Finding computer and (decent) internet time has been a challenge between long days in the car, hiking and Kaylee's school work. She prefers to use the computer for math and I am happy to let her do math any way she wants! Also, she uses the computer for Rosetta Stone to keep her Spanish moving along.
Here is a first batch of photos from the next few stops in Colombia. More to come from later stops. Captions are included if you scroll over or start a slide-show. Also, as a reminder, we are using Instagram as well and that is much easier to use with just cell signal, in the car and by phone alone. Our handle on Instagram is @aquavidasail.
As I post this we are in in Cuenca, Ecuador - a lovely city popular with US ex-pats and we can see why. Our SPOT tracker has run out of batteries and so far we have been unable to locate any lithium batteries for replacement. We are hopeful that when we are back in Quito or Bogotá we may find some. The Google map is currently up to date but sometimes falls behind depending on our web-access and time to update - that one I have to manually draw on the computer.
We are having a wonderful time, seeing amazing places and making great new friends, but miss everyone back home. We are looking forward to our return to Santa Marta and trip back to the States in August.
Sorry, we know it's been a long time since a post. I'd like to say it's because we've been so busy, but it is more that our lives settled into an almost normal routine that didn't seem worthy of posting. Kaylee was in school, Ken was helping a few friends with some engineering tasks and I joined the gym. Not too exciting.
Unfortunately the last couple weeks were dominated (at least they seemed to be my me!) by me falling ill and the trials and tribulations to get it diagnosed and treated. About a month ago I noticed my balance being just a touch off. My vision would bounce around a little. Over a couple weeks the vision imbalance worsened until one day my world was spinning and I could not make it stop causing me to throw up over and over. Of course this happened the day Ken left for Bogotá with a friend in search of a vehicle for our next adventure in South America (more later). Kaylee and some good friends here in Santa Marta took great care of me while we worked to find the right doctor for vertigo. I've never experienced anything like that, it was terrible and knocked me down for almost the whole week. We found a wonderful ENT who promptly diagnosed a middle ear infection and some impacted wax. With a prescription in hand, I steadily improved over the next three to four days.
Just as I was starting to be functional again, the same ear - where the wax removal had caused a small sore - started an outer ear infection that became very painful. Once it was bad enough I decided I needed the doctor again, I emailed the doctor hoping to sneak in a quick consultation. When we didn't hear back, we went to the office anyway only to find it was closed in the lead up to Semana Santa, the big holiday week leading up to Easter. That evening as we considered other options, Ken was chatting with a group of men gathered for the weekend fishing tournament. As introductions were made and stories exchanged, one man asked Ken if he was Danielle's husband. Ken said yes, wondering who I could possibly know that he did not since Ken is the more outgoing one of us when it comes to meeting new people and chatting in Spanish. The man said, "I'm doctor Romero, her ear doctor, I've been trying to get a hold of her all day. Is she here?" I was in the boat whimpering in pain. When Kaylee ran to tell me the doctor was here, I could hardly believe it, and so relieved. He looked in my ear with a cell phone flashlight, said 'yep, pretty infected' and wrote me a prescription on a scratch sheet of paper. We couldn't believe our luck running into my doctor right where we literally live, on the dock! Small big-towns everywhere, everyone is connected. Four days later, I am finally a fully functional person again. It's been a long few weeks.
In the meantime;
- We attended a birthday party for one of Kaylee's classmates at a beautiful banana plantation in existence since the 1700's and got a tour of the newly refurbished plantation house, now used as a weekend getaway.
- We spent a lot of time repairing our dinghy - some seams needed gluing
- Kaylee started taking guitar lessons from our favorite local musician, Rolando
- We delivered food from the police food bank to a local community
- Kaylee participated in a tennis tournament
- We bought a truck!
- Ken and Kaylee took a wedding videographer and a couple out sailing to get some drone sailing shots. He has promised us some footage!
- We rescued a puppy and found it a new home. Kaylee named her Luna and she was just about the sweetest thing ever. We hated to give her up, but there was no way we could keep her.
