Sapzurro, Colombia – Bitter Sweet

As detailed in one of our previous posts we had some difficulty checking in to Colombia. Not from paperwork issues but from knowledge issues.  Since then I’ve sent all the info to Noonsite so they could update their ports of entry in Colombia. Sapzurro wasn’t listed on their site  but we knew from local knowledge that we could enter and exit Colombia here.

Tied to Shore

Tied to Shore

Successfully cleared in now we moved the boat closer to shore and out of the surge. Surge in harbors can end up causing the boat to roll back and forth making living aboard difficult and living with W/ close to impossible. We upped anchor and squeezed in between a local Catamaran and a back packer boat named Esmeralda.  Once we had the anchor down we dug some spare lines out of the bilge, tied them together and ran it to shore tying it to a tree. Thus,  any surge in the harbor would simply make us pitch a bit (bow to stern) and reduce the roll to almost zero.  However there is a downside to this arrangement.

W/and I HATE bugs.  No See Um’s and Mosquitoes are not prone to increasing anyone’s marital harmony. This close to shore we were now needing to fight the bugs with a physical impediment and  so we put up screens which by the way also reduces air flow. A reduced air flow means hotter nights. Yuck! We fought having to put up screens as long as possible; however the No See Um’s were munching on W/ like she was an all night diner.  The bites alone weren’t enough to drive her insane but there seemed to be some left over effect that during the day she was constantly itchy. So we did three things, we switched soaps wondering if the bugs didn’t just like the soap she was washing with and her skin chemistry, we setup the screens up earlier and we lit a Citrenalla candle inside before we put the screens up.  The three pronged attack seemed to be working and we were surviving in this harbor and ready to enjoy the village.

Going ashore caused me constant consternation. I’m not one for walking beaches. The almost  microscopic sand seems to find places in my hairy legs (yes I don’t shave my legs not being that Urbane)  and I simply abhor getting sand on the boat. However, we either rowed the hard dinghy to the town; a long way away, or we walked the beach. We like walking more then rowing so the beach was it. There we met Jorge  who is a local legend; writer and teacher at the cultural center. He is basically retired but one would never know it. He speaks English (lucky us) and was the Colombian Consulate at their embassy in Panama. We shared many visits with him gathering the things to do and the people to see and the places to go; places to get food, and remember this is Dave and Wendy, so principally it was the places to eat. Finally, we would have something more then Coconut Rice and fried something!

Waterfall, Sapzurro, Colombia

Waterfall, Sapzurro, Colombia

Additionally there were four hikes one could take; over the mountain to Capurgana, to a waterfall, to the Western most point of the harbor and over the Western mountain into Panama and the Beach Miel.  As for restaurants there are half a dozen or so and the best is out by the point.  Basic fare is Fried Red Snapper with rice and salad (not much different than in Kuna Yala but it was much tastier) and then shrimp or  Ceviche. We tried most all the restaurants. 🙂

Ironically; while there are no vehicles in Sapzurro, mostly no roads but wide walk ways, no planes or trains, there is 3G phone service. That means we can communicate with the outside world. After anchoring one of the first things we did was to see about getting a new SIM card. That purchased we then found a place to eat.

Food often being the number one priority; especially of anyone over 30 we sat down at a restaurant where we saw what looked to have some tasty fare. We watched what another customer had just received and when we tried to order we said “That one!”  But as in many small towns we were no longer in a place where service people cater to the

Best Value across from Mystic Roots

Best Value across from Mystic Roots

international tourist. Spanish was the language of the day and discovering what was on the Menu (they didn’t have a physical menu) was tantamount to W/ hitting a 150 mph serve in tennis.  We waited, and tried and waited and finally when the wait staff actually seemed to tire of us we got lucky. The waitress actually asked if someone else in the restaurant could speak English and help. A young college girl (Carolina) offered and she helped make our day. We ordered and Carolina was concerned enough to check and make sure all was well and make sure we knew how much the meal was.  40,000 pesos.  (Rate was 1,750/ US dollar).  We left stuffed. W/ left half her fish.  We left thankful for people like Carolina. We could have easily split one meal. I don’t know if we’re actually eating that much less or if they’re simply serving that much more.

