A perfect week

Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
Trip End Dec 18, 2011

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Flag of Colombia  , Choco,
Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I absolutely loved Capurgana and I'm so happy that we made the decision to come here. It's a little out of the way and awkward to get to (rubbish buses and boat journeys) but because we have 5 weeks in Colombia it was relatively easy to fit this into the timetable. After an awful night bus from Medellin (freezing aircon that even 3 layers and a down jacket couldn’t help) we arrived in Turbo, a totally uninspiring place, at 5 in the morning.  We then had to wait around for 3.5 hours for our 3 hour boat to Capurgana.  We did this with apprehension as the boat ride is supposedly terrible causing serious back injuries due to the boat slamming down every time it hits a wave.  Luckily for us we picked a good day and the journey was so gentle I actually fell asleep on the boat. 

When we arrived we dumped our bags with the diving school where Kevin was going to do his PADI and set off down the beach looking for somewhere with a pool where I could chill out for the 4 days Kevin was under water.  Despite there only being one boat per day, so a definite time when tourists may arrive, there was a distinct lack of owners about as we approached a couple of places.  However we finally found Darius Cabanas, which turned out to be an amazing choice of place – a good price including breakfast, a pool, and a gorgeous room.  Unfortunately we were faced with a midday trek back to town and then back again with our heavy bags (always whinging)!  After lunch prepared by a neighbour – the first of many amazing fish dinners – we sat around the pool for the rest of the day.  I can tell the next few days are going to be tough!   

That night there was the most amazing storm I’ve ever seen (until the one 5 days later).  The rain was heavy, the room was almost constantly light due to the excessive lightening and the thunder was scarily loud – absolutely no chance to sleep!  The next day we both got up early a little bleary eyed to have breakfast together and then Kevin headed off to his lesson.  I had barely arrived at the pool and started reading when he arrived back – there was no power in town due to the storm so he couldn’t watch the video.  As he had to do that before his pool lesson there was no need for him to be there!!  

The next day Kevin headed off again, the power still off, hoping he could go in the pool because he had read the whole Open Water text book instead (thrilling!).  As I am rubbish at doing nothing I couldn’t face another day by the pool – yes already – so I decided to walk to Aguacate, a smaller beach a bit south of Capurgana.  The owner of our hostel said it was pretty easy to get to and that it was safe!  Well….around the time I thought I’d lost the path 2 lads appeared who also had no idea which way to go but luckily one of them was Colombian and sorted it out pretty quickly by asking the locals.  Apparently the path was obvious it just involved jumping over rocks and balancing on logs!  I ended up walking the rest of the way with them.  It was uneventful except for when we came across an apparently deadly brown snake, which a local fisherman unceremoniously stoned to death.  Lovely.  The Colombian guy, JP (Juan Pablo) is originally from Cali but has lived in the US since he was 13, and the other guy was English and called Matt.  We arrived in Aguacate and to be honest were a little underwhelmed. There was no beach to sit on and not really anywhere to go swimming.  It’s actually just a place with a couple of more upmarket places to stay for richer tourists.  Luckily for us though we managed to talk our way onto 3 peoples boat tour to a private beach, an island covered in bird shit (?) and conveniently back to Capurgana.  

