the examiner

Sailing to Colombia

Aug 21--Remember that scene in Romancing the Stone where Michael Douglas says, "Cartagena? Angel, you are hell and gone from Cartagena"?

You probably said to yourself "I want to walk around Colombia with a bad outfit and a machete saying things like that." Well don't, because that wouldn't end well, but you can do the second best thing and keep the dream alive by sailing to Cartagena on a private sailboat. You'll probably be just as lost for the most part, but for roughly $300-400 you and a few other intrepid travelers can ease your way between Central and South America alongside the Darien Gap. You'll have an unforgettable voyage and plenty of down time to come up with your own quotes as you wonder if you'll ever get to Cartagena.

Captains have been ferrying the adventurous back and forth from various parts of Panama to either Cartagena or Capurgana, Colombia for years now. It's normally a 5-7 day trip (depending on weather) that offers some outstanding off-the-beaten-path rewards that include:
- A few days to intimately explore the San Blas Islands and their inhabitants, the Kuna Indians. The captains usually have predetermined islands they like to stop at and you're pretty much guaranteed to be the only tourists around. Some of the larger communities have airstrips (and some very nice hotels, I hear), but for the most part these islands are only accessible by boat. On my trip we managed to tour the local school, join a pick up basketball game (travelers vs. locals, of course), have a beer and inspect the local fishing traps all on the spur of the moment.

- Spending the night on a deserted island about the size of a baseball diamond after having fished for dinner. We were able to run a line while we sailed, and then used a spear gun once we arrived (which none of us were successful with, except for the captain). It's pretty hard to beat cooking up fresh fish on your own island and then sipping some rum around the bonfire afterwards.
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