Adding Another Country to the List…Panama

After 5 days on a boat around amazing and beautiful islands, I was sad and also excited to be on land. I didn’t get sea sick while on the boat but once I was on land, I had serious drunken sailors walk (I couldn’t get my equilibrium back on land). I had a feeling this would happen to me so I basically spent two days in Panama City relaxing and cooking. I booked a hostel with a pool thinking I could relax and read in there but just looking at the water made me feel a little woozy. #mybad

Fast forward to to 2 days later and I was on a flight to Bocas Del Toro. You would think that after the Rosario Islands and San Blas islands, I was done with islands, but this was not the case. I stayed on a little island just a quick boat taxi ride from the main island where there was an opportunity to participate in so many activities except for one problem…it was pouring rain!

Finally, after 2 days of rain, there was sun and time for an activity and I immediately decided that zip lining was in order! Let’s not forget that I was on an island in Central America surrounded by rainforest and water which means awesome animals!

This little guy popped in for breakfast

These guys are ALL over the island and super tiny. I wouldn’t pick one up but the guides did.

After so much rain I went back to the main island where my friend from high school had just recently opened a new bar called Tequila Republic. I spent the day hanging out with him and his wife and the locals and just catching up. If you are ever in Bocas Del Toro, this bar is literally walking distance from the airport and close to just about everything. It’s a must!

I did’t see much of Panama and would like to go back but like I do with many countries, I pop in to feel it out if it is on way to somewhere and then plan a longer trip for another time!

Five Days of Sailing? Why Not?

I was talking to a friend about traveling to Panama from Colombia and he said, “why don’t you sail here?” At first I thought he was crazy and then I actually looked into it and it seemed like the thing to do. So, I set off on a 43′ sailboat with 9 strangers and 3 crew from Cartagena to Panama City and I had the time of my life!

After what seemed like hours of research but was actually about 15 minutes, I decided to book my boat through Blue Sailing. They have tons of boats leaving throughout the week and were very easy to book with. I shot off an email with a few of the dates I was looking at and asked for a boat that was not usually the party boat. I ended up on Big Fish 2 with Captain Eliecer otherwise known as Capi or Original and 6 Dutch and 3 Germans.

We had a departure time of 8pm but didn’t actually leave until about 11pm or so as we were waiting on the captain. Right away I learned that we were all going to have to be very flexible with each other on this trip. Our luggage and shoes were collected and put in storage under the boat and only our little backpacks were allowed on board.

The trip includes all meals and water but any snacks or other beverages have to be brought on board. I decided a bottle of rum was the appropriate drink for my trip across the Caribbean.

Anyhow, the trip from Cartagena to San Blas (the gorgeous islands this trip is all about) is about 30-36 hours at open sea which means no getting off the boat. No showers. No hanging out on top of the boat. Just sitting around and taking in the open seas. I was lucky enough not to get sea sick and we had really good weather and pretty easy sailing. I can’t say that everyone felt as good as I did.

As soon as we were allowed to jump in the water, I was off the boat! I was able to shower (just means getting in the ocean and being rinsed with fresh water when you get back on the boat) and take in the beauty of what I would see for the next three days. The water is so clear and so calm so most of us swam to this little island. The captain paid our fee in leftover food and we spent the day lounging in paradise!

That is our boat in the distance. A fairly easy swim and after being on the boat for 30+ hours, it felt AMAZING to swim!

Most of the islands have a name and a family that live on them. They make their money selling beers and coconuts to the tourists and also exporting the coconuts.

This island is considered to have the “swimming pool” and the beach is shallow and calm and you can just sit in it forever. After a day of snorkeling and around the reef and three jelly fish stings, this was the perfect way to wind down and relax. They happen to sell Miller Lite which I thought was hilarious since I wold never drink this in the states. But, gotta support the local community!

The pictures just don’t do it justice for how clear and beautiful the water was. The only downfall was the amount of trash that would wash up or the trash that was stuck in the algae around the reef. This is a HUGE problem and really shows the importance of finding sustainable solutions to water bottles, straws, plastic bags, disposable cutlery and all other things that should be recycled. Okay, I will step off my soap box now.

Part of sailing is attempting to fish. Although we failed, we were able to buy some lobster from a local and actually have a bbq on one of the islands. Fresh lobster means fresh killing. The little guy in the video I named Eduardo and his sacrifice was greatly appreciated. Our captain had to ask the chief of the island for permission and we paid in some food and drinks and had a great night!

