Tag Archives: portobello

Storms, glorious storms! And a sparrow?

Another reason I’m quite glad we really didn’t have any days really going way out into the ocean was because of the storms… aside from the night that we left Portobello, we pretty much had a storm every night thereafter.  Now personally, I absolutely LOVE thunder and lightning storms!!  It’s actually a criteria of where I live!  If the place doesn’t have sufficient thunderstorms year round, I won’t survive there long.  But I digress…

The first storm that we traveled through is where the sparrow comes in… The Captain of the sailboat (the American) absolutely cracked me up!!  As the winds whistled violently through the air sloshing the boat one direction then the next he stood at the helm, legs wide so to have a solid stance.  His bandana over his head flapping in the wind.  As the rain came down on our heads he held a cigarette in one hand and a glass of rum in the other all while he held the wheel and jerked it this way and that against the force of the wind!  Periodically he would release one hand from the wheel to take a drag or sip of his booze, then on again he went.  He literally looked like a scene out of Pirates of the Caribbean with Captain Jack Sparrow at the helm through the storm!  I couldn’t help but just watch him in awe and absolute humor!  Seriously wish I had a video of that!!

So that was one of the storms… Other storms we had while simply trying to stay off shore of an island for a night.  But with the currents and wind we had to keep moving around so we wouldn’t get pushed too close into the shore.  The lightning and thunder was absolutely glorious and I never felt any fear whatsoever until one particular storm…

It was on the night before we were supposed to be in our docking area to get “smuggled” into Columbia.  Because of this storm we had to pull in to another island area that was more protected from the ocean.  It worked in our favor after all because we got to spend yet another day/night in the islands.  Anyway, I had gone to bed before the storm struck but was woken at some point during the night by the sounds going on around me.  As I opened my eyes, the first thing I really noticed and registered was the severe rocking of the sailboat.  The German woman and I were given the room at the very front of the sailboat and in the room, aside from small windows along the side was a window on the roof that essentially went on the top deck.  Essentially what I saw was nothing but rushing water through the side windows and at times the windows were completely submerged.  The top window, as the nose of the boat dove deep into the water from the waves, had a steady stream of water rushing back and forth over top.  The whooshing sound and the up and down rocking as the nose dove over and over again into the ocean was already quite a concerning feeling.  Then the sounds from the living area started to register.  I looked behind to the living area to see one of the crew members holding on to any surface he could to stay standing.  Plates and pots and pans and food and literally all other contents of the cabinets in the living and kitchen area started clashing and clattering to the ground as the violence of the boat movement was simply too much for the cabinet latches to keep everything shut.  The crew member tried over and over in vain to rig the cabinets to latch closed…

At this point, a very real realization came to mind.  I thought honestly, that this was it.  We weren’t going to make it.  There was no way this little sailboat could make it through what sounded such a violent lashing from the ocean.  As I thought about how this could literally be the end, a thought occurred to me.  I had no control over the situation.  There was absolutely nothing I could do.  So if in fact it was to be the end, I wouldn’t be afraid but simply would think about those I loved.  The fear of the situation then subsided and I fell back into a deep sleep.

The next morning I woke to another day.  We docked near another island not too far from the Columbian border and spent the day visiting the Kuna indigenous people of that island.  I will certainly never forget that particular storm…


On to Nail Fashion

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Portobello, Panama

It was here that I would find passage to Colombia via a sailboat.  You see, though Colombia and Panama are connected by land, the land is impassable.  There are no roads that connect the two and I’ve heard story upon story of people either legally or illegally traveling from one country to another on foot through the dense jungle and while they lived to tell the tale so to speak, it didn’t sound like anything I’d ever want to try.  So instead I opted to go to Portobello to seek alternate passage.  Again, I could have flown to some part of Colombia, but then I would have missed the beautiful and exotic San Blas Islands!!  More on that later…

Portobello, named by an Italian when he landed on the land and exclaimed “Beautiful port!” in Italian of course, and well as you see by the name Porto (port) bello (beautiful) got it’s name quite literally…  It too is a sleepy little town.  It was once a defense port for Panama and it does still retain parts of forts and walls to protect the area, but of course it’s been damaged considerably.  Not a whole lot goes on per se in Portobello now except one of the largest businesses there is the transport of tourists via sailboat to and from Colombia/Panama.  To be even more specific, if you plan to do that type of travel, the only way to do so is to go to Captain Jacks hostel and wait for information on boats traveling through…

Captain Jacks, man what a fun place!  And if I recall, the ONLY place for tourists to sleep!  Not kidding either!  I seriously don’t think there was any other hostel or hotel in the entire place!!  Captain Jack’s is run by, well, Captain Jack!  A retired sailor, Captain Jack moved to Portobello and opened his restaurant/hostel and really the main traffic to and from his place is from tourists again simply seeking passage to Colombia.  Of course he did have some regulars (i.e. sailboat captains and staff would frequent the bar in search of finding perspective tourists to take to Colombia).

I found out quickly that just about every person who entered Captain Jacks was after the same thing… Or they had already booked their passage (smart people!) and simply needed either a place for the night or to get in touch with their boat.  So it wasn’t very soon after arriving and settling that I started meeting people with like needs.  I met a woman from Germany, a man from Britain and 4 Aussies who all ended up being on the same boat as I picked out.  Truth be told, the woman and I, since we both were travelling alone chose to pick the same boat so that we at least had a “safe” companion to travel with:)  Not that the trip was unsafe in any way, but we were the only females on our boat, and we were the only solo females traveling at that point, so it was nice to have some company in that way.

Anyway, picking the boat and captain/crew was also an interesting time… We did have some reservations about the captain at first of our chosen boat because he showed up at Captain Jacks drunk and only proceeded to get even drunker as we attempted to get our various questions answered… But Captain Jack seemed to vouch for them and after we took a tour of the 38′ sailboat, we thought “safe enough!”.  Plus, boats were not coming and going all the time, so if a decision wasn’t made fast then we could have been stuck in Portobello for quite a while more!  I believe in total I was already there for about a week just waiting for boats to arrive and then getting info on them and when to leave, yada, yada…

The trip was not cheap, but once again an experience of a lifetime in more than one way!!  All food was provided for us and cooked as well so all we had to provide (aside from payment to board) was booze for the trip if we wanted any.  I didn’t end up buying any booze, and well as you can see from the picture below, you will see why… The four Aussies opted to buy several cases of beer each, plus several gallons of rum and other assorted liquors for the 5 day trip… It was by far enough for a whole Army of people!!

With bags packed, booze packed and passages paid, we were ready for the San Blas Islands!

On to Islas San Blas

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Panama City

I made my way from Puerto Viejo back to David where I once again stayed at La Casa Marada (the purple house) and after turning down a temporary job there as the hostel receptionist, I made the long bus ride to Panama City, Panama.  I didn’t stay there long and honestly don’t have a ton to say about it… Like every other large City, it was hustling and bustling with activity and modern buildings, sky scrappers, and lots of business.  This sort of scene doesn’t really interest me quite frankly, especially after having lived in the serene and quirky small town of Puerto Viejo for so long.  I’d easily grown accustomed to the laid back beach life and wasn’t terribly impressed to be back in such civilization.  To each their own!  In any event, I did spend one night there before booking it back to the small town of Portobello, Panama.


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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

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