Tag Archives: colombia

Munich

Munich is absolutely lovely!!!  I was very shocked on how green the city is!!  Seriously they have so many parks in the heart of the city!!  I figured it would be much like every other city: drowning in nothing but buildings with a token park here and there.  But not so with Munich!  It is individual, full of history, character and very friendly and welcoming people!  There’s the synopsis, now here are the details;)

Before going to Munich, on a whim and on a promise, I shot off an email to Nikki whom I met and traveled with through the San Blas Islands in Panama.  In fact, she was the clever woman who coined “modern day pirates” to describe our sailboat crew:)

I say on a whim because though we had exchanged a few emails, we really hadn’t kept in touch a whole lot (I don’t Facebook) and since it had been so long since I’d emailed her, I wasn’t sure first whether she even had the same email, and second whether she would respond.  I had made her a promise long ago when we parted in Colombia however that if I ever made it to Munich, I would look her up!  So, about a week or so before going to Munich I wrote her an email to let her know I would be in town for the day.

I was humbled to hear back from her and even more tickled that she too had the day off and was able to meet me!!  The good in people never ceases to amaze me and it’s a blessing to know people who, even after years of no contact, extend a hand of friendship!!

I made it to Munich early in the morning and after calling Nikki agreed to meet her at a coffee shop near the Odeonsplatz underground station.  As I made my way out from the underground I could hear the joyous music of Oktoberfest celebrations and once out on the street was greeted by a lovely parade!!  I made my way along the road trying to get somewhere to take some pictures when a very nice group of people offered me a stool to stand on so I could get above the crowd:)  Thankfully one of them spoke a little broken English and I asked where the coffee shop was (all I could see was Starbucks and we weren’t meeting there!!).  Once directed and all the pictures were taken, I headed to meet Nikki.


Seriously it was as if no time at all had ever passed between us!  She looked just the same as she did before: fabulous!  And we had a great time catching up in each other’s lives and reminiscing on the good times we had during the San Blas trip:)  We hung out for a little catching up, then she proceeded to give me the VIP walking tour of Munich!!

First stop was just nearby, a place called Feldherrnhalle, which is where Hitler began the plotting of his Nazi regime before setting up in Berlin.  What is amazing is that as he began to take on more popularity and power, it was mandatory that people walking in front of this building had to salute to the soldiers standing in front to show that they were with Hitler.  If you walked in front without saluting you would get in serious trouble!!  So, for those who opposed Hitler, they would bypass walking in front of the Feldherrnhalle by walking down the street just behind called Viscardigasse.  Down this street today you will find a golden path laid out in bronze bricks symbolizing the path of freedom.  This path was walked by all who opposed Hitler.  It was their way of rebelling Hitler and what he stood for.

Across from this building is the Residence of Munich (Residenz Munchen) where the Royal Family lives and the lions statues guarding the entrance are rubbed by passersby for good luck!

The Residence of Munich leads onto the Hofgarten where there is a lovely little building topped off with a little monument.  Here they have many musicians who come to practice their skills and even monthly they put on a formal waltz dance event!!

From there we headed past the Art Museum and headed to probably the most interesting or at least shocking part of Munich… Surfers!!!  Yes, I typed correctly: surfers!  Apparently some very clever surfers wanted a way to continue to practice their skills and keep in shape year round without “chasing the waves” so they made their own!!  In the Eisbach river, just at the start of it where it flows under a bridge, several stones were dropped to the river bottom and eventually enough were planted in to create a wave!!  And due to the natural fast current through the river, the wave is large enough to basically simulate an ocean wave!  So darn clever!!!

This little surf spot is in a way the beginning of the English Garden (Englischen Garten).  The English Garden is the largest garden in Munich and it is even LARGER than Central Park in New York City!!

