Wi-Fi in our hotel room in Cartagena, so have been busy plotting and planning
our next few days while GR2 is cruising to Panama. Although the ship arrives in
Panama on Tuesday, there will be no chance of getting her off the wharf because
of Carnaval. That gives us 5 days without her. What we really want is to join
the backpacker trail and sail on a yacht to Panama via the San Blas Islands. It
is not to be. The yachts are late in because of big seas, and are delaying
leaving again because of the same reason. So we decide on a yacht charter from
Panama to the Islands. Much classier (we hope!). So we fly from Cartagena to
Panama, via Bogota. A longer flight, but much cheaper, with the bonus of going
business class for only $25 each more.
As you know life is
always interesting, and we nearly miss our connection, with John held up trying
to change money, and me standing at the desk waving my arms madly & saying
he will be here soon, even though they want to close & send us on the next
flight in 5 hrs! I even have one of the staff hunting him down. When John
appears I’m yelling “Run”
We overnight in
Panama. Then at 5am we are off to the domestic airport for our 45min flight in
a Cessna to Corazon de Jesus (a tiny island in the San Blas with an airstrip & not
much else). We also have to check in a big pile of groceries for our trip.
Needless to say it puts us over our weight limit and none of Johns very valid
arguments can stop us getting charged excess baggage.
We have been told
that we will be picked up at the airport by a “lancha” (motor taxi) & that
there will be a 30min ride to our boat. It was not to be!!! It took us 6 hours
to reach our boat. What a stuff up. But it was “interesting”. This is how our
Water taxi (old tree with outboard)
from airport Island to main Island (5 minutes)
Told to wait until 10am for next
taxi – it is only 7am
Explore very small island – lots of
little thatched houses with over water loos.
Told our water taxi is ready (early)
but there are no seats in the dugout canoe (1 hour to pack boat)
We get wooden seats & head
around the island
First stop to pick up lots of
lobsters(another 30 mins)
Next stop at Island to drop off
lobsters (another hour)
Explore here for 30min
Next stop at a random yacht to see
where the heck we are going
We are all at sea!!! After yet
another hour we reach the jetty
We are transferred to another water
taxi (with a bigger motor & a roof covering) & taken on a very bumpy
ride to our boat. (1 hour) Total = 6 hours.
We are very glad to
be on board. BUT there is more to come. The motor is broken down (we discover
that it has been broken for 10 days), so guess what - no exploring the islands
for us. We are moored in one spot for the next 3 days. We do get to snorkel
& sit on some gorgeous beaches. The Captain keeps promising us we will
sail, so finally on the last day we sail to the airport – sadly with no stops!
We fly back to
Panama, & then bus out to Colon. It is time for our next challenge –
getting GR2 off the wharf. The agent we are trying to use proves elusive &
we finally find someone else. I get to relax in the lovely Washington Hotel,
right on the canal, while John has a very long day going from queue to queue on
the port, with the very helpful Boris (if you need his contact details please
email me). After spending many Balboas (US dollars) GR2 arrives at the hotel.
We stay in the carpark- this night is free.
We have the weekend
to do some exploring before we head back to Panama to put GR2 into Bond
Storage. Naturally we head to the Gatun Locks to gape at the amazing canal.
Then out to San Lorenzo National Park to see the old fort, and stop at a
massive marina. We try to stop overnight beside the canal, but are moved on
three times by security. The third spot was where they had told us we could
stay – finally we follow the chief security guy to a very noisy carpark with no
view. Then on Sunday we head out to Portobello. It is a gorgeous, if rather scruffy
old town, with 2 more forts. We are planning to camp on the beach, but as it is
Sunday all the locals are pouring out to the beach. Eventually we decide to
continue on to Panama so that we can arrive in less traffic.
We find the Balboa
Yacht Club & settle in for the night. Tomorrow we will check out the Bond Storage. I
have goggled them, so have the address. Our friends have their vehicles stored
here at the cost of $7.50 per day (exorbitant!). Once they look at GR2 they say
we are bigger & the prices have gone up. They want $25 per day! Yes that’s
right- $25 per day. We pick ourselves off the floor. No groveling helps. They
give us the name of a few other places & we head off. Eventually we find
Panama Central (which is actually right out in the suburbs) and haggle the
price down to $10 per night.
Back at the Yacht
club we start cleaning. In the middle of the night there is more news. We had been
looking forward to arriving home before our second grandson arrives, so we have
given ourselves 3 weeks grace, but Baby Toby has arrived early. Maybe 3rd time
lucky: Sorry Brad & Claire. The next day sees more packing & cleaning.
Then we hunt down a car cleaner – GR2 is very salty from her cruise. Then off
to our storage. The paperwork gets done by the skin of our teeth, with John
getting to customs 2 minutes before closing. Finally we are at the airport with
some very long connections…….
Home at last. We are very excited to meet our new