The border crossing between Costa Rica and Panama was very smooth. All you need is 500$ cash, and an outbound ticket or at least a proof of some ticket that takes you home from either Panama or Colombia.

I left Corcovado at 7am and arrived in Sona at 7pm. Sadly from Sona there was no bus anymore to Santa Catalina but I met a taxi driver who gave me an acceptable price..i did try to look for accommodation is Sona but sadly it’s not a backpacker town so there is one or 2 hotels there for about $25 so I thought why not pay this for the taxi instead and stay in Santa Catalina. The reason I went there was to dive in Isla Coiba. In the end I stayed in a lovely place called Hibiscus Garden which is about 10km away from Santa Catalina. It’s owned by a German couple living there with their kids and there was a lovely Argentinian couple volunteering..they made my stay excellent! So diving was awesome there..I was with the dive master only. He is from Oz…I got slightly annoyed though cause during first dive he touched a coral and he panicked so after 45 mins we had to go up….even though my tank was half full but hey..rescue diver was doing what she was meant to do;-) On second dive he lasted 50 minutes (again half full tank)  cause he had to pee!!! I mean bloody hell pee in your wet-suit if you are a dive master and you are with only one person on the dive! I was really annoyed. But hey ho, we saw sharks, turtles, rays and amazing schools of fishes so it was satisfying in the end. In the hibiscus garden I also did some horse riding and engaged with the locals working on the farm. The food was excellent! Price was 11$ a night or so.

Hibiscus Garden Brekkie

Horse riding on the beach

You can actually stay on Coiba ..and I would recommend it as it’s beautiful:

Coiba Coiba Coiba coiba Coiba

After Catalina I headed to Panama city to spend the weekend there before starting my epic trip to San Blas and Colombia on 26th May. Panama City was about 7 hours away from Catalina, so I arrived there late afternoon. I got recommended to stay in Casco Viejo, so I picked the most popular hostel there called Luna’s Castle. It was a party hostel but I wasn’t too bothered as I stayed only 2 nights and I wanted to go out.

I really liked Panama city. It had a great vibe, nice buildings, nice people..and I felt very close to Colombia..In the end I opted to rest cause i was tired but at least I did some sightseeing:

Tom and Jerry Panama City Panama City Panama City Panama City

There is a great fish market where you can eat fresh fish and ceviche, there is a lovely Modern Art Museum that I visited, and I just walked around. It’s advisable to buy Metrobus card for 2$ and top it up with a few $. You don’t need much as a journey is 0.25$.

Panama City

 

I also visited the Canal. It was interesting to understand the history behind it.

Panama Canal Panama canal Panama canal

I only spent 4 days on Panama mainland. Sadly I didn’t get the chance to visit Boquete- fantastic place to do some trekking (although a few people went missing there recently) or climb the Baru volcano (where you get to see the 2 oceans on a clear day) or to visit Bocas del Toro..the Caribbean paradise of Panama. Knowing though that I will shortly go to the San Blas islands during my 5-6 days of sailing to Colombia made me feel ok about not going to Bocas.

So..the sailing trip started on the 26th May on a Monday. We got a transfer from Panama city to the San Blas islands by 4×4 and a little speedboat where our catamaran was waiting for us (Nacar 2).

Nacar 2 Nacar2

The name of the first island where we spent the first night (never on the island, always on the boat) was Analunega. This was a fairly developed island with the indigenous community (kuna) living there. If I compare them to the Tayrona people in Colombia the kunas are much more commercialised and charging tourists a lot for a necklace or any kind of handicraft.

Analunega Analunega Analunega Analunega

The first lunch was on the island, then Jonathan (sailor) cooked our dinner. Our captain was super cool- Jose. I almost forgot the story of how I got onto this particular sailing boat. I have a friend called Danila whom I met 2 years ago in the Bolivian jungle. She is Argentinian and she is still travelling since 2012! I can say without any exaggeration that she is a master of life! She found a job in Quito last year that allowed her to go to the Galapagos islands twice for free! And now she is working on the sailing company called Blue sailing (highly recommended if you are planning to do a trip either from Colombia to Panama or the other way round) so she booked me onto this boat as I had fixed dates.

So I got a fantastic bed outside..I knew this would be my best bet cause inside the boat you are more likely to get seasick during sailing, plus it can be a bit stuffy.

My bed

On the second day we moved after breakfast to the second island called Chichime. On this island I swam a lot! I was always in the water with my snorkelling gear and what you can see down there is a miracle. Not particularly because of the marine life as I was spoilt previously on my dive experience allover the world but this place is famous for its stunning sea stars..tons of them in the bottom of the sea and you can see them perfectly as the water is crystal clear.

sea star

On the 3rd day we sailed to the 3rd island called Huaisaludo. This was the least developed island, only one family lived here Julio and Laura. They moved 5 years ago from Panama City…cannot imagine a bigger contrast..but can perfectly imagine how a person can get to the point living 50 years in a big city to move to a deserted island. They are living from selling coconut to tourists for $1 each. They also sell empty beer cans to different commercial boats. They haven’t got much but what they have is worth more than any Versace bag or a super car. They see the sun rising above the Caribbean sea every morning and they see it setting every evening. We spent an afternoon with them drinking Coco Loco (rum in the coconut water).

Huaisaludo Huaisaludo Huaisaludo Huaisaludo

This 3rd night was the best night in terms of the group. Lobster dinner…(some killed the lobster..as a diver I didn’t have the heart)

lobster

 

We all got to know each other by this time, all the alcohol appeared on the table which everyone brought with themselves, we made a fire on the island, instruments came out..it was a superb night which ended with some skinny dipping in the 28 degree water.

Next day everyone was hungover and we all knew that we would pay for last night this day…We started sailing on the open sea..We all took our seasickness pill which helped but everyone was silent and sleeping most day.

The 5th day was the longest..we had enough water and food but the fact that we couldn’t move just sit or lay made it a bit hard. Also that we didn’t have wind! So the max speed of the sailing boat was 4.5 knot and we had 230 miles to do..That’s an average 5.1 mile/hour…Therefore we knew we wouldn’t arrive on Friday to Cartagena. On the last night people were taking turns in guarding while he captain and sailor were sleeping. My turn was from 10pm to midnight ..I had to check lights around, check the monitor to see if there is any boat nearby, check is there was a storm coming. I enjoyed this task immensely. I have never felt more free in my life than on this boat surrounded by only water and sitting by the steering wheel under the stars..I had time to think. About my life, and about the world. I felt incredibly grateful that i had the opportunity to travel such a big distance…already the second time ..And I was heading towards he country that I most loved on my first trip..Colombia…

IMG_3735IMG_3743

I felt the excitement in my tummy..this was the first time for me to return to a country that I visited before as a backpacker..and because I had very strong memories I was very curious about how it would feel being back there.

On Saturday we had still a long distance to cover..sadly the engine stopped about 37 miles away from Cartagena. The captain knew immediately what to do. The dinghy boat pushed us until he called for help..and then we just got pulled into cartagena by a fishing boat.

being pulled by fishing boat

We arrived at 4.30pm.

In my next post I am going to write about Colombia, the last country I visited on this trip.

Comments
  1. danilasky says:

    friend! great browsing experience you’ve lived in the Caribbean. I’m happy for the moments. And thanks for the Master of life!! 🙂
    see you in the future! I love you sister.

  2. well..you are!! Hope to see you very soon! ❤

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