We have 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 day unfolded.
1. Water taxi (old tree with outboard) from airport Island to main Island (5 minutes)
2. Told to wait until 10am for next taxi – it is only 7am
3. Explore very small island – lots of little thatched houses with over water loos.
4. Told our water taxi is ready (early) but there are no seats in the dugout canoe (1 hour to pack boat)
5. We get wooden seats & head around the island
6. First stop to pick up lots of lobsters(another 30 mins)
7. Next stop at Island to drop off lobsters (another hour)
8. Explore here for 30min
9. Next stop at a random yacht to see where the heck we are going
10. We are all at sea!!! After yet another hour we reach the jetty
11. 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 Grandson Toby.