Finally it was time to go through customs and officially enter Panama. Once inside this little building I really started to understand what I was going to feel like on land after being at sea for 5 days.

This was such a magical and amazing experience and I cannot wait for my next adventure!

Cartagena!

I was in Cartagena a few times throughout my trip to Colombia and each experience was totally different from another. We decided to spend the days leading up to New Years Eve as well as New Years eve in Cartagena. We went in with zero expectations and no plans!

Our original hotel cancelled our reservation the day before we were going to arrive! Best believe that we scrambled to find something that was not completely overpriced since it was New Years Eve! After about 15 minutes of seeing what was available, this new hotel called Hotel D Beach popped up on the screen and we decided to book it. We were a little confused when we arrived because it looked like the building was still under construction. Turns out, the hotel opened the day we arrived and we were one of very few rooms that were staying there! We were upgraded to a suite and set out to live our life of luxury for the next few nights.

Let’s be honest. After spending 6 days on some islands at the beach, we spent most of our time in this amazing pool overlooking the ocean. There were no complaints from me!

The advantage of our location was that right next door was a restaurant with typical Colombian food. As much as we walked around to find other places to eat, we always seemed to find ourselves here. Good food and good wine!

New Years Eve was spent sitting at the pool and watching the fireworks over the ocean. I also decided to strip down to my skivvies and jump in the pool just after midnight! I thought it was a great way to start the New Year. The rest of the night was spent sitting with a family and trying to speak Spanish as only one girl spoke English. All and all, it was a fantastic night!

After some adventures to Medellin and Bogota with I will write about later, I had one more night in Cartagena before I set off to sail to Panama. This time I stayed in the old town and was on my own for the first time on the trip. I wandered the streets and came across some live music that was absolutely fantastic! The energy of the city is pretty amazing and the streets are exactly what I think of when I think about Colombia. If I ever come back to Cartagena, I will absolutely stay in the old town.

Mallorca = Perfection

Many people are fully aware of the island of Ibiza and all it has to offer. For those who don’t want $30 cocktails and crazy parties, there are the islands of Mallorca and Menorca that offer a calm and relaxing seaside environment.

The sunsets were truly amazing and not something that should be missed. I took so many pictures and it was hard to try to capture exactly what I was seeing but there are few below that show the awesomeness!

Don’t worry, I used water to capture this “wine” picture.


Palma de Mallorca is the main center for the island. We were staying about 20 minutes outside of this area in a gorgeous Airbnb but thought a day in town would be great. We ended up going to lunch for some tapas and browsing the zillion stores! This little bull caught my eye and I thought he was pretty sexy.

As always, my mom is one of my awesome travel partners in crime and we always have a great time together!

Galapagos!!

The few days I spent in the Galapagos were absolutely amazing! The Galapagos is made up of a series of islands and I was staying on the island of Santa Cruz which has the largest population of any of the islands and is still pretty small. I went on two different snorkeling excursions and a day tour of the Charles Darwin Station and Tortuga Bay.

The first day was a tour around the bay where if the water temperature is right, you can see white tip reef sharks. Apparently it was not right and we stared at an empty lagoon. Epic fail! However, some of the other spots let us see some beautiful fish and blue footed boobies. As we were heading back to end our tour, the guide pulled donuts in the water to create a circle and started hitting the edge of the boat. Before you know it, a shark was swimming around our boat. We finally got to see one!

    


 The second part of the day was to go visit some tortoises and walk through some lava tunnels. The tortoises were absolutely gigantic and just magnificent creatures. I will let the pictures speak for themselves! The lava tunnels seemed like dark wet caves where barely any life could survive.  

    We did experience some tortoise copulation as our guide called it at the end of the tour. It was interesting to say the least as it was two males and they were not exactly facing the right way. I guess anything goes in the animal kingdom!

The next snorkeling trip was to an island called Pinzon. Here we were able to snorkel with white tip reef sharks, sea lions, penguins, iguanas and sea turtles. The iguanas have adapted to swimming because as new islands were formed, the only thing to eat was algae. Therefore the iguanas learned how to swim and stay under water for about an hour. The islands are truly a pinnacle for studying evolution!

  

The Charles Darwin Station hosts many tortoises at all different ages in order to keep them protected and repopulate the island. It also explained the various currents and why the islands are the way they are and how various animals have adapted to survive there. Our tour guide was very enthusiastic and overloaded our group with scientific terms that didn’t really stick. But, it was nice to learn a little bit about winds and tides and currents that create the mircro ecosystems that allow the Galapagos to have the variety of wildlife that makes it such a great place to be.