too.

We had our fill of the city, so turtled up (our houses are on our backs), said our goodbyes to Alejandria and dragged ourselves to the station.

Travel Days: 61 – 63

Location: Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Accommodation: Lionfish Hostel, 4400 colones (NOT recommended)

Four hours later we landed in Puerto Viejo. We were joined up again by Amanda and Nick, an Aussie fellow we had originally met in Guatemala. Lauren and I checked in to the Lionfish Hostel. Just as I was lying down to catch a wink, a loud buzzing noise started. Loud buzzing like an electrical fault. We switched everything off, but it continued. The guy at reception informed us it was a grasshopper like insect. Apparently it’s “good luck” to hear it – winning the lotto is good luck, enduring that noise in your room while trying to sleep is shit luck. We needed a drink.

First impressions of Puerto Viejo were that it was backpacker central, but also strangely quiet. Granted it was quiet season and a Tuesday though. The hostel bar was out of beer and Cuba Libres – the two cheapest drinks, so we head out to meet the others. We weren’t half way through the first beer when I started to wilt and head to bed. Lauren and I were greeted at the hostel for by our Costarican roomie – Alex. He hasn’t a word of English and was testing our Spanish. All I heard was “Mucho agua! (Lots of water).  Assuming he was taking taking the mick I walked passed him thinking “appreciate the offer Alex, but I only had one drink, thanks”. He wheeled after us (he’s in a wheelchair) to the room where there was mucho agua that smelt faintly of sewage on the floor of our room…where Lauren and my bags were swimming (so that insect is good luck eh?!). The Costarican cleaning staff were making an attempt to clean it up, but there was no sign of any of the reception or bar staff so we had to spend the night in that room. Disheartened, we took everything up off the floor and hit the sack.

An early 5am start the next day due to a cockrel doing his thing right outside our net window – even vegetarian Lauren wanted to kill it. Further proof that hearing that insect is like the banshee. I requested a change of room and the hostel wash our now damp in God-knows-what-water. They obliged on the laundry, but moving room proved to be difficult as they we
re totally incompetent. We were given beds in a dorm that were already inhabited. After the worst nights sleep, I couldn’t deal so left them to sort it out between them.

We rented bikes for 2000 colones and cycled out the coast. My bike was everything. Red frame, white rim tyres, complete with a basket – my mood was already brightening! We got to the Jaguar Rescue Centre where they rehabilitate and release sick and/or orphaned local wildlife.PC071312.JPG There’s nothing like seeing a sloth taking a peaceful nap in a tree to wipe away your bad mood – they are my spirit animal, especially the baby ones that snuggle into the nearest source of heat!
Beyond sloths, the centre hospitalises crocodiles, wild cats, owls, monkeys, squirrels, deer and a single winged pelican. All of the animals are there due to human intervention – car accidents, being kept as pets and abandoned, smuggling attempts and electrocution from the power lines (mostly sloths on that front!). They specialise in soft release, so the animal chooses when to go – once they’ve proven they can forage/hunt for themselves, they’re brought to the release site and left. The volunteers return some hours later and bring the animals that want to go back to the centre. Some stay, others go, others make their way back before the allocated time. It’s interesting to go to the centre and see their program. Had I not already booked onto the boat in Panama, I would have seriously considered volunteering with them.

We slowly made our way back the coast road soaking in the sites and sounds of the Carribean. A bit of lunch here, a bit of ice cream there. It was leisurely! PC071341.JPGBack at the hostel we met Alex who was trying to communicate to the receptionist that he wanted a new room. She hasn’t a word of Spanish and was none the wiser to the flooding. I showed her the room and explained Alex needed a new room with a wheelchair accessible bed (duh!). Grateful, he offered to drop Lauren and I to the Panama border the next morning. Our luck was turning!!! I checked our room which was still in a heap – nothing was done about the bed situation. We were to wait for the manager to come and sort it.

We ran to the grocery shop and bank to get ourselves sorted for the days travel ahead. I was continuing my constant quest for postcards and patches when Alex pulled up beside us in his car. He was leaving. When we asked why he said “agua de caca”. Direct translation – shit water. It was sewage. That insect better be dead and it’s “good luck” with it.

