A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Nomad18

Ocean passage, Caribbean Islands, Sailing!

- sounds terrible right!?

sunny 30 °C

BUT NO! Its was amazing!

OK, before I get into to the details, I have to explain ( or at the very least, try) my love of sailing. As most of you know I absolutely, wholeheartedly, and passionatly in love with sailing. Whenever I think about sailing... or any of my sailing expaeriences.. I get shivers running up and down my spine. (Even as I type this, after being on a sailboat for five days.. I still get excited and the shivers don't stop, not ever.) I have only a limited number of things that do this for me, There is Sailing, Snowboarding... and recently, Diving. Those three things are the only activities that make my body physcally shiver with anticpation. (Much like a dog does, just before you throw the ball... I know, I'm comparing myself to a dog, but its in an attempt to explain just how excited I get.) When I think of sailing (or either of the other two activities) I get a crazy twich that runs up and down my spine, I actually start salivating, and I lapse into memory of an event, nothing else in the world could possible make me unhappy, or even think of anything else for that matter. For those few minutes I am utterly absorbed in my thoughts, memories and future ambitions in that activity, I become entirely at peace.

Ok, so back to the present, We went north to Portabelo, Panama to board the Vagabond Prince, at about four o'clock in the afternoon. (after leaving my Tilley hat at the hostel and having to rush back from the Panama City bus station to the hostal, and back out the the bus station.. all in all took about an hour! But, I got me Tilley!) We arrived at about six o'clock at this pizzaria, in Portabelo, and had ourselves a pizza, while we waited for the crew of the Vagabond Prince to come in from the boats morrings in the bay. We probably didn't get aboard until eight thirty, at which point we headed to bed. Our bed consisted of a strange shaped.. possibly queen sized bed, which fit the three of us.. well tightly, if nothing else. We spen the entire next day lazing around on deck the next day waiting for Fabian, the capitan, whom we met in Panama City, to get back. We made a trip into town to get some supplies (which consisted of Gadorade, chips and a $3.75 bottle of rum, which was premium... this stuff was high quality.) and I looked for some kind of drugs since my throat was killing me! We had been told the night before that there was a storm brewing to the west of Cartagena, Columbia (Pronounced Car-ta-hen-ya) from the same drunk captain who told us that the Vagabond Prince wasn't even in the harbour! What it turned into was a miracle...but more on that later. The crew told us that we would probably set sail that night (Metaphorically since there was no wind that night) and arrive in the San Blas Archipelago early in the morning. Fabian finally arrived (not that we were that anxious to leave, we hung out on the boat soaking up the sun and just chillaxin!) and we paid him most of what we owed him so he could go grocery shopping and get supplies. That night at around 9 o'clock we weighed anchor and chugged our way to the most pristine and without question, the most beatiful place I have ever been. I awoke relatively late since my throat was bothering me still, but once I smelt breakfast cooking I was hightailing it out of bed! After a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, I hit the water with a snorkel and swam around looking for coral and fishes. After I re-boarded the boat, we headed to our the next Island on the agenda (The place we would anchor for the night) andfound ourselves in between three small Islands. (One was quite small, having only four or five palm trees and sand as white a snow!) The water had the visibility of pool water! Undeniably the most amazing place I've been, no doubt about it, you could se the bottom perfectly.. and it was twenty some odd feet down! The local tribes are called the Kuna and they live in small hut scattered about these small beatufil islands, harvesting coconuts and fishing in their dugout, seafaring, canoes! They also make some of the most intricate textiles we've seen to date, beadwork that covers their entire arms and legs, all of which they try and sell you by paddling up to the side of the boat and hanging all of it on the life lines of the boat. I felt bad because all I wanted to do was look at and take in the culture a bit, not actually buy anything, so they kept piling things on the boat and telling me prices. In the end I did buy a bead bracelet because I figured I needed something to remind me of these truly amazing people and the beautiful place they call home. later that afternoon, we took the dingy over to an island that honestly had no more than.. five palm trees on it, it was 30 ft long by maybe 20 feet wide, composed entirely of white sand. Had some good times trying to get a coconut down, and it took some actual planning to get down. I had to get a nearly dead palm and prop up a log against the palm tree and then climb the log and thrash at the coconut. It was worth it, I conquered that coconut good. That night was spent at anchor between these three stunning beach islands and let me tell you waking up and looking out a porthole to see an aquamarine colour of water is undescribable. It is as if you are in a caribbean magazine, living in those photographs. We sun bathed for a good portion of the day, and the Kuna continued to visit our boat which was very cool because Fabian knew most of them (Since he is there twice a month or so) and he was talking and joking with them. He even got into one of the canoes with the entire family and was given the little toddler to hold. I have agreat picture (which are few and far between for the Kuna people because they do not like pictures being taken.) of the entire family. When they were finally done trying to