Tips & Tricks to help you plan your next adventure
We got up early on our last morning in Cartagena to jump on a bus to Montereia as the first step in heading towards Capurgana on the Caribbean Colombia/Panama border. We knew the day would be a bit of an ordeal and only had some vague info from other blogs. We were pretty under prepared.
First bus left Cartagena at 8:45, ran on time and we ended up in Monteria around 1:30. Nearly everyone in the depot seemed quite surprised/concerned for the 3 gringos in the depot (Monteria seems to rarely or never see tourists) but they ended up being super helpful in pointing us to the correct office. Less than an hour later after anxiously watching our bus driver precariously tie our bags and my surfboard onto the roof along with mountains of potatoes and a kids bike, we were off.
This leg was meant to take 3.5 hours to Turbo where we planned to head to the dock that afternoon and buy a boat ticket for Capurgana the next day. Anyway, after several stops for the drivers to buy beers, 2 police road blocks to check ID's, several more stops to pick up and let off men with fighting chooks and 2 stops to re - tie bags that had fallen off the roof (thankfully none of ours!), we arrived in Turbo. This was 6.5 hours later and were dropped off in the middle of town with no reservations after dark. Awesome.
Most locals we found were super helpful and we found a nice clean hotel to sleep and watch the Copa America match. We got into town too late though and the boat ticket offices were closed, so the next morning we had to get up at 5:30 am to head down to the office as the boats apparently sell out. We just scraped into a seat on the last boat (lucky we got up early) and then had to hang around the dock area until 10 am when it finally set off.
We had heard the boat was pretty crappy from Turbo to Capurgana but honestly none of us were prepared for how bad it really was.
We've been in South America for over 7 months now and this was easily the shittiest 3 hours of that whole 7 months.
We got soaked and bashed constantly for 3 hours in the direct midday Caribbean sun with no way to brace yourself or escape the sun because of the wind and spray. Honestly we all got off the boat with terrible sunburns, concussions, sore backs from the impacts, and on top of that due to the wooden seats I had no skin left on my ass cheeks. I'm pretty sure the swell was up a bit when we did this trip and we had a shitty boat captain, but honestly by the end of the 3 hours fun times were had by none.
Our recommendation is to go to Necoclí instead of Turbo to get a boat to Capurgana, even if it takes a bit longer or costs a bit more because the Turbo to Capurgana boat for us was honestly horrific.
Capurgana however was great. The water was super clear and warm, we stayed in a really friendly, well priced and comfortable hostel - Pousada del Gecko - and just relaxed and recuperated after the insane 2 days of travel to get there.
One day we went for a walk over to neighboring Sapzuro and crossed over to La Meil into Panama for some duty free shopping. The walk to Sapzuro is hot and steamy through the jungle, but is relatively easy once you find the start of the path. The jungle on the way is beautiful, thick and green, with plenty of wildlife to see including monkeys, spiders and lizards chilling on the path, and at the halfway point you get a beautiful look out over the 2 towns.
Our recommendation for Sapzuro is Cabo Tiburon, a 10 minute walk past town and one of the best beaches we have found on the continent. The clear water, coconut trees everywhere and not another person in sight was well worth the walk up over the hill.
After 3 days of chilling and exploring around the border area, the rest of our San Blas group showed up and we were off. It was a super nice way to end our South American portion of the voyage. My god these past 7 months have absolutely flown by!
Next stop - Panama and the San Blas Islands... Oh baby!