Back to the hostel. Our clothes were hanging half inside and half on the line outside. All still wet. The sun was going down and we were leaving at 6.30am. My impatience was starting to bubble back and needed a lie down. I had a physical bed, but the used sheets were crumpled in the corner. At this stage it was gone passed incompetency. This was the last time I was going to ask for my bed. This time the woman behind the counter was worth something because she sorted it pretty much straight away.

We brought in the damp clothes in an attempt to dry them under the fan in our room. It worked for most of the light clothes, but any denim hadn’t a chance. It would have to do! Then Lauren went to go for a shower, but couldn’t find her wash bag. A quick check with the lady at reception showed that it was handed in, but thrown out because the guy who recieved it didn’t think it was important. That was the last straw. Flooded room, wet clothes, failure to give us beds until 6pm and now thrown out Laurens toiletries and not one apology. The lady, who was evidently the manager, finally apologised for the whole situation and offered to replace Laurens goods.

The next morning wasn’t much of an improvement when we went to retrieve our stuff from the fridge only to find it locked. At that stage we gave up and went for the bus.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn hour and a half and 1500 colones saw us to the border. It’s an odd one – You climb a small hill to the border, only to be sent back to what’s advertised as a pharmacy to pay the exit fee of $8/4800 colones (cheaper to pay in a bank prior to getting to the border).
You then cross a bridge (to our disappointment it’s a shiny new one and not the rickety one) to Panama. In Panama, you’re directed off the bridge to the old bridge where you pay a $4/3000 colones entry fee, which I’m skeptical about being official. You then go back to the new bridge and queue for your stamp – they don’t ask for proof of paying the “entry fee”. In all it took us two hours and fifteen minutes from leaving the public bus in Costa Rica to getting a taxi on the Panama side.


Panama

Travel Days: 63- 68

Location: Panama City,  Panama

Accommodation: Los Mostros, $14 pp/pn

We met some other ladies traveling to Bocas del Toro at the Panama border who were more than willing to share a taxi with us to where we could get the bus. The taxi, which cost $20 between six of us, dropped us to a teeny tiny town called Almirante, where we picked up a connection to David.

The buses again are luxurious and absolutely freezing. Armed with blankets we settled on the bus for the four hour journey. The first half of the trip was glorious. They were playing a ‘Step Up’-esque movie on the screen dubbed in Spanish and I was following what was happening…not that it was hard! After the movie finished they switched it up to some Reggae music. And turned up the bass. Way up. My eardrums nearly burst. It felt like I was right in front of an amp at a rock concert. The remaining two hours were painful. Even the Reggae Queen, Lauren, couldn’t deal!

We were offloaded in David where we jumped onto another bus Panama City bound. It was a double decker and the top front seat was free. I was beside myself with excitement – our luck was finally changing!! Just as we had made ourselves comfy and opened out the tablet to catch up on TV a gentleman presented his ticket with a seat number on it. Low and behold we were in his seat. Baaaaaaaalls. Puppy dog eyes didn’t work. He was a man of steel!!! We moved to the back of the bus to the only available seats. It wasn’t long before we figured out why – the window was leaking.

After about four hours on the road, the bus stopped for a toilet/snack break which we took full advantage of. After about 15 minutes we went to return to the bus, but there was no sight or sound. Our luck want great before this, but this was the point I started to really question what I had done to the universe!!! Just as I was about to break down, a lovely local man told me the bus had merely gone to get petrol. By tell, I mean use sign language and ‘whoosh’ sounds (Petrol isn’t a word that has come up on Duolingo yet!). It showed up about 20 minutes later, presumably full to the brim of petrol. It did give us time enough to organise a hostel and negotiate a price over Facebook and pick up some people to share a taxi!

We arrived in Panama City bus terminal at 1am and attempted to get a taxi. Luckily, I had already asked the hostel what price a taxi should be ($6 max), because the greedy taxi man started at $20. Unfortunately for him, he was now dealing with two girls who had been traveling 19 hours on the worst luck and were in no mood for that shit. Fortunately for us, his friend recognised my stubborness and offered us a more reasonable prove of $7. Sold.

