Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Panama by the Numbers and an Epic Voyage to Colombia

Hello again, loyal readers of Shapiroadventures.com. We are back on dry land although we both seem to think the ground is still rocking. We arrived in Cartagena yesterday, and were greated by the Sixth Summit of the Americas, so there is extra security and police around town, as well as a giant CNN boat! Apparently B. Hussein Obama will be here in a few days as well as the other heads of state from the Americas, so security is pretty tight. We already are enjoying Colombia as there are plenty of streetside food vendors, and a huge meal can be had for $2-3. But first, Panama by the numbers. We spent a total of 25 days in Panama incuding our time on the boat to Colombia. We entered the country with $199 and left witth $217, and withdrew a total of $2120. That comes to $84.08/day, significantly higher than any other country. It really came down to our mode of transportation for leaving the country. We basically had two options, sail or fly. Both cost about the same, but if we flew we would have ended up on the wrong side of Colombia and had to backtrack. At the time sailing seemed more attractive since we got to see more, spend some time on the sea, and learn a little about boats. There are no roads connecting Panama and Colombia and to cross through the jungle is not recommended due to an ongoing paramilitary presence as well as poisonous snakes and other jungle dangers. We decided on taking the boat. Had we managed to just walk across the border, like we have everywhere else, our daily spend would have only been $49/day. All in all, Panama is slightly cheaper than Costa Rica, but still more expensive than most other Central American countries.

This is our boat, the Independence. Our captain, Michelle, was pretty much what you would expect from a reformed pirate, speaking about six languages poorly and a little scruffy around the edges. Our boat had he capacity to handle about 24 passengers and 4 crew, but our voyage only had 12 passengers. It had air conditioned cabins, refrigerators and freezers, and most of the comforts of home(chuck norris movies on vhs). Needless to say after a few hours, Sarah became very ill. We spent that afternoon on one of the San Blas islands, where the indigenous Kuna Yala live. They had prepared a dance for our arrival. 

There are hundred of islands, some with just a family, some like this one with a school, solar panels, and the occasional satellite dish. We learned about their culture and how they are related to some of the tribes of central Colombia. The next day we went to a few more islands, where the locals were kind enough to sell us some coconuts to drink, etc. Sarah bought a bracelet. After two days on the islands we hit the high seas and headed for Colombia. 

We celebrated Passover in typical Shapiroadventures style with lobster and matzah on the high seas. These last few days were a little rough for us and some of the other members of the voyage really had a tough time keeping food down, but our captain kept reassuring us that the waves were much smaller than normal. We finally managed to make it to Colombia where our crew took care of the immigration formalities. Yesterday afternoon we took a little walk around the old city, and this morning we bought a new digital camera since the one we have finally bit the dust. The internet in our hostel is a bit slow, so we probably won't put up a lot of pictures onto facebook until the next place, or possibly late at night. ¡Salud!


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