Tuesday, 29 May 2012


Day 1
I have been lucky so far – no health problems to speak of but following my trip to Cali I have caught my teacher's cold. Worse, I have a nagging cough and visits to successive chemists seemed to have yielded opposite ends of the spectrum – herbal remedies or self administered injections. I really need an decongestant because the flight to Capurgana turned me deaf and created real pain.

Otherwise it was an uneventful and fun flight. The girl climbing aboard ahead of me sported and inflated tyre-tube to cushion her recently enhance bum and she smiled at me slightly sheepishly. 
benefits of surgery
The landing was more abrupt than I expected and onto no more than a gravel embedded dirt runway.
Sea Otter 15 seater

 Two soldiers failed to greet us with any enthusiasm but scrutinised our documentation noting it slowly and meticulously in a book. I was left aside until last and asked where I was from and how long I would be staying, the former a bit oddly since he had my passport I his hand – maybe a trick question? There is actually quite a lot of army presence here and later I noticed a small bivouac encampment under the trees where automatic rifles had been left carelessly unattended – then I came across two soldiers sharing a joint. Generally the soldiers are young, quiet and amble around in small groups and look pretty unmenacing – but they do go out into the jungle on night patrol and can be seen returning purposefully with full kit in the morning.
ready for action?
I was met by Juan Andres and we walked to the hotel where I was greeted with a cold drink. Capurganar has no cars or trucks and is peaceful except for the occasional motorbike – other forms of transport are walk, bike and horse. I actually think I may be the only guest! - no there are two others but they only stayed one night – it is the 'low season' they explained – this is not entirely bad because I feel I need to be in clinical isolation. Tacacuna Lodge is located alongside what passes for the village green and was the first holiday hotel here established 35 years ago. This is both good and bad – it has now been superseded by some more upmarket competitors nearer the beach but it seems to be an accepted part of the fabric of the place. By contrast to Medallin where locals are inquisitive about foreigners here people treat me with polite indifference – which is fine.

Following a power nap in the hammock on my cabin terrace I dined on a too salty lunch of soup and fried fish and then headed off to explore. Turning right at the Caribbean sea I headed away from Panama and I enjoyed a scenic walk along the coast until I could go no further, saw leaf-cutting ants, lizards crabs and fish in pools and I took some snaps of the views.
leaf cutting ants
Returning to the village – it really needs a deep clean and make over. There are plenty of good parts but also piles of rubble, glass in the park and just untidiness. After a throat soothing ice cream I enjoyed a dip in blood warm sea and happily bobbed and floated to adjacent sounds of bachata and regaton from a nearby cafe.

Day 2

OK, so it is nearly 7pm in the evening and the electricity has knocked out for the third time. I have used plenty of repellent but I think I'm being bitten anyway. Last night was not the best - I slept fitfully and surfaced a 5.30am. Bouts of uncontrollable coughing are sapping at my motivation to do stuff but after breakfast I bought £10 worth of decent medicine and resolved to get on with the day.

Taking my face mask and video camera I headed to the beach and was pleasantly surprised at the number of small fish I could see even quite close to the shore. I played Jacques Cousteau for more than an hour and then tried filming the fish since I had recently realized that my cycling video camera is actually waterproof. This worked out quite well but I tired quickly and headed back for the sanctuary of my hammock.

In the afternoon I walked the coat in the other direction and after a couple of miles came across a wacky house mostly fabricated from driftwood where the owner offered reasonably priced coffee or lemonade, a quiet place to sit and access to a cool fresh water pool. It was worth the walk.

The combined effects of illness and medicine zapped me completely and the rest of the afternoon was spent suspended from 2 posts on my porch, swaying gently in the non existent breeze I resumed the prone state after dinner and that was that.

Days 3 and 4

In the morning I took the launch to Sapzurro, a smaller prettier town set in a bay and about 20 minutes away. From there you can head for La Miel which is in Panama. It is about a 2 mile walk climbing steps to cross the frontier at the top – It is guarded by the Panamanians and they simply take note of your passport details – crossing back isn't a problem. La Miel has a good number of soldiers, probably as many as the towns people which number about 150. There is a small primary school but older children of whom I saw 5 cross the border to school Colombia each day. I would love to see their admissions policy!

La Miel has very nice beaches with white sand I shared a quite large bay with only maybe 5 others eventually returning to Sapzurro where I had hoped for a pizza lunch but due to power cuts settled for el Menu which was surprisingly a nice curry.



La Miel
For my last day I resolved to take the line of least resistance and just hung out at the hotel and on the beach returning Friday morning on a plane somewhat delayed by a storm. Overall it would have been a great trip but I just wasn't in a good shape to enjoy it succumbing to illness, heat and humidity.

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