We made our way past the Japanese Teahouse (Japanisches Teehaus Kanshoan)

to an area where if you choose you could sit out nude

English Garden Nude Area
English Garden Nude Area

finally to the Monopteros.  This monument was once overrun by drug addicts but thanks to an increased presence of cops wandering the streets, the momument was abandoned by the addicts and spruced up for locals and tourists to enjoy:)

From the Monopteros it was on to the Chinese Temple (Chinesischer Turm) where a little beer garden was conveniently located, so of course we had to stop for a BEER!!!!!  It was here during a bit of a passing thunderstorm where I learned the history of beer gardens… Long ago when there weren’t any refrigerators, companies cleverly decided to put kegs of produced beer under trees that provided lots of shade (hence natural refrigeration).  So much beer was being made that companies would invite people out to these “gardens “with kegs of beer under each tree to drink the beer while it was fresh and cold!  All they asked was people paid for the beer, but otherwise you could bring your own food, etc.  So these beer gardens began to gain popularity as almost a social or fun day in the park so to speak with cheap, delicious beer, your own picnic and tons of other people to socialize with:)

After a few pints we walked our way to the Siegestor, a triumphal arch that has a statue of Bavaria on top leading 4 lions!  It was originally dedicated to the glory of the Bavarian army but today it is a monument and reminder for peace.  Absolutely love it!!

On we went past the University to perhaps my favorite building of all I had seen that day: St. Peter’s Church (Peterskirche)!!  Just absolutely stunning in my opinion and so playful!!  Notice the dragon climbing up the church and the timekeeper…

I could have spent hours looking at the church just discovering new things about it but alas we were getting a bit hungry, so we headed to a great restaurant, had some delicious local food then headed to Nikki’s where she graciously allowed me to crash for the night:)  However, NOT before helping her to fix her anklet!!  We had both purchased one in the San Blas Islands from the Kuna Indigenous tribe but sadly hers had fallen off.  She kept the beads and the strand however so I helped to affix it back on:)  Good times!!!

Repaired San Blas Anklet, yay!!
Repaired San Blas Anklet, yay!!

 

On to Berlin

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Hostel Culture Shock…

Quickly here I wanted to share a few culture shocks I experienced (aside from the prices, lol!!).  Really the only time I had ever before done the whole backpacking hostel thing was when I traveled through Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia.  So really my only basis of comparison was with hostels there…

What I had gotten used to from hostels in Latin America was places where basically younger people (early 20’s to 40’s) would go to sleep cheap.  It was a place for singles or couples of friends, but not large groups per se.  Everyone was also very inviting and curious of the newcomer.  You would tend to meet several people and hang out with them from the hostel.  It was like meeting a new member of a family at each place.  You always had someone to do something with if you wanted and everyone seemed very chill as we were all in the same traveling boat so to speak.  You exchanged information and traveling tips with fellow hostel goers.  It felt like an underground society in a way…  Places where the backpackers would convene nightly to exchange stories and dos and don’ts…

Hostels in London have a completely different feel!!!  First the age range literally included children all the way to senior citizens.  Entire families stayed at the hostel!  And groups of people booked into the hostel.  I’m talking for Stag parties (aka bachelor parties) or gangs of girls wanting to party it up in London.  I was shocked at the dress that people were coming out of the hostel with!  No more sensible travel clothes anywhere to be seen on people, except for a few random ones, but rather short skirts and tall heels!!  These girls are traveling???  No, hostels in London were definitely not for the traveler.  They were simply (at least I believe) the only cheap way to go since I don’t think many people can actually afford hotels in London!!  Or if they were travelers, they weren’t long term, they were just away for the week or weekend on a holiday.  Because of this there was no real camaraderie among the people.  Everyone was out for their own business and no one would really acknowledge others since they had basically all come in their own group anyway.  Personally I didn’t really care if I met people to talk to or not because I’m perfectly comfortable doing what I want on my own anyway, but it just gave such a “cold” feel to the place.  So uninviting.

So, needless to say this aspect was quite a shock to me.  I was very curious at this point how hostels all across Europe would be in general… If they would be what I was used to from my previous travels, or if they would be like the London hostel…

 

