Electric storms, flirting with Jamaica and the San Blas. Part I of II.


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Published: November 27th 2013
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Part I

Wow, we'd not been in Colombia a week and we decided THIS was going to be the place.

In 1990 Colombia was one of the worlds most dangerous countries and Medellin, one of its biggest cities, was the most dangerous city in the world. Fast forward 23 years and the country we found ourselves in had changed quite a bit. The people are more than making up for lost time by being far and away the most friendliest we've come across so far, something our Ecuadorian mother Beatriz told us to expect. Also the landscape we've come across up to now has been jaw droppingly immense.

Our first stop off was a quiet town called Ipiales about 20mins away from the border of Ecuador and a town that had a cathedral located just about 15 mins from its centre. This cathedral was called Las Lajas and a lot of people tend to miss the cathedral because of the town being so quiet but we've been telling everyone we've met since to go. I originally saw a picture of the cathedral on a website aptly called 'amazing places on earth' and wanted to see it ever since. Built by the Spanish between 1916 and 1949 (sounds like a Horbury job!) it's set in-between a canyon on a river and it looks like a genuine Disney castle...........

Now, that's as far as this blog was going until I totally stopped writing and I now find myself sitting on Professor Sonja's porch in Northern Nicaragua in the middle of a huge storm that is literally tearing the road up in front of me. Big cracking lightening and deafening thunder bolts are smacking off the hill up ahead and I'm actually quite scared. Professor Sonja says not to worry though, so I'll start to get worried when she does. A heard of cows have just walked past me, fingers crossed one of them will get struck then it'll be steak for tea!

Since we last spoke about 3 and a half months ago Laura and me have been engrossed in this travelling lark. We've done all four corners of Colombia and finished our South American leg with probably our favourite country. We've recently been on a cross-dressed tour of a rum factory, we had our tent flattened and all our belongings soaked through by another electrical storm we got caught in. We've swapped our clothes for drinks, we crossed the border into Panama through the Darian Gap, home to the notorious FARC guerrillas whilst island hopping in the San Blas and with that changed continents into Central America and met some friends for life. Laura has fell down a toilet. We've had some memorable nights out in Panama City, a place that resembles a mini American metropolis and we moved onto Costa Rica where we learned to surf and I very nearly drowned trying to swim out to an island just off the coast when a wave picked me up and smashed me against its rocks. Laura has nursed me through Dengue fever and we've caught, scaled, gutted and cooked our own fish to perfection that we've eaten with coconut bread and curry sauce.

So where shall I start?

I'll try and work backwards from here so's not to miss a great deal I reckon. Although I probably will.

Professor Sonja is a lovely woman that's letting us stay in her house for the night along with her football mad son (we earlier watched AC Milan v Barcelona play out a 1-1 draw) as tomorrow were hoping to go down an old gold mine, I'll have to see if I can get hold of a transistor radio, seen as though I already have my brown eyed girl, as the song goes. Though if this storm holds out we might have to chalk on the idea but I'm equally up for carrying on sitting on this porch and watching the storm.

We sadly left our good friends yesterday who we had been travelling with since leaving Colombia. Joe and Georgie were on our San Blas islands trip with us and we parted yesterday after having a MacDonald's. We had promised ourselves a Maccies after spending 12 hours on a night boat back from the corn islands where we slept in some hammocks that were violently swinging back and forth and I kept swinging and smashing into the fat bloke at the side of me. He was snoring that bad though I actually found my self trying to get the hammock to swing more so I could bang into him and wake him up. At first I thought he was putting the noise on! It was ridiculous, everyone on the boat was laughing at him and
equally giving me a look that said 'Glad I'm not sleeping where you are pal!'

