This is without one of the top highlights of our world adventures!!! The best five days ever....!
And thats after a decidedly shakey start...when we were forced to turn back after more than 7 hours at sea after we suddenly found ourselves caught in a fierce, and pretty scary, hurricane in the middle of the ocean.
Cue dark skies, thunder, lightening, much side to side rocking action, water coming over the sides, a worried looking Captain and four out of the six pale-faced passengers chucking up over the sides! Born sailors. Not. At. All.
So we headed back to the safety of shore where we waited a couple more days until the storm passed over before getting up at 6am once again for another shot at sailing glory. This time it was quote Paula "schweeeeet" with perfect sailing weather, clear blue sunshine and not a sick bucket in sight.
We sailed for two days across the ocean including through the night which was quite odd. Just us on a wee boat in the middle of nowhere with just the light of the moon and millions of stars to guide us. That and the autopilot. We all had to take turns doing nightwatch incase of collision with other boats or whales(!) so we lay up on the deck spotting shooting stars and flying fish until the sun came up all orange and pink behind us. Incredible!
During the days everyone lazed around sunning themselves and knocking back our very own homemade mojitos with real mint to ward off the ever present threat of scurvy while Paula cooked up magic feasts in the teeny kitchen.
By nightfall on the end of the second day at sea we reached the Archipielago of San Blas which is a strip of 365 paradise desert islands (yep one for every day of the year) - Survivor was filmed near here tv trivia fans - ringed with white sand beaches, turquoise water and covered in coconut trees that stretches from the Gulf of San Blas right to the edge of the Columbian border owned and run by one of the largest indigenous groups in Latin America known as the Kuna.
Everyone was awake by 7am and in the soup by 7.05am.....and it was one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen. We were moored in a perfectly blue bay surrounded by a handful of tiny islands and a ring of reef protecting us from the big breakers of the ocean.
After a breakfast up on deck, we spent the morning snorkelling and sunbathing on our very own desert island after buying four massive lobsters from the Kuna 'grocery' canoe for the bargain price of $10!! And at lunch we sampled the freshest sushi ever after Marcos speared a trigger fish from the boat and cut it up right in front of us to sample which was a bit gruesome but oh, so very tasty!
Full to bursting of fish tacos and ice cold beers we took off on an 'adventure snorkel' on the outside of the reef. It was a little nerve-wrecking leaving the calm safety of the bay and being out in the big waves again, especially after spotting two pretty largish sharks scouting out the left over lunch fish guts directly under our boat!!
Snorkelled on the outside for a while checking out the cool fish and fighting against being dashed to death on the reef before we headed back inside for some more chilled underwater exploration. Not that seeing another pretty big shark swimming straight us left us entirely chilled! Leah was back in the boat quicker than you could say 'Jaws'. It was OK though, just a lemon shark, oh, thats OK then! In the evening we feasted on our lobster......ah blissful....before all hitting our bunks!
Second day, we were abandoned on a true desert island, just a pile of sand, not even a meagre coconut tree, leaving us to pull out all our best survivor skills stops and fashion a shelter using equipment to hand which we succeeded in admirably. So Tom Hanks eat your heart out!
Next stop, more snorkelling shortly before 'grouper gate' rocked the group. Our captain-slash-fish hunter of the deep speared a massive grouper fish - one of the biggest fish we have ever seen - and one of our crowd was really upset about it.
Awkwardness, accusations of unnecessary hunting and explanations led to some somewhat embarrassed shuffling in the dingey while the huge beast flapped around round our feet with a spear through its head. Admittedly, it seemed sad to see such a massive creature speared, but at the end of the day we are not vegetarian and it's hard to see how this is any worse than killing and eating the trigger fish the day before. Besides its was just so darned tasty!
Anyway, the long and short of it was, apologies all round, objections on both sides duly noted, and peace once more restored to paradise bay!
In the afternoon, after another fab fish feast, we visited the nearby inhabited Kuna island where we had strange spanglish conversations with the two families that lived there and Tim kept one young girl in hysterical laughter. Not sure whether it was his odd-looking new beach shoes that gave him seal feet or his beard, but something tickled her.
Arrived back at the boat for the much promised and anticipated magnificant turkey feast with stuffing and everything! Who said backpackering round the world is roughing it!
For our last evening Paula hosted a belated party for her and Leah's birthday, involving a rude amount of homemade cocktails, cake, lots of rum and some drunken dancing lessons to the dulcet tones of Shakira! Oh yeah!
Left the beauty of the bay early in the morning sailing down the coast towards the capital Por Venir, the smallest 'capital' ever, with an even smaller airstrip! Moved ashore for our first much needed showers in way too long and spent the evening playing cards before losing the electricity and crashing into bed more content than I could ever have imagined!
Final morning in the San Blas, we bid a sad salute to our captain and began the arduous journey to Panama City. One extremely rough boat crossing, a somewhat smoother canoe ride and a four hour bumpy jeep ride and we finally reached civilisation.....