Decisions, disasters, and a new destiny!

Cartagena at night

Cartagena at night

Well 2015 what can we say….
First of all we will take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
Earlier this year, after much discussion and deliberation, we finally made the decision to return to Australia after many years living aboard our lovely floating home, SV Amarula, slowly making our way around the world.
Having made the decision we began preparing ourselves and our home (see the haulout photos here) for the final part of our journey together, beginning with the Caribbean crossing, followed by the Panama Canal transit and finally our longest ocean passage yet….. across the Pacific and back to Australia!
The plan is to be home with family by this time next year and we are very much looking forward to seeing everyone again, as it has been way too long.

NYbest

New Year’s Eve onboard SV Amarula in Sydney Harbour 2001. Maybe we’ll make it back for a 15 year anniversary celebration!!

SV AMARULA IS FOR SALE and we hope to find her a new, loving owner/s as soon as we are across the Pacific. We will soon add a FOR SALE page to our website, which we hope you will share for us.

Our distance from family and everything familiar and friendly was recently brought ‘home’ to us (literally) when we experienced what can only be described as (one of) our worst nightmares, a boarding and robbery by armed pirates whilst we were anchored in a beautiful bay in Taganga, Colombia, South America….. (story & reports here)
Not only did we and our floating home survive, despite huge financial & emotional losses, we were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, support and offers of assistance from friends, family and even strangers from all around the world. For that we are truly grateful.

Taganga Bay sunset

Taganga sunset, one of our happier memories of this lovely bay

We are now enjoying exploring the stunning San Blas islands off the northern coast of Panama, to the east of the Panama Canal, before we meet up with friends mid-January to do the transit.

Scrumpy enjoying his favourite activity on his birthday in the San Blas islands

Scrumpy enjoying his favourite activity on his birthday in the San Blas islands

After leaving Taganga, we sailed to Cartagena, a city which has been on our bucket list for many years and for the most part we were not disappointed, except that much of our time was spent on logistics, such as sourcing an outboard motor & a computer, plus organising new credit cards etc, which Australia Post in their infinite wisdom managed to mistakenly mail to South AFRICA instead of South America, so we are still without those…… no doubt lost in the bowels of the South African postal system…..

Wandering the streets of the old city

Wandering the streets of the old city of Cartagena

The highlight of Cartagena was wandering around in the old walled city amongst impressive buildings dating back to the early 16th Century, further enhanced by the sparkling Christmas lights at night time. One of our favourite hang outs was the Plaza by the Palace of the Inquisition, where various performers entertained the crowds, and hawkers sold everything from art work to beer & ice creams. One evening we thoroughly enjoyed the music of a young couple, one of whom played the clarinet accompanied by the young man playing the didgeridoo, of all things!!

IMG_0689

One of the many plazas with hawkers, entertainers and streetside cafes

The story of San Pedro Claver was particularly touching. He was a Spanish nobleman and priest who dedicated his life in Cartagena to helping the slaves as they were brought off the slave ships. The museum and church dedicated to him are well worth a visit. He was the first saint to be canonized in the Americas and his remains lie in a glass coffin at the altar of the church, in front of which many weddings take place. I am not sure that having this as a back drop for my wedding photos would be my choice, but it doesn’t seem to bother the numerous couples who marry here!

San Pedro de Claver church

San Pedro de Claver church

We can highly recommend the Free Walking Tour of Cartagena. Our English speaking guide, Edgar, shared his passion and intimate knowledge of his city over a 2 hour tour taking in all the sights in the old city. Excellent!

IMG_0657

Botero’s Fat Woman monument

Later we visited the impressive fort with its thick walls and winding passageways, the largest fort ever built by the Spanish in the Americas. The guides within the fort were missing out on customers on the day we visited, because the powers that be had suddenly, without any warning or notification, decided to charge ALL foreigners (even from other South American countries) a rate of US$10, rather than the advertised 17,000 COP (approximately US$5) simply because the Colombian exchange rate had dropped to its lowest low against the dollar!! Naturally most people simply walked away in disgust, so the fort was much quieter than on a typical day….. I wonder if the world will ever wake up to the fact that not everyone who travels is American & carries pockets full of USD?!! Ho hum…

San Felipe fort, reputedly the oldest Spanish fort in the Americas

San Felipe fort, reputedly the oldest Spanish fort in the Americas

The vibrant Plaza de Trinidad is a great way to mix with the local social scene, whilst savouring tasty street food and beers at a fraction of the price within the old city. We bumped into the friends who had helped us by loaning us an outboard engine when we first arrived in Cartagena, so they showed us how to find our way around the various food stalls and explained what was what, thankfully!

IMG_0738 Plaza Trinidad

Wedding at the church in Plaza Trinidad.

Anyway, I will leave it here, as New Year is almost upon us and I want to post this before we sail out of range again.
Whilst there are fewer photos than normal in today’s post, we hope you will visit our Facebook page to see more photos and please bear with us whilst we are still getting our communications back to anything even remotely like before.
Meanwhile we look forward to hearing from you and your news.
We have received a number of your emails with news attached, but again, we are not always able to download & read these attachments until we can get to better internet, but keep them coming & we’ll read them & respond when we get the chance.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!