How to sail to Colombia in 10 easy steps:
- Take the boat from Bocas del Toro back to the mainland. 20 minutes.
- Take a bus from the edge of the mainland to Panama city. 10-hour bus ride (7pm to 5am)
- On the bus you will meet two male Kiwis and an English girl. They will come with you to the Hostel: “Luna’s Castle.” in Panama city.
- Wander with them for two days searching for more crew members, a Captain, and a bloody explanation as to why you want to do this.
- At the hostel you will meet your fifth crew member, Shawn from South Africa. You will also meet your Captain, Henry. He will be welcoming you to his boat, “Ashanty.”
- Take the mildly entertaining yet slightly risky three-hour jeep ride, on the very same road which ends at the Darien gap should you take it a mere two hours further, to the transfer area. A set of small boats. By the way, on that road you will see two eagles and five monkeys.
- Get on the small boat with the nice Colombian/Panamanian drivers, and they will take you to Ashanty. Your paradise awaits.
- Board your sailboat. You will meet your sixth and final crew member, a Greek guy named Leo.
- Give your passports to the Captain. He will take them to immigration via a short dingy ride, where they will then be shipped over the border for you. You will pick them up when you arrive. You are now lost between two continents; you are somewhere in the ocean abyss with a few strangers and not necessarily any documentation proving that you are in existence.
- Four of the six passengers will get seasick for two days. You will be one of them.
BONUS STEP: *You are now in Cartagena. Kiss the ground and go have a beer if you can hold it down. Congratulations.*
Nothing to it. Except that less of a challenge would have been to co-pilot the plane I should have taken.
It really was a beautiful trek. But, the “high seas” that Captain Henry mentioned at the beginning of the trip didn’t quite go through my mind fully (or anyone’s) until we were face to face and sailing through them. This boat trip is called “San Blas Islands,” in which for a few days you don’t go very far and you experience total bliss as you visit tons of exotic islands and unlimited snorkelling, and then all of a sudden it’s as if you became a crab fisherman overnight and everyone must fend for themselves as you tumble forth into the madness and experience what real sailing is like.
I will never take back a good or bad experience I’ve had traveling, but I can tell you now that it will be a while before I step onto a boat again. We just arrived on solid, non-wavering ground to our hostel an hour or two ago. We are about to go get something to eat, start our recovery process, and look around a bit. Here’s to the die-hard travellers in Colombia.