20th April 2012
I come to Portobelo to find a boat.
Portobelo was founded in 1597 by Spanish explorer Francisco Velarde y Mercado. Legend has it that Christopher Columbus originally named the port “Puerto Bello”, meaning “Beautiful Port”, in 1502.
I find one of Couchsurfing Members in Portobelo so that I can stay at his house for a night. It is pleased to meet him. He is from Portugal and he is teacher of music in Portobelo. One of society built music school and local children can learn music for free. I am very impressed of their project.
It seems that Rui who is my host knows everyone in Portobelo. So, I think I can get some of information from him. We go to a bar in the night and I talk with some people. One of them says engine of his boat is broken so he has to go only by wind and it will take over 10 days. It costs 100$ without food. Usually most of the boats are over 350~500$. So, I say to him that I will think of it.
21st April 2012
His house is in front of the sea. It is so beautiful a place.
I think it’s not a good idea to ask by myself around a port because I am solo woman. So, I think I should find other travelers who want to find cheap way in a hostel. Many people say to me that owner of the hostel knows every boat so I have to talk with him. But when I arrive in the hostel, I feel so disappointed. Captain Jack who is owner of hostel knows only his sailing boat which is over 450$ and he just says to me that I should ask around a port. He gives me advice that I must not take his boat which I found yesterday. Yeah, I think captain jack is right. When I talked with him yesterday, he was drunken by drugs or alcohol. Can I find a boat to go to Colombia??
Portobelo is very historic. From the 16th to the 18th centuries, it was an important silver-exporting port in New Granada on the Spanish Main and one of the ports on the route of the Spanish treasure fleets. The Spanish built defensive fortifications. Portobelo was attacked too many times. British admiral Edward Vernon destroyed Portobelo in 1739. Though rebuilt in 1751, Portobelo never attained its former prominence.
In 1980 the ruins of the Spanish colonial fortifications, along with nearby Fort San Lorenzo, were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I heard that Spanish bought African slaves and brought to Portobelo. That’s why I can see many African around the town. And there is black Jesus at church.
Hostel is 11$ and there is no kitchen for guests and internet is 3$. I go to a bar where I visited yesterday. I meet Rui and he introduces me his friend who has a boat. His friend says to me that sailing boat is 215$ to Puerto Obaldia where is the border of Panama. Then I have to take two boats more to go to Colombia from Puerto Obaldia. Then it’s almost 300$. I meet another people in a bar. He says that he can take me from San Blas to Cartagena. It means I have to find a boat to go to San Blas from Portobelo. And I talk with another guy and he says his boat is going to San Blas and it costs 50$. But if I take his boat, then I have to wait over 5 days to take 175$ boat. I should have had to find a boat in Panama City. It is mistakes that I come to Portobelo. I had information of boats in Panama City. I found the boat of 150$ to Puerto Obaldia and the other one is 250$ to go to Cartagena where is a northbound. I thought I can find easily the boat if I go to a port. But it is more expensive than I found. And worse thing is that I spend money for a place to stay and food. The more I stay, the more I spend money. I have to find a boat as soon as possible.
22nd April 2012
I got a lucky gravel from host in Costa Rica. But I can’t carry it on my luggage. Now, I find a place to give it free. The center in the picture was my gift. If you see it in Portobelo, please say to it hello for me!
I can’t find any traveler who is looking for a cheap boat like me. So, I go to a port by myself. But there are only few boats and the cost is the same as 400~500$. I feel anxious and depressed. How can I find a cheap boat to go to Colombia? I thought I can find a boat for 100$ to go to Colombia.
23rd April 2012
I heard that 50$ boat leave to San Blas tomorrow. When I try to find another boat around a port, I meet another Rui’s friend. He has a sailing boat and it costs 450$ to Cartagena. But he says I can take his boat for 200$ because he understand what I am doing. But the problem is that he will leave on 30th April. It means I have to wait for a week in the hostel where I can’t use kitchen and where is not much fun. And I am being depressed these days. I want to leave Central America as soon as possible and go to South America so that I can be better. Finally, I decide to take 50$ boat to go to San Blas by myself. There is no another traveler. I have to find another boat to go to Colombia in San Blas by myself. I meet two different cyclists in the hostel and contrary to me, they love Mount. They highly recommend me to ride a bike on the mount.