Continuing my streak of toilet related mini-stories running throughout our blogs it was during this night while we were swaying ourselves to sleep that I woke up desperately needing the toilet. My stomach was doing that bubbling thing and I needed to go right NOW. I was suspended nearly 6ft in the air with the floor below me covered in people that decided against wildly swinging theirselves to sleep. Other travellers, local men, women and children and some dogs were all crammed into and around one and other on the floor and god only knows how I managed to avoid landing on any skulls or limbs as I jumped from my hammock sweating profusely and trying to nip my arse cheeks together. "'Scuse me, sorry, lo siento, disculpe, sorry pal, pardon me...." Speaking loud enough to be heard yet quiet enough not to wake the entire boat up. I had definitely stood on a few arms and legs as I legged it to the front of the boat which as well as carrying us all back to dry land was also carrying crates and crates of sweaty fish. I made it to the captains room and screamed something like "DONDE ES EL BAÑO?!" When he motioned that the toilet was back the way I came. It was then that a little old fella who could obviously sense my need directed me towards the ships bog.

Now, for anyone on that boat that reads this and went to toilet after I had used it then I'm truly sorry. I would normally never leave such a mess.

It was pitch black and the light in the toilet was only a little red one, one that I can only describe was giving about as much light as the ones that indicate the doors are locked in a black cab. So not much. And it was flickering. The room the bog was in was just big enough to fit me in, it stunk to high heaven of piss and the whole room was swaying viciously with the sway of the boat. It was like I was in some sort of toilet horror film, swaying around, slipping off, shitting all over with a little red light flickering on and off above me causing all sorts of mayhem. I frantically looked for a flush when I had finished but I could hardly see anything at all because of the flickering light. After searching though I found that there was no flush. And there was no toilet paper. Just a bin. Now this boat that we found ourselves on was bringing us back from the Corn Islands, an absolutely beautiful place consisting of two small islands in the middle of the Caribbean, but they did have a lot of Mosquitos. It was because of these Mosquitos that I went to sleep in my hammock that night with a long sleeved shirt being used as trousers to cover up my legs from getting bitten. I had packed all my trousers at the bottom of my big bag and could not be arsed to dig all the way to the bottom of my bag to dig them out so I found my long sleeved top that I had bought to stop the Mozzy's getting to me in the jungle and fashioned it into a pair of trendy kegs. Someone was looking out for me I'm sure as it was this top that came to my no toilet paper rescue. It was a cool looking shirt, but needs must, so I mopped up my mucky behind with my top and placed it in the bin. It was not until after I opened the toilet door back into the sweet smell of sweaty fish that it dawned on what a mess I must have left. So naturally I quickly shut the door and darted passed all the people I had earlier stood on and went back to a swinging sleep full of relief and tried to forget about what had just happened.

As I'm working backwards please keep up with me, It was whilst we were in a place called Leon in Central Nicaragua that we decided to head to the Corn Islands and back to the Caribbean coast that we had been missing since we did our San Blas tour. It was in Leon that we were still travelling with some friends who we had met on the San Blas tour, Chris and his girlfriend Ally. Chris had a brilliant drunken idea one night that we should put our names in a hat and whoever you pulled out you had to dress that person up how you saw fit to go
on a tour of the nearby Flor de Caña rum factory. To those that are not rum enthusiasts. Flor de Caña is the worlds most awarded rum and is considered amongst the worlds best. So, with Chris, a proud Kiwi, dressed as an Australian, Ally dressed in a floral suit-jacket ensemble, Georgie dressed as a 90's wannabe pop star complete with silver shirt and multi coloured shorts, Joey and me dressed as old women and Laura made-up in a Hawaii Five-O number we headed for the tour. Although not before we absconded a kid from Reading called Phil and dressed him up in a gold sequinned waistcoat and a fez hat. The tour was fairly tame to be fair, I had it in my head it was going to be some sort of massive rum fest but we only got 6 free drinks (I think you are supposed to only have 2 so I don't think we did too bad to be fair) then after the tour we naturally bought a bottle of every year they had in the gift shop (4, 10, 12 and 15) and spent the night thinking we were some sort of rum connoisseurs and getting bladdered as it was to be our last night with Chris and Ally as they had to move onwards and continue their travels in a different direction. They are planning for some unknown reason to move to England once their travels are over so no doubt we'll meet again and I promised Chris I'd take him to a Barnsley match to sample the pies so it's not the last we'll see of them both I'm sure. It was on this hangover that Joey, Georgie, Laura and me had started our jaunt to the Corn Islands and embarked on yet another memorable boat journey.

