Cartagena to San Blas Islands
Sat 12 Mar 2011 18:30
9.34.96 N 78.40.62 W
Another week in Cartagena would have ticked all the boxes! However with the forecast of very light NE's over the weekend, we planned to leave on Thursday morning for the overnight passage to the San Blas Islands.
An afternoon tour with a (not so good!) local guide (Hernando) took us to the monastry (Pie de la Popa) on the hill behind Cartagena, where the contrast between rich and poor became really obvious. Looking down into neighbourhoods with dirt roads and huts, seeing a family coming out of the scrub on the way up the hill with a donkey laden with sticks, the site of the enormous local market and being told by the guide it would not be safe for us to go there unescorted - in his words "some people are very hungry, they will do anything"!
Then on to Castillo San Felipe de Barajas an enormous fort built on a hill to protect the city from attack from inland. How could I come to Columbia without looking at emeralds, the economy of Columbia has been based on emeralds and gold for centuries - so off to the same factory that Angelina Jolie bought her enormous emeralds - needless to say an experience I enjoyed much more than Richard. Some more time in the old town, the cathedrals were open late in the day, beautifully simple unlike most Catholic churches - one with an enormous travestine marble alter. Hernando's son is a jeweller of course, so we helped the economy and Hernando by purchasing a few more pieces! Finished the day with dinner at the lovely Club de Pesca (marina) restaurant overlooking the bay and the lights of the old town.
After watching two local boys in a dugout canoe net fishing in the marina we spent some time on wednesday with an American couple who have been living in the marina for 4 years, Julie was able to fill in all the gaps left by the guide the day before. After sharing a meal with them, we strolled the streets of Manga, looking at the beautiful old homes from the colonial era, all immaculately maintained.
David the agent took and returned our passports again, with all the required documentation for departure. After refuelling (diesel with 10% biofuel in Columbia), filling gas bottles and restocking we departed Cartagena on thursday morning and had a good overnight sail with a few hours motorsailing just before anchoring in the Eastern Holandes Cays in the San Blas Islands yesterday afternoon. A multitude of small islands covered with coconut trees, fringing reefs and tricky navigating - aided by a fantastic cruise guide published last year. The islands are inhabited by the Kuna Indians who really look after them.Each and every palm tree is owned by a Kuna apparently.We have a week to potter here, swimming and enjoying the beautiful clear water and numerous islands before heading into Colon (Shelter Bay Marina) for our transit preparations. We have an agent lined up and will meet with him when we arrive at the marina. Stocking up for the next few months will keep me busy.
Meeting many cruisers now heading for Panama - friendly and good fun. Looking forward to meeting Barb and John in Colon before our transit.
Sending this via sat phone, so not many pics. There is mobile phone cover out here though.