A stone's throw from Panama

Trip Start May 10, 2010
Trip End Apr 20, 2011

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Where I stayed
Campamento Wittenberg

Flag of Colombia  , Chocó,
Monday, June 28, 2010

On the Caribbean side of the troubled Darien gap lies Sapzurro. This tiny village - set in a shallow horseshoe bay with crystal waters - is the last outpost before Panama and Central America and has long been off limits due to muchos paramilitaries and guerillas in the neighborhood. Nowadays the area is becoming more popular with Colombians, but is still little visited by foreigners. Today's absence might well be due to the effort it takes to reach this little paradise: after a full day's drive on mostly unpaved and rough roads, with indigenous women and children filling up the worst potholes in exchange for some change from the few passing vehicules, you spend the night in a dusty port city and get up at 6am next morning in order to secure your place on the morning launch. All this is followed by a bumpy - but spectacular - 3-hour boat ride along the Caribbean coastline of Darien.

The hotel owner of the place where I spent the night before taking the launch recommended me to search for a Frenchman who earns his living with fishing in the morning and renting out hammocks to tourists in his front yard. After hitting the shore of neighbouring village Capurganá, an hour's walk through the jungle brings me over a hill to Sapzurro and the place of Gilbert "el francés".

The next day I am joining Gilbert on his morning fishing trip. After loading the snorkling gear and harpoons (yes, harpoons!) into the boat, we set off to find a good fishing spot along the Panamanian shore. After 3 hours of gazing at so much underwater beauty around the coral reefs (never seen anything like this!) and fatally injuring some fish (sorry!), I'm glad to see that Gilbert has done a better job than me and even more glad when he invites me to join him and his wife for lunch at his house. Needless to say what was on the menu.

Eating is really something to look out for in Sapzurro. Not only because of the freshness of the products, but also because of how a meal is ordered. During the day you look for your personal cook and pick out a nice catch of the day. After that it's deciding how you would like to have your fish prepared (frito, asado, guisado, ahumado, sudado, ... you name it) and then it's just counting the time until dinner gets served!

The border between Colombia and Panama lies just some 50 metres away from Gilbert's doorstep. With Colombian and Panamanian immigration officers sharing a hut and relaxing in their hammocks, this could qualify as the most relaxing boarder crossing in the world. On the other side of the border lies the village of La Miel, on a gorgeous white-sand beach.

Too soon I have to say goodbye to Gilbert and Ana as I'm heading inland for some Colombian city life. Leaving the Caribbean after 7 weeks, I'm sure that I'll be thinking back on my time here on more than one occassion (probably most while climbing some snow-capped mountain in Bolivia or trying to ramm a pickaxe into a Patagonian glacier).

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Ellen on


Wat ben ik zo jaloers op je en wat zou ik daar ook zo graag zijn!!!
Misschien als ik wat centen bij elkaar gespaard krijg, kan ik je misschien eens vergezellen op het einde van het jaar voor een week of 2??
We shall see.
Zo'n vloeiend Engels dat je schrijft, onvoorstelbaar!
Dikke zoen, geniet van de eerste tot de laatste uren van de dag!
Un grande beso

12_months_off on


Leuk om van je te horen! Altijd welkom hé! Het zal dan wel 'n last-minute worden, want ik heb momenteel nog geen flauw idee waar ik tegen het einde van het jaar zal zitten.

Un abrazo fuerte y cuídate

ellen kempenaers on

Geen probleem! Ik volg je reisverhalen wel en we shall see ;-)


Kim on

Hier ging ik normaal gezien ook naartoe! Da plan is toen afgeblazen.

12_months_off on

Da's spijtig, want 'n dikke aanrader. Eén van de absolute hoogtepunten.

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