South America, sweltering days and lovely cool evenings. This has been such an amazing city to visit, both Phil and I are going to be sad to go. It is a place we could both have stayed longer if not for the cost of import duty on the boat (which you need to pay if you stay longer than a week). What to tell you, the sea is the colour of tea here, I thought it was all pollution at first now I realize that a lot of it is just the muck being stirred up from the waves that build up because of the trade winds pushing them down. The anchorage is surprisingly quiet considering it is smack in the middle of a big city. We have felt really safe walking around 98% of the time the other two percent was fine, just wouldn’t want to try it at night.
The old city is beyond beautiful (see the pictures). I think the most incredible part is that behind so many of the doors that are right on the busy street are these huge airy courtyards, that look so cool and calm, with trees in the middle of them. I wish we had managed to be invited into one. But alas, not this trip.
The food is INCREDIBLE and often unidentifiable. Favourites have been the lady with the frying station on the road, fresh salsa (red and green) and corn tortilla things??? With mince and an egg inside deep fried, or the round ones which have potato and mince, a steal at 1500 pesos. It is the first time I have held One hUndred Million (Pesos) not quite dollars but who’s counting. Other favourite lunch was the typical Cuban lunch, soup (broth, cilantro, lime, carrot, potato, plantain), followed by rice, salad, beans and we had chicken but I’m dying to have the fish (it is whole and apparently really delicious) and amazing pizza at an Italian place which we are hoping to revisit in an attempt to eat well on our next passage.
The culture here is in the air and everywhere, tour boats heading past playing latin music, ladies in the department stores wiggling away to good songs. Fruit carts, Donkeys, and a different city depending on what hour of the day it is and so many unidentifiable fruits, I’ll try to take pictures and get suggestions!
We have met some other lovely people and even had our first ever visitors to the boat tonight, Marcelle and Bruce (from Australia sort of). Lovely to have our boat nearly shipshape and to be tucked int eh light sunny downstairs enjoying nice company. Andrea, they loved our curtains!!!!
The language barrier has been hilarious, lots of pointing and speaking loudly which makes everyone feel better. The yacht club is also funny, I was dreaming of showers and cocktails and lovely tables, even with table clothes, instead we are in the middle of a rebuild so there are tarpaulins, rebar and a fridge with nothing in it. They do have showers though (only cold water that comes out of a hose in the ceiling (not so fancy but so nice to have all the water in the world!).
Our local grocery store is like the Colombian version of Miles Market, a bit upscale but not overly expensive compared to the other ones, and on our trip to Exito today (the cheaper supermarket) I saw a rat (although it might have been a dog it was so big) and phil saw cockroaches, so I;ve decided any extra money is well spent at the Carulla (our local one).
Things are different too, we haven’t had to go to immigration for the first time ever, we have an “agent” David (sounds like Davide) who has taken our passports to get them stamped and brings them back to us. We were trying to find him today to get our exit stamp, hilarious… he said he would be at the club by 8 am, so we arrived at 8:20 and sat on our plastic chairs on the concrete under the tarp, no sign of him and by 10 am we had given up. Difficult to call as we don’t have a phone and can’t really speak enough Spanish to use someone elses phone. So we gave up, and walked ot the shop to get some breakfast (banana and mango juice), as we were leaving we heard honking and shouting and there in the parking lot was David… when do you wnt to leave he asked,,, tomorrow??? We said, where are your passports, so there in the middle of the parking lot, we hopefully completed our immigration stuff!
So many other little tidbits, like the lovely man that collects garbage and takes laundry on his bike with a huge front basket, always smiling and playing tricks (like my uncle Abbey) and has the BEST green elf hat in the world! The man that tries to teach me a bit more Spanish each day, the orange juice guys that squeeze a fresh orange into the cup before filling it with chilled orange juice, the music, the parrots, the heat. Finding a bench in the park and realizing if you stayed there long enough you could have icecream, juice, lunch a new hat, tshirt and necklace but not buying any of them!
Sometimes I have an urge to buy a souvenir just to remember, but I realize this place is so much more alive than that and we will never forget it!