We landed in Los Mostros and fell into bed. I rose the next morning for breakfast (Frosties and toast – FROSTIES PEOPLE!!) and went back to bed for a nap. The Frosties started to kick in so I had to get up. Lauren was in the same boat, so we hopped into a taxi and head for Casco Viejo.

Casco Viejo is the old colonial part of town and is ridiculously beautiful. It’s reminiscent of Old Havana. We walked the streets and ended up at French Square, surrounded by the sea wall, where a man was waiting for us to give us a little history of the area. In that one little square, that’s not an actual square, was a monument used as a sun dial, with a secret tunnel inside in case of attack during the Spanish occupation. Right beside it are the old dungeons (where part of Prison Break was apparently recorded) and the building used as the casino in Quantom of Solace.

The dungeons are now used for art exhibitions, but back in the day they housed criminals of the Spanish Crown. The holes where the prisoners were shackled are still there today. Our guide told us they had four types of punishment/torture for the inmates;

  1. Lashings and then throw salt water on the wounds
  2. Use crabs to pinch the victims nipples (kinky)
  3. Let the the tide come in and drown them
  4. Throw them to the sharks.

I think I’d go for option 1.

A bit of Wifi while eating lunch at the best sandwich place in the world, Capressa, showed up an interesting walking tour around the area. The Fortaleza Tour is a walking tour around the old gang lands in Casco Viejo by a member of the Ciudad de Dios gang. It cost $20 each and started at 5pm in front of the American Trade Hotel – a five star hotel.

We met on the front step where we were greeted by a tall PanAmerican who was translating the tour for us gringos. He introduced us to a short, by Irish standards, Panamanian man with braces and a hard look on his face. This man, Antonio, was our tour guide and ex member of the now dissolved Ciudad de Dios gang. They started straight into it and told us how the now five star hotel and the park it sat on was once home to four different gangs. At one point there were twelve 16 year old, or younger, single mothers living amongst it.

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It all came to a head when a prominent, independent dealer was shot in a second floor room and feel to his death through a window, landing at the front door. His body was surrounded by desensitised children. The government stepped in and kicked everyone out. The building was later sold to an American who converted it into the five star hotel it is today. Before renovations stated though, they took pictures of the gang graffiti and made it into a wallpaper. It now covers the walls of the main staircase.

They brought us through Casco Viejo to various historical sights in between different murder locations and crack houses that have been demolished or gentrified. As we walked through the neighbourhood, people were running up to, greeting and getting photos with Antonio.

They explained that since the gang dissolved, a way for the ex members to avoid jail time was to rejoin society, live and work in the area. Majority are now working in the hotels and restaurants in their old gang land. Antonio and some other members started The Fortaleza Tour company as an income, but also as a social project in the area to prevent the children in their neighbourhood the same mistakes.

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The tour ended in a bar opposite a notorious crack house from back in the day with strawberry shot. Odd in those circumstances! There was a bit of a Q&A that left both myself and Lauren with more questions than answers. They walked us back to the hotel on seemingly normal street, where Antonio walked down the centre line. This road is still a gang border into a red zone for both Antonio and tourists…it’s literally two streets away from the hotels, bars and restaurants full of tourists. Crazy!

We walked home by the Malecón, which had some pretty slick views of the city by night. We weren’t half way before the heavens opened and started lashing down on us. We found shelter under a marquee with some of the locals who started busking or something of the sort! Two groups battled for people’s attention – one Latin American boyband singing vaguely familiar songs acoustically and one native group energetically dancing in a circle with maracas and bamboo flutes (I cannot remember the real name for these!!). It was pretty cool to see the difference in cultures. Even better to see the mutual respect between them when they took turns to play their music. The night ended with us failing to get our act together to go out and going for a Chinese instead…!!