sell their fabrics and such, they asked if anyone wanted a ride over to the island. I was all over that because, as mentioned before, I was enthralled with these seafaring canoes. Once in the boat I was immiadiatly asked what my name was, how I was doing and if I liked the islands. I responed and asked what their names were, which I would never be able to pronounce again even if I tried. It only took a few minutes to get to the beach of the island and once I was aground, I was quickly handed the babies. This absolutely blew me away because they were opening up quite easily and it was as if I was just another person... not a backpacker to get money from. I was trusted (not that I shouldn't be!) to carry the little ones ashore and as a cultural experience, definately rates as one of the highest. After lunch on the boat, we all headed to the island to explore and take in the beauty. We found that the side facing the opposite directrion had a beach to die for and we swam around for a good houros so, marvelling every five minutes how incredibly stunning the views were. Also worth not, we saw a one palm tree island. Yup, thats right... just like out of the cartoons. That evening after eating dinner, we weigheed anchor to begin our journey east, towards Cartagena, on which we would lose sight of land completely! I had been told on the island by another sailor that the winds were changing and would be comming from the north, whereas usually they come from the north east. I was ever hopful that the winds would blow this way because that would mean that we would SAIL!!! After having gone to bed that night, I remember hearing the motor shut off, and the boat healing over. (means Leaning to one side for the landlubbers out there) I was only barely aware of these things, and contuinued to sleep blisfully, until i was rudely awaken by Fabian yelling my name. "Ryan" and then having Alex one of the crew come towards the cabin saying the captain wants you. AHHH, what did I do.. I was asleep! I headed topside (Again, for you landlubbers, means up on deck) feeling a sensation of complete and utter excitment. We were sailing! I was in a bliss moment while I recalled the incredible sensation of flying through the water, all by the power of the wind, all natural yo! Fabian was half asleep, but he stayed awake long enough to tell me "your on night watch, two hours" WAHOO! I felt like I was part of a crew again! I looked around us and there was nothing but darkness, we were on the open ocean, nothing in sight but the stars and the ocean itself. I watched our speed, cruising around six knots and watched our little triangle move across the map towards Cartagena and every once and a while, I popped my head out from beneith the canopy to look for other ships. At around 3 am I was relieved by one of the crew and I headed straight to bed. Not even the adrenalin could keep me from my bunk.The next morning I awoke to the same sensation of being tilted over 20 degrees and crashing into the swells. Now that it was light out, the fact that you could no longer see land became very clear. That entire day consisted of sun tanningm and breaks underneither the canopy to make some hemp necklaces. As mentioned before, this change in wind direction was a miracle, it was if mother nature knew I wanted to sail. Fabian called me a (excuse my use of language in this quote) "lucky mother fucker," because he never gets to sail going from Panama to Columbia. I damn well felt lucky, because here I was doing my absolute favorite thing in the world, and doing it in the caribbean, one of the most beautiful places in the world. I spent a lot of time with a sailing harness on at the bow of the boat holding on for dear life itself and having the time of my life doing it. There were a few times that the entire bowsprit (landlubbers this is the protrusion off the front of the boat that allows a sail to be larger tha just the length of the boat.) was submerged I I was up to my knees in sea! I suppose I must have loked funny up front, just standing there with a stupid grin plastered on my face, since other than going up and down the waves, there really isn't much else going on. Its hard to describe why I love the sensation of sailing, but what I can say is that it is similar to the sensation of weightlessness when you come crashing down overtop of a swell. Because of a sailboats design, it is a "water cutter," if you will, and you never feel as if your on somethig significant, and thus, you get a senastion that you aren't actually going through the water, but simply flying through air. Then a large wave comes, covers you in seawater and you are brought back to reality with a crash of the hull driving into the next wave. And it all starts over. I would then return to the canopy with all of me smiling and simply briming with adrenalin, to the other people aboard. I believe with such passionate views, my feeling on sailing is infectious because noone could help but smile back at me. That night I found it hard to go below to sleep simply because I knew the sailing was comming to an end, the next morning we would arrive in the port of Cartagena. I finally let my exhustion take over, and I stumbled into bed. A few hours before sunride I heard the engine start up, and I knew we were very close to the port. Eventually I crawled out of bed and got my first view of Columbia, and boy, did it ever look similar to everywhere else I've been! The colonial architecture is just on a larger scale. The majority of the day was spent waiting around for the port authorities and immigration to decide we could come visit. Finally, our time on board the Vagabond Prince came to an end, with a free ride from Fabian's taxi company to our hotel. Fabian gave us his phone number, cell number and even his wifes cell number saying if we needed information on Columbia, don't hesistate. We also wereintroduced to his wife and son. (his daughter is a divematser and was at work.)