I meet another hitchhiker in the hostel. I hitchhiked from the west to the east in Canada by myself in 2010. And she did the same thing. She also did it in the U.S. She knows how to drive a sailing boat and these days she is traveling by boat. She doesn’t have a boat but she asks to people who have a boat. Even she seems not to be afraid of everything not like me. I meet many people who have a boat and it is so interesting to hear their story from them. It’s totally new world to me. Someday, I might put my bike on a boat and travel on the sea.
24th April 2012
It has been raining from last night. But I’ve taken a boat many times so far so that I am not worried about it.
I am going to San Blas with this boat for 12 hours.
Although it rains heavily, the sea seems to be quiet. It would be no problem to go to San Blas with the small boat.
It is just joked. haha. The small boat is for going to the sailing boat from a port. I’ve heard that the sea water is the worst for a bike so I put my poncho raincoat which I use as tent cover, bed cover, tent footprint and camping gear cover.
It’s inside. There is a small bathroom, two small rooms and kitchen. But when I just go into inside, I have a headache. I am wondering that how they could sleep yesterday. The captain and his friend are from France.
The more we sail into the sea, the worst I have a seasick. It is the worst day ever in my life. I am too sick. I almost say to them that let’s go back to Portobelo. I just regret that I didn’t wait until 30th April to take 200$ boat. I want to take the airplane at that moment. It is like riding the roller coaster without stopping for 10 hours. It is a horrible day in my life. It is the worst ever never ever day in my life. I am too much sick. I thank to myself that I don’t dive into the sea on our way. But French guys look no problem. They do fishing and it makes me torture because of smell of blood. I am wet by the rain but I couldn’t go to inside because if I go to inside, it makes the worst. I feel like dying is better than staying in a boat at that time. THE WORST DAY IN MY LIFE EVER NEVER EVER because of storm.
They say it would take 12 hours from Portobelo to San Blas. But it takes just 10 hours because of storm. Their friend visits to our boat in the picture.
The San Blas Islands of Panama is an archipelago comprising approximately 378 islands and cays, of which only 49 are inhabited. The economy of the islands is based on coconut sales, fishing and tourism. The captain stops at Chichime Island. He says here are a lot of boats so I can find a boat to go to Colombia.
Although I am on ground, I feel still sick. I feel like everything is shaking. In the above the picture is the boat I took.
The captain says there is a hotel. But I didn’t expect like city’s hotel. The picture is where I stay. It is really the hardest day so I cry myself to sleep.
25th April 2012
I don’t know how I can talk with captains who are on the sea. I am on the ground and they are on the sea.
I am surprised that the people live in small Island.
I look around because I need a change of pace.
Chichime Island is so small unlike what I’ve expected.
I want to see life of Kuna who are aboriginal people but here are only 5 houses.
I feel so depressed and I still have a headache.
It seems to rain heavily in Island.
A dog which lives around the hotel is following me during walking.
There is Kuna on the sea.
The weather is clearing up so I can see beautiful beach.
But it is so short and then soon it rains heavily. I wan to go to South America but I don’t know how I can find.
Kuna asks to me 20 $ for one night included three meals. But I say I want to pay 10$ without three meals and Kuna says okay. It’s the place I am staying.
It’s the hotel for 10$.
I’v never seen mosquitoes but I itch too much, especially on my legs.
When I am thinking how I can go to Colombia, I meet captain’s friend who visited our boat yesterday. He is from Spain and traveling around the world by sailing boat. He says he might know somebody who is going to Colombia. He takes me in his small boat to ask him who is from France and has a sailing boat. French says he is going to Colombia tomorrow and he will take me for free but I have to get exit stamp of Panama by myself. And Spain guy helps me to find a boat to go to immigration where is in Porvenir Island. So, I am taking Kuna’s boat to get exit stamp of Panama. Kuna doesn’t say how much for a boat but he says he borrows a motor so he has to ask about oil to a motor of owner. I ask to the Spanish guy about price in a whisper and he says it would be 20$ for two hours. There is Kuna family on a boat.