On to London Walking Tour

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Back in the States

I flew back into the States from Bogota, Colombia after almost a full year of traveling between Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia.  I had spent most of my time in Costa Rica in the sleepy small Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo on the Southern Caribbean coast.  Coming back to the States was a bit of a shell shocker from a few perspectives.  First the amount of technology blaring in your face in the form of TVs was one thing I definitely noticed that took some getting used to again.  The second thing was the blinders were put back on.  You know, those blinders we tend to put on walking down the street, not saying hi to a soul unless you know them.  Not being present to the outside world while moving through it yet just keeping to your own world.  Those blinders… When first going to Costa Rica it literally shocked me that people would say good morning to me and acknowledge me as I walked down the streets.  Then I got used to doing the same to others as I went from place to place.  Then back in the States at first I kept my newly adopted persona of acknowledging people but was met with strange looks and no responses or people literally making a wider gap around me as they walked past.  So eventually the blinders went back on… Oh well…

Coming back to the States was a choice I made primarily because the bank account was starting to get a little low and because where I had been traveling in Colombia was getting too cold for my taste and the travel enthusiasm was just dwindling.  I went back to Houston to help house-sit my sisters place (and her two adorable dogs) as she was away quite often.  I got a job there as a bartender and server (a trade I picked up for the first time ever in Costa Rica) and stayed about 6 months or so.  Once my sister was back from her work obligations and I was no longer needed as a dog/house sitter, I moved to Key West, Florida.

I lived and worked in Key West for 10 months, saving all my pennies as much as possible (though of course I did have a little bit of a life too!) and then packed it all up and headed out traveling again.  This time the destination was Europe.  My time in Key West I’ll never forget.  And who knows, one day I may still return.  Though it isn’t the kind of place I could see myself living at permanently (there are no beaches on the island itself and it’s a little too much of a party town for my taste… If you don’t like to drink to oblivion on an almost daily basis there’s not much of a life to be had there really) I had so many amazing opportunities and met many people I consider life-long friends. It took a while to find some of these people, but I’m blessed that I did.

Key West really is a drinking town with a fishing problem.  It’s no wonder people get way too carried away there.  Tourists come for the party and as a person in the service industry we were there to provide it.  Mind you, we only dealt in the LEGAL party!  Though many tourists did come to Key West literally thinking they could do anything (it’s amazing, I seriously think people thought Key West was no longer part of the States and they could do whatever they wanted!!) and we were sometimes asked for drugs at my work from tourists, but they were always turned away.  Yes, Key West also has lots of drugs.  Go figure.  Until having lived in Costa Rica I never really realized how prevalent drugs really are.  Then from there on they literally seemed to be everywhere.  Sometimes I miss my rose colored glasses, but just like everything else in life, you can choose to be involved or you can choose not to be involved.  Everyone has a choice.

You know, as I type this up I can’t help but think that even though I really couldn’t wait to get out of Key West at the time (since there were a number of things I didn’t really like about it) it somehow grew on me and now I can say I have a little strange spot in my heart for the place.  Perhaps its also because I really enjoyed my job.  I know that’s an odd thing to say, but I really enjoyed bartending and serving; creating a positive vacation experience for tourists and such.  Anyway… that’s enough nostalgia for now!

So after leaving Key West, surprising my mom in Houston for her birthday, taking a trip out West to see family and friends in Arizona and New Mexico, then a trip to Mexico (Puerto Penasco aka Rocky Point) with my mom and finally seeing my Tennessee family back in Houston, it was time to hit the road again.  July 30th, 2014 I landed in Heathrow airport in London…

 

On to London

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Bogota

After yet another long and exhausting day on a bus (you’d think by now I would have just caved in and sought alternate transportation between cities!!  Then again I would have missed really seeing the countryside…) I arrived in Bogota.  If I thought Medellin was large, well it was quite small compared to Bogota!!  I had to take a 20 minute cab ride to an area of town that was somewhat central and more well known for having hostels in the area.

No, I once again didn’t book any hostel in advance, but rather was dropped off and walked around until I found something.  At least this time there was still light in the day left!  Anyway, I wandered up and down several streets in what was kinda the chic area of town it seemed, and settled on one hostel (Hostel Platypus if memory serves…) for the night.

