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In Memory of our friend Roberto

“Deseo poco y lo poco que deseo lo deseo poco”.

“I want little and the little things I want, I want them little”

This is the phrase that was on the epitaph of our friend Roberto’s funeral and there were perfect words to describe his life and how he decided to live it. We started our time in Ecuador with such sad news, Roberto’s sudden sickness and death.

Roberto was a dear friend to us and when we started our trip and spent those months in Ecuador in 2014, lots of this time was spent with him and his girlfriend Fenja. They were one of those couples who you just click with. We were going through similar things, the four of us, decided to leave our lives behind and start new adventures, us in the water with Ondular, they on the road with El Verde. Time spent together was just easy, we laughed and shared stories, it kind of felt like we were part of the same team, a team of travellers, of the ones that were doing something different.

After our time in Ecuador, our physical paths parted, they went on to travel from Ecuador, through Peru and Bolivia all the way to Uruguay and we went on to the Caribbean to buy the boat, but throughout these months we faithfully kept in touch, sharing our adventures and misadventures, and planning a future rendezvous.

Unfortunately live has a way of surprising you when you least expect it and when in August I wasn’t getting many responses from them, I had a feeling that something was wrong. In September on my quick visit to Ecuador I found out the horrible news that Roberto was sick, a tumour had been found in his brain and he wasn’t doing that well. He and Fenja had to now face a complete change of plans, leaving their travelling behind and settling in Ecuador to fight the tumour. By the time we got back to Ecuador at the end of November, Roberto was being operated to remove part of it and there were positive expectations from the operation.

We thought we were going to be at the right time to help him overcome the operation and support him on his path to recovery but he never recovered from the operation and he passed away in the middle of December. I’m glad we were there for Fenja during these unimaginable hard times. Fenja is a true inspiration to me of strength and love. They are one of the most wonderful couples I’ve ever met, and to see them going through this was heartbreaking and it still is.

Galapagos was the place where we had planned to meet again so being here now brings a sad feeling to it. Roberto is with us though, maybe not physically but in our hearts, in every wave we surf and in every sunset we see. He was an amazing soul, always happy always willing to give. He always had an advice or a story to tell so I feel really grateful to have known him as my friend and to have shared those times together. Thanks to him I got to meet my now dear friend Fenja and I know we’ll share more memories together with her. He left us his life as the message: live simply, live well, give to others and always smile. Thanks Roberto for your light and love. You are in our hearts forever.

Video about Panama

We’ve been waiting for a moment of peace and quiet to catch up with the writing on the blog, and creating videos with all the footage we’ve recorded, but it hasn’t happened yet. Our time here in Ecuador has been super busy, with not much relaxing time. (not complaining just stating)

So yesterday, between Christmas celebrations we created this video about our last months in Panama. We had a wonderful time there, made some amazing new friends, surfed some great waves and saw some beautiful scenery.

Panamanians are really friendly and happy people and the country is full of natural beauty and so much to see.

We spent almost three weeks in Santa Catalina and we loved it there. We surfed every day and hung up with Shane and Amy our Irish friends. We also made some new local friends, Michelle and Mike that own a hotel there and managed to do a talk in the local school thanks to Michelle.

After those three weeks we continued our trip and had a couple of days stop in the islands of Coiba National Park, which were stunning. We were usually the only boat around and it had such clear waters and lots of life in it.

We then did our last stop in Panama in the area of Morro Negrito, where we met with our Irish friends again and did our clear out of the country from there.

It took us 8 days to sail from there to Salinas in Ecuador. Apparently we chose the worst time to do it and we were hit by adverse currents and strong head winds almost the whole way, but we made it and most importantly we worked well as a team.

So here I share a video of our time in the pacific side of Panama. Hope you enjoy it!

 

 

September

Two days after transiting the canal I left for Ecuador. One of my good friends was getting married so I found a cheap plane ticket and decided to go and be there for the wedding. Before leaving, we moved the boat to the other side of La Playita, to an anchorage called Las Brisas. This is the anchorage you’d like to be if a) you are on a tight budget and b) you are fit enough to climb into some dodgy docks. In La Playita you have to pay $35 dollars a week to dock the dinghy in the marina. We found that those 35 dollars were better spent on paw paws and bananas then on dinghy fees and that’s why we moved. See photos below to understand what I mean about being fit…

I had a great time in Ecuador; spent time with my family, went to my friend’s wedding and got to wear some borrowed high heels that I couldn’t walk with, and that’s why instead of dancing all night, I spent most of the time sitting down but completely impressed by the shoes the other girls were wearing and the amount of makeup they all had on! The bride was beautiful and I was so glad to be there to see them get married.