- We took some new and old friends out for a daysail and some nice swimming
- We started planning our next trip
So you may have noticed we bought a truck in the middle of that dissertation on my ear. We decided not long after we arrived in Santa Marta that we would try to get inland to do some exploring of Colombia, hopefully Ecuador and possibly Peru. Putting Kaylee in school delayed that plan a bit, but gave us an opportunity to meet lots of people, make good friends and really plot how we wanted to do the trip. We began the discussion thinking we would do it all by bus and backpack, but started thinking about what it would take to rent or buy our own vehicle and give us a little more flexibility. Renting quickly went away as an option because you cannot cross country lines when renting. One friend, who deals in vehicles, and Ken came up with a plan to buy a 4x4 truck and then our friend would either buy it himself or sell it for us. Sounded great to us! So Ken and Sander headed off to Bogotá to find the truck they were looking for. Three days later and fair amount of bureaucratic hoops jumped, we have our new chariot.
Kaylee's last day of school was Friday. We are using this holiday week to play with friends and let the dust settle from all the holiday traffic. We will secure our boat in the marina and take off inland sometime next week. I promise to be better about posting some pics on Instagram and will try to keep the blog in a little better shape too. Also, the SPOT tracker will be live again, but probably not on the 10-min tracking mode in order to save some battery life.
We should be back in the States (by plane) late summer or early fall and look forward to catching up with everyone!
We've been in Colombia over three weeks now and it's been a whirlwind. From the sight-seeing around town, to Minca and then The Lost City. In between these excursions, we've been catching up on laundry, grocery, school and boat chores. We also had a rattle in the engine that Ken wanted checked out when we arrived. Sergio, the boat yard manager and mechanic has been busy as well, so it was just last week when he finally made it by. He and Ken worked out the probable issue through broken Spanish, a translator and double language barriers - it turns out Sergio is Italian and the locals have a hard time understanding his Spanish. The end result was we needed to haul out to fix a bushing (don't ask me, I don't know the details, but it involved the drive shaft). Normally a haul out requires scheduling days or weeks in advance. When I asked when we could do it, Sergio looked at his watch and said, "How about 15 minutes?" Ugh!! I was not prepared for that. But, 30 minutes later, we were out of the water and work began.
In the midst of all this craziness, our friend Andres whom we met our second night here, introduced us to a private school his family helped found 30 years ago. We toured it, met the principal, teachers and some students. We were all getting excited about the possibility of Kaylee attending for a month or so to get some much needed kid-time as well as the opportunity to really learn some Spanish. All the paperwork was filled out and we were finalizing the details when the school was informed Kaylee would need an official student visa to attend, even as a visitor. So, just before leaving on the 5-day trek to The Lost City, we filed online for the student visa. Upon our return we had the email from Immigration stating everything appeared to be order, all we had to do was . . . go to Bogotá, all three of us, to get her passport stamped. Another ugh!! Bogotá is 600 miles away from Santa Marta, not a simple bus or cab ride. Bogotá was on our list of places to visit, so I guess this was our forced opportunity. After making one last ditch effort at the Santa Marta Immigration office and getting confirmation that, yes, we really did have to go to Bogotá, we made plane and Airbnb reservations for the next day. Off to Bogotá!
Thankfully flying to Bogotá is not hugely more expensive than taking a bus, but much, much faster. The three of us flew round-trip for about $350 combined. We did have an exciting welcome to Bogotá when we aborted our landing just before touching down. None of our Spanish was good enough to understand what the pilot told us over the load speaker, but 20 minutes later we landed without incident. We were now in a city of 8 million at 8,675 feet above sea level - a massive difference from our typical environment.
The next morning we navigated the big city by foot to the Immigration office, thinking we were arriving relatively early, 8:30. As we entered the room and saw the 100-200 chairs 80% occupied, we knew we were in for a wait. We picked up our number and waited. Three hours later we were called to sit down with an official who asked our purpose, studied our passports and asked, "Isn't the entry stamp you already have good enough?" Sheesh! We told him it was good enough for us, but evidently not the school system. After a quick discussion with a supervisor, he returned saying, yes, we really did need it. Whew! Glad we didn't fly to Bogotá for nothing! One more hour of waiting and ta-da, Colombian student visa!
The next couple days we figured out the bus system, visited the Gold Museum, the National Museum and the Salt Cathedral. The Salt Cathedral was our favorite. It's an active salt mine that over the years the miners built chapels and the Stations of the Cross into the mine. It was quite impressive.