We had travelled through the night on a bus where Joey and me slept on the floor and arrived at a ticket office in a place called Rama around 4am. We had to wait for the office to open at 8am and buy a shuttle-boat ticket to a place called Bluefields where we would hopefully get a boat straight to the Corn Islands. We did not want to spend any more time than we needed to in Bluefields as we heard it was dangerous and we actually got lucky and managed to get on a big
fishing boat that was literally just leaving as we pulled up so we quickly jumped on not having the slightest idea what we were about to embark on.

The day had started well enough, getting straight onto a huge fishing boat that was leaving straight for the Corn Islands was a result in anyone's book. We were even more chuffed of our good fortune when a local bloke with one eye whose name was Billy told us that the week before someone had chopped someone's head off in the middle of Bluefields. Good job we were leaving that place after 5 minutes then!

Apparently it's against the law in Nicaragua for passengers to travel on boats without a life jacket. Not that I'm against breaking such laws but if you could have seen the boats we passed, surely some sort of Boat MOT should be enforced as well as personal safety measures. I think over here its a case of 'The boat your on is due to sink sometime soon, so you must wear a vest'. From what we could see though nobody had a vest on, so we went with the flow. We had to make a little stop 20 minutes after setting off at a floating petrol station to fill up then we were off.

It was to take 6 hours altogether but 4 of those hours had passed already and we had only been at sea 20 minutes and stopped at the petrol station for the rest of the time. I have no idea what was going off but when we were stopped at this station for some reason a woman who looked about 94 years old and what looked like her grandchildren had to be smuggled off the huge boat and into a little rowing boat that everyone was being very hush-hush about. God knows what was going on but the old woman and her grand kids looked quite happy as they all started rowing the little boat away from us and into the middle of the sea??

It was absolutely baking on that deck of the boat and we had no water between us at all. Georgie had flaked out behind a crate of fish and Joey, Loz and me were sat with one-eyed Billy who seemed to be stealing oranges out of a sack that someone else was taking to the islands to sell but the oranges were probably the only thing that were stopping us from dehydrating to death so there were no objections from us. What I haven't mentioned up to now is the accent of the people that we had found ourselves immersed in. Being in the middle of the Caribbean the local tongue was a language called Creole and is what people might ascertain to sound like that of people of Jamaican descent and it was brilliant finding ourselves sailing out into the middle of the sea with people all around us shouting and talking rapidly going "Mon, I ain't be taking ya oranges mon, I got me own..." And the old men arguing with their wives on the boat "I ain't be knowin' ow long we gonna stood ere Galdem!" It was definitely entertaining and helped pass the time listening and joining with conversation as we were still stood at this frigging floating petrol station going insane from the heat. Joey and me got a tour of the captains controls by our new mate Billy while we were waiting, although I do think the captain was a bit dubious what Billy was doing up in
his cabin as I don't think they knew each other as well as Billy was making out.

After god knows how long, must have been 5 hours or more for no reason whatsoever other than from what I could gather possibly someone from somewhere official was able to see the boat passing further up ahead and we had to wait for them to leave so we didn't get done for having a boat full of passengers with no life-vests, when really all it should have been carrying was fish. I was half thinking about jumping in and swimming after that old woman and her grand kids when we eventually chuntered off.

