I have joined a mad Irishman on a cycling trip around the world.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Pirates of the Carribean

Our last stop in Colombia was a pirates' paradise. They were forever trying to plunder it, including Sir Francis Drake who held it under siege for one hundred days. In the end the Spanish inhabitants built a wall all around the city to keep the pillagers out. We splashed in on flooded roads and set about finding ourselves a pirate ship to sail to the idyllic San Blas islands and on to Panama. We found one, complete with pirate captain with plenty of tattoos, gold hoops in his ears and stripey jersey. He had a great ship's dog, a slobbering jowly boxer who loved to shake his slobbery bits everywhere. It was all very exciting and piratey. There were even two attempting to stow-away, South Africans really from Sierra Leone traveling on French passports who didn't speak any French. They didn't make it but caused the captain all kinds of trouble. After a week, we set sail, off on our voyage to the San Blas islands still inhabited by the indigenous Kuna people.

The wind and current were against us most of the time so progress was slow. After a couple of hours I started feeling a bit queasy. By lunch time I was throwing up overboard. By the evening I had nothing left inside and was feeling pretty miserable. It took us fifty long and rolling hours to reach the San Blas. There was plenty of rum but even that didn't help. I certainly did not feel like an old sea dog. The captain thought that I might be helping to lure fish to the boat but we only managed to hook a bird which wasn't very nice. All in all I wanted to get off.
Trying not to bog it

The San Blas Islands were very beautiful. When we finally stopped we jumped in and swam towards the white sand and palm tress, only slightly marred by the abandoned TV set. After a couple of days swimming and having got through immigration control, our party started to disband. Some left for a party they had heard about on one of the smaller islands, one to catch a flight from Panama city and some to head to Bocas del Toro. So with just Julian and I and the crew we set off to sail through the night to Puerto Lindo. It was horrendous.

Kuna huts
With a great swell and the wind in the wrong direction again we motored on and on. Julian and I slept on deck until the rain forced us inside. There the captain and first mate were happily chatting, drinking, smoking and snorting the night away while I tried not to puke yet again. I tried to sleep on the floor next to the giant speaker but the music was the most awful noise I have ever heard, bangs and crashes and helicopters for hours. I decided I would prefer to throw up in the toilet in our cabin. It was one of the most painful nights ever.

Land was a welcome sight the next day. I did think I might throw up once more for good measure as I was still reeling but after some crisps and a bottle of Squirt we set off for the next town, Porto Bello. This was also a pirate town, at one point a third of the world's gold was passing through the customs house, but I have had enough of pirates.

Panama is great, still raining every day. We've taken to staying in fire stations. All firemen are incredibly friendly. We can camp, cook and stay as long as we want. Each fire station seems to have something more and more fun in it.

Julian Fireman
Big Ears hearts the HORN
Practice dummies for firemen (and Julian)
We've been held up. This time it is entirely my fault. After a day of hard climbing on our way to Bocas del Toro, a province and a group of islands on the Carribean side of Panama, we were descending to a small town before beginning another impossible looking ascent. Perhaps as a protest against the hills, pure knackeredness or the only way I could think of avoiding getting on another boat, I fell into a ditch at top speed. It would have been fine, I would have bounced into the grasses well clear of the bike but I managed to get my leg through the frame and around the front wheel.. It hurt. Luckily the mayor was passing and after a brief descussion the bikes were thrown unceremoniously into the back of one of his trucks and we were driven to the hospital in David. A wheelchair ride, xray and "shot in the butt" as the doctor put it later, (all very embarrassing), I was discharged with orders to rest. So we're resting. We hope to be on the road again tomorrow, heading to Costa Rica on the Pan-American Highway. Roll on rolling on.