Friday, July 17, 2009

El Fin

So, Panama City. not what one might call the most charming of cities. i have somehow managed to spend the last 5 days here. the only way to manage a feat as great as this for the average backpacker is to sleep late, watch TV and movies, read, and go to bed early. i did some shopping, which is ridiculously cheap here. i also saw the panama canal, which was pretty cool actually. we didnt get to see any ships (or even private yachts) go through, though. dont ask me how thats possible. one of the things i learned is that 14,000 vessels go through the canal every year. that means that an average of 38.3 vessels go through a day. if the canal is open 24 hours (and im not sure, but i dont think it is), that means that 1.6 vessels have to pass every hour. i was there about 2 hours and didnt see one come within eyeshot of the first set of locks on the pacific side. maybe thrusdays are slow, i dont know. so that was a little dissapointing, but the muesum was cool, and we learned about the expansion plan, which seems unnecessary considering that no ships were going though when i was there. but apparently even once its done (and they want it finished by august 15, 2015, for the centennial celebrations) it still wont be able to accomadate the worlds shipping needs.

believe it or not, that was really all i did here for the last 5 days. it has been sort of a chill expierence, just riding out the last of my trip. which means that this will be the last post (kind of anticlimactic, huh?). most of you i will see--maybe even before you get around to reading this. thats wierd to think about.

last but not least, i want to do a little experiment. this is what we are going to do. all of you who read this post (and i would assume--although you know what they say abou that--that those of you who read this post probably read most of the other ones as well), please, leave a comment. it doesnt have to say much, something like "hey, cool blog, thanks for sticking with it" or "lame ending, we want more" or "meh, it was an excuse not to study" or even "jldfjaslñdhf". it can be anonymouse or you can leave your name, either way, i dont care. im just kind of interested to see if its more than just my parents that are following.

well, thats that, thanks for sticking with me, it was a wild trip, i look forward to seeing you all soon!

dont forget to comment :)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

"Extra! Extra! Panama Overrun by Backpackers!"*

*first off, i need you to picture the little boy on the street corner (in black and white of course) yelling "extra! extra!" holding that days paper. then the paper spins towards the camera (as it would in a movie--usually a superhero movie like old batman flicks or something--and the headline is, ovbiously, "Panama Overrun by Backpackers." you can insert whatever images you want underneith that would go with the headline. alright, if you stayed with me through that one, well done, because i barely understand what i just asked you to do, and i thought of it!

Back on topic. So Bocas Del Toro (or Mouths of the Bull) is a nice town. Except the massive amounts of backpackers--and particularly goddamn americans--the town is great. and dont get me wrong, im all for little backpacker hangouts, but when the town is this small and theres so many americans....ugghhhh. most of them are cool once you meet them, i just cant stand that accent around the hostel and on the streets. but whatever, the good comes with the bad. although the bad doesnt just stop at americans overrunning the place. it rains almost everyday here for at least an hour. its never really sunny and all i wanted was color before coming home, well, i guess not. but theres decent cheap chinese food.

so i got here right away from panama city. i hung for a day not doing much, just loving having a bed after 6 days on a boat and a night on a bus. then tim and caitlin showed up, then the germans, then the brits, and the last couple days weve had the whole crew together with the addition of another british guy who may just be a full-blown alcoholic. the man drinks beer like nobody ive seen, apart maybe from the germans, but they dont have massive beer bellies and man-boobs. anyway, the last few days have been fun, despite the unfortunate weather. yesterday we took a snorkle tour and saw some amazing coral reefs and really cool fish. really cool jelly fish too, but they stung so you had to watch out. ive really never seen any coral like this. it blows away what we saw at playa blanca. every shade of every color you can imagine in the craziest shapes and textures, absolutley amazing. we also went to bahia de los delfines--or bay of dolphines--but after the boat from colombia the dolphines here werent that impressive. then we went to red frog beach, and although we didnt see any red frogs, the beach was quite nice. massive waves, it felt like the pacific they were so big. it wasnt dangerous but they would really knock you over. it was really fun playing out there in them, and we did some good body surfing too. then it was back to town, dinner and drinking.