Satisfied we returned to the boat to discover that the SIM card needs to have more money added so we can subscribe to the Data Plan. Back to town… tomorrow. Now we read, rest, read, rest, repeat.

Eventually we get the SIM card working and now have internet only to discover that on the dongle it’s EDGE and the iPhone 3g. So I spend time getting the phone to act as a hotspot; 3g is many times faster then EDGE and eventually I sort it all out. And what we see when the internet is all sorted is we have weather coming.  Specifically rain.  In all the 30 some odd days we hung out here I’m guessing we had half  the days with rain stretching all the way from a drizzle to  a frog strangler.

Wendy Bailing the Dinghy

Wendy Bailing the Dinghy

Therein we were able to read to our hearts content. After about two weeks here we had two straight days of rain, yeah, it was off and on some but mostly on. This  provided us with a spectacular breach in the beach.  We had had so much rain the night before that the marsh area behind the beach filled up with water leaving the beach to act as a filter and dam, cleaning the fresh water as it made it’s way to the bay and holding back the excess. As we were having breakfast we heard this sudden sound of a waterfall. W/ can’t let any change in noise go unnoticed so she sticks her head out of the companionway and says “Oh my God!”.  She rarely ever say’s something calmly like “Dave, you have to see the water coming across the beach”. Immediately I rise to look and see if we’re alright

Start of the Beach Breach

Start of the Beach Breach

believing that there may well be a wall of water approaching the boat and we have to cut the lines and leave now. Instead I see a break in the beach. The break is close to where we’ve tied the line shore and Jorge has wandered over to take a look. He signals us to move a bit farther off  as the water is pulling a great deal of sand with it and we’re not really interested in being surrounded by sand and stuck aground. I let out some more of the line that holds us to the shore and we move another 50′ away.  The breach continues on for an hour or so and then the following several days water continues to trickle out. The light wave action begins to build the damn back up. Jorge indicated that this actually happens several times a year.

Jorge Checking out the Breach

Jorge Checking out the Breach

We find a break in the weather and decided to stroll to the waterfall. At one time the fall was much more active but now the town plumbs to the lake behind it and removes water for their use. However; we did enjoy the falls; after all the rain there was some activity there and the cool water was pleasant  to walk in,  small fish were swimming in the pools immediately below the falls. I wish I had a net and small bowl. I would  like to have seen the fish, see if I could have identified any of them as similar to those we sold in our pet store years ago. Fighting bugs we quickly made way back to town and to try out a new restaurant.

Carlos Enrique Fish Ceviche

Carlos Enrique Fish Ceviche

A short walk from town  we go to the  Carlos Enrique Giraldo Garbner restaurant. It  is said to be the nicest restaurant there and indeed IMHO it was. We each had a guava drink, and salad, while my main course was  Fish Ceviche and W/ had Snapper in a Mango Sauce.  Our cost was 50,000 Pesos. We were the only ones at the restaurant. Luckily we had waited till after the Easter festivities. There didn’t appear much in the way of

Carlos Enrique's Mango Snapper

Carlos Enrique's Mango Snapper

religious celebrations but the town was hopping with hikers, campers and tourists in general. Mostly during that time we hung on the boat. For us the worst part of the holiday was the constant LOUD music played over any number of the speakers at the waterfront. Fortunately, by midnight and 3 am respectively the music stopped and we were able to find some rest. We found the best value restaurant acroos from the Mystic Roots, a hidden place between town and the beach on the west side. We found the most interesting fare at an new place on the East side of town where you could get Pizza’s, Hamburgers and Lasgana of all things.  The pizza we had twice!

Colombian Pizza

Colombian Pizza

We walked the beach, taste tested many of the restaurants, and did some small boat projects for most of the month. Shortly after we had had enough we went to check out of the country. Jorge had helped arrange a launcha to take us around to Capurgana at 7 am and there we could check out and then make our way back to Panama. What should be easy never is.