And thus, ended one of the most memorable experiences I've head down here. I will cherish this experience and when i sail again, it will be one of the memorries that takes me to that place of utter and complete contentment.

Happy trails all,
enjoy the reading,

Ryan

Posted by Nomad18 18:03 Archived in Panama Tagged cruises Comments (5)

Update and immidiate plans

Long over due I know, but people were on vacation here!

sunny 30 °C

Ok, so I've heard talk of a few parents calling one another wondering where the hell their children are and why they aren't keeping in contact! Well, the answer is, were living it up soaking up the sun on deserted white sand beaches. Actually, Costa Rica was a blur of experiences (To be blogged later) which left us exhausted, let alone no extra time to haul ourselves to the nearest internet cafe.

So here I sit in our hostel in Panama City blogging my ass off to keep everyone in the loop!

Alrighty, hold on to your hats, this plans gonna come out quick! First of, we are taking a sailboat from the Caribbean coast of Panama to the northern tip of Columbia. The sailboat, as we've learned today, is 47' cruising yacht capable of taking approximately ten passengers. The itinerary is this: Tomorrow afternoon we head to the coast to board the yacht and spend the night at anchorage. Saturday morning we sail out to the San Blas Archipelago, getting or exit stamps from Panama. There we will spend another night at anchorage, no doubt snorkeling to our hearts content. Next day we sail to another island in the archipelago and do it all over again, soak up some sun, bake on the pristine (nearly empty) beaches, and to cool off, snorkel for a couple hours. From the last of the San Blas islands, its a three day sail to Cartagena, Columbia. Here we intend to spend the only extended period of time in Columbia. SCUBA Diving, exploring the city, and a national park are all on the agenda. From there, we intend on taking four days to get to the Ecuadorian border and crossing ASAP. In Ecuador, a river rafting tour is a must, as well as a hike of some description. After Ecuador, Peru comes in fast! We head straight for Cuzco and Machu Pichu taking alost 50 hours in bus rides! AHHH! From there, depending on time, we go to Lake Titikaka for a few days and then off to the Nazca Lines. The Nazca Lines are the crazy designs you have all seen on the discovery channel that are still one of the worlds greatest mysteries. After our airplane tour of the Lines, its back up to Miraflores (outskirts of Lima) to await our flight home!

Its short but sweet, if much changes, you'll read about it in future blogs, possibly as its happening! Anyways I hope the parents can rest a little easier now that you've got a rough itinerary for the rest of our trip! (which by the way, only has 5 weeks left!! WOAH!)

take it easy everyone,

Happy trails,

Ryan

P.S.: Mom I'm going to try calling you at work tomorrow, it was much to busy in the common room here at the hostel tonight to have called. I'll try my hardest to get a hold of you, but just in case I don't, I am alive and well were doing gret, seeing some incredible things..still! I love you, I'm sorry I missed you in Costa Rica. Miss you,

Love Ryan

Posted by Nomad18 21:46 Archived in Panama Tagged backpacking Comments (4)

Bar tour!

Bocas Del Toro bar hop, to the extreme!

sunny 30 °C

Bocas Del Toro T-Shirt, $20.

Three Cuba Libres (Rum and Coke) regularly $1.50, this night, $0.

One "Anti-Freeze" cocktail regularly $4, this night $0.

One Orange rum punch regularly $2, this night $0.

Two Panama Beers regularly $1, this night, $0.

One Banana Colada regularly $5, this night, $0.

One shot of Jose Cuervo tequila regularly $2, this night, $0.

One Atlas Beer regularly $1, this night, $0.

Two Pineapple rum punches regularly $1.50 - 2.50, this night, $0.

One Balboa Beer regularly $1, this night $0.

One Mango cocktail regularly $3, this night, $0.