It’s still windy today and the boat rolls heavily. But it seems that the sea is a playground for the boy who is standing in the front.
Seriously, I want to ask to the boy what the sea means for you.
But it seems that my question is pointless to the boy
Is it included one of 378 Islands?
The boy and the sea.
Here is the video.
I am so interested that there is house although it is so small Island.
Although we have rough waters, children sleep. The boat doesn’t go to Immigration directly but they stop at the island they live. And then they start to discuss with each other how much they will ask money to me in their language. And then they ask to me 40$ for round trip. What? 40$? Yesterday I paid 50$ from Portobelo to San Blas and it took 10 hours. But now Kuna ask to me 40$ for two hours and even actually they were on their way!!! How dare you treat me this way? I ask cheaper and the atmosphere in there is becoming more and more intimidating. I feel like I am being kidnapped in their island where they live. It looks like a motor of owner is his family. I know some thing about Latin culture because many times I’ve been in Latin family’s house. It’s totally just one family in this small island. I feel too upset and disappointed with them. I try to talk with them more and then finally the deal is 25$.
Anyway, they give me greeting…….. But I can’t forget how they treat me.
There are two little girls. What are they doing by themselves?
What the sea means to them?
When I go to Immigration from their Island, sailor is changed and no family in the boat. He sails aggressively and I am totally wet by the water. But something happens when I arrive in Immigration. Immigration says I must come to the office with a captain and I can never get exit stamp of Panama without the captain. I am too embarrassed and depressed. But it seems that they are right because I am crossing the border by the boat, not on foot.
When I go back to Chichime island where I am staying, he sails more aggressively. When I went to their island from Chichime, I was not wet. I think because the other guy sailed to their island very slowly not to get their family wet. Anyway, I am totally wet and still I have a headache.
When I get back to chichime, I say to French guy, who says to me if I get exit stamp of Panama, he will take me for free to Colombia, that they didn’t give me the stamp of Panama because I can’t get it without a captain. I ask to him that I want to go to Immigration with him. But he says he can’t it because he has to leave tomorrow morning. But at that time it is just around 3pm. The most reason that why I am angry is he says to me “You have a boat. Talk with him” He say it to me again and again. I don’t mind offering some money to him, but I couldn’t try to say it because what he says only to me is “You have a boat.” Before I knew it, I started crying while talking with French guy. What the hell is going on me? How do you know I have a boat that I don’t know??? Are you GOD? I look very poor at that time because I am wet but he didn’t care about what I tried and how much I spent hard time with Indians. HOW DARE YOU!!!!!!!!
I don’t have small change so that I only give Indian 21$. He doesn’t ask 4$ more because I am crying at that time.
Actually, when I was in Portobelo, somebody who is called David asked me to take his boat. But it costs over 400$ so I can’t do it. But the captain who sailed from Portobelo to San Blas and is David’s friend said to me that I can take David’s boat in San Blas and his boat will arrive at 25th. But I said to the captain that I don’t have much money. And Spanish guy who helped me to find Indian boat is also David’s friend and he mentioned about David’s boat many times. I ask to Spanish guy that you tell French guy that I have a boat. Spanish guy says he didn’t. Spanish guy says French guy is just lazy that’s why he didn’t go to Immigration with me.
What the hell is going on me in San Blas? I feel like all of them played cat and mouse with me. I am so depressed.
The most depressed thing is that Colombian boat which was supposed to arrive afternoon today is just gone while I was trying to get exit stamp of Panama. I’ve heard this one from owner of the hotel where I am staying. He says they waited me for a while but they couldn’t wait longer so Colombian boat is just gone!!!!!!!
Finally, in the night David’s boat arrives and Spanish guy introduces me David. And we arrange to talk morrow about the price.