“Funny” story here, my roommate for the night was an older woman, probably in her 40’s to 50’s who was from England, yet had apparently been living in Ecuador for the past 11 years… She was at the time just traveling around (I believe Venezuela was her next stop) but what I found particularly funny… Or rather quite disturbing really, is that she didn’t speak a lick of Spanish!!!  Not two words!!  AND she would even say “Hola” pronouncing the H!!!!!  She was also in a strange way oddly proud that she didn’t speak the language even though she lived in a Latin American Country!!!  I found this honestly quite disgusting, really.  In my opinion if you are going to live in another country that isn’t your original country, the least you can do is show some sort of respect to the new country by learning their language and something about their culture!  This applies to visitors too in my book, though I know it’s not so easy to try and pick up a language during a 2 week vacation…

Needless to say, knowing she was going to be staying in that same hostel for several nights, I checked out the next day and found somewhere new to sleep as I couldn’t tolerate such blatant ignorance and disrespect to another culture!!

I found a lovely hostel just a few blocks away called Hostal Casu.  Located above a restaurant on the corner of Carrera 3 and Calle 15A, Hostal Casu became my home for the next week.  I had a private room with a shared bathroom and negotiated a good price for each night since I was going to be staying for the week.  Again, the reason I had come to Bogota was to see my brother who happened to also be there around the same time.  Traveling down to see him however, with the changes in the weather and the bank account slowly draining, I made the decision to go back to the States so I could get a solid job, refill the coffers and head out again to travel.  So staying in Bogota a week really served 2 purposes.  First it gave me a week to see my brother and second I was flying out of Bogota back to Houston, and my flight was simply in a week.

The area of town that I was in I really liked.  It was nestled at the foothills of basically a national park, at the top of which was a lovely church.  The area had a young hip, artsy vibe to it that I really liked as well.  I felt safe there and have no complaints of the area… Except the weather!!  I know I keep saying this, and I know I’m a total wimp, but to me it was soooo cold day after day there!!!  Bogota is 8,660 feet(2,640 meters) above sea level so you would think I would have realized it would be cold, but again, since I rarely researched anything about where I was going and just preferred to figure things out once I got there, this aspect of Bogota was a shock to me.  And once again it was uninspiring!!  Though I did get out daily to walk for several hours to get in my exercise and to eat, that was about the extent of my drive to do anything!

Even going to see my brother turned out to be a total bust as he was apparently tied up with work things day after day of my being there, and we were only able to get together for an afternoon the night before he left the country himself.  We were to meet at the very opposite of Bogota from where I was, basically due North from where I was so as usual I opted to walk there, and after about 40 minutes and 70 or so blocks later with my little map in tow I found him at the eatery that we planned to meet at and we spent the evening wandering the area with one of his coworkers in tow.  We ate a lovely meal at one of the local restaurants and then parted ways.  I opted on the way back to take a cab as I was a wee bit too intoxicated by this point to try and walk my way back!  Plus, it was starting to get dark and it just wouldn’t have been a sound choice to try and walk back.

So all in all, my time in Bogota wasn’t terribly eventful, but it was quite relaxing and a nice place to try and transition going back to the States.  Before making the decision to go back to the States, I did wrestle with the idea of going back to the Caribbean coast of Columbia, like the Cartagena area, but the thought of traveling there by bus just jangled my bones in thinking of it!  And the flight would have been a bit out of my price range.  So I opted to stick with my plans of going back to the States.

Part of me is bummed that I didn’t go to Cartagena and even to Armenia since after all I was in the country already!  And honestly had I known that I would have only had an afternoon to get to see my brother, I would have gone to Cartagena first, then perhaps made my way to the Bogota area instead of rushing to Bogota to try and see him, but as they say everything happens for a reason and as it should.  And as I’ve already mentioned before, I plan on going back to Columbia to explore more of the country and less of the cities!  Though the actual physical riding in the bus from place to place was quite hard on the body (due to road conditions) the sights were unbeatable and absolutely beautiful!!  I loved the nature of the countryside’s and can’t wait to be able to see more!

 

On to Colombia Myths and Truths

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Medellin Activities & Pictures

Medellin is a proper, fairly large city situated in the valley between two mountain ranges.  It is very picturesque despite the land being completely covered in homes and apartments.  It has a great energy to it, very young and vibrant and they have quite a few things to do there.  The temperature wasn’t quite what I had been used to… Now you have to bear in mind that until now I had been used to and living in tropical, Caribbean temperatures so anything less than 78 Fahrenheit (about 25.6 Celsius)  I considered COLD!!

