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Panama to Colombia, day 1
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2014-11-13 17:13:41 | Cartagena, Bolivar, Colombia
Keywords: boat, crossing, Itinerary
To go from Panama to Colombia without taking the plane, choice are limited since there are no roads because of the infamous Darien Gap, the Gap is basically a No Man's Land on the border between the two countries, where lies a dense jungle in which drug trafficants are even more dangerous than wild animals.

Even though the Darien international park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its great diversity, it's access is very complicated and dangerous, so it was never my intention to visit it.

Route from Panama City to Cartagena.


Boat option

So the only choice to cross this border without boarding a plane is to take a boat. There are now discussions to establish a regular ferry service to do the liaison but until this becomes reality travellers must rely on private enterprises.

Until recently the only option was to pay passage on a private yacht to/from Cartagena. A new option appeared less than two years ago, a fast boat service along the North Coast passing through the magnificent San Blas islands and dropping you on the border. That route is cheaper than crossing on a sailboat and also safer during the hurricane season, plus you spend most of your days on small tropical islands. That's the option I took.



First meal on the islands.

From one ocean to the other

The first day begins by a transport picking you up at you hotel to bring you to the Northern Coast town of Carti. The second half of the drive is done in the mountains and only a 4x4 vehicle can get through the very curvy roads. It's something to make you car sick,

Normally this part of the trip lasts about two hours but in our case we had one guy who forgot his passport at his hostel. He realized it as we made a stop just outside Panama City. We waited two hours for him to return our stop location but at the end we left without him. He was able to join us later, on the first island.

From Carti, we boarded the fast boats en route to the first island with a delay of over 3 hours. The boat ride lasted about one hour and fifteen minutes and was smooth since we were mostly between the islands and the coast, not on open sea.

Since we were a big group of thirty, we used two boats. Most of the passengers were in their early 20s, drink a lot, about half of them smoke (cigarettes or more funny stuff). Except for two or three couples and four German friends, we all are solo travellers. The biggest representation is from the U.S. of course, followed by Germany, British islands, Australia/New Zealand and Canada (a couple from Alberta and myself).

First island

The first task we had after unloading the boat of our bags from the boat was to pick a hammock for the night. There were three huts featuring each 11 or 12 hammocks. Seeing they were just about 45 cm apart, I figured we could easily bump into each other so I picked one along the walls of the hut. Having never used a hammock before, not even for just sitting or relaxing, I wasn't too fond of the idea of spending three nights in one. I never tried hammocks because I was worried about their resistance to my weight.

Then lunch was served. A fish grilled whole plus rice and beans. The fish was tasty but bony. In the afternoon, I killed time walking around our little island (took about 25 minutes to tour it, with feet in water) and spent much time in water while some of the others were snorkeling but the majority was just getting drunk.

For supper we had baby lobsters with an octopus salad. Just before supper, I spent quality time with my hammock, discovering how to lay on it without falling down. I succeeded my auto-learning, but I wasn't very comfy. After supper, while they were building a bonfire I was in 'bed' early because I suspected it would be hard to rest on the hammock with the others partying close-by. I spent TEN hours in the hammock, didn't sleep more than 3 as I could never find a comfy position or was disturbed by the others.


My bed for the first night.


Hence was my first day.


Related posts:
Panama to Colombia, day 2
Visa Run Guatemala Mexico
East-West crossing of the USA
100 different cities
Panama to Colombia, days 5 and 6

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