16-17-18-19/03/2017, San Blas (Panama)

We had left Cartagena in the dark on a small catamaran and spent almost 24 hours fighting against the drowsiness caused by our anti sickness pills and adjusting our balance while sailing towards Panama. The Caribbean Sea was much more rough than I could have ever imagined. But not the kind of rough people would expect. The waves were huge indeed, not in height but in width. Which didn’t make it easier for those who couldn’t really cope with the boat’s continuous movements. Sunset was approaching, the ice with other backpackers was already kind of broken, the crew was chilling and we were trying our best to keep ourselves busy. When somebody asked for some music to be played, I immediately thought about the new Bonobo album that I downloaded from Spotify few weeks earlier but actually never had the chance to listen. What a choice! The ethereal melodies and beats, the golden sun bringing out the best of every colour, the massive cobalt waves rocking us, the wind blowing on our faces and through our hair, the awareness of being just an infinitesimal speck in comparison to the gigantic vastness of water we were sailing on. One of those moments where each of your senses intensifies as if you’re in control of every single cell of your body and, at the same time, feel one with everything around you. I emptied my mind and just surrendered to the moment, in all of its beauty and uncomplicated magic. Probably that’s why, every time I listen to that album, I feel a shiver down my spine and an unintentional hint of a smile appears on my face.

Saving money to sail from Colombia to Panama and stop on the way directly in paradise (there’s no other way to describe the San Blas archipelago) was, by far, one of the best decisions we made while backpacking around South America (we arranged it with Blue Sailing). Not only for the undeniable astonishment of experiencing the same astounding landscapes that you would find on a cellphone wallpaper or on a travel magazine centrefold. But also for its social side. A side that I really didn’t consider before venturing on the boat, which, eventually, turned out to have an unexpected deep impact on the whole experience.
The thing is, you find yourself sharing with complete strangers a tiny boat where privacy is very little or non-existent and doing everything together (including not showering) for 5 consecutive days. No matter where you come from, how old you are, what your background is, by the end of the trip you end up being a big caring family, where everybody, each at their own stage, had opened up with the others and, most likely, shown their wildest side (right, Fritz?).

Island hopping in San Blas is the opposite of hectic or tiring. You are taken from one heavenly solitary island to the other on board of “your” small catamaran, you spend most of the day saying “O M G, this place is unbelievable!”, you eat awesome meals (fresh ceviche made with the daily catch is the norm), you snorkel (also around sunken shipwrecks) in the most transparent and surreal waters, you sunbathe (actually get burnt, again, no matter how much sunscreen you apply) and play beach volley till sunset on the most desired courts you can possibly think of, you get back on board, feast with more awesome food, get drunk, laugh out loud, listen to incredible music and get inspired by your boat-mates stories… Of course you will have crazy anecdotes to recall once back (plenty), but the thing you will cherish the most will be the overall feel good vibe and carefree attitude.

Canon EOS 300, Fuji Pro 200 / Kodak Pro Image 100 (35)

Olympus OM1, Zuiko 50mm f/1.4, Kodacolor 200 / Lomochrome Purple 100-400 (35)

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April 9, 2018


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