I stayed in Medellin for several days simply walking the streets, taking the tram up to the top of one side of the valley and going to their various museums, which included a science and natural history museum.  It was a big city like many others, which really doesn’t appeal to me in any huge way other than it being nice to have the conveniences of a big city.  But definitely worth a visit just to see the way the city is structured!

I have to admit really that after the craziness of actually getting there and getting settled there, every other day spent there was quite dull in comparison!  Sorry, no crazy stories of actually staying in Medellin!!  So to keep this post somewhat interesting, below at least are some pictures!  Several from the bus ride over, and several more of Medellin itself.  Some of the pictures taken from the tram seem foggy.  That’s due to the glass of the tram, not from any pollution from the city:)

 

On to Manizales

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Medellin: The Arrival

I arrived after a day of traveling non-stop to the main bus terminal of Medellin (pronounced Med-eh-jean with a slight softness to the J) exhausted and ready for sleep.  Due to the poor road conditions, try as I may, there was just no way to get any sleep on that bus.  When we arrived it was already quite dark.  First thing to do… Find a hostel for the night!!!

I know, I know… one of my odd quirks about traveling is that I’m quite the procrastinator when it comes to actually booking anything ahead of time, including places to sleep!  While for the most part, it’s never actually a problem, on this particular night I was really kicking myself that I didn’t have a place already picked out!  But to give myself a teeny bit of credit, I really wasn’t expecting or planning for the trip there to be quite as long as it was to begin with.

In any event, luckily there was still an information booth open at the bus terminal, which by the way was quite large and modern.  It took up several stories in fact, and after stopping to get some cash at the ATM (since I’d spent more than I planned to on the way down, paying twice for a bus ticket and all) I went to the info center and looked through their book for hostels nearby.  I quickly found a couple and since the person at the info station said they weren’t far, I opted to walk…

It’s really quite a good thing that the reputation of Colombia isn’t at all what the reality is, since in my pursuit to find the hostels I was literally wandering around random neighborhoods in the dark by myself with very few others around except random people passing by and a few drunks…  Basically what I came to find out after wandering around was that the first hostel that I was trying to find was actually no longer where it was advertised to be.  Imagine that…. And funny quick story, at one point because I was so tired of walking in circles, trying to find the hostel that no longer existed, I went to a street that was pretty busy, hailed a cab, and when I showed him the address he said “no, no that’s just down the street, you can walk!” and refused to take me as a passenger!!  This was of course before I realized that the address was incorrect to begin with…

So there I was, randomly wandering the streets in some random area of Medellin, when I finally came across a guy that was dressed in some sort of security outfit.  He looked as if he was just getting off work so I flagged him down and asked if he knew of any hostels in the area.  Thank goodness he did!!!  And he was so happy to inform me that it was in walking distance… YAY… MORE walking!!!  I was overjoyed!  😉  But Thank Goodness he at least knew which direction to point me in.  Angels come in so many different forms:)  With his guidance I was able to finally find a hostel.  However… my night apparently wasn’t over yet as the hostel did not have ANY availability for the night!!  YAY!!!  (hopefully the sarcasm is coming through as I was SERIOUSLY done with this night!!!)

Thankfully again however, the hostel reception guy was able to contact a sister facility and they did have space available.  The only clincher was that once again, I had to walk there… At least during the time that he was calling the other hostel I was able to take off my pack for a few seconds and just chill.  Several minutes later though I was back “on the road” and walked about 20 minutes to the other hostel, which was conveniently located just a couple blocks back from the main street of Medellin!

After settling in the hostel, I joined the street for some food then passed out for some much needed rest!

On to Medellin Activities & Pictures

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Capurgana, Colombia

So we made it!  “Smuggled” into Columbia through the San Blas Islands on a sailboat captained and crewed by what Nicki (my German companion on the sailboat) so eloquently named “modern day pirates”.  That they were indeed, modern day pirates!!  We actually arrived and docked in the water on the Panama side in a little inlet that had the teeniest towns nearby.  From there a local took all of our things and put them in a little motor boat, squished us all in (we finally got to get our shoes back, mind you!) and motored us around the inlet bend and into the Colombian side of land and dropped us off at the dock of Capurgana, Colombia.