As Kevin was diving again the next day (this time in the sea) and I didn’t want to sit by the pool, I arranged to go walking again with JP and Matt.  This time it was an hour walk through the jungle on the hottest day yet to the next town along called Sapzurro.  The exciting thing about Sapzurro is that it borders Panama and the first town La Miel lets you in without the formalities of a border crossing, they just write your name down (and in my case my Indian visa information because they couldn’t find my photo page!).  I’m not a massive beach person anyway, but given the 'hype’ about La Miel Playa Blanca I was a little underwhelmed with the beach.  It was smaller and more packed than we expected, and there was really loud rave music coming from one of the little huts.  The boys weren’t impressed either so after an hour we headed back to Sapzurro and picked up a boat to Capurgana.  
On Kevin’s last day diving I went out with him on the boat for the first dive just to see him in the gear.  As it did every night it had rained the night before and as we walked down the beach we suddenly realised that the river had broken through into the sea and had made a wide fast running channel.  It was too dangerous to walk through so we back tracked to walk to town inland.  On the first day we had walked this way and it was easy to cross the river over some stones, but this was also no longer possible.  We had to balance across a fallen tree and then walk down a number of flooded streets before we finally made it!  When I was dropped back after Kevin’s first dive the plan was to walk to the waterfall inland from Capurgana but we couldn’t be bothered – it was too hot - so I just hung out with the lads.  That night there was an even bigger storm than the one the first night and as the weather didn’t clear very early the next day we didn’t really do much at all.  We spent our last couple of days visiting more places, firstly a hidden place about a 45 minute’s walk north along the coast recommended by Matt, which is a house a guy has built out of driftwood, where you can sit in pools and drink fresh lemonade.  It was interesting and different and we saw lots of bright green little frogs on the way there and back!  Our last day we went walking to La Miel so that Kevin could have the novelty of walking to Panama.  Although it was slightly quieter than the first time, they cranked the music up after a couple of hours which we decided was our cue to leave! 

As we arrived for our boat the next morning back to Turbo, a little sad at having to leave Capurgana, the wind started to pick up and we watched with nervousness as the waves got bigger and bigger and the rain came down.  About half an hour after we were supposed to leave it calmed down somewhat so they got the boat ready to go – first taking down the roof.  Good so that it didn’t blow off, but we had no cover from the rain!  The first hour was pretty interesting – coming off wave after wave and slamming down onto the surface with wind and rain whipping past us.  It wasn’t the most comfortable I have to say not to mention we kept thinking we would lose Kevin’s bag over the side as we watched it fly into the air every time, but it was entertaining and the last hour and a half was fine

(Kevin's Capurgana) 
I don’t want to extend Liz’s already lengthy entry(!) but thought I had to say a few bits about the diving.  I was a little worried about it as I think I have a small bit of claustrophobia and wasn’t sure how I’d handle it. The first time I went under water breathing from the tank I must say I had a bit of a panic attack. Even though I was only in a 5 foot deep swimming pool the sensation of breathing underwater with the bubbles rushing past your ears combined with the tension of thinking I might not be able to do it all combined to get my heart and breathing flying and I had to lift my head straight back out. I got my breath back pretty quick and the rest of the time in the pool was fine. As I was on my own, a benefit of doing your PADI in Capurgana, we got through the pool stuff pretty quick. The next day we were out to do the open water dives. Another great reason to do your PADI in Capurgana is the reef is only a few minutes from the town so for all four of my dives we went to different parts of the reef and never had to spend much time on the boat. My first descent the panic came back. We went down about five meters and I just felt I couldn’t catch my breath. Excitement mixed with fear and panic. I signalled to Jimmy, my instructor, I wanted to go back up. He tried to get me to calm down but I was having none of it and just wanted a big gasp of air so up we went. Thankfully I got my breath back, Jimmy just told me to trust the gear and the next time down I was fine. Still breathing fast but ok. In each of the next 3 dives we started with different exercises as part of the PADI course including things like buoyancy control, clearing your flooded mask and simulating running out of air. All went smoothly and after this bit in each dive we went for a tour along the reef. It really is incredible the life under water. They say you see more wildlife in 10 mins on a reef than 10 hours in a jungle and I can believe it. Most things don’t run away from you and over the 2 days I saw barracudas, sting rays, angel fish, rock fish, eels, octopus, and on the 3rd dive we spent the whole thing navigating through a maze of hundreds of stinging jellyfish like something out of Finding Nemo! I really loved it and will definitely go diving again. Capurgana, although more expensive than Taganga to do your PADI, is great. Smaller groups (I was on my own), closer, more varied and better condition reef (apparently) make it worth it. Jimmy was brilliant (you’d hope so as he’s done about 2,500 dives he thinks!) and Dive and Green were very organised and all the gear looked good to my untrained eye. Looking forward to hopefully doing a few more dives when we do head over to Taganga!
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