Anyway, Spanish guy introduces me another friends who is traveling around the world by sailing boat. His friend’s boat is so luxury and bigger. Thanks to them, I have a really good meal.
It seems like Spanish guy is not bad person. I don’t know what’s going on.
26th April 2012
I have too much pain because of itching around my legs and arms and still having a headache. It’s clear day in the morning so I can see fish.
There is no choice anymore but David’s boat. San Blas is so beautiful but I want to go to Colombia as soon as possible because I don’t want to getting down.
Spanish guy invites me to his boat for lunch. He is worried about me because I’ve not eaten very well in San Blas.
I meet two cyclists again whom I met in Portobelo. Their sailing boat is really bigger that I’ve ever seen. I heard there are 20 people in their boat. In David’s boat there are 5 people and I think they pay over 400$ from near Portobelo to Cartagena, Colombia. I talk with David and finally the deal is 150$ from San Blas to Cartagena and meal is included. He says I can take his boat from today so that I don’t need to spend money for the cabin anymore. He says his boat is going to Colombia tomorrow.
After having lunch, we visit to his friend boat which we visited yesterday. I think a sailing boat is like a camping car. It depends on money. If it’s more expensive than other one, then there is almost everything. If it’s cheaper then other one, then there are only simple things. The sailing boat I visit has really everything. Married couple is traveling over two years with son who is 17 years old and they are also from Spain.
It is so luxury. But I am not comfortable with a sailing boat because it’s so small that it rolls very easily. It’s no problem to be around a deck but when I go to inside, then I have a headache.
I was wondering how sailors who are staying longer in San Blas get food. Now, I got it! Kuna are selling food like fruit and vegetable with small boat.
Kuna who is aboriginal people has really beautiful traditional clothes. I heard Kuna doesn’t like tourists. That’s why they ask 1$ when tourists take the picture of them. I think long time ago there were no tourists and it could be very quiet. But now too many tourists ruin their land by throwing garbage out, and taking photo of them any time and making noise. Maybe I could understand them why they are not kind to tourists. But I hope they don’t treat tourists badly. It’s a very beautiful place and we can share with good way. I’ve heard that nobody can have business except Kuna in San Blas . Even Panamanian is not allowed to have a business in San Blas.
We learn fishing from another friend. Anyway, I find a boat which is going to Colombia and I don’t need to pay 10$ for the cabin anymore. I feel like adventure is finished.
He who taught us fishing is also traveling around the world by sailing boat with his wife and DOG! THIS DOG IS TRAVELING AROUND THE WORLD BY BOAT. He says the dog doesn’t have any problem with a sailing boat.
When I carry my things to the sailing boat, I find I got flat tire. It’s really embarrassing because I’ve never gotten flat tire since I changed to Schwalbe tire on Oct 2011. It means I’ve never had flat tire for 6 months in the U.S, Mexico and Central America. But now I just got flat tire in quiet Island although I didn’t ride a bike! Anyway, I love Schwalbe tire so much ever!! It’s the best thing that I’ve bought. I highly recommend you to buy it if you are being ready for long trip by bike. Schwalbe is the legend!!!
Finally, am I going to Colombia? Am I going to SOUTH AMERICA?
Hey~ Lucky! Let’s go to South America together!
27th April 2012
The sailing boat rolled in the night so that I couldn’t sleep well. But my legs are getting better and I don’t itch too much anymore. The captain, David, says we are going to immigration to get exit stamp of Panama. I find one dolphin on our way and I am too excited to see it. When I bring my camera, I find more dolphins!!! I’ve seen dolphins in a zoo but I’ve never seen dolphins in the nature. It’s so fantastic. We sail together almost over ten minutes, and then they are gone! It’s a fantastic experience!!! Hey Dolphins… Thank you… You made my day.
I think they are making island in where is immigration bigger by putting more sand.
Again, I come to Immigration. But this time is different from last time. The captain gathers our passports and goes to Island by himself. How easy ….