I was also there for International Coastal Clean Up Day, so we got together with Paula, a friend that is starting her own project called Mi Playa Limpia and we cleaned up a beach called El Pelado with the help of some volunteers from the Red Cross. This, I did the same day of the wedding, so it ended up being a huge day for me.

Thanks to Cecilia, my friend that is helping me run the facebook page for Mingas por el Mar and also is organizing other beach clean ups in Ecuador while I’m not there, we got to visit a university called Universidad del Pacifico, did a small talk and presented the documentary Bag It. This was my first time ever talking in front of university students and it wasn’t as daunting I as I thought it would be.

Mick spent the 10 days I was away working madly on the boat. Getting around Panama City is easy enough, but it’s still a big city and going into town is always a mission. We got the metro/bus card and with it you can get onto the metro bus and the metro for 25 cents and 35 cents each ride, so it’s really convenient.

I got back to the boat reenergized but found a demoralized and tired Mick. We then spent the following week going to the supermarkets and the market to buy the last of our food shopping hopefully for the year. Ecuador is getting expensive because of the government’s ban on importation and some products are difficult to find. Then once we cross the Pacific, prices are going to double up, so Panama is the best place to stock up for the boat.

During our last days in the city, I got to see an old friend of mine, Santiago, who is Panamanian but lived in Ecuador while studying his university degree ten years ago. He’s now married and has a beautiful 18 months old boy. We had lunch with him one day and he helped us by getting us to a different supermarket to finish our food shopping.

 I also got to meet Ilona, who is sort of an aunt on my mum’s side. She’s Ecuadorian but has lived in Washington DC for the last 25 years. She’s recently moved to Panama City with her husband and youngest son and we got to have lunch with her one day and see the ruins of Old Panama. They were so nice to invite us over for dinner on our last night there and we had a great time getting to know them.

Last thing to sort out was our auto pilot panel which got too wet in Bocas and isn’t working properly anymore. We had to order the part but instead of waiting more days in the city we decided to go explore a little.

Saturday morning we left Las Brisas and headed to Taboga Island which is the nearest island from the city. The place was beautiful and when we arrived there, around 9am we were the only boat there. But by 12 pm , there were like 10 boats and all playing different music, with people dancing, singing, and having fun. We were so tired, that we were happy to just sit around the cockpit, jump in the water and observe the party people around us.

The next morning we sailed to Las Perlas Islands, which lay 30 miles from Panama City. We arrived at la Isla Contadora around 4pm and before we reached our anchorage it started to rain. We looked up and saw whales. There was a mother and its calf lifting their tails, jumping and swimming around the boat. It was a great welcoming sight to the islands.

Isla contadora is the most developed island of Las Perlas. It has several houses and resorts, so in the morning we walked around the island, explored a little and the next morning we sailed to isla Espiritu Santo. It was a nice sail and we saw a few more whales, not quite as close as the one on the first day, but still nice. The area is full of life, lots of bait fish around and it’s just so stunning. When we arrived at Espiritu Santo we thought we were definitely going to be the only boat around but to our surprise there was not only another boat but two.

We soon realized one of the boats was Manfred’s, a nice German, solo sailing, that we met before crossing the canal and that had left Panama City a couple of weeks before, planning to stop in Las Perlas on his way across the Pacific, but he hadn’t managed to find any good weather to start his passage so was still at Las Perlas. The other boat was a couple from Canada who have been living in Panama for a few years now and come to Las Perlas to spend a few weeks away from everything. There were really nice too.

We ended up staying 3 nights in Espiritu Santo. It was an amazing area, so peaceful and green, with fresh water streams and empty beaches. The sad thing was the amount of rubbish on the beach. We think it was due to the recent full moon and the big tides, because there was so much of it and it was stinking muddy plastic pieces that looked like they had been under the mud for a long time up a river or somewhere and just came out due to the big tides. We picked up so many bottle tops and they have been the hardest ones so far to get clean, really disgusting!

