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Monday, December 01, 2008

Utria, Colombia

We left Gorgona and after 36 hours of mostly sailing we diverted to Coqui to drop anchor and call it a day. We were soon visited by Paulo and Fidel in their pangas. They are not fishermen and seemed like enterprising people who were ready to ferry us to shore and bring us anything we needed from the small tienda in Jovi, the town we were anchored off of. Paulo went so far as to exchange cell phone numbers with us, but all the curiosity and questions made us a little nervous. We bought a papaya from him at an inflated price and he went on his way.

We spent a quiet night and were up before dawn to motor on to Ensenada Utria. Why on earth did we stay so long at Isla Gorgona?! Although it's deep all the way up to shore (we dropped anchor in 50'), it's flat calm in here. We are anchored directly off of the new park building because there is a struggling coral "reef" off of the south facing beach. Daniel and Ericson came out in the park panga to lead us in.

On arrival we were told we needed to pay an additional park entry fee of USD$12.50 per person and nothing was said about an anchoring fee (in fact I'm sure we asked and were told there was no charge to anchor). Unfortunately we made the mistake of complaining about how expensive Gorgona was and yesterday a modest anchoring fee (COL$7,000 per night; about USD$3) was requested as well. Interestingly enough we were only given a receipt for the park entry fee while none was issued for the anchoring fee. This is a dead giveaway that it's not a posted price.

There appear to be two hiking options here, both requiring a guide. There's a 2-3 hour (one way) hike to the small town of El Valle or a 30 minute hike across the peninsula to a snorkeling beach. Abaslan, a guide, quoted us USD$30 for our group of four to do the latter. We talked him down to a still pricey $20, but since it's been pouring down rain all day we ended up canceling. We did a short low tide walk through the mangroves with Ericson yesterday and snorkeled a wreck and the coral "reef." The wreck is marked by a buoy here near where we're anchored and wasn't visible in the murky water without free diving down to it. The coral was disappointing with very few fish, but both the walk and the two swims provided some needed diversion.

That afternoon one of the marine guards asked John if we could charge his cellular phone for him, and the next thing we knew John had a bag full of seven dead cell phones and their respective AC charge cords. He plugged them all into the inverter and while they were charging the guys came out with a load of husked coconuts, papayas, chili peppers, and plantains for us to share with Sarana. It was very thoughtful of them and we sent a few magazines back with the phones so they could at least flip through the pictures.

We are out of propane and down to the last of our fresh provisions and are weary of haggling over fees, so we leave for Bahia Solano Monday morning where we hope to check out of Colombia for Panama. I say hope because at this point we expect nothing to go smoothly or cheaply in Colombia.

Linda and John