I had just remarked on how we were lucky to be at sea during rainy season and have such a clear sky when the engine cut out on the boat and the biggest blackest cloud you could ever wish to see emptied its load over us and we were stuck, bobbing up and down as the sun was going in getting soaked to the bone. Then the sun did go in and it went totally dark and it started thundering and lightening directly over where we were. I had stopped smoking since I could remember when but when the bloke at the side of me lit one up and offered me one I didn't say no. Convinced this massive iron lightening-attracting vessel was going to conduct us all to smithereens and whilst the locals were shouting at one and other with their sleeves rolled up, elbow deep in engine oil I pulled on my cigarette honestly thinking the next puff was going to be my last. As Laura lay spark out at the side of Georgie against the crate of fish oblivious to it all Joey and me were smoking and watching as the storm passed straight over us, then all of a sudden the motor started up and a puff of black smoke blew up into the air and we were on our way again. The lightening was passing directly over our heads in the sky and hitting in the sea at either sides of us as the engine then cut out yet again. You could literally see the water splash up out of the sea as the lightening was hitting the water. This time though the boat was up and running again as quickly as it cut out and eventually after 10 and 1/2 hours we reached Big Corn Island, the biggest of the 2 Corn Islands. We jumped off the fishing boat and got straight into the nearest hostel and I went to bed with the ceiling flashing like the sky had been doing for the past 4 hours.

It was here and on Little Corn Island, the smallest of the 2 islands, where Georgie, Joey, Laura and me spent just under two weeks. We were only supposed to be there for a shorter time but I got Dengue fever and couldn't move for 6 days and was still fairly bad from it the rest of the time we were there.

I was that weak I couldn't take the lid off a bottle of water and Laura had to feed me, and god bless her, she kept tearing herself away from the white sandy beaches to come and check on me. I was either burning up and hallucinating or freezing cold and jabbering. My head was killing It honestly felt like my skull was splitting and my brain was swelling and forcing my eyes out of their sockets and for some reason I couldn't lay on my left side. It hurt to move and breathe my kidneys were throbbing and it's easily the sickest and worst I have ever felt. I wasn't spewing anything up and running to the toilet, I was just sweating like a madman. I was sweating that much Loz turned the mattress round and it was still damp on the other side! God it was frigging horrible. Laura was a god send though and really did look after me. It's apparently passed from Mosquitos so it was time to get some better repellant. I always seem to get bitten loads, I think my blood is too thick for the Caribbean climate.