I’ve been biking beside the Pacific Ocean so I couldn’t go to the other side, the Caribbean Sea. So, I thought I will visit to the Caribbean sea for honeymoon later. hahaha. But now I am at the Caribbean sea and it’s so beautiful ever.
It’s the sailing boat which I take. I use poncho raincoat as a cover for biking.
In the morning we went immigration and in the afternoon we take resting. It’s so relax. I go to Island with other traveler to buy coconuts.
This island is the same that the family live together as well.
Kuna who is selling coconuts is Captain’s friend so when I go back to the sailing boat, I am with Kuna and other traveler.
It’s the culture that Latin live together with their family. That’s why Latin is friendlier than other countries people??
(Actually, Korea was the same. Maybe 10 years ago, family was bigger than now. But now it’s smaller and smaller. There is not many big families these days in Korea.)
Around 5 pm, we start to head to Colombia. The sailing boat is automatic so it doesn’t need to sail by people all the time. A little bit weird thing is that we have to do night watch although we pay for the boat. I’ve read many stories about going to Colombia before and I’ve never heard about it. Anyway, when I sleep in the night, the ship rolls hardly but at that time captain is sleeping so that I can’t sleep well because I am nervous.
28th April 2012
Everybody sleeps late because of night watch. Captain is preparing lunch now. Actually, he says he will give us three meals for a day, but today we have to have breakfast by ourselves. Fortunately, he cooks lunch and dinner very well for us.
We are middle of the ocean. There is no more land around the boat. There is no bound. When I go into the boat, then I have a headache. So, I have to be around a deck all the time except sleeping time and all of travels is the same like me except captain. He looks no problem in inside.
The book of Harry Potter brightens up dull moments. It’s funny that I watched the first one 12 years ago and I didn’t watch the movie or read the book of Harry Potter for 12 years. Now, I read the last one!!! And I am so excited to read it!!! How come I didn’t love it for 12 years???
Thanks to Captain, we have a big sandwich for lunch. In the night, we have to do night watch again. Tonight, it is really clear so that I can look at so many starts. I love stars so much. Someday, I will be at one of stars. Then I will see the earth from there. Sometimes, I feel like I am training to go to another galaxy! Around 4 am, I see some light. If it comes from the other boat, then I have to wake the captain up. But it is from CITY!! Yeah, I am closer to the land!!!
29th April 2012
I wake up late because of night watch. When I see outside as soon as I wake up, I can see city!!! It took 10 hours from Portobelo to San Blas. From San Blas to Cartagena it takes 2 days. I left on 24th from mainland and I arrive in mainland on 29th! Finally!
I thought Cartagena is small town. But it’s too big to me. I like small town. Today morning also we have to prepare breakfast by ourselves.
I am wondering that what is inside. Actually, traveling by sailing boat is so hard to me because the boat is so small that it can roll very easily. How was my life on the sea for 6 days? Actually, it is a little bit boring. But if I can go to Africa from America, I want to cross the Atlantic by big ship, not sailing boat. Why? I don’t know….. Anyway, I hope I can cross the Atlantic by a boat later.
Yeah, I close to the mainland. South America…..
I am too shocked during fixing my flat tire. The bike(Lucky) is tooooooooooooo rusty!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think when I went to San Blas from Portobelo, it happened because of storm. My bike looks too old!!!!!!!
Cartagena looks special. I find that Cartagena is tourist place. It’s weird that nothing is shaking anymore because I am in the mainland.
The embarrassing thing is that Captain says he will give us our passport tomorrow after getting entry stamp of Colombia. It’s just around 9 am at that time. Why it takes one day to get stamp? I can’t understand it. I am too embarrassed that I have to be without passport in Colombia.
If somebody decides to travel by sailing boat, one should think about how size boat is, what boat has inside and who is a captain. Thanks to Spain guy in San Blas, I’ve been a few different sailing boats and I find that every boat is totally different.
30th April 2012
Unlike I was worried; I get my passport the next day without any problem. I can see the entry stamp of Colombia and exit stamp of Panama. It’s good for me! It is the last picture with them. I thank you guys for a few days.
