When we decided to leave Santa Marta, was the only positive weather’s window we had since two weeks or so. Luckily the sea seems to be calm as the wind and it took us only a full day to reach Puerto Velero in Barranquilla. The navigation was really bad, I got nearly sick and took a pill to let my breakfast stay into my stomach. Just the time to get a bit better and we found ourselves in front of the Barranquilla’s river mouth. Too late we realized that we were into the wrong spot: in front of us a little fisherman’s boat with his full net on the back pushES us even more closer to the shore and when we started to turn through the open water 4mt waves where bumping everywhere around us. I was staying on the Captain’s side trying to help him to look on every possible directions and when we both realize that a gigantic baby was coming straight on us, I just warned Alice to stay inside and close door. I felt a bit like one of the sailor from the Volvo Ocean Race, the wave came from prow and reached us with a fast car’s speed. Both of us were well prepared and strongly attached to the steering wheel. Wet like seals and just a little scared, after a few seconds later we saw a big Cargo boat coming out from nowhere on a collision course with us. With full sail, 20 knots of winds and 4 mt waves, the bloody Cargo didn’t answer to our radio transmission and was only thanks to the experience of the Captain that we could avoid just for 20mt the big boat. My next pictures when I looked inside, was Alice trying to clean the brown water from the kitchen, Mme Nicole sitting on the couch wearing safety vest, and the two friends paralyzed on the sliding bed.
Anyway the entrance in the bay of Puerto Velero was a dream, the most quite bay on heart or probably after all we had this afternoon it looked like that to me. Dozens of kite surfs going around and some other sail boats, the anchor is down and relax time on. Ah ah just joking, because “relax” is a word that Captain Jack deleted from the dictionary long time ago. That’s why in less than half an hour after anchoring I found myself in a car of two perfect strangers, met ten minutes before on the beach, who offered us a lift to go looking for some “Sodastrem” (machine for make sparkling water that apparently is a must on a boat). Me and the Captain around Shakira’s city, a real melting pot of modernity and Colombian history. They were so nice to decide to drive us everywhere we needed, and after two hours of going around with the super friendly Nelson and his beautiful wife, the only good news was their outstanding way to be kind and try as much as they could to help us find the gas bottle.
I was looking at myself sitting on my surfboard alone when all the other are already tired or they have enough for the day, or when 10 minutes before to close the kitchen I feel like to make a cake or a sauce for tomorrow, proving to myself that I can do it rapidly and without making too much mess …there is nothing that could take me out the idea that this is the only things I have to do now….
But travelling? I can’t imagine to do it for years and don’t have time to make friends in any country I’ve been…
They day after my visit to the city, I couldn’t resist to rent a kite surf and try after a year or so to pull the sail up. As I was expecting, it was nearly a catastrophe but at the end I had a lot of fun and I felt revitalized. Every day it gets really challenging to be able to prepare something good and original to my “customers” on board. Luckily they are all super nice and with no intention to make my job harder. The only thing I learnt very quickly was not to always trust people that tell you they can eat everything!!!
Our journey continued very well and after Puerto Velero we soon reached Cartagena, a shining city with a vibrant atmosphere and an unexpected lifestyle. If you come here after you visited any other city in Colombia you probably think that this is Miami. The new city with his modern buildings raised just on the side of the old and historical town. After a few days around we can easily say that here it’s a washing machine for money!! A lot of jewelry, diamantes, boutiques and even classy and original shops not easy to find in Europe. Everything seems melted with the well-known Colombian life style. So you can meet a pineapple seller right in front of a Ferragamo Boutique or buy a whole coconut for a dollar right after you bought Miuccia Prada sunglasses.
As you can imagine we only had the pleasure to taste some fresh pineapple and a fresh coconut, actually we were very happy to keep going to taste the very popular “Arepa de queso” and the best fruit salad on the street ever. After we met a bit of other sailors and we stocked the boat with four trolleys full of food, we were ready to point our compass straight to the San Blas Islands. The navigation took approximately 20 hours and our destination was Mamitupu.
During the night we decided to take down the main sail and leave only the Jennaker to make the sail smoother for our lady, and we forgot that we were sailing with other two boats. One was easily recognizable on our side, but the other was too far behind us that nobody took care to watch it only until when he passed us on a 10 mt distance that we could really see into their rooms!!!
When I started to sail I thought it was like a science, you study how to do it, make some experience and this is it. After a few years I’m still thinking that sailing is like a science, but new experiences never end, and never stop to teach us something new.