It was on Big Corn Island and before the Dengue got a hold of me that we had heard of a boat called 'Ladies Night' that left the island for Jamaica every ten days. It apparently transports lobster and fish and some old bloke had told Joey that it may be a possibility that it could take people on board for the 3 day journey over to Bob Marley territory. That was it. All four of us were fantasising of getting on a boat to take us on another adventure for 3 days to Jamaica where we could further sun ourselves and go and see if we could find Robert Marleys house. We just needed to find out who owned this 'Ladies Night' boat and our adventure could be on. So, Joey, Georgie, Laura and me went over to the massive fishing port that occupied one side of the whole island and asked the shotgun armed security guard if we could speak to the boss of Ladies Night about the possibility of getting to Jamaica. We half expected to be turned away and told not to be so stupid when the security guard went "Of course Mon, his name be Pierre, he be da boss, go straight down dere and up de stairs in a room on da left, he should be in there mon..." We did as he said but when we got to his room some big woman stood at a photocopying machine and said Pierre wasn't in although he should be back soon if we wanted to wait downstairs. We were on our way down the stairs when Pierre turned up on a moped and we couldn't help ourselves but surround him and
enquire about 'Ladies Night'. Sadly though he said he wasn't able to get us to Jamaica and said we should forget about the whole idea. We were then dejectedly walking out of the big fishing complex when a massive bloke with hands the size of shovels introduced himself as Hank, a fisherman from Honduras who had overheard our Jamaica pleas and said it wasn't Pierre we should be speaking to, it was Captain George Morgan. Hank said Captain Morgan owned the entire fishing company that occupied the whole side of this island and Hank said that Captain Morgan (could it be the same one the rum was named after?) lived in a big house round the corner and we should maybe give him a knock on his door. Basically with Pierre we'd been speaking to the monkey, when we needed to speak with the organ grinder! The shotgun clad security guard then said that Captain Morgan was due in the offices at 5pm later that day as he had some meetings to attend to and we should try our luck with him around that time. So we killed some time by having some 80p tacos and set out how we were going to wrangle our way to Jamaica. Joey flirted with the idea that we were due at our friends wedding that we could not miss but in the end we decided we would be honest and just go all out and beg him to let us on. 5pm came and we decided it'd be best to let the boys talk, man to man like, with Captain Morgan and the girls would go and get our bags out of our room incase we got lucky. Joey and me walked past the security guard with the shotgun giving him a confident look and made our way to another side of the big fishing complex that we had visited earlier. This side was much bigger and had and air of opulence about it that was not mached by what I suddenly realised we were wearing. Joey had on a Rolling Stones vest and some short, tight bright green swimming shorts straight out of the Club Tropicana video by WHAM in the 80's and I was wearing the Hawaii Five-O shirt Laura had worn for the fancy dress rum tour. There was no turning back now though as the receptionist brought us in
to the swanky offices and asked us to be seated and Captain Morgan would be with us straight away. The two receptionists were surprisingly unalarmed by our dress sense and were extremely polite and accommodating, then the phone rang and the receptionist said Apprentice style that "Captain Morgan would see us now". We went in and opened the door and were met by a stern but friendly looking fat man that was sat in a grand chair in a way that clearly showed he had something majorly wrong with his back. Got to have been an old fishing accident I thought. Or maybe he put it out chasing Moby Dick. "Please, sit down, how can I help you boys?" he said straight away, clocking we weren't of the local Creole tongue. That's when Joey set off in his George Michael shorts saying that we had been travelling nearly 8 months all the way from Argentina and it was our dream to reach Jamaica and we now found ourselves so, so close. I said that some old boy from the town had told us about the Ladies Night boat and we wanted very much to able to ride it all the
way to Jamaica. We even explained that we would be deck hands and work all hours he wanted to cement our place on the boat along with our also non-work shy girlfriends. (I would have loved to have known exactly what he thought we could have done and what was going through his head as we were explaining that we could work on the boat, what with all our nautical knowledge and our extensive experience of exactly 1 previous boat ride that had ended practically in tears) Captain Morgan, who said to please call him George, seemed actually pleased to engage in conversation with us, he did say though to start with that there was absolutely no way we would be able to get us to Jamaica on board his boats. His boats were strictly prohibited from taking passengers, they only took fish. It took the boat 3 days to get there, it would arrive in the morning at the dock in Jamaica then that night it would return back to Big Corn Island on the return leg for another 3 days. He obviously saw our hearts sink and our heads drop and apologised. He did say if he could,
he definitely would but he told us not to give up on the dream, he himself had been travelling many years ago and his passion for fishing had took him all over the world. It was actually Joey and me who had ended the conversation, not Captain Morgan as I thought would happen along with a swift 'Don't you two come back!'.

But we left his plush office with his big fancy desk ornaments empty handed but with our heads held high that although dressed like complete twats an obviously very busy and important man had given us more than just his time of day. He had welcomed us and then sent us on our way with a belly full of fresh sea air and a cheery smile. I did forget to ask him though if he was the Captain Morgan that adorned the rum bottle but I think it is. A man of his stature surely doesn't get to where he is solely on fish... Joey then realised that he had told him it had been our dream to get to Jamaica after travelling all the way from Argentina, when surely if it was our dream to get to Jamaica from Argentina we could have just flown from Buenos Aries. We had a laugh and went to tell the girls that we were returning fruitless.

Before our Corn Islands adventure with its memorable and non-existent boat trips we had spent 2 nights sleeping inside the mouth of a volcano in a place called Largo de Apollo.

The crater of the volcano is a huge lagoon that's over 170meters deep and the middle of the lagoon is the deepest point in the whole of Central America. It has various species of fish living in it, is clean and warm enough to swim in and the place where we were staying even had a floating jetty that we would swim out to and jump off in-between playing volley ball on the beach. We met a strange Mexican fella here called Miguel who had dreadlocks and stunk to Kingdom come but he was very good at volley ball and he had a cool drum. His drum was made of steel and the noise it made was incredible. I've never heard anything like it, really distinctive sounding but unlike anything I've ever heard before. It's called a Chakra drum and
apparently the drum is made by a group of vegan religious-like people and to buy the drum the person wanting it must write a letter explaining why they want it (?) and the religious-like cult will then either accept or deny the request and then and only then can payment be made and they will fabricate the drum to the size you want - being either big, small or medium. Miguel's was medium. But in the end he said he bought it from ebay which went against everything he previously said and led me to believe he was full of shit, but it was a cool piece of kit anyways and it sounded good. That night we got smashed on piña coladas and made some music much to the delight of a local old man who had joined us from the beach and took out a triangle from his pocket and played along whilst barking like a dog. I think the number one spot at the top of the charts is safe for now.

