During my cycling trip from Alaska to Argentina, I ended up sailing from Panama to Colombia. I climbed aboard the Sailing Koala and had a great time visiting the San Blas islands as part of the voyage!
Sailing from Panama to Colombia
Getting from Panama to Colombia with a bicycle presents some difficulty. Namely, the Darien Gap – a swampy marshland with few roads and a popular place for drug runners to shoot their guns off.
The sensible option, is to sail from Panama to Colombia, and so that's what I did!
Boat Ride from Panama to Colombia
I was looking forwards to sailing from Panama to Colombia and seeing the San Blas Islands along the way, and it got off to an early start when the four wheel drive came to pick me up at 04.30 from Zulys hostel in Panama City.
The driver was almost as sleepy as I was, and roping the bike and trailer on top of the four wheel drive seemed to take a very long time! Just as well he tied it on well though, as he then drove like a maniac for the next 4 hours to the coast!
The road was one that would have been possible to ride, but it would have been pretty unpleasant cycling.
There were constant killer ascents and descents, not to mention some rough sections and a waist high river crossing.
I in no way felt guilty for taking the four wheel drive option !
Sailing from Carti in Panama
At the coastal town of Carti, there were some brief formalities to go through, and I was greeted by Fabian, the captain of the Sailing Koala.
The Sailing Koala at just over 30 feet, is not the biggest boat on the ocean, especially when six passengers complete with backpacks and of course my bicycle and trailer are loaded on board. Lets call it cosy!
If you are planning on sailing from Panama to Colombia keep that in mind.
Setting sail from Panama
The first island we visited was little more than an hour from the mainland, which gave us all a chance to get used to the boat, and each other.
On board the Sailing Koala were Roger (Mr. Aquadump) from Holland, Adrian from Germany, Jennel and Laura from Canada, and Marlon also from Holland.
On such a small boat, you make friends quickly, and the Sailing Koala crew was a solid one from beginning to end!
The San Blas Islands near Panama
The first island we headed too, as all the islands in San Blas we visited, is home to members of the Kuna tribe. Fabian prides himself on his contacts with the Kuna community, and it gave us a brief insight into the way they live, eat and are educated.
That the Kuna, one of the smallest races of people on earth should play basketball was quite amusing, but what they lacked in height, they made up for in skill and aggression !
Lunch with the Kuna
Lunch was in one of the Kuna houses, and the staple of rice, beans, potatoes and fish would become a familiar feature over the following days.
The following day, we headed to another island… and what an island it was !!
Remarkably, they even had cold beer…. that came in handy !!