The next morning saw us up bright and early for an adventure to the Panama Canal only to be greeted by Amanda herself from Bocas del Toro and Kezia, a girl we met in Utila, Honduras. The four of us got our act together and hopped in an Uber to the canal. You can get buses for about $1 total, but the Uber was only $2 and it meant I’d have longer to nerd it up. Along the way, our driver pointed out another red zone where anyone that doesn’t live there cannot enter because it’s so dangerous. It seemed to be a large area…

We were dropped at the door of the canal museum. It cost $15 to enter, which included a semi informative video and exhibition about the history of the canal, and access to the viewing deck. First off was the viewing deck. OI000087.jpgThere was a barge waiting at the first gate so I watched it intently while the girls took selfies by the canal. Then I watched the second one before they announced the video was starting, so we head for that. Unfortunately it was the Spanish video (apparently subtitling it was too much bother?) which meant a 30 minute wait for the English version. The girls were starting to get a bit bored at this stage! We passed the time in the exhibition, where Lauren picked up an interest in the history of the canal and Amanda found the section about wildlife of the area. They were happy out! I, on the other hand, found out nothing about how it works, besides it uses gravity. The video was much the same. The one thing that has become increasingly apparent is that the USA has essentially colonised each of the Central American countries through capitalism at some point or another!! In Panama, by controlling their canal and the surrounding lands and seas up to the 70s.

After getting my fill of the canal, Amanda took advantage of the wifi and got us another Uber to the view point on Cerro Cedro. Little did we, or our Uber driver, know that you actually can’t drive up there and can only get about half way up.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We hopped out and started our hill climb in flip flops and handbags/bumbags. It was a sweaty 40 minutes of singing choruses of random songs we didn’t know the words to before reaching the summit. There are various viewing points up there of pretty much all of the city. The canal side of town is a lot more industrial looking, of course, and high rise metropolitan buildings on the other side are what Panama City is advertised as. The interesting part was where Casco Viejo was – you could clearly see the touristy manicured cathedral domes, but slightly moving your gaze right or down were a lot of what I recognised as the “red zones” both our walking tour and Uber driver had separately pointed out. They were joined and vast. It was kind of reminiscent of Central and Old Havana.

The walk back down the hill went a lot smoother and less sweaty than our ascent. It was coming close to feeding time and also time to go to the meeting with our boat crew and fellow passengers, so we were all pretty eager to get back to civilisation. We walked for a bit passed the gate and flagged a taxi down that already had a fare. The four of us loaded into the back of the cab bound for the shopping centre around the corner from our hostel… fb_img_1483762540975Only our taxi driver didn’t quite pick up the specifics and dropped us at a random shopping centre. The gringo tax was going to cost us $5, a tax none of us were willing to pay and so a verbal argument incurred. The original customer, a local lady, sat patiently in the front while the four of us argued our case in the back. Eventually it came to “drop us to the correct location for $7, or we get out here and pay nothing”. The taxi man decided it his best interest to lose his fare and leave us at the shopping centre – silly considering that was more than half way to our hostel and he got nothing for it. We weren`t complaining though – shopping malls have food courts!!

Fed and watered, we head to Mamallena Hostel for the briefing before going on the boat. Only six others showed up of the 20 people booked on. One American, three Germans and two Irish (woohoo!!). They gave us a heads up on the trip itself, what we did and didn’t need, the sleeping, food, alcohol and most importantly – the toilet situation. They also organised the transport for us to get to the catamaran the morning we set sail as it was departing from one of the San Blas islands. It wasn’t included in the price of the sailing trip, but it was necessary so at least it took a load off on the Google front. We left armed with a shopping list for the following day and plans of making use of our last night in Panama city.

Back at the hostel, we befriended a group of Spanish and Brazilians who were headed for the Hard Rock bar to get a view of the city at night. It was just around the corner from the hostel too – delightful. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom speaking with the two Irish guys on our boat, we had the down low on how to get in without paying a penny – walk in like you own the place, they’ll just think you’re one of the ignorant residents! It worked a treat until the lady at the desk ran after me asking for my room number. Room 203 was apparently plausible enough for her to smile and retreat. The views are pretty sweet up there – not quite as satisfying as the surprise hike up Cerro Cedro, but considerably less sweaty. Had it been a regular night up there, we would have beeln able to get out on the balcony for some selfies. Alas, there were lots of, what I assume were Christmas parties, going on that neither my ignorant gringo or Irish charm could swing my way in. Drinks were expensive even by Irish standards, so we vacated and head for Mojito sin Mojito in Casco Viejo.

