The Caribbean Sea

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Grenada was our last stop in the Caribbean, and we enjoyed staying a few days in Secret Harbour. We managed a bus ride along with the "Firefly" family, up to some waterfalls where we swam and admired the lovely green forest. St.Georges, the capital town of Grenada, is a wonderful mix of old and new and is rather "ShabbyChic".Walking the narrow streets is an interesting experience, and we could see signs of the last hurricanes`damage on roof tops and trees. They are slowly recoveringafter this hurricane, and work was in progress.

We left Grenada and had a downwind sail to Curacao, one of the Dutch ABC islands. We arrived in the early hours of the morning and ended up motoring around the  entrance to Spanish Waters , as it is almost impossible to see and just as difficult to enter. It is a small rivulet one has to follow as it winds it way into the lagoon. Here the scenery struck us as part of a wild west background , with flat, layered hills and cactuses everywhere. We stayed nearly 2 weeks here, and found some sort of routine wherebythe kids could have school every day from 9-12. This took place at Sara Fundi, the local yacht club, along with some other cruising children. Although the country is very dry and unattractive, it had some of the best snorkelling we have experienced so far.

The main town of.., boasts some spectacular buildings of Dutch Architecture, and it is a World Heritage Site. We visited the museum"Kuna Holandia" which is dedicated to the slaves and their fight for freedom. it was a very moving experience to walk through there and follow  the "middle passage" asi t was called  (the trip across the Atlantic on slave ships), to the day to day treatment of a lot of slaves. They had boxes full of chains and shackles from that time, and a mock hold of a ship where you could experience the cramped living conditions they suffered.Apparently, many slaves were trained in Curacao and then sold on further to countries like Surinam. The population shows signs of slave descendents and they speak Papiemento, as well as Dutch.

Our friend Tom on "Magic roundabout" joined us just before we left and we sailed together to Aruba ,as he was picking up an extra crew member. Aruba is definitely more of a tourist destination, with many hotels and resorts along its coastline. There is no shortage of tax free shops here and the cruise ships stop here regularly. We stayed in the marina  and made use of all their facilities, like using the hotel pools, gym, Laundromat and showers. We were lucky to experience part of a carnival that was set aside mostly for children. The huge trucks played loud music and the kids were all dressed up in costumes, followed by parents who danced and sang.

We had been following the weather very closely, as the trip from Aruba towards Panama can be extremely rough. Leaving on what we thought was a good weather window, proved to be to much for us as we encountered huge swells and 30 -35 knots of wind the first few days. We decided to head towards the Colombian coast as the forecast said the wind would be increasing. We approached the coast of Colombia early in the morning and the sight of the Sierra Nevada, towering over us at 5700m took our breaths away. The wind was gusting off the slopes at 40-50 knots and we sailed comfortably along the coast with a storm jib up. We stopped in a resort town called Rodedero, which is just near Santa Marta.

Once ashore we were greeted by Fernando, who owns the ""Tuk-Tuk" restaurant. He proved to be of great help and organised laundry, garbage and watched our dinghies and boats while we were ashore. Many Colombians come here on holiday, so we felt very safe and were able to walk around freely. Everyone commented on Camilla and Colins blonde hair and blue eyes, and they were asked several times to be photographed. That is probably how the Kogi and Aruahca Indians felt when asked to photograph them. These Indians live high up in the mountains and walk down to the coast, using 3 days each way. They are tiny in stature and the adults were not much bigger than Camilla. They wore white, cotton tunics and had woven bags slung over their shoulders, in which they carried their possessions. We met a family of Kogis who had 5 children with them, all barefoot, who were going to walk back home. Thats 5 hours each day. The kids carried chicks and a puppy in bags slung from their heads.

One of our highlights was a bus trip with Eddy our guide, up into the mountains to the town of Minca. Here we hiked through the forest and swam in rivers and waterfalls. We ate local food wrapped in leaves along the roadside and met a man who tried to sell an armadillo to us for the BBQ! Here we experienced Colombia on a regular Sunday, with people mingling on the streets and enjoying the countryside. We felt so privileged to be able to get a glimpse in this otherwise unvisited country, and the people were so friendly and helpful. Definitely a place to come back and visit again.

Now came the roughest part of our trip westwards, and that was around the tip of Barranquilla and across the mouth of the river Magdalena. It was blowing 40 knots by time we got out there and the water changed colour to a murky green. Counter currents and wind made it very messy and we  were surfing down enormous swells that crept up behind us unexpectedly. Our Genoa halyard somehow broke and our Genoa was held up purely by a reef. The next day we headed to Cartegena to repair our halyard and get our breaths back. Having only stopped there 12 hours, we did not get to see much more than a skyline dotted with skyscrapers and mean looking coastguards with semi automatic guns. We had a pleasant sail to the San blas islands and checked in at Porvenir, where Tom was already anchored, along with a few other yachts. It was a great feeling to finally be here in Panama