One "OrangeHappy" cocktail regularly $3, this night, $0

Two nights on the town regularly a large empty space where once there was money, these nights $0.

Fifteen bars visited, drank in, and enjoyed regularly $15 - 31.50, these nights, $0.

One T-Shirt with this many memories, priceless!

Happy trails all,

Ryan

Posted by Nomad18 19:44 Archived in Panama Tagged armchair_travel Comments (1)

Isla De Ometepe

Nicuragua, Lago De Nicuragua

overcast 28 °C

In Granada we stayed in a Hostel called La Libertada which had free internet and breakfast. Since we only had a small distance to go, we slept late and ate our free breakfast lazily in some handmade furniture that had animals carved into all the armrests. I had Nacatamal, which is a Tamale specific to Nicuragua, apparently hard to find as another traveller informed us. I was thoroughly impressed with them and I will try to find more tamales in future countries. After breakfast we headed to Rivas, the largest town closest to the lake. We took a taxi ride to San Jorge, the town in which the Ferry to Moyogalpa on Isla De Ometepe leaves from and found that the ferry was leaving within 20 minutes. We hoped aboard and bought ourselves a snack which consisted of an over fried piece of chicken and a bag of plantain chips..yes we live a life of kings people. The ferry took us approximately an hour for which I was out on deck, while the other two.. as per usual on any piece of transportation, slept. I believe I was made fun of for my hat, but it didn't bother me too much, since I mostly cannot understand spanish when I don't have any previous idea of what the conversation should be about. (ie, if I start a conversation about bus scheduals, i know the person wont be telling me about the weather... or at least I should very well hope not, since making a bus and not, as we've discovered recently in Monteverde, can be a disapointing experience.) I did get that they were saying they knew of Canada, I was less than impressed, we are the second largest country in the world. I was unfase though, as I watched the majestic island grow nearer. The larger of the two volcanoes, rising 1610 metres above sea level, was spuing sulfur into the air around the mouth of the crater and just begged for us to climb it. We found the cheapest hostel in town and then made it cheaper by sleeping in the hammoks! It cost about 1.30 US per person! Cheapest lodging yet! Staying in one of the private rooms was a couple, one form holland, one from Britian, who told us about a great guide that spoke excellent english and did tours daily for the standard price of 10 dollars. Hanging around the hostel was this Canadian who ownednd operated a sports bar and resturant just down the street. He gave us so tips about guides and said he would find the one that the couple spoke of for us. A first time experience was had at the bar that night after dinner, we sat ourselves down infront of a high definition projector and wached Layer Cake, a movie that we had wanted to watch back home! We even had ourselves some popcorn to top it all off! We awoke the next morning before the comming of dawn, at around four. Grogily, we strapped on our hiking boots and left the hostel grounds before there was any light at all. The guide met us at the street corner in a van which would drive 45 minutes tot he base of the volcano. By the time we were on the trail it was just begining to get grey out, a sure sign the sun was stillcomming up and had not forgotten to rise. (Which by this time, we were wondering, since we'd been up an hour before sunrise.. and thats simply a strange feeling!) The first few kilometers were done in silence, since none of us was awake enough to think, let alone comment on our surroundings. We stopped under this massive tree (well what I thought was massive, but apparently half of it was covered under sand and volcanic rock from the last volcanic erruption) and had our first words, along with plenty of water. Once we began to acend, the "cloud forest" as it were began to close in around us and we got our first glimpses of Howler monkies. The guide pointed out local flowers and plant which the indigenous used for a variety of things from a sleeping aid, to getting children to talk at the right age. The day presented itself and boy were the volcano gods angry that we were trespassing. The day was completely overcast, and thus, we would not be able to climb to the crater. The climb became more than a 45 degree incline and the going got tough, but the three amigos kept on trucking! The 1000 meter mark (approximatley) is where we made it too, and boy was it hella cool! The wind was so strong you had to pout your full weigh into it just to stand upright, and the clouds were whippoing by us...yes you've got it.. we were in the clouds that were moving at a rediculous pace. There was absolute nothingness where once, people told us there was a view. The decent, just as awe inspiring as the acent, was also just as exerting, since there was no walking.. the entire decent consisted of running.. yup, we ran down this twisting and turning, sandy and root crossed path, for a good hour. The entire time our guide was giggling like a school girl, and the laugh was infectous because within the first few minutes all of us were laughing, for no good reason, save for the pure fun of it. So lets make sure you have a good image of this in your head; here are four, grown men (I know, parents, not one of you likes to admit it, but we are no longer children, and no we will never fit back from whence we came) absolutly, full out, running down these jungle crowded pathways, creating dust trails that left you coughing and sputtering if you got too close to the person in fron of you and the entire time... laughing. The monkies were undoubtedly scared for their lives, three gringos and a local yelling some kind of war chant and running like madmen. The rest of the day was spent in the hammocks catching up on some missed sleep and chilling after such a strenuous activity so early in the morning. That night we went to Yogi's (The Canadian Bar) to use the internet and have some "flavourful food." Bed came early, and we slept like logs, only to be awoken by the intermittent drop of water from the holes in the cabaƱa. Our plan was to go to the other side of the island to visit the other town, but the rain brought us all down, so we slept in and finally, we decided that we would do a small hike into a park, about half hour away. We took a bus around 12:00 and headed to a point of protected land. At first, the rain became heavier and we were all wondering what the hell made us get out of our hammocks at all. Eventually the sun poked out from behind the dense cloud cover and we actually began to get hot! Good thing the hike was all along the shore, so we just picked the best beach and jumped in! It was actually strange to be swimming in fresh water again, since the majority of the water we are swimming in is SALTY! We continued our hike and headed back toward the main road for lunch. We came across this little restaurant with prices that suited our budget perfectly and sat ourselves down to enjoy the quaint ambiance of the place. I ordered a potato salad, Leigh had pesto, and Craig had fish soup. Our meals were absolutely the best lunches we have had so far. First off, there was an entire fish in Craig's soup, Leigh's pesto was was apparently flavorful, and my potato salad was gy-normous with eggs and many vegetables. Coupled with he price, this made the meal, without question, the best lunch! We headed back to the road and we were struck with the idea that we should hitch hike back, since we had to wait at least an hour and a half for the next bus. We picked up a truck within a half an hour and got in with a couple other travelers and two locals. We made it back to two before the bus would have even been picking us up! It was great to stand in the back of a truck and have the wind whipping past, trying desperately to understand the Spanish that was being thrown our way. Plus, it was free! Our last night on Isla De Ometepe was a short a sleep as the first since we had to get up for the first ferry of the day to make it into Costa Rica! All in all great time in a beautiful place.

