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South America 2015

Ahoy Amigos - Panama to Columbia

PANAMA | Tuesday, 14 July 2015 | Views [324]

The 'Amande' In San Blas

The 'Amande' In San Blas

Ahoy amigos

In typical fashion our ride had the times wrong and we were hustled out of bed at the hostel as the car was waiting at 5am, not 5:30 as the receptionist said, grumpy hostel guy pushed us out the door and again in typical fashion, there was 9 of us waiting by the 7 seat Landcruiser. Comfort was not an option on the 2.5 hour journey to the coast but we did get aquainted with our fellow travellers. Finally at the docks we met some more travellers and asked who was going on which boat, the answers not good, 16 people on a 12 bed boat, this will be interesting. The group consisted of 3 american couples, ourselves and a group of 6 Irish lads travelling together. The Irish lads had packed for 5 days at sea, 17 bottles of spirits and 12 cartons of beer. This will be interesting indeed. Consider that the last 2 days of of the trip is crossing the open ocean renowned for rough seas and swell.
We got a water taxi out to our yacht 'the Amande' and it began. Everyone was introduced and beds divided up. The couples all given cabins, the Irish got bunks and places on the deck, the skipper Olly and deckhand Alex having to give up their beds due to the overbooking. Olly slept in the inflatable dinghy trailing the yacht. Nice. We set sail for the San Blas islands, Juanita forgot her sea legs and was introduced to the railing for a quick spew on the way to the first island. Once out of the swell and sheltered by the islands and reefs, the beauty of the area sunk in. Little island outcrops of sand, a few palm trees and huts of the Kuna indians dotted the horizon, the clearest pale blue water I've ever seen. Snorkels were dished out and the exploration began. 
Each morning and afternoon were spent at new and different patches of paradise. Chichime, Banedup, Cayo holandes were the main islands. We passed the time snorkelling twice a day on different reefs, sunbathing, swimming or visiting the local islands. The Kuna charge for setting foot on each island, as each is owned by a different family. You either pay 2 dollars or buy a beer from their little bar, needless to say we didn't pay any cash. Some islands are uninhabited, some with bars and makeshift shops, the odd volleyball court or lunch table for hire. One day we had lunch caught and cooked by the locals, fresh speared fish barbecued on the fire. Other days Alex cooked up a storm on the boat, pastas, local delights, ceviche, fresh lobster from the reef for dinner. We trawled fishing lines when moving, catching a bonito tuna, and did some bottom fishing at night. Imagine my surprise when I pulled up a 1 metre long Morey Eel ! And of course with the Irish influence we were all having a little tipple, haha, the rum flowed a plenty, games of cards were taken very seriously and general hilarity followed. Everyone got on well and and a happy vibe surrounded us for 3 suntastic and funtastic days. On the final evening at 9pm the open ocean crossing to Cartagena began. The skipper warned against drinking before we left, the Irish ignored said warning and we headed for the open ocean.
We were greeted with 4m swell and 40 knot winds around 11pm, Juanita again the first to fall victim to the roll and spending some time over the railing feeding the fish, with a few Irish soon to follow. We headed to bed for hope of calm seas in the morning.  We didn't get them, at all, for the entire crossing. Poor Juantia left unable to leave the cabin or plastic bag for the next 36 hours. Jorje made it until the next afternoon before giving in to the 'chucking chair' (the designated sick seat) at the back of the boat. 10 of the 14 passengers had been in the chair and were now below deck. Needless to say the air was thick with the smell of sickness. To make matters worse the front to cabins sprung leaks and the beds and all of our clothes got soaked through. Leaving us laying in wet clothes in a wet bed, seasick as hell for the remainder of the trip, not as much fun as the previous few days.
After what seemed like an eternity we were woken the next morning at 4am by an eerie calm as we sailed into Cartagena in the dark, beautiful lights of the medieval city shining away in the distance. The sickness stopped and we took in the fresh sea air. We had made it in one piece. Even afterwards we all concurred that despite the horrendous crossing, the days on the Caribbean islands had been well worth it. We slept for a few more hours then headed ashore around 9am. We were now in Columbia. Checked into our hostel and showered like we had never showered before and settled in for a nap, though Juanita was sure the room was still rocking. You know you've got your sea-legs when the second day back on land you need to pop a sea sickness tablet because the room is still rocking.
We caught up with all the crew that evening and had a few beers and reminisced of islands and rum-fuelled sillyness. Juanita glowing with her 'best ever tan' 
Would we do it all again ? Absolutely !


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