Yacht delivery from Newport, RI to West Palm Beach, FL

It looks like we are finally ready to set sails to Florida. A series of negative and sad events plus some bad weather coming up delayed our departure. Now all is set for a departure on Sunday morning.

Newport has been my home for this summer but the winter is about to kick in for real now. I experienced the first cold of the season and I’ve been missing the sunny, long summer days that make this place so beautiful. But most important jobs are heading south as well.

Yachts move towards warm weather and sunny days as birds and other migratory specimen do. The hurricane season is close to its end (1st of November according to insurance companies) and the Carribean is attracting all the boats from NE of the United States and the Mediterranean with the promise of sun, white beaches and crystal waters. Another busy winter season, despite the financial crisis.

Same does Paraiso, a 108 ft Sailing Yacht where I’ve been working a lot this summer, cleaning bilges, washing and polishing the hull, polishing stainless steel, climbing masts, fixing electrical connections… A lot of work.

Now the mission is to sail down the boat to West Palm Beach, FL where she is going to receive her make-up before the Carribean.

With a crew of 5 we are sailing the distance of 700 nm into the Gulf Stream. She is the biggest and more comfortable sailing yacht I’ve ever been and the trip will take approximately 4 days. Full prepared food, drinks, snack and hot shower will comfort our long watches.

Zen and the art of bringing the scale back to zero

I’ve survived a two days zen retreat last weekend. Being a beginner I had no clue how hard and disciplined a retreat in a Zen monastry can be. My longest sitting has always been 1h30minutes once a week and being in a meditative modality for two entire days it was like climbing a mountain without an adequate training. But I did it! Thanks to the perfect leadership of the Zen Providence Center’s staff, to the pure energy of the Teacher Nancy and to the presence of many beginners like me I survived this hard test.

I bring home countless insights and a renewed energy from the retreat and also a very beautiful image that has the power to describe exactly the effect that Zen meditation has on me.


In one of the rare breaks during the retreat I started to read a book of Zen Master Seung Sahn. It was about the letters he exchanged with many students in the years of his teaching. In one of these he uses a wonderful metaphor. Seung Sahn says to a student that we are like a scale that has a natural balance in the zero, the end of the scale. When we weigh an object the needle reaches the position corresponding to the weight of the object. When we remove the object from the scale the needle returns to zero. Zero is the position of peace and perfect balance before thinking, that is, when we are free from delusions, situations and suffering. Whenever we go through a situation, an event, an emotion the pointer moves to indicate the weight. If other thoughts and emotions are added before we unload the scale may break. Practicing meditation helps to go back to this state so we are able to face new challenges and hassles without breaking down.

Burnout at sea

Last night a new guy walked in the crew house. The first impression was of a fit young man with an enthusiastic smile, like many in the Superyacht industry. The prototype of the fun seeker young white male. I immediately assumed he was looking for place to stay and for a job on a yacht. But after a little, I started noticing that he had some difficulty walking and standing. He was wandering around the house purposeless, unable to speak coherently. It was clearly intoxicated, so we helped him to find his way to a vacant bed and have a deep rest.

From the few information collected, we understood that he was regularly employed on a yacht and that at a certain moment, he suddenly left his position without telling anybody, went to a bar to get drunk. The next morning although a little hangover, he was back  on his feet and even chatty, before a colleague came to pick him up.

It was evident that the guy had lived through an episode of severe burnout . We could not get much of his story during the next morning conversation, we recorded incoherent background data about mean comments received from a stewardess. Apparently he suffered from not being recognized and respected in the crew mass. What was evident is that that personal relationships had become intolerable to the point of leaving the boat quickly to go hide somewhere.

