(I’m sharing a ton of pictures from this trip, don’t miss out)
One can drive from Alaska/Canada all the way to the most southern tip of South America along the Pan American Highway all for one minor interruption called the Darien Gap in Panama. It’s a deep forested jungle separating Panama, Central America from Colombia, South America. For us, other overlanders and all other travelers going south or coming north one has two options; fly from Panama City to Bogota, Colombia or sail a portion of the Caribbean Sea along the San Blas Islands Archipelago to reach Cartagena, Colombia. We put our van in a container and it would take about a week for it to make it to Cartagena, now what to do with ourselves. I could dream all I wanted to sail along perfect islands but to have the stars align in order for everything to workout; timing with our vehicle, Christian agreeing to this and it falling on my birthday was just never going to happen.
We had an insanely strict timeline for our vehicle because we shared a container with four guys from Argentina in a combi. We dropped off our vehicles at the same time and we absolutely had to be at the port together in Cartagena to unlock and pick up The Globe Trol. Christian and I researched how much flying out on short notice, booking hotels for six days, eating out every meal, taxis and buses to get us around because we would be waiting for our van to arrive compared to an all inclusive sailing trip. It wasn’t a huge savings to not jump onto this once in a lifetime trip within an already great adventure. While sweating in Panama we just had to find the perfect boat that would line up with our vehicle shipping dates, dammit. Most people would consider me as positive and hopeful person. I usually just know “something will workout, if not it wasn’t meant to be.” But this time this dream was just to good to be true. One hundred things could have gone wrong to keep us out of the water and put us on a plane.
Instead of flying we found the perfect outgoing boat with impeccable timing and for the cherry on top a magnificent group of people were grouped together. Christian and I packed a backpack each and brought a box loaded with beers, wine and snacks. A cab found us and we took a two hour ride out to a remote tiny village immediately after we said goodbye to the van. We met the captain and chef at a palapa restaurant on the water and waited for the eight other travelers to arrive. Late that night we hopped on dingys to take us out to our new boat-home for the next five days. Christian and I had no idea what to expect and what the next week of our lives would be like, but these days we’re quite adaptable. The next five days blow the hell out of our expectations, we kept checking in on each other to see if we were sailing through a dream or not.
That night Jari, our captain stays up all night and the next morning to sail us fifteen hours to the first island where we pay our ecotourism island fees to the Kuna Yala Island Tribe and pick up some supplies ( as in 128 beers, 7 bottles of rum, 3 bags of cookies, 4 bags of chips and any chocolate in their tienda/store they had available) The guys ran out of beer and we all ran out of rum by my birthday festivity.
Cesar, our chef whips us up some pancakes and a fruit salad while we all try to block ourselves from the intense sun that morning. Jari tells us that we will visit two islands per day until the last day where we will sail onto open water for the last leg of the trip to get to Colombia. We didn’t take all of these pictures, our new friends Dan and Luke shared their photos with us, thank you guys.
At our disposal we had a kayak and snorkeling gear available to us to for added exploring since there’s 365 islands here. Sometimes we would pull up to spot in between seven small islands. Some islands were inhabited with a one hut or a few or just a few palms.
For our second night Jari told us another boat was having a birthday party bonfire, so we all took the tiny boat out to a third island and met easily 50 other travelers either camping for a few days on the island or other sailors on a similar trip. They had a huge cake that they shared with us and passed around.
The following day we were brought to another small island where Cesar was going to grill up five different types of meat in a grill-hut with the most insane spread while we played volleyball and ran around the beach.
Local Kunas would paddle out to our boat to sell Lobster, handmade jewelry, fabrics or weed basically anything you wanted or needed.
The next day was my birthday and our last night Island hopping, time to party.
Everyone partied their butts off with us for my birthday, danced the night away on the boat, swam in the perfect temperature water and blasted music for everyone to hear. While we were having our party a small boat pulled up with a bottle of rose champagne and asked if we would care for some? “Are you kidding me?! A Colombian angel wants to join our party and he is bringing my favorite birthday drink?!” “Get the hell up here!” So Pablito who was going to college in the U.S. along with his cousin, had perfect English with the cutest Colombian accent and the generous charm of any Colombian. They were the perfect addition to our night. No one held back that night, plus it was our last night to hang because the next morning and for the next 32 hours we would be out on the open water with some slight rough seas.
The next morning half of the group maybe more had their heads hanging out the back overthrowing breakfast, dinner from the night before and what was left of their dignity. I being the most matured and the eldest on the boat was able to hold my own. I grabbed my kindle, sunscreen and read the day away like a cool cucumber while the late twenty somethings who I had fed tons of rum the night before ralph’d away.
This dream was coming to an end. Soon we would have to hunt down the van in a city…
After five dream-ful days on a sailboat we found Cartagenga, Colombia in our horizon