A Travellerspoint blog

The Voyage of the Stahlratte

And Paradise Found

sunny 32 °C
View Blissfully Wanderlost on ebmarnp's travel map.

The last few days have been nothing but amazing for Kevin and I, and our travels on the Stahlratte (the Steel Rat in German) have certainly been a highlight of our journey so far.

We started out early on the 22nd from Panama City. We were picked up by a 4X4 in which we were packed like sardines with five other travelers. The next three hours, for me, were filled with a combination of nausea and fear as we were hurled up and down curving roads, through a mountain range, on a road that was often not paved but in the process of being washed away. The drive occurred during a torrential downpour during which the 4X4's one working windshield wiper struggled against the monsoon. I do believe visibility was down to five feet at one point but our dauntless driver continued to plunge us ahead at dizzying speeds. After three hours we were able to disembark from the roller coaster from hell, and were quickly herded onto dingys and driven to the Stahlratte.

Video to the ship here.

A brief history of the boat: Built in the Netherlands in 1903, the original purpose of this vessel was for fishing. Since then it has changed owners many times. In 1984 it was bought by a non-profit organization Verein zur Foerderung der Segelschiffahrt (Association of Advancement for Sailing Navigation) and made its home in Germany, although the ship hasn't been home in the last 18 years. Instead it makes several trips a year between Panama, Colombia, and Cuba. The captain, Ludvig, joked about his passport looking very suspicious.

This 40 meter (130 foot) vessel with a crew of three took all 22 of us on board and not once did we feel crowded on the ship! I did have some worries about sharing one toilet with 24 other people, but my fears were misguided.

Stahlratte_153.jpg

We threaded our way through the San Blas Islands that evening. This is an archipelago comprised of378 islands and cays, of which only 49 are inhabited by the Kuna Indians. We were told by a resident that 52,000 natives inhabit the islands, making their houses look like barnacles clinging to rock:

Picture of homes

We traveled for three hours, during which Kevin and I scrambled up into the crow's nest and took an amazing video.

Stahlratte_016.jpg

Then, we arrived in paradise (aka, Coco Bandero).

Stahlratte_026.jpg

Stahlratte_028.jpg

Stahlratte_033.jpg

Stahlratte_039.jpg

Stahlratte_044.jpg

The next 24 hours were spent in a world you really only see on postcards and I never expected to see in my life. The water was completely clear up to a depth of 30 feet. The small islands contained brilliant white sand and soft shade from coconut palms. There were plenty of fish to swim and snorkle with. The waves were always gentle and the water was not too warm. Phosphorescence glittered in the water at night and the tide is non-existent. It's hard to describe how tranquil and gorgeous the setting was; I hope some of this is conveyed in the photos!

Stahlratte_053.jpg

Stahlratte_055.jpg

Stahlratte_076.jpg

We were treated to a bonfire on an island one night, midnight swimming with the starfish, excellent daily meals, and other jovial passengers who were thrilled to soak in the beauty of San Blas.

We both hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving. We were thinking of family and friends on Thursday as we feasted on freshly grilled fish.

We had a wonderful surprise on our last day of sailing when we saw a small pod (6-7) of dolphins dancing on the Stahlratte's waves. The video is here.

Our four day tour came to an end, and on the last night we slept on deck where we gazed at endless stars and were rocked to sleep by the ship crashing through the ocean.

Stahlratte_162.jpg

We awakened the morning of the 25th to the skyline of Cartagena, Colombia.

Stahlratte_170.jpg

We will be here in Colombia for the next five weeks, but I think we left our hearts back on the San Blas Isles.

Posted by ebmarnp 04:53 Archived in Panama Tagged boat beach swimming Comments (5)

A day at the mall, a night on the town

semi-overcast 29 °C

We beat the most recent soaking tropical depression by hitting up the famous Albrook mall yesterday. Our real reason: to see the latest Justin Timberlake sci-fi flick (I mean, is there anything this guy can't do, with or without a box?!).

tattoo_jus..toos_18.jpg

The city's water supply was shut off all day and night so most of the city's half a million residents came to the mall to use the restroom I reckon.

Most of them rode this Franklin County school district bus with us.

IMG_3094.jpg IMG_3096.jpgIMG_3097.jpg

After I grew tired of marveling at modern plumbing at the mall, Liz got some free hugs. Abrazos gratis!

Then last night, to celebrate the birth of my niece and our second month abroad, we took a trip down to the happening Calle Uruguay to the Hotel Manrey, where we promptly partied like manroyalty

IMG_3134.jpg

with the freakin' Gipsy Kings!

I killed the batteries on my camera taking movie after movie of the concert, the best of which is probably this section of Bamboleo.

We didn't leave till the last string broke.

