Here is a long-overdue short video from our travels through Cuba in January 2017. Cuba was one of the countries most devastated by recent hurricanes. They have been largely skipped in the international aid effort and the United States makes it nearly impossible to help them in any way. We are researching ways to help and will report back if we find something legitimate. Please comment if you have any ideas!!!
When we walked up to the deck after waking up on Day 3 of our cruise, this is the view that greeted us:
We had reached the Comarca Kuna Yala, otherwise known as the Islas San Blas, a pristine chain of paradisaical islands off the Caribbean coast of Panamá. Most islands are totally uninhabited, but those that are are occupied by the Kuna people. The indigenous Kuna have managed to maintain their culture and independence despite over 500 years of outside influence. Their islands are technically part of Panamá but the group maintains a mostly autonomous government.
And their islands are literally PARADISE. For the next two days, I felt like I was living inside a postcard! Fritz cruised us around to several different islands where we lounged on white sand beaches, saw starfish bigger than dinner plates (sadly we didn’t get a picture of one), snorkeled over diverse coral reefs, and caught glimpses of Kuna life.
This is basically what the last two days of the voyage on Fritz the Cat consisted of: snorkeling, lounging, and taking in the beauty! Watching the sun set and the stars come out each night as the anchored boat smoothly bobbed in the ocean was a surreal experience. We also enjoyed lots of fresh seafood bought from the Kuna who would drive up to Fritz the Cat in canoes. On the fourth day, as we were eating lunch, Zach glimpsed a flash of silver in the sunlight. A dolphin! It ended up being three dolphins who swam along side us for several minutes!!! Watching them dart and jump alongside the sailboat was, I think, the most magical experience of our entire trip. The rare privilege of visiting the Islas San Blas was definitely what made the whole Colombia-to-Panamá voyage spectacular.
Pisco is a town 4 hours south of Lima. It was 80% destroyed in a 2007 earthquake and is still barely rebuilt. We thought it might be interesting to see, but there really is not much there! Lots of piles of rubble. This church with a cracked belltower is the oldest building still standing. We were most excited to take a tour to the Islas Ballestas – The Galapagos of Peru.
The Islas Ballestas have been called “The Poor Man’s Galapagos.” I’m not sure they were that cool but we were glad we went. We arranged a tour from Pisco for only 40 Soles ($13) apiece! Here we are, sporting our fat-people life jackets and bandanas in case of bird poop! Thankfully we didn’t suffer any direct hits.
The first stop was this strange ancient carving in a sand dune. No one really knows what it’s supposed to be, but some guess it might be a San Pedro cactus, which was used for spiritual/medicinal rituals by ancient tribes.
We circled the Islas Ballestas for about an hour and saw tons of sea lions, penguins, and other birds! They harvest certain birds’ poop (called “guano”) to be used for fertilizer. For awhile it was Peru’s biggest export!
Sometimes people spot dolphins on the boat ride out to the islands, although unfortunately we didn’t see any. All the penguins and sea lions were fun though! Animals make people so happy; everyone on our boat was smiling the whole time!