After greeting with them, I go to a car center and they help me to clean my bike. And I put oil. But I am still toooooooooooo shocked. My bike looks 50 years old now. I feel like it’s time to give a junk shop my bike. I am so sad ever………
It’s time to bike in South America.
Actually, I was having hard time in Central America.
Too hot weather, Mosquitoes and too much uphill and downhill make me too hard.
And another thing is Latin culture which I hate that locals hollering and some kind of it. I am solo Asian girl on a bike and their rudness makes too upset sometimes.
I had so many special times with people on North America (the U.S and Mexico) but there is few times in Central America. I cried many times in North America because of warm relationship with people. But I’ve never cried in Central America, I only cried because of hard things in Central America.
Many times I wanted to go to home and some times I thought I pass America and go to Europe.
Although I was having hard time in Central America, I am still on the road because of YOU who give an advice, information, courage, greeting and love. So many times, I wanted to tell the truth how much I was having hard time but I couldn’t do it. Because I didn’t want to look weak and I was too proud to tell it to anybody.
Anyway, thanks to you, now I am in South America. I don’t expect that South America will be easier than Central America because of the big mount and huge country.
As far as I can go, I want to keep going with a bike and you.
Days in Panama= 20 Days
Distance in Panama = 405 km (253.12 mi)
Cities I stayed = San Jose, Heredia, Jaco, Londres, Puerto Cores, Neily
Costs in Panama (USD) = USD 457.29$ (Sailing boat 50$, 150$=200$)
Small tip = Panama is cheaper but there is no flat but only up&down.
Going to Colombia from Panama
– Ferry (Colon – Cartagena, 11 hours, from 6 pm to 7 am (Next day), around 100$)
(I’ve heard it will start from 10th May 2012. But I am not sure about it because I can’t find any website of company)
– Airplane (one way is from 200$ to 400$)
– Going to Panama border by airplane and taking two boats to Colombia 파
(Airplane // -Panama City – Puerto Obaldia(Panama border) (55~60$),
The ship// – Puerto Obaldia – Capurgana(Colombia border) (15$), Capurgana – Turbo(Colombia) (25$, overcharge if you have too many things/ 3hours / lunching in the 7 am)
(More information about bus)
Bus// Turbo – Cartagena (a northbound, 30$, 7 hours), Turbo – Medelline (a southbound, 30$, 6 hours)
-Only with ships (If you find other travelers, then you can make price cheaper when you negotiate with captains)
*Miramar or Carti or Portobelo (10~25$ Bus or other things from Panama City) – (San Blas) – Puerto Obaldia (130$~200$) – Capurgana (15$) – Turbo (25$, 3 hours, a southbound, Colombia!)
*Miramar or Carti or Portobelo – San Blas – Cartagena (Sailing Boat 350$~500$ It takes over 2 days from San Blas to Cartagena, a northbound, Colombia!)
Going to Miramar or Carti from Panama city (There is another city, Colon but it’s the most dangerous city in Panama. You should not go there unless you take a ferry)
Many people get information in Carti
You also can get information in Portobelo but there are only few boats.
(There is a hostel in Portobelo. It’s 11$ but you can’t use kitchen and have to pay for wifi)
I recommend you to stop at San Blas for one day or two days.
*If you can’t find a boat as soon as possible, then you will spend money more and more.
I think the most good way to save money is to find a boat in Panama City.
*If you go to Cartagena, you must get exit stamp of Panama. You must ask to your captain that captain will work for your paper.
If you go to Colombia without exit stamp of Panama, you must be in huge trouble.
El Porvenir Island which is one of San Blas has immigration. You can never get stamp of Panama without a captain. You must ask to captain for your paper.
*Whatever, sailing boats are small so that many people have pain of a seasick.
Must bring a pill of seasick or ask to your captain to get a pill. I think it’s good idea to bring sleeping pill as well.
You should have a pill of seasick before the boat start to sail.
(★If you decide to go to Colombia by boat, I do wish you luck!!!!! Good luck all of you who choose adventure! ★)