Happy trails everyone,

Ryan

Posted by Nomad18 18:42 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Bay Islands

..slight change of plans!

semi-overcast 26 °C

Ok, so.... there was a slight change in plans for our time here on the Bay Islands. Long story short, we are now PADI Open Water SCUBA Divers. Yeah, just slightly different. We have now done six dives, two in shallow water, and four open water dives, two of which were fun dives and just consisted of swimming with the fishies in the ocean! Our time underwater was absolutely amazing, mom, I can see why whenever you talk about Diving, your eyes light up.. the experence is absolutely incredible. For those of you landlubbers who han't tried it, the best I can do is say that its like almost nothing you've ever experienced. BUT, the sensation of neutral bouyancy is much like flying... but add into that the fact that you are breathing with millions of litres of water around you, and 18 metres (60 ft) below the surface... the experience tingles every sense.. and stimulates every part of your body. You are acutely aware of your life, you pay attention to every breath you take, first because you have this mouth piece (Regulator Second Stage) jamed between all your teeth and whenever you inhale, you here the valve open to let air into your lungs, and because every exhale, bubbles surround your head. The life around you is absolutely buzzing with vibrant colours, excitement, and a wild aspect you don't get to see in any zoo or aquarium. It is your personal aquarium, the only limit is the amount of air you take down with you.. and your stamina. I'm sure that the parents will recieve our certfication cards before we will, since they are sent to your home address. On behalf of all of us, we give you permission to use them as brag tags... lol. We are feeling great, having an absolutely mind blowing time and cooking for ourselves to save money, on account of spending extra money on the Dive Course.

I have recently been looking at the Semi-Formal pictures, everyone looks in great spirits, and boy I must say... the bunch of you clean up well!

Missing you all,

Happy trails,

Ryan

P.S.: The reason I called everyone hosers was because the only way we can tell who is reading the blog is if you leave us comments! Plus, I get updates from Jessie, Mom and Ciara... but the rest I don't hear from as much! I miss you guys, write and huge one.. write it like its an e-mail.. put memories in it.. tell me whats going on.. ANYTHING!

Peace.

Posted by Nomad18 14:20 Archived in Honduras Tagged backpacking Comments (9)

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