There is a bar in bocas that has a happy hour from 7-8pm and during that hour the beer is 50 cents. normally they are $1.25. so naturally the six of us were going to buy a round each during that hour. so we each had 6 beers in the hour, and the germans and the british guy had 9 each. and then we had a voucher for a free tequila shot, so naturally that was next. fortunatly it was after dinner so we didnt get too drunk. we then found another bar and then a club, but the clubs in this town play aweful mainstream american rap all night long. i guess its the american traveller prevelence, but i feel like im at a high school dance or something.

The germans and caitlin left this morning, and time and i wanted to go to the beach today, but when we woke up it was raining. and the weather hasnt really improved over the course of midday. so im writing a blog instead. ill be out of this town tomorrow or the next day unless there is a drastic change in weather. check out the photos too, it starts with our second trip to playa blanca, then the mud volcanoe and the historical distirct in cartagena. then the boat to panama, and then, for some reason, it jumps back to venezuela. i dont know why. but there you have it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Alright, if you havent read the post titled "To Panama", that might be worth a look before you get to this one.

first of all, the biggest things i want to note. the first day we were in the San Blas islands we had sea turtle meat for lunch. i know, its an endangered species and whatnot, but it was already dead, if we didnt eat it then someone else would have. point is, sea turtle is goooood. very tender. i dont support killing sea turtle, i support cooking it. if anyone has a chance to taste this delicacy without going to federal prison, its worth it. the sea turtle eggs are nice too, kind of potatoe-like texture. the other thing i wanted to add was that the second day on the way to the islands, when we were still at open sea, the most amazing lightning storm ive ever seen lit up the sky. as i was sitting up on the top of the boat you could watch it go across the sky. there were 3 different theaters sort of, and it would go from one to the next. bolts, flashs, the occasional booooom! it was all very exciting and kept me awake for my shift.

and just so you can get an idea of who i was on this boat with, heres a little character description for each passanger:

Caitlin--loud, likes to talk a lot, ive got good stories, i know the answer to everything and i like to argue with everything you say jeevon, american girl. she wasnt that bad, and i liked her spirit, i just think that somewhere along the way she was given a little too much praise as a kid and a little too much money drowned her purity---or something like that. she went to tulane and daddy paid without batting and eye--160,000 for four years. shes lived in barcelona, australia, and travelled europe extensivly, it was one of her favorite things to talk about: "ive probably been to paris 5 or 6 times, and everytime i love it, its just too dirty", "rome is great, and when we were living in barcelona it was like, why not go to rome for the weekend, its only gonna cost $300." not that bad, just a bit annoying over time.

Phil--pretty quite, northern british guy. i liked phil, cool guy. he works with kids that get into trouble at school. hes really into american sports and was easy to talk too, not the loud in your face brit you might picture.

Kelly--too funny. this girl complained a lot. but it was nice, it was never about anything bad, she was vomiting for 2 days and didnt say a word about the stupid ocean or damn boat or anything, what she would complain about was when phil didnt fill up a glass of water quick enough or didnt set the table right or wasnt doing the dishes properly. but that was fine, because she only complained at phil, telling him all the stuff he was doing wrong. we would sort of sit back and chuckle when she was looking the other way.

Tim--laid back, queensland aussie guy. easy to talk too, dry humour, good guy. was bunking with caitlin and something may have been going on between them. they were often alone talking, although i cant imagine he would instigate a conversation with much more than "good night, see you tomorrow," but i guess that would give her plenty to work of off.

Julian and Oliver--longer darker hair, a bit of facial hair, always wore board shorts and a hat. i only remember all this becuase oliver, his friend (and possible lover) was exactly opposite. short blonde hair, clean shaven, shorter, maybe german style swimmers, he was your classic german, and the difference between these too was sooo funny. both quite funny people, great to sit around laughing with. especially when the capitan pulled out the san blas flag, red and yellow with a reverse swastika in the middle, you should have seen the look on olivers face, he was very offended at first.

Hansel--what needs to be said for señor italiano...? he didnt really speak spanish and instead would just yell to everybody in italian, which we could sort of understand because of its similarity to spanish. it didnt help the more he drank, which was almost every night. i have a good video of him dancing to some black eyed peas song or something like that. he was hilarious to watch, dreaded-on-accident hair, he claimed to be an artesean, i suppose its possible.

