Monday, January 10, 2011

Panama to Colombia - Getting across the Darien Gap

December 30th 2010
In Portobelo, Panama, taking a Catamaran to get across the Darien Gap and reach Colombia since there are no roads. We take off right after everything is loaded.

After just a few hours "sailling" with the engines we arrived in the Puerto Lindo Bay for the night.  
 We just had a meal and talked around the table.
the next day, 31st, we keep going through some of the San Blas islands, which is an archipelago of 378 islands. 49 are inhabited.  

From left to right: Oliver and Phil, from the German side of Switzerland, Olivia from France and USA, and me, from Canada :) My bed was next to the kitchen and I had a window just over my head, convinient to get fresh air or peak out. I slept the whole day as we were motor sailing and it was the only way for me for not getting sea sick; just laying down and closing my eyes.

 We arrived on the evening at Chichi Meh islands, not sure of the spelling. We will spend our New Year Eve here since there are many boats, people propably a party going on somewhere.


There is also a 3 and a half palms island
and a sunken boat 
 And some people living there. 
 Time for swimming before going out!

We played some drinking game. A very fun night.
I drank my precious bottle of Mezcal of Oaxaca.
 Then most of us went to the party island. Captain Fritz gave us a boat lift over there.

 Many people were there, I met with Canadiens, Germans, Panamiens, etc... There was a "bar" selling alcohol, actually it was just a fridge.
 A pig was roasting over the fire.
 Our group from the boat; Sabine from South Africa, Bill ridding his bike from USA, Olivia and Oliver.
Someone trying to juggle with fire stick. He was dropping his sticks most of the time, but I wouldn't have done any better. 

Then the island locals when over to sell bracelets and cocos, Their main economy.
I've discovered on wikipedia they are Kuma Indians, wearing colorful clothes. 
 Our boat was were close to the island, some people could swim there, but I wouldn't, the current is a little strong and I'm not a good swimmer.
It was nice would could stay there until the afternoon. Fritz gave me a lift to the island with my snorking stuff. Olivia could swim there and we walked around this small island. Thanks to her for having a waterproof camera and let me take pictures and get them.

That's where the party was the previous night! 
The one fridge "bar" where Olivia bought bracelets. 

We drank some coco. 

January 2nd, we left in the afternoon. 

We stopped at isla Elephante, I think, right next to coral reefs. Ideal place for snorkeling.

Fritz gave us a lift to a nice spot for an hour of snokeling before it's get dark. With Marika, Damian, Bjorn, Phil and myself.
Damien and Marika, Australian couple and also my new friends.

I wish I could have taken pictures of what I've seen. The coral reef where we were wasn't very deep, in many places I could touch ground, ideal for resting when needed. I've seen fish of all colors, sea stars, and the coral itself. When you pay attention it's amazing to see all the life there.

Our boat group, I think we got lucky people were gatting along very well.
Chris from New Zealand on the lower left corner, she drove a 250 bike from USA with her husband Alan, top left corner, on a KLR 650. Marcus, left corner, the German I met in Panama, he luckily got a place aboard. Sabine Lower left corner, studying internaltional law in Costa Rica, Oliver, with the mustache next to her on the lower central part of the table, a school teacher. Phil on the lower right corner, Bill an American also riding a KLR650, Bjorn top right corner. Damien and Marika on the top center. 
We've also done some Cayuking of a Cayuko dug-out canoe. It's basically catching crabs or lobster with a stick. They get stuck in the loop and you bring them to the boat.  

Our guide caught a huge crab, plus anothe smaller one. 
That's what we had for diner that night. After that we asked Bjorn to show us how to cut a pineapple.

and we had 2 days of open sea. It's sucked. You can't do much. I was ok as long as I stayed laying down and closed my eyes. I was affraid to eat and drink so I didn't. Nobody wants to use the toilet while in open sea. It's small, you bounce all over inside, it's hot, and you have to manually pump the toilet to flush.

At the end, everybody where in "my" bed, in the middle cabine where it's more open area and you don't feel as much the waves. 
Fritz invited some people over, we were now 17 in that little boat, it's too many, people were sleeping on the kitchen floor, outside, and in the cabines. 
We arrive in Cartagena, Comombia, at 2am, actually it was January 5th...


Note about Fritz the Cat:
The first few days were great! The food was good. Going to islands was fun.
The boat was overfilled. Fritz is using very bad helpers, it took days to just get a stamp on our passeport, then paying another helper for getting our bike paper was a waste of time and money more than anthing else. The helper did not help at all. For that reason I would not recommend using Fritz to get across the Darien Gap, nor I would disrecommend it either. Next time I take a plane or a different boat...


  1. Allô Simon,
    C'était une expérience à faire en catamaran mais coome tu le dis si bien - Le retour sera mieux.

  2. Here is another account of the Darien Gap: Crossing the Darién Gap (2013).

    That documentary was filmed on March 2013.

    Happy travels!