Crew members that abandon their duties without notice are an extreme response to situations that can be fairly common on yachts with a busy program: the lack of time off and personal space; tasks that are too narrowly restricted; high competition for jobs; absence of personal boundaries; small group dynamics that can recreate family-related dynamics; need for personal growth. Tracy’s study of workers aboard cruise ships describes burnout as “a general wearing out or alienation from the pressures of work” and “[..] burnout is largely an organizational issue caused by long hours, little down time, and continual peer, customer, and superior surveillance” (Tracy, 2000 p. 6). 

This is especially true for young people approaching this world. The assumption is that working on a superyacht is a dream job, an exclusive high class club, but they soon realize that the work can become very repetitive, and the fun part is for the exclusive use of owners and guests. Captains and officers sometimes set up a military-style organization to keep crew engaged and prevent insubordination. The time off for traveling is very restricted and concentrated in one single trip per year that makes it difficult to cultivate relationships with family and friends. Even if they are engaged in an off the beaten track program like sailing around the world, they see those countries through the portholes, quick walks around Marinas and joining shore-based parties where the level of friendship is correlated with the frequency of meetings at the bar.

These harsh and extreme images often adorn the descriptions of real situations lived by yacht crew during difficult moments in their careers. It’s a tough life, exacerbated by a materialistic world and very high expectations on the job. You feel like you are living a jet-set style life but you pass your days crawling in the bilge to get rid of oily waters or polishing stainless steel and silverware, or cleaning tight corners with cotton swabs. All this alone is enough to generate dangerous levels of stress as I described in this post. When stress coming from an oppressive organizational climate chime in, problems can escalate quickly.

Even if I have no better first hand elements to analyze the situation of the one-night crew house guest, it wouldn’t be surprising that the desire to escape was brought up by faulty relationships onboard. A basic primordial decision making response can be triggered by reiterated exposure to stressful day to day relationships. The subcortical region of the brain, our ancient  “Reptilian brain” (MacLean, 1990), is the seat of our instinctual behaviors involved in aggression, dominance, territoriality, fear and rage.

When such a tipping point is reached, a “fight-or-flight” response (Cannon ,1915) takes over. A hormonal cascade drives to a full body activation, with increased heart rate, variation in skin conductivity, dilation of pupil, as some of the most evident changes that prepare  the body to action. All the strategies to lower the level of anxiety are not working anymore so the control goes on”autopilot”. The survival situation requires to shut off the slow and complex control functions of the brain cortex, the control pas to the primitive ready to action “reptilian brain” that commands to attack or retreat.

He has to be a minority onboard, he knows he’s in a too weak position to start a fight against the rest of the crew, probably he perceives that nobody is an ally. He can feel how isolated he became. Even if based on instinctual patterns, his “reptilian brain” is highly intelligent and adaptive and drives him towards the right choice. Fighting would be a poor decision in his case, flight is the correct one. His only solution is to escape, find a place to decompress his anxiety, far enough from its source, eventually find some relief gulping down high doses of alcohol to keep recent emotional memories off the stage.

A SHARED RESPONSIBILITY

The case is not isolated, and of course does not only concern the yacht industry. An external observer in this situation would normally blame the lack of self control of the young boy, his immaturity and inexperience, his underestimation of the responsibility of the job. Not infrequently, the subject is described as “normal kid” or “a nice person”, who didn’t ever show any alarm signals before the dramatic event.

What is not self evident is the responsibility of the yacht as an organization. The crew and their leaders form a symbiotic environment where breaking point situations are not asymptomatic. There is a general lack of knowledge and preparation for this important psychological issues among crew members, but most of the time it’s a lack of care, or too much focus on the job and not on personal relationship. A hard working, optimistic person is not perceived as fragile or prone to depression and the desire to prove oneself on the job can play a dangerous role in estimating one’s own ability to cope with stress and handle social situations onboard.