We arrived in Capurgana early in the am and went to check out when Immigration opened. The sign said 9 so we found a small place for breakfast and had a bite.  Chasing the bugs, cats and dogs away from our food we finished and then meandered back to Immigration to be informed that they were open but couldn’t do anything, no electricity!  When will they have electricity? Maybe 11 or 12. We walk some more. We cover most of the town’s streets and find a nice Hotel / Restaurant ( Las Mananitas ) on the waterfront where we sit and have a couple of fruit drinks. About noon now we wander back to Immigration and they now say the electric will be on at 2!  Dealing with elastic time in the Caribbean can become quite a challenge.  We wander some more, eat lunch at another restaurant and thankfully they exchange some pesos for dollars as we’re just about out of Colombian money. We hadn’t  planned on being here all day and needed 30,000 pesos to pay for the launch to return to the boat.  Well feed, overstuffed actually, and with a lack of burning any real calories we waited some more  for 2 pm to roll around.  We soon find our selves back at immigration near 2 and are now 3rd and 4th in line.  Ok, wait some more.  Two o’clock rolls around and viola, shortly there after they have power! Finally,  hopefully, we figure we will indeed get the paper work completed and  head back to Panama.

A few minutes later the Immigration Officer comes out and says “The computers are not working, it will be at least another hour!”

As time passes we’re getting more and more depressed. We’re wondering if we’ll have to return another day. Our launch was suppose to leave at 2. We spoke with the owner in our broken Spanish and he understood it should be by 3. He said “No Problem”. Now he wanders by the immigration office, sees us waiting and the  Immigration  Officer tells him it should be by 4. Kindly he indicates that still  it’s no problem and we wait.

By now there are about 20 people waiting for immigration to stamp passports.  We are still 3rd and 4th in line but the rules seem to change. Lines are only for those that believe in them.  Close to 3 somehow, something in the connections for the PC’s seemed to work and a cheer went up as their system finally booted.  The officer motions us forward but me being the dummy, went to let the two that were there before us go, instead, some others ran ahead.  Damn am I dumb.

W/ keeps telling me to quit worrying but I’m afraid their system might crash as well. We’ve gone from being 3 and 4, to about 6 and 7. But as I am big I make a valiant attempt to block anyone else getting in front of me.  Our turn eventually arrives and we sit down in front of the officer, he looks at our papers, scans the passport, and stamps everything related to our leaving. With much “Thanks” we leave relieved.

Back to the launch where we wait again to head back to the boat. This wait is sweet. We know we’ll get there, there is no more worries about delays. We watch as others board their launch to go to Obaldia, Panama and we eventually return to the boat. We check the weather.

Tomorrow doesn’t look good, looks like more rain, and from what I can tell it looks like more rain the following day. We prepare anyway. One day we’ll have what looks to be the weather we want.  We understand that Colombia wishes one to leave within 48 hours after receiving their clearance papers but all mariners understand weather can be an issue and to our knowledge no one has been hassled about the time spent waiting. We take the inflatable ashore and clean the bottom. We’ll tow it to our first anchorage so a clean bottom means an easier tow.

That night for some odd reason the music starts up again. It’s Tuesday night. It was loud. Some songs we know, some not. Some Latin songs, some English that are sung in Spanish, but mostly LOUD.  The rains came in the early morn and just about the same time the music shut down. Ahh….. blessed rest.  The following night we end up with the same thing. LOUD music except tonight the music has changed from Latin and POP to TechNO.  And more than that it appears that the tape is an 8 track or something like that playing  over and over and over again.  Too, it was LOUD. So loud I got a decibel meter downloaded to the iPad and found it to be on our boat as loud as the generator, 70-80 decibels. It was LOUD enough that on the other end of the harbor where we were it would rattle some of the locker doors!  Not only that it didn’t stop at 3 am, it went on, till 4, then till 5, then till 6 then…..  . W/ and I decided even if it rained we had to go.

By 7 am the music was still reverberating in  the harbor and we had pulled in our line from shore, upped anchor and were heading out of the harbor. Not till we were around the headlands did we stop hearing the noise. By now it was no longer music for us. Fortunately we had a day without rain but also a day without wind. We motored to Puerto Escoses. There, there was no music, no restaurants, no town and a peaceful night of blessed sleep.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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