Sunday, March 13, 2011

Leaving Cartagena

After leaving Cartagena, Internet became scarce. That is our excuse for the long pause. We are currently located in Portobelo, Panama (9.33N, 79.40W) where there is Internet. A little slow but we are not complaining. Here is our story:

We leave Cartagena, Colombia on January 28th. We plan to travel along the Coast of Columbia west to Panama and then we will head north west up the Caribbean side of Panama. We are not on a time schedule, not really but sort of since we expect a visit from out daughters in March and April.
We leave the beautiful city of Cartagena after a 10 day stay. Our boat is a mess. It is dirty and the bottom is seriously fouled. The water in the bay of Cartagena is full of little boat-loving critters and other stuff. We can only guess because you cannot see the bottom. Steve is recovering from Dengue Fever and is still tired. We decided to head for Cholon. Located 20 miles south of Cartagena, Cholon is a complete change from the hustle and bustle of Cartagena. Protected by miles of mangroves, the lagoons of Cholon are pristine, quiet and waiting for us.

People arrive from Cartagena to this nice little beach in Cholon. Warm water, white sand, lots of sun. We anchor nearby.

The locals paddle around on their boards, in their canoes or ulus(dugout canoe made from a large tree trunk). They always have something they want to sell you.

There is lots of exploring in the mangroves.

There are a few homes along the mangroves. Weekend retreats for the well-to-do Columbians.

Nobody home.

Heading through the mangroves to the little town of Baru.

Along the way you get glimpses of how the locals live. Ulus on the sand bars for the night.

The tranquil village of Baru.

You can pick up some supplies, bread, soda, flour, etc.

The mangroves are fascinating. You do not see alot of animals but you can hear many birds.

The entrance and exit from Cholon is narrow and shallow but with good sunlight in the middle of the day it is easy to "spot" your way out between the shoals and reefs.

Further west in Isla Bernardo we see some great stilt houses.

Local towing his boat and looking for lobster. Lobsters are exported from many of the islands here.

Beautiful sunset anchored in Tintipan, Isla Bernardo.

Dead calm.

Small resort on the beach. We never saw any guests here, just lots of locals.

Exploring the beach in Tintipan.

4 days later we head further west to Isla Fuerte. A little rain on the way helps clean the salty decks.

Anchored by Isla Fuerte. A very independent Colombian island. The grow alot of their own food and fish. Lobster sales is big business here.

The Colombian Coast Guard pays us a visit. They come onboard to check our paperwork. They ask us if we have had any problems along the coastline and tell us to call them on our boat radio if we need any assistance. One of the young guys speaks very good English. We have had no problems. All the islanders are nice and friendly but just the same it is nice to know the Coast Guard is there if we need them.

Hiking on Isla Fuerte is a treat. It is tropical, sunny, and very scenic.

Corn is raised on the island. Colorful corn.

Homemade saddle. Tired donkey :(

Local home/inn

We leave Isla Fuerte in the evening. We have a 12 hour sail ahead of us. We are heading to Sapzurro, Colombia, a border town. Next door is Panama.

We arrive safely at 8am and anchor in the beautiful bay.

The coastline here is beautiful and if you had a surfboard you could probably catch a few waves.

We find a hostal on shore. The Colombian owner Mario is a great guy. He speaks English and he has internet. WOW, we are ecstatic. They also make a great sandwich. We are ready to have someone else make us something to eat.

Catching up on Internet.

The great thing about boating is all the friends we make. In Sapzurro we catch up with the Hague family from Rico, Colorado. We first met them 2 years ago in the Eastern Caribbean. They have three great kids.


Noah and Ava

Sapzurro is home of the ice cream lady.

Oh yes, is is good ice cream

A few days later we cross the imaginary border into Panama. We are now in the region known as Kuna Yale. This area belongs to the Kuna Indians. It is part of Panama but the Kuna's have control over their territory.

We arrive at our first Kuna Village, Puerto Perme.

The Indians here are very friendly. They do not speak English. Not a word. We manage, however, with our minimal language skills and lots of pantomiming.

The kids, all sizes, are on the water, in their own little ulus.

The Kuna Village

The homes are made with palm thatch for the roof and hardwood tree limbs tied together for the walls. The homes last approximately 15 years. No paint needed. No Homeowners Association. No roads, no cars. Got a boat?

Kuna ulu with homemade sail. Most Kunas have wooden paddles, hand made. The lucky few have sails made from scrap cloth. They do love to sail. They do not always like to have their picture taken.

Kuna flag. The swastika has nothing to do with the Nazis.

Soccer players. Oh yea, they are good! Thanks for the picture "Hello World".

Kuna woman in traditional dress. The black line on her face in an adornment.

Thanks for the photo "Hello World".

Rapid transit. Thanks for the photo "Hello World".

Kuna boat. The Kuna village name is displayed on the bow.

Proud mother. The girls (women) here have children at a very young age. Thanks for the photo "Hello World".

Local tame birds.

The Kuna's have extensive farms in the jungle. They grow all their food. They fish the seas. They are very independent.

Boots are to avoid snake bites when you hike in your garden.

Kuna woman in traditional dress. Thanks for the photo "Hello World".

Typical Kuna boat with sail and paddle being used as rudder.

Steve and our tour guide in the village of Caledonia. We were not allowed to walk around alone. He spoke a few words of English. We paid $3 each for the tour.

A hotel room in Caledonia. $5 per night. That includes the hammock. No beds here.

Anne buys her first Mola in Caledonia. The Kuna women are very artistic and sew beautiful Molas (gotta google Mola for a good description). Anne is now the proud owner of more Molas. How many Molas does a gringo woman need?

Pigs are kept in a pig pens...duhh. These pig pens are perched over the water so there is no clean up. Oh yeah, so are the Kuna bathrooms. Bring your own TP.

Colombian trading boat visit the Kuna villages. They bring items for trade. The Kunas get stuff they can't grow, plastics, pots and pans, beer, soda, etc. The Colombian trading boats get coconuts. Coconuts are big business here.

Trading boat.

Some families choose to live away from the masses. Kuna suburb. Hoping the gobal warming thing is not for real.

Kuna mom and her girls out for a sail. The Kuna Indians are a matriarchal society.

Lots of backpackers travel via boat between Colombia and Panama. There are no roads in this part of Panama so you either travel by boat or plane. It is a big business to transport backpackers. Big business, lots of money, greed, and then of course crime and intrigue.

This "backpacker boat" anchored behind us one afternoon. Typically these boats will have 8-10 backpacers aboard. The going rate is $450/person. Big business.

The islands offer lots of opportunity to hike. The jungle is hot and humid, phew. Makes you feel your age.

Bird of Prey, can't remember his name.

Most of the Kuna villages sell a few food items. They do make their own bread which is very delicious.

Looking down the street between Kuna homes.

Kuna Yale is surrounded by reef. The islands are well protected and the anchoring is fantastic. When you go from island to island, however, you sometimes have to navigate between the reef. When there is a big swell the reef can be treacherous.

But always beautiful.

We have refueled our boat in Portobelo. There is no gas dock here. A local business man drives 30 minutes, with jugs, to the local gas station. We load the jugs in our small boat, motor out to the big boat and fill the tanks. 75 gallons later, sore arms. We also bought lots of food for our visiting daughters. It is now time to head back to San Blas. It will take us between 6-8 hours to make the return trip. It is worth it.

More Kuna Yale stories coming.

Adios for now,

Anne and Steve

S/V Fine Line

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