31-7 April – Cartagena to Panama on “Santana”

I’m now in Panama City having completed the boat trip. It was excellent. The map seems to have gone funny as it still shows me in Cartagena)

Panama City is a surprise. It is a vibrant modern city with a skyline like Surfers Paradise. More about that later.

On 31 March, sixteen passengers plus Azulo set sail around 8.00 am from Cartagena heading for Panama aboard Santana, under the command of Captain Giesbert.

Santana in Cartagena

The sky was blue and there was a light wind. Good sailing weather and not too rough

Captain Giesbert at the helm

Captain Giesbert and his Crew (Luis) briefed us and showed us our allocated beds.

I was allocated to a double bed in the middle of the cabin with “ARCHIE”, a 68 year old EX RAF Pom.

Me and Archie...Not my FIRST choice!

This was perhaps, NOT my first choice!….. From Archie’s viewpoint it wasn’t perfect either as (apparently) I kept snoring!

He was such a “gentleman” so instead of just kicking me, he kept waking me up asking me in his best English, if I would kindly find a “new position”

Needless to say, everybody on the boat found this hillarious!

The first two days and one night were sailing days. We lazed on the deck or chatted.

It was a really good group…..A good mix of girls and blokes….some singles and some couples. Archie was the oldest at 68….followed by yours truly! ….The rest were mostly in their 20’s!

Most of the group...and Azulo (of course)

There was one Austrian (Tanja) two Americans (Ami and Lisa) One Israeli (Manu) one French (Anat)  Two Aussies  (Ben and me) one German (Maika) One Dutch (Juul) One Panamanian (Amalia) and six Swiss ( Dani and Carina,( My friends from Las Lagas)… Ines and Domenico, Niclas, and Mike.

Some of the group

Captain Giesbert checking up on Azulo


At around 3.00pm on the second day, we dropped anchor beside two beautiful palm studded islands.

San Blas Islands (there are 378 of them!)

We had arrived at the San Blas Islands

We all jumped in as it was very hot. We walked around the islands and snorkeled etc. We were told NOT to pick coconuts…Apparently every tree is actually the property of a family!

In he goes!

The next day we headed off to another Island and repeated the process. All very relaxing

The third day was raining all day so we played cards most of the day! ( Wendy, you would be proud of me as I won…twice!)

Playing a card game that became known as "Miserable Coote"

“Geoff Heffner” also re-appeared and rounded up the girls!

"Geoff Heffner" was having a good time!

At around 3.00 we landed at Puerto Lindo on the Panamanian Coast.

We then had the orderal of getting Azulo off the boat!

The photo’s don’t really show the drama of the whole event. There were five blokes “pressed” by Giesbert to help.

We literally had to carry Azulo off the boat and into a little launch. I was sure Azulo was about to have a swim….! However, all was OK and we chugged to the shore and had to repeat the process.

Getting Azulo off the Santana wasn't easy!

My heart was in my mouth!

In the launch now but we've still got to get him to shore!

Needless to say I was pleased to have Azulo safely on shore…. and he must have thought so too and started on the first turn of the key!

Puerto Lindo is a tiny little Port in a pretty estuary. Actually it reminded me of the Hawkesbury River in Sydney (except the prices are a little lower!)

Ben and Adnat (Australia) and Ami (USA) in Puerto Lindo

That night we stayed in a little Hostel in Puerto Lindo

Hostel at Puerto Lindo

We had dinner in a house up the street. The lady cooked a very satisfactory fish dinner with rice and vegetables all for $3.00.

Dinner at Puerto Lindo...Cost $40.00 for all of us!

She apologised that it was so expensive and told us how expensive fish had become!

It seemed that everybody in the town was out and about and having fun. There were kids everywhere playing and having fun.  The adults  too were out and about  chatting and cooking and laughing.

It is a happy place to be and the weather is hot and balmy…a bit too humid for me though!

“Geoff Heffner” said goodbye to the group the next day and “he” and Azulo headed for Panama City.

Saying goodbye to Geoff Heffner in Puerto Lindo

The last word on the boat…The Captain and Luis were absolutely first class and the boat was professionally operated. Nothing shonky about Giesbert’s  boat!  The food was very good and there was plenty. I think my waist line has expanded again!

As said earlier I was very surprised at Panama City. It is obviously doing very well and it feels like the wealthiest City I have seen on this Continent….presumably because of the Canal revenue.

I visited the Canal today accompanied by a really nice 19 year old German Girl, Doerty, who is the only other resident of the Hostel. It’s Good Friday and EVERYTHING is closed.

Miraflores Locke, Panama Canal

Miraflores Locke Panama canal

Panama City Skyline

After visiting the Canal (which is very interesting by the way) we went to the “trendy” part of town… Casca Viejo…. It’s nice but it seems to be a suburb under reconstruction. Maybe in 10 years time it will be better.

Casca Vejo, Panama City

Tomorrow, weather permitting I will start the ride north. I am uncertain what to do as I’m running out of time. I currently have a flight from LA on 5 May. To meet that flight I will have to get there before the end of April as I have to ship the bike.

It is a bit far to go in three weeks (nearly 6,000 kms)

My options seem to be either to extend the trip by a couple of weeks or to ship the bike from Central America somewhere and miss Mexico. I’m not sure whether there IS anywhere to ship from so If you have any suggestions please let me know!




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