In the last week we’ve travelled from Panama to Cartagena, Colombia aboard a sailboat. It was an unforgettable adventure in more ways than one.
Panama and Colombia are separated by a road-less wilderness called the Darien Gap. We opted to make the journey via water rather than air for the unique experience and the chance to visit some of the most beautiful Caribbean islands along the way. There are many sailboats which do this trip for backpackers, and the standard is 4-5 nights including 2-3 days in the Kuna Yala (San Blas Islands). We had heard horror stories from some of our friends of rough seas, dangerous captains, and crowded boats, so naturally we were a little nervous beforehand. We booked ourselves aboard the Tango, a 34 foot sloop owned by a French captain named David.
From Panama City, all that was left was to ride across to the Caribbean side and wait for our boat in the town of Puerto Lindo, near Portobelo.
Much of the gold that Spain got from the Inca was shipped through Portobelo. It attracted many pirates, including the famous Sir Francis Drake.
Jenn defending the town from marauding yachts.
The locals sure know how to relax here … on closer inspection this dog was not dead!
After meeting Captain David in Puerto Lindo, we set sail for Kuna Yala. We sailed overnight, and woke up in one of the most beautiful places we’ve seen so far.
Kuna Yala is a collection of several hundred small islands just off the coast of Panama.
The islands are inhabited by the Kuna. Most make a living through tourism, coconut plantations, and cocaine.
So what does one do in Kuna Yala? Snorkel and swim of course! The islands are surrounded by some of the best preserved coral in the Caribbean!
Mmmm, we love the Caribbean!
Captain David also had snorkelling gear aboard the boat which we could use. The reef was about a 15 minute swim from where we were anchored.
Some of the crazy coral in the reef.
We also stopped by the site of an old shipwreck. Jenn checking it out.
There were so many fish that it was hard to stop taking pictures!
A few of our favourite fish were the Pacific Fire-fish (right) and Stingray (left).
From the Kuna Yala it was a 45 hour sail to Cartagena. The seas were calm and the journey was almost pleasant!
The best thing about having a French captain was the cooking. Here is David cooking up a feast of fresh caught tuna, garlic butter sauce, and rice in a rocking, swaying, 20 degree slanted kitchen.
Grommet rips off the top of the sail leaving the rope at the top of the mast … no problem! “Just hold this rope here, eh?” David putting his life in Mike’s hands as he monkeys up the mast in order to repair the sail.
Our new friends Beck and Mike (left), and Hans. And our old friends the bikes, packed securely away from spray and covered with plastic bags.
After 45 hours of sailing we made it to the beautiful city of Cartagena, Colombia.
Nervous moments unloading our babies into David’s tiny dinghy.
So what did we think overall of this trip on the Tango? The logistics of the trip were a little confusing, and we ended up leaving Puerto Lindo a day late. But David was an experienced captain, the boat was in great shape, and the cooking was amazing. Also, we were very impressed with the treatment of our bikes. Overall, would we recommend this trip to other backpackers? Absolutely, go for it!
Now it’s time to explore Cartagena and head off into Colombia. Hasta Luego!