Thursday, March 28, 2013

the umpa-lumpas

we sailed two nights through the rough waters of the colombian coast, leaving the rio magdalena 30nm to port to avoid the debris being washed into the sea.
the sail itself was rather uneventful, if mark and i hadn't spent the last 4 days in cartagena under various air conditioners. the result: we both came down with a rather nasty head cold feeling achy and sick for the whole trip - arriving in paradise with a little fever.

but two days later and able to breath again, we wake up surrounded by these little islands with coconut palms on them, some hardly bigger than a picnic blanket. the water is crystal clear, the coral reefs are colorful - only the sky is grey and will remain grey for the next 10 days only allowing us 10h of sunshine scattered between little rain patches.

the wind is howling - nevertheless a bit of paradise for us and the first real "exotic" place with indigenous people living in tiny huts on the palm-treed picnic blankets with names like "dupwala" or "nulnudup", "warsobguadup" or "wichubuala"
with the island so small, there is not much room to grow tall. the kunas of kuna yala (the correct name for the autonomous san blas area of panama) are the second shortest people after the pygmies in the world - and after seeing them for the first time we could not help it but calling them umpa-lumpas. 
the women dressed mostly with traditional beads and molas, they spend days sitting around fires making these great pieces of craft. 
men are out fishing or watching the mola-making and wait for the days to go by.

we spend our days watching the mola making, snorkeling, spear-fishing (mark shot his first barracuda adding another tick on the list of must-dos for manhood: buy a boat, cross an ocean, shoot a barracuda with a know;)...these sorta things)
and wait for the days to go by trying to ignore the voices calling from panama and the boat asking for a layer of anti-foul.

in short: life is good - but after crossing a quite harsh bit of sea on this planet we feel like we deserve it! (that we've been lucky enough not to experience the harsh bit is a small cosmetic detail not spoiling the beauty of this feeling)

the only thing that spoils this paradise is the amount of plastic debris found on the windward side of most of these islands - so much of it that the kunas gave up collecting it. we try do to the right thing when we burn our plastic-rubbish and also collect a tiny amount to burn with it. i know, burning plastics does not sound very environmentally sound, but unfortunately you can either collect it and bring it to panama, where it will be blown out to sea and back to the san blas, or burn the hell out of it leaving nothing but ashes. just don't do your marshmallows on it!

the amount of ship wrecks sitting on reefs, from tankers to sailing yachts the size of maloo are sobering. it makes you wonder why you still see boats coming to anchorages in the middle of the night or with full sail flying. personally i do prefer to maneuver through reefs in the safety of daylight with the engine slowly propelling us forward - my eyes looking out from the bow and mark's fixed to the depth sensor - as the charts are not accurate and sometimes 100meters out this seems to be the only sensible thing to do. 2 meters too much to the right make the difference between a safe anchorage surrounded by wonderful islands and reefs and being a landmark for other sailors for years to come in these sometimes narrow entrances ....but well, that's just us - "cowards" that we are!
other people around here seem to be real dare devils making sure there will be enough wrecks for years to come!

soon we leave the umpas behind and make our way to panama  - the last miles through the caribbean sea, the last miles through the atlantic - wasn't it just yesterday that we went through the straight of gibraltar? - and thousands of miles ahead of us in the planet's biggest ocean.
before that, maloo demands a bit of tender love and care - and rightly so, as panama is the last easy place to give here what she needs before australia.
so we will give her what she needs and then load her up with food for the next 8 follow us when mark and i try to break the record for the longest receipt ever printed by a supermarket-cash-register!


a local kuna-lady making a mola (i.e. a picture made of layers of fabric hand stitched together)

the local clan on holandes-cays

a typical dug-out made out of driftwood

taking the dog fishing...the puppy was in the dug out when ever it went out to sea

Monday, March 18, 2013

colours of colombia

the hot days in colombia are merciless. 
the sun burns down, melts the asphalt and you kindly ask the street dogs to share their little spot of shade with you.
how people remain so friendly is a mystery - the good mood is contagious though and soon after the last possible drop of sweat has left your pores you start laughing about the fact that just a couple of nights ago you were sitting in your cockpit with long pants and the wet weather gear on wondering were the summer went...
we arrived in santa marta after a nice two-nighter from curacao, mark and i set our foot on the south american continent for the very first time -  not quite sure what to expect: people with a crazy amount of guns? officials with a crazy amount of stamps? hills? lush green - tones of "snow"?
as it turnes out, we were not sooo wrong, but the gunmen are friendly, and the officials were taken care of by our trusted agent "Dino" who dealt with them instead of us - so clearing-in meant having a cool drink on Chilli Cat and the loss of some american dollars - a good trade, if you ask me.
after our first night out together with our new friends from "lazy bones" and our "chilli cats" i discovered that ordering something without meat in colombia was not too easy - on top of that they loooove green coriander - which is the "herb from hell" in my opinion, simply spoiling every bit of food! but pure heaven for mark: meat AND coriander!

