Monday, December 23, 2013

Cartagena & Taganga (06.12.2013 - 13.12.2013)

After the first night in Cartagena my brother Joël and his buddy Patrick (not the same as in Cuba and Mexcio) joined us. We strolled through the old colonial town and ate some lovely although pricy ceviche. We didn't visit the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas as they wanted 8USD for it, we just made a picture from the outside and headed on ;)
The next day we took a bus up the coast to Santa Marta, another "little colombian town" as our cab driver told us. Only one million inhabitants ;) We soon found out that the dive shop Patrick contacted in advance wasn't in Santa Marta itself but in a little fishing village called Taganga, 20 minutes by taxi away. A much nicer place to stay compared to Santa Marta.
So Patrick was busy the next days with the PADI Open Water course and Joël, Melanie and I relaxed on the beach in the bay ;)
One day we went diving to see Patrick in action ;) Sadly the visibility was quite poor and the water was freeeeezzzzing even though we where wearing a long wetsuit. Ice diving compared to the warm waters of Utila =/ Nevertheless we saw some nice fishes.
The day after we got talked into visiting the bay "next door" which supposed to be even "better". A short boat ride later we landed in a place packed with locals and one little restaurant next the other serving the same deep fried fishes. As we where hungry we asked for the menu and they showed up with a plate of fresh caught fish. Sadly two of them where Parrotfish! Offended we ordered just some soup with rice and fries...
To get to our next destination, Caracas, we split up to meet again two days later. Joël and Patrick took a shuttle to the airport in Cartagena where they caught a flight to Bogota to stay for two nights. Melanie and I took an overnight bus to Caracas...


Monday, December 9, 2013

Puerto Lindo, San Blas and sailing to Colombia (28.11.2013 - 05.12.2013)

To get from Panama to Colombia we decided to take one of the many sailing boats which run this route. After some confusion where our boat would depart we headed to Puerto Lindo on the caribbean side. So we took the Panama Canal Railway which runs mostly along the canal all the way to Colon. Colon itself is another rundown, ugly, criminal caribbean city, nothing to see or do here. After a bumpy bus ride we arrived in Puerto Lindo, not so lindo at all. The next day we headed to Isla Grande, just down the road. A nice little beach, some sunken rusty boats and cheap beer. Nice!
The following day we spent with the rest of the passenger waiting to board our catamaran. Our captain was Fabian from Sailing Koala and the boat was called Nacar II. We were in total 16 people on the boat. Captain, cook, three couples from Australia, a couple from London, the Marsh brothers from Canada, a New Yorker, a Sweede and the two of us. The boat was quite cramped, with three people sleeping in the saloon and another on deck under the tarpaulin with the captain. The girl which acted as cook and helping hand was friendly and nice. Sadly she overcooked all the pasta and most of the dishes were quite bland. We guessed she didn't taste the meat dishes as she's a vegetarian...
The crossing from Puerto Lindo to the archipelago of San Blas was quite rough. With most of the passenger getting seasick, but not Melanie. Once arrived between the little islands the sea calmed down and we could go for a swim and visit the tiny coconut islands. The islands are inhabited by the Kuna Indians, where the woman still wear their traditional dresses but the men have taken to western clothing: board shorts, singlets and "golden Rolex" watches. A strange combination. Sadly many of these islands are littered with garbage, some from the indians itself but most of it marine debris washed ashore. 
After two and a half day in the archipelago we entered open sea to cross over to Colombia. The sea wasn't as wavy as on the first day, still some passengers were quite occupied with themselves. The rest of us passed the time reading, playing board and card games or just watching the horizon. Around 40 hours and some visiting dolphins later we sighted the skyline of Cartagena and not much later we had firm ground under our feet again!


Panama City (15.11.2013 - 27.11.2013)

We took a chicken bus from Boquete to David and from there a direct bus all the way to Panama City. Luna's Castle didn't have any rooms free so we stayed at Panamericana for the first night. The next day we moved to Los Mostros for one night and then to Hostal Urraca for two nights. The rooms were all either cramped, dorms or expensive. So we finally ended up at Luna's Castle with a dark and loud room until we could move to another which had a window and was just loud ;)

Panama City was the first and only city in central america which had a proper skyline. But we preferred the old part, Casco Viejo. Although it started to be really developed and most of the bars and restaurants where quite pricy. The old town was nice with its crumbling colonial buildings and the bust of the french developer/madmen Ferdinand de Lesseps who started the Canal adventure.

Melanie's main attraction were of course the malls, I had to endure all of them ^^ They where huge, one was where an airport is on my old Lonley Planet ;) We stumbled past these temples of consumerism! Of course we had to visit the cinema, no crying babies this time though. 

In my opinion the canal was the best part in Panama City. I just finished my book about how first the french and then the americans endured the hardship of this endeavour. Next year the canal will celebrate this 100th year anniversary. But you have to keep in mind that the french started digging already in 1881 with a lot of spirit but crude technics and a plan for a canal at sea level which was never feasible and bound to fail from the beginning. 
So we visited the Miraflores locks to see how tanker and container ships where lowered to the pacific. To steady the ships they are connected to four to eight "electric mules". The maximum size for a ship to pass the locks is 13 containers width, with not much space left and right.