Before we that we stayed for a couple of uneventful days in a place called Granada with time spent chilling out and watching some films. And before that we stayed in a place called Isla de Omatepe which is an island formed by two huge volcanos rising out of a lake. There are villages and communities that have settled there and live on the volcanos. We only spent two days here but did go swimming in some natural springs and had mountains of unbelievable food at a place called Maria's for 90 Córdobas which is £2.27! On our last day we had breakfast at Maria's before we very nearly missed our bus to take us to the boat to take us off the island.

Then before we did that we spent a fair bit of time on the Pacific side in a place called San Juan del Sur which was our first town in Nicaragua since we crossed over from Costa Rica and somewhere where we had to say bye to one of the nicest, soundest blokes I've ever met.

Born in Poland but now living far too close to America for his liking by residing in Canada, Jarek was, again, someone who we had met during our San Blas trip and will hopefully be someone who I will stay in touch with and Jarek if you ever find yourself in England mate, get up north. Me Casa su Casa.

Days and nights were spent with Jarek and Joey quoting our favourite TV programme, The Office and nights often ended up with us being absolutely blind drunk. One night in particular sticks out when Jarek lost his trusty crocs (don't hold it against him that he chooses to wear such footwear) after we thought it'd be a good idea at 3 in the morning to go and have a beer whilst stood in the sea. We were stood with our tops off in the cool pacific waters with the moonlight shining down on the boats that were docked in the bay. It was absolutely beautiful, not a sound could be heard, only the waves lapping at our legs whilst swigging on a nice cold beer. We stood and chatted and just watched for ages. Until Joey threw up then all the sea was doing was lapping at us with the contents of Joeys stomach splashing against us. Joey is a southerner though so I suppose it was inevitable his beer would come back up at some point!

That was to be
our last night together with Jarek as he had to fly back to Canada the day after. Earlier on that night I made him a send off Thai green curry and we had a sing along with a small guitar called a ukulele that a little fella called Stuart from Charlton had brought to the table. Stuart had earlier tried to play Adele on the ukulele pretty unsuccessfully so we snatched it off him and got everybody going with a bit of Crocodile Rock by Elton John which is probably the best sing along drunk song ever recorded. This seemed to make Stuart a little uneasy though so he took his ukulele and went to bed. He seemed to be like a child that had lost at football who was taking his ball home, but then again he was no bigger than an 8 year old and suffered from LMS. Joey had to explain to everybody that not all people from the south are of similar ilk, they just can't handle their drink.

Before San Juan del Sur and before Nicaragua altogether Chris, Ally, Joey, Georgie, Jarek, Laura and me spent a couple of nights in the only town
we stayed in whilst in Costa Rica, Puerto Viejo.

Costa Rica seemed a bit different to everywhere else where we had been and I did enjoy it but something didn't sit right. Then Jarek hit the nail on the head when he discovered that we were basically in a place where American people go for their holidays. It was more like a resort than an actual living, breathing, real town. The place really had been geared towards making money from Americanos. Don't get me wrong it was a gorgeous place but everything like the road signs and meals on the menus were written first in English, then in Spanish and all the prices were in dollars aswell. We managed to take part in our first pub quiz though whilst we have been travelling (those of you that have been following our blogs will know we had attempted a pub quiz a couple of times whilst in Lima, Peru) but most of the questions were about American related sports or American pop 'music'. The quiz wasn't helped by an absolute arsehole of bloke called Brighton, who we renamed Southampton, who was generally just being a big, loud American tit. Don't
get me wrong whilst Laura and myself have been travelling we have met some great American folk and I don't mean to give them a bad name it's just it seemed the loudest, fattest most obnoxious Americans were all in this town all at once. It's a shame as it was the only place we stayed whilst in Costa Rica so I can't really pass judgement on the country as a whole but it is ridiculously overpriced and sadly from what I saw seems devoid of portraying any of its culture or past and instead is really leaning towards making money from tourists rather than showing itself off and what it has to offer.