After those nice relaxing days, we sailed back to Contadora area and while we were passing one of the islands, we saw a familiar boat anchored; it was our Irish friends, Amy and Shane, that we had met before crossing the canal. We were so happy to see them, so we pulled next to them to say hi and talked for a bit. We said we would continue on to Contadora to check internet there and would be back at the end of the afternoon to have a proper catch up. We were so disappointed when we were back at the end of the day and Amy and Shane were gone! (Apparently it got really bumpy so they decided to move on and sent us a message that we never got, so we were so sad to have missed them and it remained a mystery what had happened to them!)

We spent a few more days in Las Perlas, moved to another little island for the last two nights, saw a few more whales and decided to go back to Panama City and hope for the best about our parts.

At the end, everything worked out really well. We only spent three days in the city, picked up our part and did some more shopping. It was good to see Manfred (the German solo sailor) again; he had found a French couple with sailing experience that wanted to cross the pacific with him so we got to say good bye to him, knowing that he was now fully ready for his passage. On Saturday 17 October we left the city for Santa Catalina.

Mingas por el Mar Project in Ecuador

Imagine leaving your home country and migrating to a new place. Then returning full of excitement and hope but finding it full of trash, far worse than you could ever imagine. This is what happened to me in 2013 when I left Australia, where I’d been living for the last 9 years and returned to my home country Ecuador. My husband, Michael and I, spent 8 months here in 2013 and through the sadness and the frustration that we felt, an idea was born to start collecting plastic bottle tops and making mats and new things out of these to spread the message about plastic pollution in our oceans.

Mingas por el Mar is the name of our project. Mingas is an indigenous word that means collective work done for the benefit of the community and Mar means the Sea. With this project we’d like to motivate the Ecuadorians to take more action and take responsibility for the state of the oceans.

We’ve already been back in Ecuador almost a month and the campaign has already started. On 4 of December, we had our first visit to a little coastal town called Valdivia. We worked together with Javier who is a local biologist in charge of the Aquarium of Valdivia, the only place along the whole coast of Ecuador where they have basic means for rescuing marine animals. Javier is eager to create change in his community so it was of great help to us and we worked really well together.

We spent two days in Valdivia, the first day we visited the local school and did a talk to the year 9 students. Then later at night, we showed the documentary in the centre of town and we also had a display of our collection of marine debris. There were a few interested locals who came and asked us questions and enjoyed the documentary.

The next morning we did a beach cleanup. We had around 20 children from the town, 10 German volunteers that were working with Javier in the Aquarium from the organization called NGO Taxi and some other volunteers from Guayaquil and the surrounding towns.

Together we managed to collect around 56 sacks full of rubbish and 5 of these sacks were filled with recyclable materials. A lot of the rubbish collected comes from the fishermen that out of ignorance throw everything and anything to the oceans, but it also comes from tourists and from the same communities. Waste management is still a big problem here in Ecuador and the amount of disposable plastics being used every day is huge.

In addition to this, we were part of two fairs and one market in the city of Guayaquil, where we had a small stall with our mats and our collection of marine debris. We are trying to participate in as many things as possible because we want to spread our message loud and wide: we all need to be part of the change; we can all do something to improve this situation. We’ve also visited two universities and showed the documentary in the city’s museum of contemporary art “The Maac” and had a display of our “museum of marine debris” for people to understand through visuals our impact in the oceans.

During these two months that we’ll stay in the country we are planning to visit 6 different coastal communities and spend three days in each place, visiting schools, showing the documentary Bag It, doing workshops on how to create rubbish bins using plastic bottles, how to construct mats with plastic bottle lids and organizing beach clean ups involving the communities.

Starting the New Year, we’ll have a beach cleanup every Saturday of the month. The month of January is an important month because is the start of the “temporada” or the summer time in the country and also the start of the rainy season, so this is when more rubbish is produced and lots of it will end up in our oceans.

While we enjoy the Christmas holidays, we are trying to rest up and regroup as we know how busy this new year will be. We know, this is just a drop in the ocean, there are lots to be done, but if we don’t start somewhere, we will never accomplish anything. We have to start somewhere and this is our start, hoping that it will ignite change in the minds and lifestyles of many Ecuadorians.