Mojito sin Mojito is a shed like bar just off the same square as the American Trade Hotel that sells everything except mojitos, hence the name. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt only took two drinks before we had met some locals who were more than willing to escort us to a local nightclub that played both reggaeton and regular, honest to goodness, house music. This is where my salsa lessons in Vinales, Cuba, came in handy. I impressed with my ability to be swung around like a rag doll and keep up the “one two three” step – either that or they were just really drunk. Probably the latter, but I’m going with the former.

The night resulted in a painfully short hangover day. Before I knew it, it was 5pm, nothing was ticked off our extensive to do list for the boat and no one was in the mood to figure out the logistics of how much drink is too much. We ended up buying enough to keep us going for at least a week at an extortionate price – for future reference, go to Super 99 if you need a good selection of cheap drink, not a supermarket in an expensive neighbourhood. The one upside to shopping in an upmarket area is that the guys in the shop basically do your shopping for you, pack it up and then carry it to your car. No car? He’ll wave down a taxi. Delightful! Another point worth mentioning is that was the only shop (Deli K Market) in the entire of Central America that sold salt and vinegar crisps. Take notes!!!

Next up was packing everything I anticipated needing for the week into my 20L day pack and repacking the remaining 60L into a black plastic bag inside my main pack. This posed all sorts of problems – I need to have everything in it’s place, otherwise I’m liable to losing it. I have also upped my tetris game so I can fit more in my bag without running too much risk of bursting the zip. Closing my bag that night was a bigger pain than anticipated and my poor bag was visibly under serious pressure. Kezia dropped over to say her goodbyes and gave us some parting gifts – clothes, bite cream, toiletries – Christmas had come early and my bag was screaming by the end of it!! It was an early night considering the 5am start the next morning to get to the boat. We took our last proper shower for the week and hit the hay.


San Blas Islands

Travel Days: 68 – 72

Location: San Blas Islands

Accomodation: El Gitano del Mar, $550 plus $57 for transport to the boat

The next morning I dragged my higgledy-piggledy bags out front along with the million grocery bags full of snacks and alcohol. A jeep pulled up in convoy and loaded us into the back. Space was at a premium, mostly because we had so many bags with us. Just as we were set to leave, a man yanked us from the car and lost his head at the driver. From what I understand, he wasn’t supposed to have taken us. The jeep left the convoy presumably to pick up the right people. Queue our rescuer to have a heated telephone conversation that woke the neighbours up. The shouting continued long enough for us to run back into the hostel and benefit of the free breakfast from 6am. I still had the toast in my hand when one of the other cars that had been sitting in the convoy rolled about 2m closer to the hostel gates to inform us they were our bus – bare in mind, they were sitting there for at least 20 minutes watching the other guy lose his sh!t at some poor sod on the other side of the phone…!! Nonetheless, we happily loaded onto the bus.

About two hours of driving on relatively good roads saw us as far as Pachamama gypsy hostel/camp. It turns out the guy that owns the boat also owns the hostel/camp. We stopped in there for a $3 breakfast and a beer (stop judging – I’m on my holiers). It’s an interesting spot – an eco lodge from what I gather. To stay there you need to really like the outdoors… So much so that you pay to work in the outdoors. They did have lots of puppies running around, so we were happy out sitting there until another convoy of cars pulled up to take us the rest of the way. The roads beyond that point needed 4x4s instead of shuttle buses and cost $42, which included the tax to get to the San Blas. It was another hour of practically rally racing through the Panamanian hillside. They dropped us off beside a river where we got a water taxi to the catamaran for $15.