Now we are back in Santa Marta settling into a routine as Kaylee starts school. She catches the bus (really a private van) at 6:30 each morning and returns at 3:15, except on Monday and Wednesday when she has tennis after school and doesn't get back to the marina until about 4:30. The school is called Colegio Billengüe Santa Marta (http://www.bilinguesantamarta.edu.co) and caters to families who want their children to learn English. We really want Kaylee to learn Spanish so are a little worried it might be too easy for her to get by just speaking English, but all the non-academic classes (PE, Music, Art, Computer), plus Spanish and Spanish Culture are all taught in Spanish, so she is still getting a lot of exposure. The kids typically speak Spanish unless they are in the English-taught classes (Math, Science, Social Studies, English), so all the lunch and playground time is a lot of Spanish too.
So far she is loving it. She came home so excited the first day saying how great it was and how much fun she had. The kids are super nice and welcoming. She's already being invited over to houses after school - I'm just trying to figure out the best way to communicate with the parents between having a US-based phone number and not speaking a lot of Spanish. Most of the parents do not speak English. She is trying to learn the class dance in record time so she can participate in the Carnival performance next Friday. And, she is working hard on reading, speaking and learning Spanish - let's hope that continues! Lord knows I need a translator :)
The Lost City tour was on our list of must-do's for land-based activities in Colombia. After a week+ of getting acclimated, we decided to join our friends on Nomads for the 5-day hike. First, we checked with the tour company to be sure an 8-year old could go . . . they had no problem with that, and I knew Kaylee would be the least of the three of us who they would have to worry about getting through it from a physical perspective.
The Lost City was not truly lost as is true with most of the indigenous ruins around Central and South America, just abandoned and overgrown. The local indigenous populations were still well aware of its existence. The city was built around 800 by the Tayrona and abandoned in the 1500's when the population was decimated by conflict and disease after interaction with early European settlers. Today, there are four groups of indigenous populations, descended from the Tayrona, who inhabit the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. Here is the wikipedia link for a little more history: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciudad_Perdida
The only way to reach La Ciudad Perdida is by foot (or mule) with one of the four sanctioned tour companies. It is a challenging hike, but made very comfortable by great guides, all food provided, beds with full mosquito netting and the ability to refill water along the way. Now, that isn't to say we weren't completely eaten up by bugs anyway and many in our group experienced stomach issues the last couple days as well.
We loved the group we were matched with; 4 Dutch, 2 English, 1 Aussie, 2 Colombian, 2 Czech, 2 Canadian and 2 other Americans. All but the Czech and Colombians spoke English and almost everyone had passable Spanish, so we managed communication quite well. Kaylee was a social butterfly who bopped around throughout the days, partnering up with whoever happened to be in the front of the pack. She was always waiting for us at the next stop. The group mascot, everyone was really sweet with her. She did an awesome job, we were very proud of her, covering the 30+ miles with a small pack and great attitude. The guides kept asking, 'she's really only 8?'
Bonaire to Colombia
We reluctantly left Bonaire Sunday morning, January 15 after an incredible two weeks of snorkeling, diving and ice cream - home made gelato. It was a 21-hour sail going along the south, then west side of Curacao until finally rounding the northern tip of Aruba. We anchored a bit offshore, flying our yellow Q-flag indicating that we had not checked into the country. Our intent was to stay one night and be on our way to Cabo de Vela the next morning. Our friends on Nomads, Kate and James, arrived in the late afternoon from Curacao and we promptly picked them up by dinghy for a happy hour on our boat. By this time I had reviewed wind forecasts and decided we would stay an additional day to allow the winds and seas to calm a bit more before navigating around the Cape on the north coast of Colombia. Not allowed to go to shore because we did not clear in (customs and immigration), we worked around the boat and rested in preparation for our next overnight to Cabo de Vela.
Wednesday morning we departed with Nomads on an uneventful 30-hour sail. I feel like we are getting better at the longer sails, I dread them less, but it still messes with your sleep patterns so much I end up being awake for stretches in the middle of the night for the next week. We anchored off what can barely be described as a town, more like a conglomeration of lean-to's and shacks. Nomads picked us up and we spent the next few hours walking the one long dirt road and picking a spot for dinner. The three of us had a great dinner (fish or shrimp) with multiple beers and juice for under $30. We were starting to think Colombia may work out to be a pretty good place.
Cabo de Vela
A strangely desolate but beautiful place. A single dirt road lined with hostels and restaurants where you can get a covered hammock on the beach for 7,500 pesos ($2.50) a night. There is also a very active kite boarding school.
Andres was taking us to Minca (a small resort town up in the mountains) for the day, but first we stopped by his uncle's house. The next few pictures are of some animals he fosters for rehabilitation. It was like a little zoo in his courtyard!
La Victoria Coffee Plantation