The first thing I remember thinking about this place was how colorful it was!  It was so Caribbean and the vibrant colors of each building just added to that cool Caribbean vibe of “come as you are and chill, man”!!  Just adorable and quaint and just the place that was needed to go and relax after the onboard adventures of the previous week on the sailboat.

We all disembarked from the little motor boat on the dock and went our random ways to find hostels/hotels for the night.  I chose a place not too far from the dock and stayed the first night in a room fit for several people (though I was the only one) then moved to a smaller, better suited room on the second floor for the next week.  Now, one must remember that after being on the sailboat for 6 days certain things hold true… First and most important, I had to get my land legs back!  Even though we had been on land for little bouts throughout the week on the sailboat, my sea legs were still well intact.  Hence why I chose to stay for several days in Capurgana… Not only because it was so vibrant yet chill, but also so I could fully recover from the crazy sailboat tour we had just come from.

After getting settled in the first afternoon of our arrival (oh and of course getting our entrance stamp from immigration, which was closed for the first several hours we were on land so had to wait a while to actually be legal in the country) Nicki and I headed around town to find a cup of coffee.  Now, honestly I’ve never really been a big coffee drinker in the States.  Maybe because all the famous blends and roasts come from places like Costa Rica and Colombia.  Or rather especially Colombia… So we thought it would be quite easy to find a place that sold coffee since we were afterall in one of the countries that was best known for their production of coffee… No.  Not at all. It literally took us the better part of an hour, plus going into dozens of stores before we actually found a place that begrudgingly made us a cup of coffee!!  And to boot, it wasn’t even anything that special.  Apparently, as we came to learn quickly, coffee in Colombia is served only at breakfast and is really not available at any other time!  Ok, now perhaps I really shouldn’t generalize for ALL of Colombia, so I will just say for sure in Capurgana:)

Anyway, all in all the time spent in Capurgana was quite nice.  One day was full of hiking through the surrounding jungle, others just wandering the small town watching and experiencing life.  The evenings were spent passing time with card games with friends from the sailboat.  Oh and one afternoon was spent watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in England (just to give a time stamp of when I was there:)).

To be honest, though I knew I had to move on, I really wasn’t looking forward to it.  The only way out of the town was either on a teeny tiny plane literally fit for two people and luggage (that could not weigh more than a certain amount) or to take a motor boat from Capurgana, across the bay to Turbo, then catch a bus to the next destination.  After having spent so much time in the simplicity of life, between Puerto Viejo, the San Blas Islands and now the tiny town of Capurgana I wasn’t looking forward to getting back into the “hustle” of the faster life.  Honestly, I don’t even recall vehicles in town, only horse drawn carts.  That’s how isolated and simple Capurgana was.  No roads actually lead into it, only a small airstrip and dock for boats connected this small Caribbean town to the rest of the world.

Alas, I did have to get back on the road again however and booked my trip out of Capurgana via the boat.  Nicki, the Aussies and the British fellow had already or were soon also getting on with their travels too.  We each went separate ways.  Though I had wanted to go to Cartagena, Colombia, oddly enough I had gotten an email from my brother saying he was in Bogota for work.  So I altered my plans to try and catch some time with him in Bogota and opted to head first to Medellin.

 

On to Travel from Capurgana to Medellin

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San Blas Islands

I’ve never seen phosphorescent water before.  Not until night time did we board our 38′ sailboat barefoot (no shoes allowed anywhere on board) and headed out of the harbor waters into Caribbean waters to the San Blas Islands.  We headed out at night so that in the morning we would be near to one of the islands and would be able to spend a lovely day there.  What seemed like light glistened from the ocean in the otherwise absolute darkness.  Only when disturbed did the water glisten and glow, so as the sailboat motored its way through the harbor it left sparkling and shimmering water in its wake.  Absolutely mesmerizing!!  Nature always seems to find a way to shock and awe me around every corner, and on this night once again it raised the bar!!  I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the beauty that stirred in the water as we coursed through it.  Now to be fair, it really is the algae in the water that actually make the water glow with light, not the water itself.  The algae soak up sun rays during the day and in a sense emit the light caught by the sun when they are disturbed.  So amazingly beautiful!!!