While we were in Puerto Viejo we stayed in a cool hostel called La Ruca owned by a couple called Danni & Dave and we learned to surf well I say 'surf' both Laura and me managed to stand up on the surfboard which I reckon is a pretty mean feat considering we did not have one lesson from anybody. Chris and Joey picked it up straightaway and they were both really good. There was also a little island that was just off the coast
that had some drops where you could do some cliff jumping it was only a 10-15 minute swim out from the beach and if the water was calm it was was fairly easy to climb on to. So said Dave anyway, who kindly gave us two body boards to share between us as he said it would be easier to swim out to the island with them rather than without. So Chris, Ally, Joey, Laura and me set off for this island with the water being calm as you like. Laura then decided against it after swimming for about 3 minutes because she didn't like not being able to see the bottom of the sea floor. It was when we got close to the island that the waves increased in size and we couldn't find a definite way up and onto it. Eventually, round the other side we found a little cove bit with a little incline that looked as though it was the way up. Round this side though the waves were coming thick and fast and really were picking us up and throwing us round a bit. We swam towards the cove but the waves were making it
like a washing machine on a full wash and with the sharp jagged rocks we really should have just turned round and swam back. Both Chris and me though thought we could make it up and onto the island in between the waves that were relentlessly smashing over us. 1.....2.....3..... GO! We both swam like mad, I managed to cling onto one side of the cove and Chris grabbed hold of the other and we were on, just about. I had both hands clung on and my left foot in a space and suddenly noticed the rocks in the cove was filled with sea urchins, covered in those huge black purpley spikes. I didn't have enough time to work out a route past them all when a wave flew over the top of the little cove and pounded me and Chris off our perch. It forced Chris down into the water and smashed me back against the rocks. Chris said that it forced him that far down he didn't think he was going to come back up again and when he did come up another wave pummelled him again back under. He managed to swim out of the cove bit and to the relative safety of the open water. I was lucky I only got away with a scraped back as if it had been my head it had smashed against the rocks I might not have been able to swim back. I was also lucky I managed to miss the urchins as apparently the sting hurts like you wouldn't believe and the spike splinters when it sticks in, meaning its difficult to pull them out. I think it took us half the time it took us to get out to the island as it did to get back as we all again swam like mad but Joey and me swam to the wrong point of the beach and got washed up on some sharp coral. We couldn't stand up as the coral that was all over the floor was that sharp and we couldn't swim as the water was too shallow. We had to use the body boards Dave had given us to bum-shuffle over the sharpest bits of the coral, all the time the waves knocking us off the boards and onto the coral until we eventually made it to sand and managed to walk back out of
the sea and onto the beach.

Sea 1 - Mick 0.

Before our death defying feats we spent a few nights in a place called Bocas del Torro drinking and cooking nice food and went on a day trip to a nice little island with a nice beach where Joey and me persuaded a bloke who owned an old wooden canoe to let us take it out to sea. We were going to see if we could paddle it all the way round the island but the canoe sank after we were about 20 mins off the coast. It was littered with holes and I'm sure as we were desperately trying to keep the canoe afloat I could hear the old bloke who lent it us laughing his head off on the beach. We managed to signal for help and a another local man who had a little wooden boat with an engine on came to our rescue. He didn't look impressed but we assured him we would be taking this up with the bloke who had let us out in it in the first place. Reading this back I know how daft it sounds swimming out to islands and taking old boats out to sea, but honestly, at the time they both seemed like good ideas.

Then before alllll that was not only by far and away the highlight of our trip but, for me anyway, the greatest experience of my life so far. The San Blas......



Thanks for reading this and sorry for the wait since our last blog. Part II coming soon we promise!



Mick & Loz

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