Guillermo--frenchy, frenchy, frenchy, always there to help, even when its not needed. a people pleaser by nature, spoke alright english but it think he realized that he wasnt the same kind of traveller as the rest of us. i dont know what it is, but something about him was different. i liked the chats we had, but he was a little self-ritous.

Chris--quite, kept to himself, smoked more than a pack a day. poor guy was stuck sharing a room with the less than higenic hansel. not much else to say. could have been gay, along with guillermo, hansel, and oliver and julian.

that was the trip for the most part. quite fun, i did enjoy myself, i did things i would never have been able to see your do unless i took the trip. im sure when i think of other interesting things ill put up another post of additions. im in a surfer-chill-beach town called bocas del toro that right near costa rica. a few days here, a few days in a place called boquete in the mountains, and then back south to traverse the panama canal. hasta luego!

ps, photos coming soon.

Monday, July 6, 2009

To Panama

Ok, a little preface to this story. I headed down to the docks to meet up with the french guys i had met yesterday. i had my passport just like they said. i walked out to the boat, met some of the passangers that would be taking it, and then one of the frenchmen told me it wouldnt work out, they already had the immigration papers together--without my passport info. but they introduced me to another capitan--at least his girlfriend. she said they were leaving that day at 3pm i needed to tell her if i wanted to go within the hour and told me the services and the cost. That is where our story begins.

List of Passangers:*

Caitlin--american, smoker, travelling alone, speaks a bit of spanish
Phil--brit, smoker, going out with Kelly
Kelly--brit, non-smoker, going out with Phil
Tim--aussi, smoker travelling alone
Julian--german, smoker, travelling with Oliver, speaks a bit of spanish
Oliver--german, non-smoker, travelling with Julian
Hansel (Señor Italiano)--italian, smoker, only speaks italian, a little spanish
Guillermo (Frenchy)--french, non-smoker, speaks spanish, a bit of english
Chris--austrian, smoker, travelling alone

*study this list well, grasshoppa, for i will use names only--for the most part--from now on.

Day 1, July 1st--Cartagena
The price is $350, it includes 3 meals a day, water, snorkling equiptment. i was planning on paying $150 no food included (fine, there was a kitchen). big difference. i told the woman id be back in 40 minutes with my decision, went to the internet to check bank balances, emails and the such. then got the MCI calling card number for colombia, found a payphone, ready to call home for advice. no, why would the payphone work, even when i put money in it to call regular (sans calling card) it didnt work. i was asked to walk away after slamming the earpiece part into the rest of the phone a couple of times. the next 10 minutes consisted of a lot of pasing back and forth, talking to myself under my breath, and mental math. i decided i go for it. found the woman, told her i was in. she said be back before 2 for immigration and have the money and whatever you want to bring on the journey. i came back at noon and left my bags on the boat, bought some snacks (fruit, soda, cereal and beer) and hung out on the internet until everyone met up and took taxis (included in the price) to immigration. things went slowly but smoothly and soon we were all stamped out of colombia. back to the boat. 2 hours later we are still sitting waiting for some paper. an hour later we have been filled up with gas and have been turning in circles waiting for the paper. it finally comes, and were off. capitan says leave any drugs here, were in cocaine alley in cartagena and coast guard will be on to search the boat--with dogs. señor italiano, nicknamed by the capitan, was upset but chucked his weed into the sea--he only had a little bit. i told him to wait and see if the coast guard came with dogs, as ive never heard of that happening, and throw it last minute if they did. not only did they not have dogs, but somehow they just missed us completely, we were never searched.

as we get out of the harbour and bay, seas get rough. kelly is now in the back throwing up and phil is holding her hair, offering water. the rest of us are pretty focused on the horizon line--or anything not moving, but only phil and kelly vomit that night. the sails are down and the motor is on, autopilot engaged. the capitan says we have to make a list and each have a watch of one hour to make sure no other boats come too close. over dinner (just cold cut sandwiches tonight) we make the list. i have 12-2 because kelly cant work and hansel doesnt want to. hes puking too, but it may be the aguaiante--anise flavord colombian liquer--he was drinking. asleep at 2 with the help of some pills, not too much sea sickness, just a bit of a headache and a topsy-turvy stomach that night.