We finally got to the catamaran where we were greeted by Dingo, our Ozzy captain, Lakei, our Kiwi cook, Elena, the German first mate, Jon, the Colombian crew member and Nally, the pit bull that knitted it all together. Our backpacks and shoes were taken and stored away for safe keeping, while everything else was left in the communal area. Beers were cracked open pretty much straight away. A quick glance at the group proved the ratio of girls to boys to be a little off. Of the 20 guests on the boat, 15 of them were boys. Of the five girls, the other two girls were spoken for. The immediate perk to this was we girls were given a private cabin, as did the two couples!

Lakei cooked up a storm for the entire boat as Dingo set down some ground rules. It was her first trip as the boat cook and it was divine. It became increasingly apparent that our bags of snacks were a wasted effort because Lakei was going to keep everyone well fed with doubles and even triple portions if you wanted them. Additional to the previously outlined information from Mamallena, Dingos “ground rules” were more like little nuggets of sailing wisdom, the most profound being the “aqua turd”. Google, even UrbanDictionary, hasn’t quite captured this one, but I’m sure you can imagine what that is.

Dingo anchored the boat up near the first island – close enough to swim or kayak to the shore. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made an attempt to load the boat up with Dingos recommended five people, but it surprisingly toppled… Even more surprisingly, once I got off and swam, they could paddle to shore. The island wasn’t even 1km sq, with palm trees and coconuts dotted eveywhere and white sandy beaches with the clearest blue water you’ve ever seen. It’s basically everything I always associated paradise with. there were two families living on the island in wooden huts. They keep to themselves, but they also sell beers etc. if you need some. After drinkng on the beach, we swam back to the boat for dinner and more drinks. It was a heavy night of bonding with the boat family and me being horrendously bad at drinking games.

The next morning was a far more chilled affair with pretty much everyone napping on the deck or hammock and the Americans fishing. We inherited two new guys from Pachamama hostel, bringing the total count of men on the boat to 19 vs the 7 girls. We sailed to another island, similar to the first, but with a nice wee shipwreck up beside it. I fell asleep on the way, under the sun, without sunscreen and deservedly got burnt on my back and bum. Nice. The Ozzys went straight for surfing while Lauren, Julia (German – Hungarian lady) and I hopped into the kayak and paddled to an island that looked to have a resort on it…with a few beers. The resort turned out to be a collection of huts on the beach and one main house. It looked expensive. We lived it up for as long as the beers lasted and then head back to the boat for pumpkin soup and garlic bread. Dingo had us moored up a short swim to another, smaller island so Lauren and I comandeered the kayak to the beach to chill. We were well into the beers at this stage, so the natural thing to do was to give Lauren a sandy sex change. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had our fun and head back, just a tad bit tipsy, but Lauren even more so because when she attempted to gracefully dismount the kayak she gave herself a wedgie which resulted in a ripped bikini bottom. It was only myself and Dingo that saw it and we near wet ourselves!! That night we sailed back to the island from the previous night for a proper party. Jon brought us all by dingy to the island where there were a few tables and chairs set up on the beach. A bonfire was started and everyone was in flying form into the early hours.

Day three saw a lot of hungover heads. Every morning we were woken by “I get knocked down” by Chumbawamba at about 8am, but this one felt painful and the cabin was a sticky, sweaty oven. We had breakfast anchored at the party island and then set sail for our last island. This time I availed of the dingy to the island. This island only had one family on it so was even more deserted than the others. Walking from one side to the other took all of five minutes, but the beaches were spectacular. It was my favourite of the islands – I realise that doesn’t help if you wanted to go because I didn’t get the name. Soz! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe spent the afternoon there chilling and just having the craic in general. A relatively short swim that left me almost out of breath and making mental notes to drink less and exercise more got me back to the boat before heading to yet another island. Some of the group started a game of water polo just off the beach, but Nally “Ball Buster” pit bull decided to join which resulted in two dead volleyballs! Sebastian, our German friend, tried to trick Nally by swimming with a ball back to the boat so he could be tied up, which was successful up to the point of getting the ball on the boat. Nally snapped the ball and murdered it good. Satisfied with himself, he hopped back on the boat where Lakei and Elena tied him up with his latest victim.

