It is December 22nd just a few days away from Christmas and I’m sunburnt in a hotel room with a tap for a shower and a toilet without a seat, all in one tiled cubicle. The Columbian waves are crashing outside and a tailless gecko is climbing on the wall. I will say the management of the hotel has decorated the restaurant portion nicely with xmas lights and shiny stars to fit the occasion, all of which did nothing when the power was out for ½ hour last night....... made for a nice candlelight dinner of fish in mushroom sauce.
Tired, but feeling dry, sore but comfortable, I can now look back on the last five days and contemplate in a much healthier positive way. I won’t minimize the intensity of my thoughts and feelings out there on the boat, but I can clearly identify what the bug in my craw really was, and how it was effecting me. It came down to a surreal experience out on the reef to finally piece it all together.
In a nutshell, my feelings centred around that there was something defective about me, something not quite right. It was especially upsetting imagining I would somehow be sentenced to a lifetime of this torture, with not even the slightest bit of ignorant bliss to float me along. I started comparing myself hardcore to others on the boat, and wondering why I wasn’t like them: why I couldn’t chat like one of them, and why I wasn’t as successful business wise as another, or why I wasn’t as comfortable with women as another. I knew it was a habit, and I knew I had to break out of it, but I was still left with a sick and isolating feeling that something was very wrong. So, I spent a lot of time by myself, and only until the end really made somewhat of an effort to connect. But, back to that reef........
What I saw was beauty. Beauty in diversity. Sure, some fish were stellar in appearance, but others seemed to be doing just fine slightly chunky, slow moving, and spiny. They didn’t fit my vision of beauty, but there they were, obviously filling a purpose out there on the reef and surviving nicely. Their species had made it through the evolutionary gauntlet and had made it despite the obvious dangers of ocean living. I got to thinking about being the best Jason I could be, with all my quirks, weirdnesses, faults and not so perfect traits, to embrace them and make them work for me. Stop reading self help books, stop interviewing others or mimicking others to try and glean some wisdom for living from them. It was a realization how scared I still have been to really show my true self, and to face the consequences of being me in a world where most people would rather just have you fit into a nice little convenient box.
Where did that goofy funny guy go, and who replaced him with a depressed, worried serious killjoy? I did, that’s who. I was the one who took my joy away, and I will be the one who brings it back, step by step little by little. It’s a lame excuse to say I can’t do it in Columbia, Venezuela or Brazil where I don’t speak the language, or know anyone. This is the perfect place to do it. What a wonderful bit of self-expression i saw yesterday on the road – and they didn’t seem to care a bit about the cleanup to come!
Woke up as usual around 6 am to the rolling of the boat, accustomed somewhat after 4 days on the ocean. Everyone was still asleep and looking at the GPS saw we were tapped into Sapsurro Columbia; thought it wise to stay awake and get out on the bow and watch for reefs...... was a beautiful serene morning scene and the seasickness was held at bay in this position also. About 730 we were into the bay with expectant launchers coming up to the boat to show us their boats, and capacity in hopes of attracting our business, and passengers to a further point. It looked to be another nerve wracking boat transfer from the big fantasy boat to a smaller launcher, and it was my decision in the end, one that would effect 6 of us, and a bike. I went for the 500,000 peso offer (about $333, of which I paid $128) and bonnie was propped up nicely on the middle seat, and we all packed on, with the owner’s 15 year old son at the helm. We picked up 3 others, and stopped shortly in Capurna to get passports stamped – just as we were ready to go, a boat load of people came to dock and the police ushered us away to wait another 30 minutes.
Once on the open ocean, we were enjoying the ups and downs of a full speed 20’ launcher until the water started splashing in – it was to be a 2 ½ hour ride to the other side of the gulf where a road existed. We were soaked upon arriving. 6 guys met us on the shore, and we muscled the bike out of the boat and onto the beach. I was down to my last $1 for a tip, so I gave them my ½ bottle of Seco and Coke as a thank you. They all watched me laboriously put on my soaking wet leathers as I headed out backtracking to Turbo, where I needed to get to customs for my bike. Upon arrival there, I drove through numerous sewage filled holes in the streets and muddied up pretty bad, getting into a pretty rough part of town despite it being sunny. After a few queries I got on the right road to customs, and through really treacherous muddy dirt roads got to a army stop point. It was closed. Open the next morning at 8, so went back a ways on the road and thankfully they accepted visa for a hotel and meal. I wasn’t about to go back into that town unless i had to. Struggled with some pretty lonely feelings, and hardly believing this place I’m driving through is Columbia, a place I never really thought I would be in.
20th Stopped near Coco Banderas with numerous islands surrounded by reefs. I had been grouchy and isolated for 3 days so felt it necessary to take the snorkel out and get moving. Hard to breath but the underwater life was so tremendous, especially the black angels with iridescent dark/light blue dots – my favourite. My thoughts raced – not good enough, you are nothing, you don’t exist, you’re never going to amount to anything so I decided to prove them wrong and snorkel around the entire island. The north side waves kept pushing me back and back and back without any forward movement but I wasn’t about to give up. I got to the northeast side in about a foot of water when the waves started to have their way with me. With waves on top, and glass sharp coral underneath I got pretty ripped up, and was screaming in pain. Finally had to stand up, walk to shore in my flippers, and through to the opposite side of the island, where I met a guy from the Darien Gapster who said the dinghy (Tattoo) had to leave without me, and they were all waiting on the boat for me. Alex doctored me up when I returned and everyone was pretty shocked at the state of my back.
Captain Jack was the skipper of our boat, and we talked together quite a bit. After open heart surgery and 23 years working his way up to Executive VP of a Chemical company, he decided to sell it all, buy the boat from Fantasy Island, and take 6 years to sail around the world. He had fallen in love with Panama, and set up a hostel/bar/boat service there 2 years ago. With a long ponytail he looks the part of the Expat living the life, but smoking 2 packs a day belies any chance of relaxation. Funny, all I can really get from my memory of Jack is to just get out there and make it happen. Not much time for a relationship so he just takes what he can get in that department. He’s 60 something and still working his tail off trying to get people interested in Portobello and Panama. He took 2 weeks of boat training and passed the more difficult test with flying colors. He just makes it happen with a chuckle and not too much stress. He stayed up every night with people a quarter his age, and always had something interesting to add to the conversation.