Day 2, July 2nd--open sea
We are up bright and early, nobody got to much sleep and the boat is still rocking, literally being tossed around by the open sea. although scarier at night, were still breaking through 2-3 meter swells. but after yesterday, most of us--not kelly--are used to it and not too affected. its 30 hours from cartagena to the san blas islands, we are scheduled to arrive at 6am or so the next morning, so not much happens today. for much of the first 2 days i was talking to guillermo--or frenchy, nicknamed by the other passangers--in spanish about this and that. i liked him, and he was eager to help the capitan, which was good, cause he needed a hand. but a little too eager. he was sort of seen as the capitans bitch, and a slight rift was formed between him and hansel, and the rest of the passanger, with me standing somewhere on the fence, so to speak. tonight dinner is cup of noodles and i have the 1-2 watch since we gave kelly her watch early, when everyone else was watching as well.

Day 3, July 3rd--San Blas Islands
When i get up at 7 or so the sea is calm and we are drifting through chains of islands large and small. as we coast past these gorgeous islands all we can do is laugh and smile at how beautiful they are and how not-seasick we (but espeically kelly) are. its just fun. some have only a palm tree or two, others have little huts and people, although most of the 375 san blas islands are unihabitated. only 75 have official villages. we drop anchor just off of one of the islands. the water is bright blue, the sand white; its what you picture when you think carribbean island. good snorkling with a cool reef and lots of fish, but the sand flies were angry when we got to the beach and after about 15 minutes phil´s back was covered in big, angry sand fly bites. locals came up trying to sell us bracelets and cushion covers. no luck there. i dont remember what was for lunch, probably sandwiches, but hansel made dinner which was basic, just pasta with a marinera sauce, but tastey. as dinner is being cooked, guillermo, julian and kelly are all fishing. in about 20 minutes they have brought up 6 fish between them. shrieks of joy and excitement can be heard, even from the german, a usually stern people. after dinner the scaling and gutting of the fishes begins, and at that point all that can be heard is hijo de puta, la puta madre, oh fuck!, sonofabith, and the occasional laugh. but all the fish are cleaned and put in plastic in the fridge. it gets later and people drop off to bed or stay up reading, although the air stays energized with the days sucesses.

Day 4, July 4th--San Blas Islands
We cruise up to another island in the morning, dropping anchor near a few other boats. caitlin and i are keeping an eye out for an american boat--i want fireworks, she wants a blender, and thus a blended drink. dugout canoes come up to the side of the boat and finally one paddles up with some lobster in the bottom. capitan traded some rice and a few dollars for them. we had a delicous late lunch of lobster with a veggie rice. seconds all around, except for caitlin who doesnt like seafood and only eats the rice. during/after lunch there is a bit of a argument and some intense moments when the germans want to buy weed and the frenchy starts barting with the sellers, eventually sending them away because of the price, with semi-harsh words exchanged on both sides. they come back later and phil takes care of the whole ordeal, although guillermo is ready to help, but accepts that phil can handle it.

Capitan, hansel and guillermo head in the dinghy to the shore to hang out with some locals the Cap knows. the rest of us bathe in the sun, go snorkling or just read. they come back a bit after dark, and although lunch was late, we are hungry, at least the 4 or 5 of us that are still awake are. its quite amazing how after resting in the sun all day one can find oneself yawning at 8pm. what i comes down to is the capitan is asleep on the counter of the kitchen--really stoned or kinda drunk--when i decide to make something to eat. i get a pot to put water on for more cup of noodles. he wakes up, asks what im doing, i tell him, he acts suprised, saying, "oh, you dont want lobster, perfect." apparently he had got more lobster earlier. whatever, it just meant we had it for lunch again the next day.