The San Blas Islands are 380 plus islands that run from the southern Caribbean coast of Panama to Columbia.  The people that inhabit these islands are called Kuna.  The Kuna indigenous tribes are and historically have been known as peaceful people.  Being peaceful people, only once did they ever in their history rise up and fight.  And that was a while back now when the Panamanian government tried to claim the islands as part of their government.  Up until that point, all the islands and the law of the islands were governed by the Kuna people.  A bloody battle ensued over rights to the islands, however when Panama tried to take control.  Ultimately Panama lost and left the islands to be governed by the indigenous tribe.  To this day, no other government has any rights or control over the islands.  They are simply governed by the Kuna indigenous tribe members.  There was even talk that the Kuna people were known for “harboring” drug smugglers on the islands; for as long as the smugglers were invited onto the island they were safe from any other marine government agencies waiting on the water in hopes of catching them once they left.  Permission granted was a huge deal there too.  No one was allowed to ever stay or sleep on any island overnight unless invited by the Chief of that island.  Just about every island had its own Chief.  Sometimes a single Chief would be needed for a cluster of smaller islands close by to each other.  And every so often the Chiefs of the islands would get together to discuss affairs.

Kuna fishermen could be seen going around in their wood canoes around the islands in search of conchs or lobsters or other fish to catch and consume.  Their way of fishing however only involved a homemade spear “gun” and being able to swim to very deep depths!  They were very adept at their trade however and the funniest thing to me about it all though was the bucket they each had in their canoes.  It wasn’t for holding caught fish but rather to scoop out water from their canoes!  You see, the canoes were wood and untreated wood at that, so they were constantly taking in water… hence the bucket!  Women of the area went around in their wood canoes (bucket in tow) to each of the tourist sailboats selling bracelets or homemade woven cloths with various images on them.  I eventually did buy an anklet from one of the women when we were invited for a lobster dinner that I wear to this day because it still hasn’t fallen off!!  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

We were warned well in advance about sea sickness.  We were all instructed to take sea sickness pills the night before departing and the morning and night of taking off.  While I believe we all did adhere to that advice, sadly the sea sickness pills did not quite work for all…  I was not a victim of sea sickness thank goodness though after a few beers and passing out in the front bunk for myself and the German woman, I did wake up feeling a little queezy… I made my way to the open air and just had to focus on my breath REALLY hard… and thankfully the nausea went away!  I could not say that is how it went for the rest of the crew…

Well, of course the crew themselves (3 brothers) were just fine.  But the new crew were struggling!  I honestly blame most of it on the booze consumed because as mentioned before there was quite a bit on board and the drinking started the second we got on board!!  After having my near sea sickness episode I opted to stay on the top deck in the fresh air just in case another episode arrived.  People seemed to be just fine that night.  Lots of jovial drinking around me and star gazing.  It was the next morning that the real “damage” began…

 

On to Warning!!

Back to Isla San Blas

 

Time to Leave

Though I had an absolute fantastic time in Puerto Viejo and met a bunch of people whom I consider life-long friends, after about 10 months of living there, it was time to pack up and see more of the world once again.  I still to this day miss a lot of Puerto Viejo and Costa Rica in general, namely the wildlife and captivating nature that surrounds you daily there…. But, if I had stayed there I wouldn’t have had the chance to continue traveling and exploring as I originally planned to do.

Truth be told as well, just as in many places you first go to then get to know better, the rose colored glasses came off.  While there was and is a lot of beauty and great things about Costa Rica and Puerto Viejo, there are also a lot of drugs there.  They are after all in the direct line of drug trafficking, so it’s really no big surprise, but still there gets a point where enough is enough.  Looking around knowing that the majority of people were on one drug or another, just started to wear on me.  And looking at people who had lived there forever and seeing how squirrely they had turned out, just made you wonder if that was the only future to look forward to.  So for that reason and wanting to explore and travel more in general, I packed it up and headed out.

Since I’d already done Bocas del Toro, I decided to simply head back to David, then on to Panama City, then head to Portobello on the Caribbean coast of Panama to catch a sailboat through the San Blas Islands into Colombia…

So the travels continue…

On to Panama City, Panama

Back to Puerto Viejo