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  • Writer's pictureFatjax

Preparing for Panama

Santa Marta, Columbia

16th - 23rd  January 2024

Once settled in our berth and the formalities completed, we began the housekeeping duties which are inevitable after a passage.  First stop is always the laundrette.  This is the first meeting place for arriving boats.  Great discussions ensue concerning the most efficient machine, drying times and, being British, the status quo of the queue.  Some of my most meaningful friendships have been forged with the dull hum of the revolving drums ringing in my ear.

Very quickly the fleet arrived in Santa Marta and we had fun while waiting for our date to transit the Panama Canal.  The welcome sundowners are an obligatory part of every evening together.  A chance to share stories of the great adventure across the seas.  The first meetings are always spent discussing the wind angles and point of sail.  During this meeting, the skippers of Bahati and Fatjax had a lot to discuss.  I’m pleased to report having thrashed out the rules of the start line, complete with video footage; by the close of play, Martin and Iain became the best of friends.

Once housekeeping was in order, it was time to look after myself.  An afternoon spent away from the boat was all I needed to feel refreshed and ready for the activities which the World ARC Team had arranged.  One of the many advantages of being part of the rally is not having to organise the group discussion and democratic vote on which tours to join.  The ARC Team arrange it all.  We joined the organised bus tour to Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino. A first for Iain. He truely is embrassing the whole ethos of the World Arc!

We had a local guide, who was very knowledgable about Colombian history.  His attention to the small, everyday details was fascinating giving us a good insight into life in the 1800s in the house where Simon Bolivar died.

The gardens surrounding the house are well maintained making them the ideal place for young girls to have their photos taken for their Quinceanera or coming of age celebrations.

On the way back, we stopped in the city for a walking tour around the main sights of interest, ending the day with drinks and something to eat with our guide and new Arc friends, the Ogilvie family.

Most of the days were spent preparing for the next sail. By day, the usual maintenance jobs were undertaken and a couple of items from The List were tackled, Come evening, we went in search of the local hot spots.  The town comes to life when the sun goes down.  All ages are out enjoying the cool of the evening.  We often found ourselves sitting in a bar while street vendors or entertainers passed by peddling their wares.  I clearly have the look of a wide-eyed green tourist as every small boy selling necklaces made from seeds to troops of acrobats tumbling and balancing, seemed to stop in front of me expecting some sort of payment.  This happened most evenings when Iain, Dugald and I ventured out.  They found it very amusing, especially when the same little boy found me on three different evenings.  I really must learn to stop

grinning and clapping with such enthusiasm! But, I could not help myself.

We were pleasantly surprised by Columbia.  My knowledge of this country was based on out of date Netflix series and documentaries dating back at least two a decades. We found the people welcoming and happy to engage with the many transient travellers frequenting their home.  Like any city there was a contrast between the commercial centre and the urban sprawl, but there was a calmness about the main tourist streets in the city which we found reassuring.

In contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city, a few days later, we went to the Tayrona National Park, in the northern part of Colombia.  This is a protected area covering the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta where it meets the Caribbean coast. For us the highlight was the Pueblito ruins which is a fascinating archaeological site built by the Tayrona civilisation. The site is accessed via forest trails, with terraces and structures.  Again, local guides showed us around the village.

On the way home, we dropped Dugald off at a local all night party venue, where he was meeting his new group of Arc friends.  As he walked down a mud path cut in the hillside, I was  not really sure if we would ever see him again …..

Of course all was fine.  Dugald, Fred and Harri reappeared the next day, a little subdued, but unscathed and full of lasting memories, which are not for us to know.

We were fast approaching the end of our time in Santa Marta.  The last 48 hours were provisioning and prize giving before we left for the San Blas Islands and our next adventure.

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