to escape the heat and try out our legs again we planned an afternoon trip to the national park "minka" up in the hills. how to get there was the question. after figuring out that the prices we gringos would have to pay a taxi driver to get us there to be way too expensive we decided to go local - head for the public bus station. walking through the town market memories of marrakech came back to us. a lot of intense smells, people trying hard to make a living....but with much less despair. it might be, because colombia in general made such a hugh jump in the last years as far as living standards are concerned, that even the poorest of the poor are hopeful to get their share soon, it might be that with the standards improving people find it less interesting to fight, causing the drug war going on there to cease a little...who am i to know, but the feeling remains: people seem at ease

up in the mountains we had a swim under a beautiful fresh water fall - with it's temperature of 18°C max i almost felt reminded of home, but the lush green and the sound of rainforest frogs made sure that feeling wouldn't last too long
refreshed we went back to our boat planning our trip to cartagena.

we took a bus, leaving our maloo in the very well protected marina of santa marta and 4,5h later arrived in the wonderful old town of cartagena des indias.
the colors of the houses and narrow little streets are enchanting and beautiful. nevertheless the old town of cartagena is a hip little place with way too expensive designer shops and cafes that sell latte and paulaner beer. after weeks of escaping the "world" mark and i were used to living in munich there we are - in the middle of the wallpaper magazine. a great change and good fun...but scary at the same time as we feel like cockatoos (i.e. aussie-slang for a farmer) in "the town". for the last months our heads set priority on weather, nuts, bolts and antifouling - not on chocolate brownies, the latest grey's anatomy and the colombian designer who must have done an internship at helmut lange's. funny how your brain is able to adjust to daily "necessities" by slowly changing your mindset without you noticing. (the sign that should have rung a bell though is when i found yourself sitting on a table with two other lovely sailor-girls not talking fashion but rust-removal on stainless steel ;)

don't you worry though - it only took me a a day to be fully back in immersing myself in the wonderful superficial! and it was great to feel "cosmopolitan" for a day, to find myself in a nice little dress instead of the old t-shirts with stains on it and do window shopping, having a colombian lunch at one of the street stalls (cheese filled with cheese....i kid you not!) and my favorite lulo-juice with fresh mint taking tonnes of pictures of colors on walls.
three days proved to be more than enough for me though and i start to get annoyed with people running into me, and cars almost running over me.

so after three nights of the creature comforts of a hotel room (and a satellite tv! - hence the mentioning of grey's anatomy;)) we are back in santa marta - stocking up for the san blas/kuna yala in the local supermarket which resembles more a oversized street cafe with people having chats and sitting down on the benches provided by the supermarket (?) to make the wait at the checkout more comfortable. if you are in a hurry then you are in the wrong country - if you like to see people enjoying each others company and a cashiers having time for the old lady who forgot her glasses not quite sure what she's got in the trolley - going through every item and discussing it vividly - than this is the place to be for you....and so it was for me.

stocked up we leave santa marta and the colombian coast - sad we did not have the time to explore more and go inland...sure to return one day - exploring all the colours of colombia.

a checkpoint on the way to the hills of minka - pretty serious looking kids, but quite friendly

the waterfalls of minka

a nice way to escape the heat

impressions form our little road trip

old town of cartagena des indias

old town of cartagena

one day i would love one of these!

also a way to do the shopping - just dangle a basket down

...and give precise (and loud) instructions

one of the many fruit ladies

if it's not deep fried it can't be good

modern cartagena

on the backside of the shopping mall

PS.: we are sorry if we can't update our blog as often as we would like to - or update 2 posts within short time, but as our destinations get more and more "exotic" it gets harder to have internet - access. some of the ares we visited have hardly any internet available and for the san blas not even mobile phone coverage. we do have our sat-phone to download weather files and small emails, but we're talking a file size of 200kb that takes us 6 minutes to you get the picture!

if we don't update our position or blog - please don't worry....we have not sunken (hopefully;)) - we simply went offline, which will happen more often the further west we go, especially in the south pacific.
it is actually quite a healing experience to be without mobile phone and internet for a month - and we can only recommend it!

if we should get into serious trouble, we will set off our epirb and close family will be notified immediately....or you'll read about it in the news should one of us be eaten :)

big hug from maloo!!!!!
karline &mark