Posted by kevindhodges 07:12 Archived in Panama Tagged music mall celebration hugs Comments (3)

Panamanian Panorama

Continuing to enjoy the city

rain 28 °C
View Blissfully Wanderlost on ebmarnp's travel map.

We continue to enjoy the many sights and sounds of the city, including the local fish market where we had absolutely amazing ceviche:

9Dominical_014.jpg

We spotted Kevin's restaurant:

6Dominical_015.jpg

We were also introduced to the professional world of darts by a friendly American who reviews dart-friendly bars and pubs around the world. We quickly found, thanks to him, that we are AMAZING dart players and we are ready to enter the local dart league when we return home!

Dominical_008.jpg

We continue to find beautiful art and murals at unusual locations, such as at the large park we exercise:

Dominical_002.jpg

Dominical_003.jpg

Dominical_004.jpg

This guy seemed out of place on top of a home construction business:

Dominical_006.jpg

We continue to enjoy the dichotomy of architecture within the city. Skyscrapers appear to glare across the city at the crumbling colonial mansions:

IMG_3046.jpg

And there were certainly plenty of glorious homes which have sagged far beyond what anyone could easily repair:
IMG_3067.jpg

Although there has been (and continues to be) a lot of ongoing renovation of the old section of the city, it seems the locals would like funds allocated to other projects:

IMG_3045.jpg

IMG_3048.jpg

More beautiful pictures of this very fun city:

IMG_3021.jpg

IMG_3059.jpg

IMG_3063.jpg

IMG_3074.jpgs

We have a few more fun-filled days here before we board our boat to Colombia! More to come soon....

Posted by ebmarnp 12:39 Archived in Panama Tagged buildings fish darts Comments (2)

A man, a plan, a travel blog: Panama?!

sunny 23 °C

After a lovely and lazy two weeks in Dominical, Costa Rica we decided it was time to head south to Panama.

Our final days on the beach were spent hanging out...

IMG_2992.jpg

exercising with friends...

IMG_2999.jpgIMG_3000.jpg

and touring around the countryside in our magic bus.

IMG_3007.jpg

But life can't be all mangoes and unrefrigerated cream, can it? Onward to Panama, I say!

IMG_3013.jpg

Where's my hair??? Oh, yeah. It froze off on the 15-hour meat locker ride on Tica Bus from San Jose to Panama City. I felt like Martin Short in Inner Space.

innerspace2fg2.jpg

So there we were in Panama City!

IMG_3014.jpg

Or was it Miami?

IMG_3043.jpg

Nope, it's the Panama.

Lovely, Panama City, where urban renewal, traffic, and shopping malls make you feel like you're right back at home in the good old USA. And then you see this thing,

IMG_3034.jpg

And eat a $2 lunch at this place,

IMG_3078.jpg

And huh?

IMG_3023.jpg

And then you realize you're not in Kansas City anymore. You're in a vibrant, Americanized, sprawling, and schizophrenic metropolis,

IMG_3046.jpg

where you find the occasional bullet hole in the window next to the tourist sights of the old town in Casco Viejo, dollars are the accepted currency at the local Hard Rock Cafe, and you can still get a room with A/C and a flat screen tv for $30/night in the cushy Coco del Mar district at Panama by Luis.

We're not here for the canal or the causeway or the casino. We're here for the $3 block of pepper jack cheese and the Belgian beer at the 24 hour supermarket down the street. For after two months on the road, those are the things that road-weary travelers most appreciate.

Cheese is expensive and impossible to find in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
--Every traveler who's ever been there.

Oh yeah, the rain has stopped.

Posted by kevindhodges 03:10 Archived in Panama Tagged urban games american Comments (2)

Kevin gets a haircut from Liz

And a beautiful beach...

semi-overcast 33 °C
View Blissfully Wanderlost on ebmarnp's travel map.

Lets start with the beach story first. It's far less extreme!

Two days ago we took a bus with an American couple and traveled south 15km to Marino Ballena National Park. In the map it is the green area adjacent to Uvita.

This is an absolutely gorgeous beach with silky sand and rolling, tranquil waves.
Dominical_010.jpg

Dominical_011.jpg

Dominical_007.jpg

We spent several hours there until we were chased away by the rain. It was a nice change from the large waves and strong currents here in Dominical.

Well, onto the moment I am sure you have been waiting for, Kevin's big haircut. We couldn't find a barber so we had to improvise. Kevin had been complaining for the last week that he felt like he was wearing a sheep on his head. The pictures tell the whole story:

Dominical_012.jpg

Dominical_013.jpg

Dominical_014.jpg

Dominical_015.jpg

Dominical_016.jpg

Video for your enjoyment here.

Kevin offered to cut my hair for me but I politely declined. I will keep my sheep on my head and if it gets too hot, I'm coming home!

Posted by ebmarnp 12:15 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged beach haircut Comments (6)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 40) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 5 6 7 8 »