You used to be able to fly into the neighboring town of Capurgana, but now the airport is shut down and its overgrown runway is being used to graze the only hard working thing in Colombia – donkeys…but that’s’ a whole other story. So, the only way to get there is by boat or by foot.
Most of the southeast coast of Colombia is very mountainous with rocky shores. With the Darian mountains as your backdrop, this part of Colombia has a more northern feel, for me anyway. Some of the bays are small with narrow entrances, so coming into them during the windy season when the seas are big can be a bit hectic. We have had our full of uncomfortable sailing so we try to select our cruising for optimal comfort. In August, the sea state is down a bit from the normal 3-4 meters during the windy season, so we thought it would be a good time to explore this area.
|Stern tied to tree|
As we came ashore, an older lady comes over. It is embarrassing that even after all this time our Spanish is still on the Kindergarten level. But what we do get out of the conversation is which is the best tree to tie to and we think she also wants clothes. With Joana squared away, we gather
|Lush jungle backdrop|
some old t-shirts and shorts to give to the lady and dingy them in. She sort of gives us a funny look says “is that it?” We say “uh, yeah” and hand over the small bag of clothes. We are a bit turned off, thinking one can never give enough.
The morning brought that great deep earth smell a sailor misses at times.
Most of the local town docks along the coast are just dilapidated wood or bamboo but Sapzurro has a nice concrete peer, with the Colombian navy there to greet you with a smiling face and a “Buenos dias”. As we found out you, must take a fifteen minute launcha ride to Capurgana to stamp your passport. There are no port captains this far south so you are only able to clear yourself in and wait to clear the boat in Cartagena. If the sea state is up, the trip to Capurgana can be quite an entertaining ride.
|Niko meets pig|
As for Sapzurro, there are cute little paved streets, lots of restaurants and a few bars. Most of the bars and restaurants are the locals’ houses, but don’t be put off by this, as you will find some of the best food and drink this way. With wild chickens and pigs running freely (Niko found out which ones not to mess with) Sapzurro has all the charms of a great South American beach town.
|Going to La Miel|
We asked one of the Colombian military where the trial is to La Miel, which is on the Panama side. He was happy to be able to practice his English as he lead us to the trail head, telling us how much he loved Niko. We made our way up the mountain, ok, “hill”. Even if it was just a hill, we were spent.
There were two palm huts at the top, one Colombian and the other Panamanian. What a site! AK47’s leaning up against the bamboo and a guard reading a People magazine. We walk up, hand over our passports, and with ease we are on our way down the mountain to Panama. What we find is a great beach and a duty free store. Our bags were a bit heavier on the hike back with a lot of clanking to be heard. The guards didn’t even bother with us this time around. My guess is the 35 minute resting period last time due to the “mountain” gave us enough time to be remembered.
|Rest time at the top|
On our way back, the evening showers decided to grace us. As we were enjoying the cool down we failed to realize that the trail had now become a river. I swear I saw a family of working ants rafting down the hill on a large leaf. It became the most challenging slip and slide ever. Muddy and exhausted, we decided our next trip to La Miel would be by dingy.
The next morning was my birthday so we planned a day of non-stop adventure. We started with a hike along the coast to the next bay. The views were absolutely beautiful overlooking the ocean. With jagged rocks below and few spots where there seemed to be no path at all, the trail is for sure not for the weak of heart. We trudged along, sometimes having to white-knuckle a thin rope tied to some questionable roots. We were feeling proud that we made it down with no incident, when out of the woods up trots at least a 76 year old little Colombian man, scampering up the ledge without even a grab to the rope. With that, we humbly dusted ourselves off and kept on trucking. As we continued, we found out there were quite a few folks living way out here…maybe due to the beautiful views, and prime drug running territory. It’s okay – they say the FARC (aka bad people) haven’t been here since 1995, but we admit it’s hard not to think about if there is still FARC watching you.
We make our way back, stopping at the local waterfall, a beautiful spot to shower off after a long hike. As we walk back to town, we pass by the back of the old lady’s house who we met when we first got here. We could hear a laundry machine going and lots of clean cloths hanging. Cath turns to me and at the same moment we both realize that the lady had been asking if we had any clothes that needed washing. We weren’t sure but we were feeling a bit sheepish.
We thought it best to make our way to town and relax with a cold beer outside a little blue house. The owner had given us lawn chairs with the legs cut. Now sporting the low rider style, we cracked our Aguilas and enjoyed the local happenings on the dock. The trading boats were in, so time for the locals to shop. After a while, we decided to go to the local restaurant for a birthday dinner. We discovered that a bottle of wine must be a new thing for them since Cath had to demonstrate how to use a corkscrew. Don’t let that deter you from eating out as we had the best fried red snapper ever.
The next morning, coffee was accompanied by delightful jungle sounds and yes, as we feared, the local laundry lady was waving at us from the beach. Even if we could we would have been too ashamed to tell her our story, so we swallowed our pride and paid our 1900 pesos (equivalent to $ 1.90). We headed back to Joana to finish our coffee and listened to the laundry lady shuffle her basket together and truck down the path with purpose, yelling “venga, venga” to her son who was stumbling at her heels trying ever so hard to keep her pace. And as for our second hand clothes? Well, they are clean and ready for the next in need.