So, trying to get organized to get out of here…. San blas Panama next… hopefully with our pizza in tow (if we can get one tomorrow!)
Well, we told you the passage was wet and windy and we weren’t kidding! It was a very cool trip though, sore muscles have relaxed, and with sleep caught up I figured I would tell you about a few of the amazing things that happened while we were at sea.
1. Dolphins – yes, I saw another pod of dolphins swimming past us one morning while I was on watch. It is still as breathtakingly magical as the very first time I saw one. I always listen to the sound of their blow hole, amazing!
2. The night of the flying fish… It all started with Phil below deck and a “splash”,”plop”, “flap flap flap” followed by a “what was that???”. I took a look over the side of the boat and there were 2 decent size flying fish (almost 10 inches long) flopping around on the boat. It took considerable concentration to grab the slippery things but over the side they went. Then my turn to sleep “splash”,”plop”, “flap flap flap” followed by a “what was that???” Phil threw another two over, my turn on watch again and it was more of a Bang, flip flip flip as 2 came hurtling into the cockpit with me! A tiny scream and then to action stations, both of those made it over too… but lest we forget the unlucky ones, the one trapped under our step at the back (oh dear, I still forgot to throw him over… at least he is pretty dried out by now), the one folded into the portabote, not the nicest discovery and the 21 small ones glued to the deck. I know there were 21 because I counted each of them as I peeled them off and threw them overboard. The best part was that one of them flew properly like a paper airplane!!!!
3. Our bird!!! Small, (about as long as elbow to wrist), black with a white tuft between the eyes, beautiful black almond eyes, webbed feet, pointy beak. Poor thing was tired and wanted to rest on our boat. First time I saw it as the sun was setting it came from the front of the boat and scared me half to death! Landed and tried to stay on the hardtop, but was blown off, hung out on the dodger for a while and let me touch it!!!!! It was amazing to see its control while it wheeled around at night, and it made me very glad to not be close to other boats when you realized how two independent things can move compared to each other. Anyway, bird ID would be great! That’s all for now!
The rest of Bonaire was amazing, we got laundry done and I have officially lost one of my favourite socks, was bound to happen. We walked along the dusty roads back to the big supermarket, I had to drag Phil out, he was enjoying the airconditioning and selection so much! We managed to get mostly ready the night before we left and just had a few jobs to do that last morning.
The passage to Colombia was about 530 nm and we still haven’t quite sorted out the best way to estimate how long it would take, I am always conservative, Phil is always more accurate. We figured on 4 days, but by day 2, we realized that if we had sped up instead of slowing down at the start we would have made it in 3.5, oh well. It was an interesting passage, the first two days were past Curacao and Aruba (didn’t stop) and then out over the Caribbean sea, we saw a few ships and had to change course a couple of times, and ended up with a tiny scrap of sail up to slow us down enough to try to get to Cartagena by the morning of the last day. It was quite wavy and you had to hold on, when the rollers went under you they were quite gentle, but when the broke just as they got to you it was loud and wet! Realized our juice and milk storage was only good up to 20 kts, so the 35-40 was a bit much and I did almost cry about our spilled UHT milk, mostly b/c I was dreading how to clean it out of the bilge! Getting close to Colombia was amazing, the smell of the land was intoxicating. Then we rounded into the harbour and it was SO smelly, oil and smog. The motor is was very cool, past old walls and forts, but the water is so brown (stirred up mmud/pollution?) that we couldn’t see and ran into a few tree branches along the way (nothing serious but hearing a bump sends shivers down your spine!). We tried to call port control on the way in to be proper and they just didn’t answer, so we came up to club nautico and dropped our anchor. I had dreams of showers, a club house, a drink with an umbrella, and they were a bit cruelly crushed. Turns out Club nautico has been stopped mid rebuild so there are some plastic chairs and blue tarps, that’s about it. We did realize that they have showers, so hopefully will take advantage of one today!
I know I owe more about Cartagena, but that will come in due course! Off to fill up a few buckets (including our “holding tank” which thankfully we didn’t need to us) with water.
Bye for now!