That night we feasted on lobsters bought by Dingo from the island tradespeople and prepped by the Pachamama boys and Jon. When I say “prepped”, I mean the live lobster cut in half and baked. If I didn’t like meat so much, I would have considered becoming veggie after that! It was damn tasty though. Following our seafood meal under the moonlight, Dingo sat down to inform us that we would be hitting the open water that night to sail for the Colombian coast. There would be no stopping from here out, so take the necessary precautions (motion sickness pills) to prevent illness. He also informed us of the sick bet. Each of us put a dollar, or something worth a dollar, into a kitty and pulled a name out of a hat. The person who has the name tag of the first person to get sick wins the money. However, should that person get sick, the person with their name gets the money and so on and so forth. I got Mikey, a fellow Galwegian – my odds were horrendously bad. I’m hard, so decided to see how things would go before succumbing to any pharmaceuticals. We hunkered down relatively early to be asleep before Dingo and the crew set sail at midnight.

I found the night grand, if a little loud and creaky. Others weren’t so lucky… When we woke the next morning there were a few green faces. Poor Sofie was the first to go in the early hours of the morning, so Julia was winning. Julia had drank 3 litres of wine on night one and woke up the next morning right as reign – she had it in the bag.

The day went by slowly. Majority of the boat stayed horizontal majority of the time in an effort to either catch up on the previous nights sleep or just not feel like we were in a tumble dryer. I braved the front cabin to get to my backpack to retrieve my colouring books and pencils to pass the time – the third attempt was successful. Julia and I had 30 minutes of distraction before the waves started to play commotion with my tummy again resulting in more time spent horizontal, just in time for the boys fishing lines to both have caught something. Everyone (that knew anything about fishing) hit the ground running trying to land them – Dingo on one side and Lakei on the other. Dingo obviously had a little more experience though, because poor Lakei and anyone in the general vicinity was left with fish blood all over them from it thrashing around on the boat deck before she could drown it in rum. The veggie thoughts started again at this point!! The crew started straight away prepping the tuna for a feast of tuna ceviches and grill ham and cheese sandwiches. It turns out I’m not keen on ceviches, but I do love a good sandwich!!! And just like that, I was full on carnivore again!

The waves did calm enough eventually that we could sit in the front of the boat again. I brought my camera out to capture just how far into the blue we were, only for it to refuse to turn on. It was odd considering I could hear it taking photos, but just not see it on the screen. A quick check linking it to my phone proved the screen had blacked out, but the camera was still working. It could be worse, right?!

Lakei and Jon cooked the freshly caught mahi mahi that night for whoever was brave enough to eat before bunkering down for another rough night of open water sailing. It was divine – my eyes have been opened to seafood on this trip!! At about 8pm everyone was bate and hit the sack.

The second night was a little rougher, which made for an interesting nights sleep. I made it to about 3am before I had to leave the cabin and go up to the deck. It felt a lot less rocky up there, so we snuggled up under the stars (bucket list moment!) and nodded off only to be woken by the sunrise what felt like 10 minutes later. The sea was much calmer at this point and you could make out some land in the horizon, that or I was delerious from the lack of sleep. Likely the latter.

Dingo sailed as far as Isla de Rosario before anchoring us up. At this point it had been just short of two days since anyone had showered. Everyone jumped in at the first opportunity, including Nally. We had breakfast there, while Dingo explained that he had to extend our trip by a few hours because the sea was so rough the previous night. They made the executive decision to hug the Colombian coast instead of going the direct route – something we were all glad of once we hit the calmer waters!!

We spent the remainder of the time cleaning out the fridge of all food and drinks. I can honestly say I have never started drinking so early. We were all well on it by the time we sailed into the bay of Cartagena – the million photos of that morning are proof of that!! It was the perfect ending to the perfect week with the perfect crew though.

If you’re planning on doing the San Blas I’d recommend the following:

  • plenty of babywipes and hand sanitiser – there’s no running water other than a 30s shower at the end of the moored days
  • a nice smelling aerosol (deodorant/air freshener to hide any odours from, oh I don’t know, blocked toilets!)
  • plastic bags for wet and dry separation
  • A heavy – ish jumper for inevitably sleeping on the deck at least one of the nights
trip-so-far
The trip so far
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