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From Patagonia to Panama

PANAMA | Wednesday, 28 September 2011 | Views [2046]

Arriving at Capurgana Port, we were soggy, high on adrenaline and exhausted from our two day traveling stint to get there. Deposited in the middle of nowhere (a familiar feeling by now for Team Beatrice) we were ready for some relaxation. Ladden down with food supplies for our three night stay, I was once again reminded that a too heavy plastic bag cutting off circulation to fingers really can feel like the worst thing that has ever happened, even when you have just arrived in a Caribbean port town. Really wanting to pinch our pennies, we dismissed the hostel with harbor views and hammocks and dragged ourselves around the stony streets of Capurgana. It was all rather charming - there are no cars, it has a very relaxed beach town feel about it and hilariously, a man trotted by in a horse cart, his cart offering seats of white plastic chairs with legs cut off.

VIP transport, Capurgana style

While Team Beatrice got on famously during our travels together, carting truckloads of heavy plastic bags whilst working on 2 long travel days and little sleep can bring on frustrations quicker than normal. We ditched our bags with Helen, and Bea and I negotiated ourselves a room, bag free. Before agreeing to the room that we had found on the edge of town, we made sure to check there was a kitchen, having stocked up for 3 nights of cooking way back in Cartagena, not wanting to eat out and pay daylight robbery prices. Assured that there definitely was a kitchen by the sweet old lady who owned the place, we headed out for the day to laze on the beach and do a whole lot of well earned nothing. It was only when we returned at dark to prepare dinner that we realized the kitchen was a pit where you made your own fire out of the firewood you chopped with a provided machete. It was a dismal discovery. Trying our best with matches that wouldn't light and wood that we managed to get the owner's son to chop for us on account of our obvious uselessness, we realized an important fact: we had no fucking idea how to make a fire.

What would have been lovely to see in front of us at that exact moment

I'm sure the sight of all three of us miserably trying to light non lightable matches and fruitlessly blowing at the wood was a hilarious sight, but Team Beatrice's morale was at an all time low. Distressed at our inability to prepare dinner and bitter about the idea that a machete and pit were seen as a conventional kitchen in Capurgana, we were very luckily taken pity upon by the woman who had rented us the room. For a price, we were allowed to use the family's gas cooker, which caused a lovely bit of awkward family arguments with the husband, and Helen cooked us a marvellous dinner of rice. We were slightly cheered by the fact that after eating, the hippies staying in another room that we chatted to for an hour or so spent a good hour trying to boil some water and miserably failed. Fire does not maketh a well cooked dinner, or even warm water.

Their kitchen facilities may not be up to my standards, but Capurgana was still awesome

The next day we got up early to hike to Sapzurro, the next town a hill over. It was a boiling hot day and the one small bottle of water I brought was woefully inadequate but it was beautiful at the top, looking down over Sapzurro and its bay. The trek was both rudimentary and steep and on the way down there was a ten minute section that was essentially a sheer drop, covered in slippery mud. Guess who got covered in mud from far too many falls on the way down? Definitely not as fun as the mud volcano. Arriving in Sapzurro to a beautiful beach, sun and idyllic laid back tiny town, we decided to press on to Panama (as you do). Sapzurro is on the Colombian border and once you heave yourself up a steep hill of many, many stairs you reach the Colombian-Panamanian border and then heave yourself down again you reach the Panamanian border town of La Miel. Told the La Miel beach was awesome, we headed uphill, completed border crossing procedures and took an obiligatory photo with the 'Welcome to Panama' sign.

Overlooking Sapzurro from the very high mountain top

Hola Panama y Central America!


Once we'd trooped down the many stairs we arrived to the best beach ever. Spending summers on New Zealand's Northland beaches has made me a fussy consumer and a lot of beaches I've travelled to haven't met my Northland standards but La Miel way surpassed them. White sands, a big quiet bay and turquoise waters which were absolutely transparent. Strapping on a snorkel mask, I amused myself for hours diving to the bottom and floating upwards, watching the surface come closer. An absolutely fantastic day. Rather than catching the boat back to Sapzurro like everyone else, we chose to hike back, which meant that once the boats left we had the beach all to ourselves for another hour or so. Not quite machoistic enough to do the sweaty, muddy hike back to Capurgana, we ate coconut ice cream, bought some earrings and dangled our legs off Sapzurro's pier before having a lovely boatride around the bay to get home. Having negotiated we would pay to use the gas at our place for the entirety of our stay, I made a mediocre dinner of pasta carbonara and super enjoyed the awkwardness of cooking in someone else's kitchen with the entire family watching. That night, I attempted to learn salsa at the local discoteque, thanks to some kind locals.

Beautiful, lovely, amazing La Miel...my new favourite beach in the world

Arriving back in Capurgana via the much more relaxing and less taxing boat ride

Our last full day was slightly held up by the a fierce rainstorm at the start of the day but a morning's worth of dozing and reading isn't the worst thing in the world. Helen started the diving class she was staying longer in Capurgana to complete (and congrats Helsi on now beign a certified Open Water Diver!) while Bea finally picked out a present for her birthday that we had celebrated all the way back in bordertown Brazil. Our last night together plan of getting a nice dinner was challenged by all the formal dining options shutting early, but we made do with street food. I made one last Spanish faux pas, solemnly informing the girl who sold me a sole sausage rather than the full meal on offer that I only wanted a sausage because 'no tengo mucho hombre'. Spanish is Spanish and Rach is Rach, and never shall the twain meet. We ate our streetfood on the pier, looking out at the sea and reminiscing about our adventures together. It was a nice way to end things, although we were all sad to be going seperate ways. Helen is off to Montreal on a Canadian working holiday visa to become a literary superstar and work on her already perfect French, whilst Bea is heading to London to take on the world of corporate finance in the City. With me heading back to New Zealand in November to take care of severely depleted finances, it may be awhile till our threesome reunites once again, but whenever we do, we'll have lots of good memories and funny stories to laugh about.

Downtown Capurgana

Tags: beaches, capurgana, caribbean, colombia, hiking, la miel, panama, sapzurro



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