Finally, a chance to be on the internet and to catch up on everything, internets, the most important Skype calls, and finally finish telling you all about Dominica. Christmas, the beach was hopping, and we recovered with fully bellies. And we learned that mulled wine looks great in Pewter goblets but is easier not to burn yourself using wine glasses with insulated stems! Managed to hike up the west side of the Cabrits, to see some great views and some of my favourite little mountain crabs. The next day we headed back to our favourite hike and took the side trail up the Indian River tributary, saw buttress roots instead of paying $20.00 each to get rowed up the river. We would have done the tour but unfortunately we never saw our friend Fire who would have taken us after Christmas eve morning at 7 am when he was still drinking, so managed to find the scenes ourselves.
We decided to try to see some of the other views and Phil found a place called Lodat that had incredible scenery and was off the beaten track, so back to the bus we went, crammed in 4 people across (seats were definitely made for 3 people) and off we went. The first 30 minutes was flying along a paved road, the last was bumping along a dirt road. We got into Rosseau and tried to find a bus to lodat. The problem with the buses being vans is that if it isn’t your route no one seemed to know where to catch the bus from. So we walked and walked and eventually found a bus to Trafalgar falls after we decided that there were no buses to Lodat. I love taking the bus, you meet such interesting people and see so much more than if you just sat in a taxi.
Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how much you love people watching) there were 2 cruise ships in that day so it was PACKED. We asked the trail guide if we would need the hiking boots I so lovingly had carried from Portsmouth and he just laughed. So off we went on a very developed trail, past some of the slower tourists and finally got the waterfalls, they were amazing. My favourite part was that we could go right down to the water and I sat in a wonderful hotspring, it was the first fresh water rinse I had had in days and it was brilliant. The tourists were amazing to watch, a very European family who hadn’t worn swimsuits was prancing about in very fabulous underwear, others were looking so well put together, despite sitting in running water, how they do that I will never understand! It was very interesting watching how people navigated rocks with no trails, like watching ants crawling around. After the hot spring I sat in the cool water that came from the waterfall, so refreshing.
We were still hoping to hike but no one knew any hikes near by, thankfully we saw our favourite blue and yellow trail marks marking the Kabuli trail and off we went. It is like a magical trail that takes you down roads that you would never get on otherwise. We saw a huge mountain and realized we must be walking around it and off we went, up and up and up. Then we realized we weren’t going around the mountain, we were climbing up it! It was incredible, parrots, smooth billed anis (a bird my dad studies) and we looked down on a rainbow. Hiking and hiking, watching our watches, we realized we would have to turn back if we didn’t find a village, just then the skys opened and we realized that while hiking in a rainforest you should always take a raincoat. So there we were, drenched to the skin and finally saw houses and realized we had reached Lodat, unfortunately no time to explore b/c the bus that we hadn’t been able to find was coming at 4:30 (luckily everyone in Dominica was so fabulous at helping us find our way around). So home again we went.
The next day, we went into Portsmouth and searched for a bucket with a lid, our high tech holding tank that we needed for Bonaire, despite seeing them around town everywhere, we couldn’t find one to buy. Finally went into a fabulous electronics store and were given one. Then that night met some lovely new friends Boris and Julia who had us over for delicious sausage and a delicious rum drink from Martinique – good luck on your journey guys! Afterwards, preparations made for our passage and off we went, into the blue.
The passage to Bonaire was lumpy at first, lots of waves coming from different directions, so lots of holding on b/c you couldn’t quite figure out where the boat was moving to next. But a good quick passage none the less and we made it to Bonaire in 3 days, it was very cool watching the salt flats come into view and I thought I saw giant birds that were actually kite surfers (may have already written this, who knows!). Okay, so with that I should check what I have told you about Bonaire and get back to filling in the rest of our adventures to date, thanks for keeping track of us!
