Only about fifty of the islands are inhabited, and those by a group of native people know as the Kuna Yula. They live a mostly traditional life, speak their own language, live in huts that blend into the landscape, and most have no electricity. Coconuts are the main line of business, and the people grow their own food. There are few shops and little to buy, although supposedly from time to time boats come from Colombia with veggies and fruit to sell.
So this means we need to bring everything we need for several weeks. There will be no running to the supermarket or convenience store. If we don't bring it we will do without. So, for the next few days we will be on a shopping spree. I have several pages of lists with everything from AAA batteries to restocking the medical kit. Of course with a growing teenager on board it also means a LOT of food.
I started yesterday with a trip into the big city of Barranquilla. First stop was the brand new Ace Hardware store, which as it turns out was having their own "black Friday" sale, early with everything in the store 20% off and I may even win a new car I found a nice young man with good english, who helped me cross many things off my list. The prices are higher in Ace Hardware than in the local stores, but most of the local hardware stores have all their goods behind a counter, and rather than browsing you have to ask for what you want. My spanish does not extend to hardware items.
Next up I took a taxi to my favorite part of the city known as Centro. At one time it was the city center, with a broad avenue with trees down the center known as Paseo Bolivar. Now the fancy part of the city has grown to the west with its big shopping malls and high rise apartments, but Centro, has the hundreds of tiny shops, street vendors, places that fix just about anything. It seems to me a bit more like old time Colombia and I love the sights, smells, and busyness of it all. I got dropped off near the street with all the fabric shops. My mission was to find swimsuit and sail bag fabric. There are more than a dozen fabric shops all next to each other. I stopped in the first and when my spanish word for swimming, did not produce results, did my best swimming imitation, which garnered a few laughs but got results. The young lady helping me motioned me to follow her. We went out into the street, down three shops, where she found the fabric, cut it for me, filled out a ticket at their counter, and then took me back to her shop to pay. I got two meters of two different fabrics for about $6. I gave her a tip for her efforts.
I looked through all the shops for fabric suitable for sail bags, and finally found it in a shop where I'd been a few weeks back buying foam. Amazingly the lady at the counter remembered my name! I got 6 meters of nylon fabric for sail bags for $3.
I was hungry by now, and recalled a lady selling empandas on the corner. An empanada is a flaky little pie usually filled with beef or chicken. I asked for one with chicken and she also made me a fresh glass of lulo juice and motioned for me to sit in one of her little plastic chairs. It was $1 for the fresh juice and empanada, best lulo juice ever! Not a very fancy sidewalk cafe, but the food was excellent.
My next shopping attempt was not so successful. I had noticed block after block of automotive parts and accessory stores, and had hoped to find a portable inverter, a device you plug into a 12 volt outlet that allows you to run an AC device. Our ship's inverter, a $1300 piece of equipment, literally went up in smoke a few days ago. I knew I wouldn't be able to replace it here, but had high hopes of finding a portable one. I walked for blocks , using my umbrella for shade, popping my head in every shop, with no luck. This is kind of a big deal, as it means no Kitchen aid mixer or blender, which bummed me out. No power tools, which is kind of a relief, but I'm really super bummed because it means no SEWING machine. I'd really looked forward to doing a little sewing while anchored off those coconut tree lined islands. Coleen is bummed because it means no computer for her! I have a very, very old IBM thinkpad with a 12 v adapter so at least we will have something.
I was so incredibly hot by the time I gave up and boarded a bus, someone kindly gave me their seat. The 20 minute bus ride took me back to the fancy part of town, and I spent the rest of my time doing a little Christmas shopping.
Overall it was a fun day, but I was exhausted by the time I took the bus and motorcycle taxi home. Coleen gathered all my bags and put them aboard, and then handed me an icy cold drink she had waiting for me!
Sunday --- food shopping for several weeks... stay tuned....