Instead of getting one of the expensive flights from Colombia to Panama, I decided to spend just a little more money on a 5-day boat trip which would bring me to Panama, but also give me a chance to see the beautiful San Blas islands. I took the trip on a catamaran called Santana. The boast was very good since it is bigger and more 'open' than most sailboats. Most of us were sleeping in a big dorm which was also the dining room. The German captain was also really nice and a really good cook. All the food we got was really good and contained a lot of fresh vegetables, which was a nice change after the South American food which generally lacks vegetables.
Dinner on the boat
The trip started with 1 1/2 days on the open sea, sailing to the islands. Luckily, the sea was not rough, but one person was still seasick unfortunately. During the sail, we spent most time one the deck, sunbathing during the day and looking at the stars at night. It was a nice lazy time.
Last views of Cartagena
Sunset over the Caribbean
Sunbathing on deck
After the second night, we all woke up to find that we had arrived at the islands! We straight away got some amazing views of the islands surrounding us and within an hour all of us were in the water, swimming to the nearest islands and snorkeling (there were not many fish, but a lot of pretty starfish). That morning, we got our first visit from the indigenous people living on the islands, the Kuna. Two Kuna women were trying to sell us handicraft, such as the typical 'mola', panels made by sewing different coloured sheets of fabric together and cutting patterns out from the different layers, so that you can see the colour(s) underneath. We also ordered some coconuts from the Kuna, which we took to the island to open. Then we drank the water mixed with rum, a very refreshing and very fitting drink for an island in the Caribbean we thought.
San Blas islands
San Blas islands
We visited different islands every day of the trip, all of them beautiful! The only thing that spoiled the beauty of the islands a bit was the large amount of rubbish lying on the beaches, some of it brought there by the currents, some left there by tourists or the Kuna themselves.
San Blas islands
San Blas islands
San Blas islands
One of the guys was being very creative and made sailorhats for himself and his friend out of cut off trouser legs and also created a little person out of dried coconut, who we named Wilson (like in the movie Cast Away).
On the third day, some of us had just reached a big island by swimming there from the boat, when the sky became very grey. We walked along the beach and into the island a bit. There we found a coconut tree growing out of a fallen coconut which we decided to take back to the boat as a decorative plant for the captain. At this moment it suddenly started becoming very windy, so we decided we'd better swim back before a storm would start. The sea was much rougher now and it was hard swimming back with waves constantly swashing over our heads. We made it back fine, but three more people had swum to the island and they were not back yet and were out of sight. It soon started raining and we started to get slightly worried. But they came back soon, telling us the story of how they tried to walk around the island, not noticing how big it was.
Unfortunately, after that first rainy afternoon, we had some rain every afternoon, so that we were stuck inside the boat half of the days. We still had a good time inside though, reading, playing cards, chatting, helping with the food preparations etc.
The same day, we bought some lobsters off the Kuna. They cost only $4.75 per pound and were huge! That night, we had a big lobster dinner. For some of us (including me) it was the first time we ate lobster, so we found this very exciting. For a long time, we were all busy taking apart the animals, trying to get to every piece of meat we could find. We realised quickly that 1 per person was too much with lobsters of this size, so we put the rest in the fridge to eat the next day. It ended up being eating in the middle of the next night, when we wanted a little snack after drinking some rum. Lobster as a midnight snack, who would have imagined that?
All stuffed but happy after our big lobster dinner
That night, we all got bitten by sandflies. Some of the others were kept awake by this. I felt nothing during the night, but discovered some bites in the morning. In the afternoon, the sandflies were suddenly back and this time many more of them! We had thousands of them flying all over the boat and biting us all over our bodies. One of the girls knew the trick of putting oil on the skin, so that the flies can't bite you. This worked pretty well, but we still got bitten by some. We then also got covered in dead sandflies which drowned in the layer of oil and got stuck on our skin. We all dressed up in long-sleeved and -legged clothes to protect ourselves. Some people looked more like on a cruise in Antarctica than in the Carribean. The only thing that really helped though was changing positions and sailing somewhere further away from the islands. Unfortunately we took quite a few of the flies with us this way and still got some bites during the rest of the afternoon and night. My legs are still covered in small red spots!
Dressing up to protect against the sandflies
That morning we had been near a shipwreck where we went snorkeling. It was impressive. The wreck itself was really interesting to see, but on top of that there were corrals all around it and we saw many fish, and even squids.
Some of the guys were trying to catch fish during the whole trip, and on the last day, they finally succeeded. But they did not catch any fish, it was a huge barracuda! The captain straight away killed the fish, changed the lunch plans and prepared the barracuda. It was a really tasty last lunch! And the 13 of us could have eaten 2 meals of it...
The boys caught a barracuda
Look at these teeth!
We were all sad to leave the boat after 5 days. We had such a good time on this trip! But fo course we were also excited to see more of Central America.
As a little extra, I will now tell you a short story, 'the Story of the Hungry Gecko':
A little gecko visited our dinner table one night. He seemed thirsty, so we gave him some of our rum to try...
...The gecko did not like the pure rum very much, but nevertheless he gave the cuba libre a try...
...Even mixed with coke, the rum was too strong for the little gecko. We thought he might like beer better and poured him a sip. He was not satisfied with this either...
...Since the gecko did not like any of our drinks, we thought he might be hungry. The leftover sausage from our dinner seemed to be just the right thing for him. Unfortunately, the gecko has high blood pressure and can't eat such fatty foods...
...Finally, our little friend was attracted by the sweet smell of Oreos...
...He loved the biscuits, so he disappeared in the packet and ate till he fell asleep. Or did he have a heart attack?... The (open) end