What a lovely country. We've had a few good days exploring, rented a bike (had to ask for helmets which aren't mandatory) and drove around the island, it was so cool, so many lizards it was like the opposite of whack-a-mole, more of a dodge-a-lizard! They were all crossing the street, luckily Phil is a great driver so they all still had their tails when we were done! We went for a walk in the national park, it was amazing, like a completely different country, dry red soil, huge cacti and saw a white tail hawk swoop down and gobble one of our lizards on the way out! We went to the salt flats, and to check out the local windsurfing and kiting scenes (they don't mix here) and then found an AMAZING grocery store, like being in Europe and it has so much delicious food!!!! Our first two dives were just amazing, and even snorkelling around the boat is lovely, I saw trumpet fish, angel fish, thousands of smaller fish it seemed, very cool crabs, little segmented worms and christmas tree worms!!! Still hard to find internet, but we have found a wonderful ice cream shop that has it (Lilly's, the icecream waffle is highly recommended!). Still some work to do on the boat, but has been nicely de-molded, have our parts from Budget marine (including a new solar shower, a bit of a pain b/c we had one in Bermuda, but can't remember everything), hopefully another dive and then off to the next port. Pictures when we actually have internet that I can use from the boat!
Okay, so we have been here for 4 days and I haven't managed to write yet.. be gentle, we have had such a tough time finding internet (as we speak I am SLOWLY sipping an ever warming beer just to be able to sit long enough to write this!). So, this place is the shore diving capital of the world, quite amazing, you aren't allowed to throw ANYTHING overboard, no anchors, no messing with the environment, no leaving batteries, in all very eco concious. The diving is so accessible, I am used to having to go out with boats and divemasters, here we walked up, with a sheet describing our experience, they handed us a tank and sent us out, the only rule was our first dive had to be right near the rental shop so we could swap out any gear that didn't work. It was amazing! There are so many fish and since fishing is highly restrictive they are all really friendly. Lots of huge schools, and a shelf of reef that goes from 20-80 feet! We had a lot of fun going through my Paul Humann book and circling the things we have seen. There are as many divers here as yachties in some of the other places, equally cultish but different, funny that we are now the minority in visitors, most people come for a diving vacation, rent a truck and gear and off they go. We have decided as there seems to be NO public transport that we might rent a scooter and explore the island, they have huge salt flats and apparently flamingos. Don't worry papa, I'm bringing the binoculars on our land mission b/c I just saw a flock of parrots fly over head, good thing is you can hear then before you see them.
So first dive was good, although I did have to go through the inhumane punishment of trying to get into my wetsuit infront of 50 tourists lounging on chairs under palm trees, some things you should just never have to go through. Phil was very kind, he said my wetsuit had just lost a bit of stretch, hope he was right! Second dive was at Angel (??) a very cool double reef, an amazing number of eels and we both can't get over the fish. Looking forward to frites soon Mosquitos have been terrible, Phil sacrificed his feet to them last night as I lay mummied up in the sheet sweating away, it is amazing how cold it can be at sea and how warm when you are tucked up in the bow of the boat! So, beer is done, shops are calling, going to try to discover where the laundromat is, make our 4th purchase at Budget Marine (and our 4th country) and then maybe my frites???? Okay, I promise to go home and write more about dominica because it was amazing and to fill you in on our adventures here because they have been fun and to in general catch up on remembering everything... Hugs to one and all
Well we didn't quite make it on time to wish you happy new year because we were sailing across the caribbean sea! I've sailed across a sea, how cool is that (okay, just part of one but still!). We owe you more stories about dominica etc. but right now I think we are both going to hit the hay. Seems like we are getting better at this passage stuff, but with big seas and trade winds it was a bit lumpy and so cooking was pretty challenging and sleeping, I never knew I could love it as much as I do right now! Highlights of the passage, shooting stars, peanut butter cookies, 4 dolphins at 8:30 am this morning playing in our bow wave! Braving 6 hours of non-medicated sailing and surviving and making lunch for Phil, it is amazing, I was planning on making soup with pasta:
step 1: pasta
step 2: soup base
step 3: add boiling water to 1 and 2 and put in a thermos
finale: you'd be surprised, I thought we'd have soup, but we had well cooked noodles! still, I was quite proud to make phil lunch on the boat!
Bonaire is beautiful, we have walked around a fair bit and are both excited to head out for a dive soon, but sleep beckons first.. Will write more soon I hope!