Finally arriving in “Kuna Yala” the Kuna’s Land, we met this incredible population. They are indigenous people, recognized independent from the Panama government, that always lived in these islands between the Darrien gap and the Panama Canal on the Caribbean side. The second shorter population in the world after the Pigmies. Starting from the non-touristic side of these islands was really special. Mamitupu and the island on her side, Ashutupu, allowed us to meet them without any filter. When Alice and I went around, we were amazed by the joy and kindness of this population. Nobody was asking for money and none had other interest than invite us to their house and show us their family. Kids were everywhere, trying to attract our attention. Every girl we saw was typically dressed with the “mola” and a few bracelets on the arms and legs if they were married. Man are easier, wearing only old clothes or shorts useful for the long distance to cover a few times a day with the canoe. When we met Lean, his wife and family, we felt really weird to be there with a big yacht and be invited from a family on their wood made house, without roof and one only chair. However on the other side I found myself comfortable and curious to know something about them. Apparently the woman decides everything (and until here no difference with European culture ;-)), I noticed that every married girl had a small key on their neck, that was the key of the power!!! Since a few years they are used to use money. Before the mobile phones nobody needed money, but now it’s all another story. “Thanks to technology” these people are a bit struggling for electricity, recharge and internet. Before that, women didn’t need to keep the key of the security box on their neck. Walking around we were followed by dozen of kids, we played soccer with them and had some fun with the youngest of them that while they were trying to prove themselves yelling something at us, they were running everywhere when I suddenly chased them screaming like a bear.
The whole island was following our steps, giving us some support to know better the places where we were. I guess we are pretty lucky to visit a place like this before globalization will definitely take them.
We spent nearly three weeks sailing around the San Blas, islands like no other. The sea around here is full of every kind of fish, beaches are really close to a dream and islands seem to jump out of the magazines we are used to in Europe. My story of the San Blas and the Kuna could stop here, but I will not feel honest with the people who read my blog if I do that. There are other stories that deserve to be told at the public. I will tell you only two of those because I know that from a travelling blog we want only shining dreams.
The first one about the navigation: thanks to the book “The Cruising Guide of Panama” of Erick Bauhaus , a lot of people now can reach these islands. But always remember that also if you will have any details of this part of the world, navigation here is hard and can be very dangerous. Reefs are everywhere, the ground not always ideal for anchoring. Every day we met a few shipwrecks and often our instinct was telling us to do the exact opposite of what we should really do. So if you intent to navigate here just be prepared to be extremely careful because only like that you’ll enjoy some of the best colors of the Caribbean, between jungle, rivers, beaches and paradise islands.
We actually saved a sailboat from shipwrecking one night. We were anchored in the windy Porvenir with other 8 boats. 11 pm, everything still and silent. Only the sound of the wind and the waves that break in a reef about 50 meters from our boat. We were in our cabin, Alice almost asleep and I was reading. Suddenly we hear a noise against the hull. Alice firmly says: “A boat hit us.” I reply that it’s impossible. She is near the window and insists “ There is a boat in front of us and a curly woman trying to pull the anchor up!!!”. Ok, immediately I think the worse. Some pirates are trying to come on board and kidnap everybody. Without even putting my shirt on, I jump out of the cabin, ready to fight. In front of my eyes the situation is now clear: as Alice said, we had some visits tonight. The supposed pirates reveal to be instead a sleepy but terrorized couple from Montana, who used too little chain for their anchor and whose boat had been pushed by the current luckily right against us. Yes, I said luckily. Lazy Jack literally saved Pau Hana from smashing against a scary reef, where lied already two sunken sailboats. Another reason why sailing in the middle of the Pacific will be 100% safer than travelling along the coast or, worse, near dreamy atolls and wonderful islands.
The other story is about us becoming ecologist!!!! Maybe when someone was sailing here 30 years ago will remember only the real paradise. However my friends, if you may wonder to travel here, be prepared to see tons of plastic dragged from the see to the coast of these beautiful islands. Luckily someone comes to pick it up a few times per year from the most touristic places. But when you’ll visit the local villages, you suddenly realize how we are destroying our beautiful world.
It’s enough for the moment from the Kuna Yala, I don’t wanna say everything about them, experiences must be different for anyone of us so, let’s come to meet the little Kuna when you have the chance!!
P.s. Nearly forgot to tell you that National Sport here is Basketball….which was a kind of weird considering that the tallest Kuna is 1.60cm tall.