Day 5, July 5th--San Blas Islands
Today we move early to another island. the capitan is on it today. hes cooking lobster when a couple guys rock up with a massive fish in the canoe. i mean massive. my pictures dont do it justice, but the thing was big. the first few swings at it with a machete didnt break the skin--i mean a big m***er f***er. so he gets that instead. finished lobsters go in the fridge for dinner, he goes to the island to cook the fish. we feasted that day. massive bowl of coconut rice, massive portions of fish, massive salad. it was good. and after we walked around the island a little bit and we may have found the most beautiful beach that exists. im not sure, either way, it was the nicest beach any of us had ever seen, and we were the only ones there. amazing. again, pictures dont do it justice. we head back a few hours later to calls from an angry capitan. the anchor was up and he was tooling around waiting for us. i guess we had somewhere to go. we make it to the boat and he heades off at a good clip to panamanian immigration. if your there after 4pm, he has to pay twice as much, but we made it by 5 minutes, phew!

we cruise around some more, find another island, this one doesnt have beaches but a full on town instead, and some of the guys head in to get beer. i pack up because we have to be ready at 7am the following morning. they get back, we have dinner (you guessed it, lobster! this time in a marinera sauce over spaghetti). people drift in and out of reading, chilling, smoking. finally there are 4 of us on the roof at 11 30 or so. it was caitlin, tim, julian and i. were sitting around, shooting the bull, when all of a sudden it feels like an M80 just went off under the water, and then like there something hitting and rubbing up against the boat. then it stops. this all took a few seconds to happen, and towards the end of it caitlin and i (who are sitting across from each other) but turn and look at each other and say, at exactly the same time, thats an earthquake. half a second later all the animals (dogs and cats mostly, dont get excited no monkeys this time) all start making their respective noises, bark! meowww! get the picture. then lights come one and people start yelling. not a scared yelling, but an excited yelling. at this point tim and caitlin and julian are all saying excited things--its their first earthquake. i fake and say it mine too, not wanting to ruin the excited atmosphere by admitting that when it comes to earthquakes, im more than a little expierenced. at this point im waiting for the tidal wave, but it never comes, thank goddness. nobody on the boat woke up, and were all suprised to hear about it the next morning.

Day 6, July 6th--Panama
Up at 6:30, bags already packed, we are on the boat to the mainland at 7, in the jeeps to take us to panama city by 8. guillermo stays behind, electing to help the capitan clean up the boat. a generous gesture, but not one that helped get rid of the "capitans bitch" title he picked up the past few days. anyway, water under the bridge. the first half of the ride to panama city was bumpy and it was obvious as to why we had a 4X4. it was amazing cruising through the darien jungle and then all of a sudden come across a paved road and take that the rest of the way. i got dropped at the bus station for my bus to a surf-chill beach town which leaves in a few hours. internet is almost out, so i gotta fly. the boat from colombia sure was amazing though, and the food...ohhh...worth the extra money.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


im off in a few hours for a 6 day sail to panama, so no posts. i know, its tough, but stiffen up that upper lip, shed no tears for me--or my blog--for i will be back, (picture terminator for this one:) I´ll be back--in 6 days.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Estoy Solito

So first of all, i forgot one little thing about playa blanca. one day there was a big local fisherman-beach party kind of thing, for the local people on their end of the beach, not the tourists on our end. i walked down to check it out and it was a pretty cool scene, music blasting, people dancing; overall it seemed to be an enjoyable expierence. a hour or so later im reading and people start running past where we were posted up, locals and a few gringos who quickly duck into the saftey of hugos place. apparently there was a bit of a fight down there with some guys that came from another town, and they must have run our direction because it kept up. a couple guys with big sticks were beating the crap out of some other guy. people were all gathered around sort of yelling and doing this and that--kind of a mob scene--until someone fires a shot. it turns out it was a cop and he shot up in the air. it had the desired effect and people seemed to disperse. at this point we were all huddled in and around hugos watching from about 30 meters off and a couple guys come towards us half-carrying their friend with blood all over his shirt. this is apparently how the fight started--or at least why one guy was beaten about the head with sticks. some guy from one place stabbed some guy from another place in the shoulder, the beating commenced, the crowd gathered, the shot fired, the bleeding continued, the people dispersed, the gringos went back to reading and playing cards and the tourist boats left. at least something to that extent.

