Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Minca

A bit farther east along the Colombian coast, and then a half-hour inland from Santa Marta--which means steeply uphill into the Sierra Nevada mountains--there's a lovely little town called Minca. It's become a backpacker haven thanks to lots of local waterfalls, coffee and cocoa plantations, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, temperatures a good ten degrees cooler than down on the coast. So we stayed for a couple nights. This involved lots of food, daily mocha frappuchinos that left me crazy wired on sugar and caffeine...


...enjoying the quiet loveliness of the town...


...and a hike to a waterfall that was really lovely to swim in and wash off the sweat from the walking.


Beautiful!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Cartagena

Had a too-brief visit (partly because our time is limited, partly because it's so dang hot here we didn't want to linger) to Colombia's Caribbean coastal port and walled city of Cartagena. There is some serious history here--reminders of Spanish colonialism and the era of slave trade abound. These days, though, it's pretty easy to wander in simple appreciation of the beauty of the place and charm of the old town and city walls (as long as you don't forget to bring a towel to mop up the prolific sweat you will be sporting along the way).



I particularly loved the graffiti found pretty much everywhere, which was more art than vandalism.


And the narrow streets made for pretty pictures, aside from their intended purpose of providing the maximum amount of shade--which I also very much appreciated.


Our tour of town was actually a mini-party, as SR and I stayed with a very kind, enthusiastic Airbnb host who spent an entire afternoon/evening giving us a tour, and along the way we ran into a friend of his who joined the adventure. Good times!


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Landing in Colombia / Continent #7!

Our San Blas boat trip ended in the isolated Colombian Caribbean coastal town of Sapzurro. Stepping foot onto solid ground there was a momentous occasion for me, as it meant that I've officially been to all seven continents. Woot! (There are pictures, but I'd just gotten off the second of two bumpy and wet boat rides and I look like a drowned rat, so I'll spare you.)

First order of business in Colombia: peanut ice cream! (Much better than it sounds.)


It's Easter Week in a very Catholic country, and Sapzurro as well as nearby Capurgana--where we planted for a couple of nights to regroup after the boat trip--were overrun with more vacationing Colombians than there could possibly be room for in these sleepy little towns. It was crazy to see so many people after our four days of boating through such quiet islands.


Our arrival involved an extended wait at an immigration office that reminded me in its tone and length of my Africa days.


But once that business was taken care of, we got to enjoy the area, in particular a hike from Capurgana over a high hill ridge back to Sapzurro, along the way enjoying this very helpful picture of our process...


...and an amazing breeze at the top of the ridge, where we could look ahead to Sapzurro...


...as well as behind us to where we started in Capurgana.


Sweet little corner of Sapzurro:


Then we climbed a smaller ridge, the top of which was just wide enough for this little immigration hut and the flags marking the border between Panama and Colombia. Such a little spot that has such big significance: in this picture, I've got my right foot on one continent (Panama/North America) and my left on another (Colombia/South America)! So fun.


By that time we were insanely overheated and sweaty so enjoyed a cooling dip in the ocean at the beach in La Miel, just across the border in Panama...


...before walking back up over the border to return to Sapzurro and then catch a boat the rest of the way back to Capurgana.

From here, we're leaving the Darien to head farther into Colombia. Next stop: Cartagena!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

San Blas / Guna Yala

This trip has been planned for the most part in order to get me to South America (my 7th & final continent!) before I turn 40 next month. I've been hearing amazing things about Colombia since it's now safe for international travelers, AND I've long had my eye on a Panamanian island group called the San Blas. And THEN (isn't this exciting?) learned that there are organized boat trips running from Panama to Colombia via the San Blas. Too perfect.

So in the wee hours of the morning after our last day in Panama City, we joined a group of 25 for the 4WD ride across Panama to Carti (technically passing into the beginning of the forbidding, impassable jungle of the Darien Gap) and set out on our four-day voyage through the San Blas to Colombia. The first island we stopped at (for lunch on the first day) looked like this:


And no, I'm not kidding with this. It just kept going like that. Pristine white sands, amazing blue waters, paradise islands everywhere.




Each day we traveled 2-3 hours further south in fiberglass boats among waves that left us all pretty sopping wet and perhaps in need of a chiropractor...but it was still kind of fun, especially since sea sickness didn't haunt me. On the first night we stayed on this island...


...and slept (surprisingly well) in hammocks.


The two following nights we also slept in hammocks, but in island villages of the indigenous Guna tribe, which is a totally fascinating, strong, independent culture that I knew nothing about before this and loved learning about.






A toilet, islands-style; they just build a platform over the water and your stuff drops straight down. The fish take care of the cleaning up!


One of the two boats our group of 25 rode in.


SUCH a cool experience!

Next stop: Colombia!!!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Panama!

Welcome to a new adventure!
I took another break from what's left of the Wisconsin winter and hopped a couple planes down to the steamy metropolis of Panama City!


It's crazy to realize, but when I was here for the first time, 16 years ago, non of these skyscrapers existed. Now there's a beautiful promenade along the shore where you can enjoy the night lights, along with a lemon-flavored shaved ice, Panama-style.

The biggest reason for spending five days in Panama City was to visit my friend X, who lives here. With her, I visited the Biomuseo, a VERY cool natural and anthropological museum of Panama and Panamanians (next time you see me, ask my how, in some sense, we are all Panamanians, and I will be excited to tell you about it!

There was also a trip to the canal, at which we got to watch some boats moving through the Miraflores Locks.


Also, and afternoon/evening spent in Casco Viejo, appreciating the picturesque sights of the oldest part of Panama City...





...and even witness a very exciting worker's rights march.



As if that wasn't already enough, then X took us (SR had joined me along the way) out to her family's condo near the beach at Farallon...




...AND for a walk on a jungle trail in Gamboa--though those darn sloths stayed hidden from us and the howler monkeys waited till we were back in the parking lot before starting to frolic and howl. Oh, well, it was still magical. THANK YOU, X!!! You are a gem!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Eleuthera

A belated ode to the week my mom and I recently spent in Eleuthera, Bahamas!
Thanks to generous family friends, we rented this lovely little house at a steal...


...and had beautiful Ten Bay Beach right in our backyard.


It was a wonderful walking beach, and I roamed it back and forth endlessly, one of my favorite things to do.


Huge, washed-up jellyfish!


And amazing sunsets.


Though most of our time was spent relaxing around the house and beach, we also took an afternoon jaunt over to the uber-touristy enclave of Harbour Island.


Very fun to do as the (tourist) locals do and rent a golf cart in which to tool around town.


My favorite part was definitely the pink sand beach.


But the old colonial houses were also fun to see.


Back on Eleuthera we did some other exploring.




A gorgeous, relaxing week. The charmed life continues!!!
Aside from this week in the Bahamas, it's been three months since I got back Stateside and have been tooling around visiting family and friends here. So it must be just about time for another international adventure. I'll be back in less than a month with an update from southern climes...