hannah left for bogota yesterday morning. our last couple days were spent checking out the sights (always more sights) of cartagena. she took about a thousand pictures, and im not kidding, i think the total was something close to 935 for the trip. had a couple nights out at a cool bar that played a little too much salsa but did a couple michael jackson songs when we asked, and a kid jumped up on the bar and danced as similar to michael as almost anyone ive ever seen. hannah has video. we ate dinner in a fancy-ish resturant overlooking a plaza, and went out later and found some americans and an israeli. we went into the club with them (the one that played MJ) and danced around till almost 4, at which point we walked around town till past 5, went back to the hostel and hannah got her taxi to the bus station for her bus to bogota to catch her plane. i finally got to bed, slept the next day, moved into a room with 3 norweigan girls who are leaving tomorrow (yes! room to myself) and then 2 isrealis showed up...hoo-ray! which is fine, it just means i dont get the room to myself.

i walked down to the docks today to put up a notice that i want to go to panama when a guy appoached me and asked if i wanted to go to panama. i said yes he said come look at my boat, i want to leave in the next couple days. he ownes it with his 2 friends--the 3 of them french. sounds like they already have a passanger list of 7, i make 8, they make 11, should be a fun trip. i have to bring my passport by tomorrow and hopefully we´ll be off the next day. less than 3 weeks left, thats a trip in itself.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Broken Sunnnys

Well, as i mentioned in the final sentence of my last post, we have been on an island for a few days. its really not that exciting, but ill give you some details anyway.

we wanted to go to a place called Isla Rosario because we hadnt been there before and the only other beautiful beach was Playa Blanca, where we have already been. well the boat took us to the island in the chain of Islas Rosarios (there are 27) that has no accomodation and no beaches--just an aquarium. i dont know why you would want to pay to go into a aquarium on a gorgeous carribbean island, but apparently there is some motivator because it there was a long line of people waiting to get in. we hung out and dived off the dock till the boat left for...playa blanca!! were back!! what could be better?!

whatever, one white sand/crystal water beach is the same as another. so we get set up at "hugos place", the most established place to stay on the island. he had electicity and music at night powered from a generator. little did we know the man is wierdo. the first couple days were brilliant, a few colombian guys were there buying rum and whisky for what seemed like the whole beach. they left and we had a couple nights of relaxation and then a group of brits/aussies/kiwies showed up. another night of partying and home the next day.

i cant really explain in writing the way hugo behaved toward me, but he really didnt like, i guess. he had some stupid rules--like your bag had to be put up in the rafters all the time to keep the place organized. i wasnt allowed to leave my bag under my hammock. f that. so we didnt exactly hit it off. we also never ate dinner or lunch at hugos because his food was expensive and had smaller portions. he asked my why we didnt eat there and i told him it was cheaper and better for vegetarians (hannah, so essentially me as well) and he said something rude to me. it really escalated when he shut off the electicity without warning--whatever, his generator, his fuel, fine--but when we asked for a candle he said there werent any. the night before there were five all around. i told him this and he told me i could buy one from him and i said no, we didnt pay last night, were not paying tonight, that group (the brits) has candles why cant we. he told me i would spend money on snorkling and an exciting intertube ride but not candles and that was my problem; he walked away. i laughed and got my headlamp and we finished the game with that. i dont remember what sparked the confrontation the next day but it involved hugo telling me i was disorganized (my backpack under my hammock instead of out-of-reach in the rafters) and i was ruining everyone else´s time there. i then asked the woman working in the kitchen for napkins--we were eating and i wanted to clean up the table--he saw me walk out of kitchen with a handful, grabbed them from my hands yelled something i told him i asked and the woman gave them to me we were eating and it was messy. he told me i was the cause of all the problems and i wasnt a good person and people like me arnt welcome anymore at his house. i went back into the kitchen and apologized to the woman he yelled at for helping me, packed our stuff, paid, said thank you hugo, and bid that place adieu.

back in cartagena for the next 3 nights, the hopefully ill be on a boat to panama, keep your fingers crossed, and hannah will be heading back to bogota. we havent had any big nights out here yet so tonight and/or tomorrow should be good.

about the title, my sunglasses broke on the beach, one of the lenses popped out and got lost in the sand. i found it the last day but at that point the frame was lost. gosh darn it!