HOW TO ASSESS BURNOUT 

Assessing a potential burnout situation require paying attention to explicit and implicit signs. When the atmosphere onboard is set in a way that feelings and emotions are accepted and shared, this task is pretty easy and self evident. At any time, the crew will be aware on what’s the temperature of the relationship among the crew, and if there are warning signs help can be found. It’s important to pay attention to all those that report feelings of being trapped, isolated or emotionally exhausted. Crew that raise their voice unnecessarily may be experience frustration.  Listening and being open is the first step, but it may be also necessary to have periodic crew meetings and individual interviews where captains and leaders can monitor crew’s well being and happiness as well as professional objectives. Common implicit signs of burnout are substance abuse behaviors, social isolation, inability to concentrate, forgetfullness, and change in sleep and appetite habits.

The closest crew members are the ideal candidates to detect those signs and to help the person to become aware of the potentially dangerous situation. They can offer they experience as counselor or mentors or look themselves for help in the leadership of senior crew members. A general education to recognize and to be willing to share one’s internal world is the key in this process, unfortunately it’s not one of the skills taught during professional training. It is not trivial to recognize that emotional responses vary according to cultural factors, personality and social environment. Promoting and supporting the recognition of emotions on board, Stress Management Training, a honest but caring system of feedback and the ability to develop recreational activities are important aids to help maintain a good psychological balance in a very busy season spent onboard.

Sailing and stress

“Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency.”

Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind

Stress is not a disease you can cure or eliminate, it is a condition we all experience. In sailing, the amount of stress you can experience can drastically build up to a distress situation and the risks and outcomes of such situation can be dramatic. Sailors are well trained and used to cope with potentially stressful situations and their panic threshold is higher than the average person. Sailors and crew, however, are not immune to the dangerous effects of high level of stress exposure.

The ocean is a wild environment that doesn’t forgive errors and forces sailors and crew into extreme conditions. Facing the ocean requires preparation, training and a strong dose of confidence in your ability to cope with the unexpected.  While we can control our training, the safety standards and the maintenance of the boat, our rigging and sail trimming, we can’t control the waves, the wind, the tide, equipment failures, medical emergencies and many other variables that can transform sailing into a constant source of stress and danger.

Stress is our reaction to pressure. It is the name given to the experience we have as we physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually respond to life’s tension. We need stress because it has many positive benefits, keeping up the attention level and the reactions of our body. When engaged in a situation where the ability to control and perform are crucial we benefit from the physiological responses of stress. In fact we usually don’t consider unimportant events stressful.

Stress is also a process that occurs when there is an imbalance between environmental demands and response capabilities of the organism, and when the environmental stimuli are likely to tax or exceed one’s personal coping capacities. The ability to endure stressful situations and to accomplish tasks is influenced by individual variables; training and perceived self-efficacy varies from person to person. Crew under stress or experiencing psychological health issues are operating at reduced capacity and can put both the boat and her passengers in danger.

Events that cause stress are called stressors.  Events also don’t always come one at a time and don’t leave because another one arrives. Stressors add up. The cumulative effect of minor stressors can be a major distress if they all happen too close together. Too much stress can take its toll on people and their ability to organize.  Too much stress leads to distress and often produces a combination of worry, nervousness and fear, emotions that if not controlled effect a sailor’s ability to perform.

Here are some of the effects of the stress:

  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Forgetfulness
  • Constant worrying
  • Carelessness
  • Hiding from responsibilities

Stress can be better described as a recursive relationship between environmental demands, social and organizational resources and the individual’s appraisal of that relationship. If you feel the resources are not enough to cope with the problems this evaluation will affect the performance. Sailing requires a huge amount of resources, from the personal ones of the sailor’s to the organizational ones that depend on the owner and the management. In fact the environment that surrounds a crew at work is not limited solely to the natural setting and the boat. The social and organizational environment around the boat can be a source of stress as well or more than a severe gale. Expectations from the others, socio-political and family events, the organizational culture can turn into a hostile and uncontrolled source of stress. We tend to focus on stressors like cataclysms or severe weather conditions but one of the greatest sources of stress is daily hassles that may cause tension, irritation or frustration. Things such as broken equipment, livelihood worries, prolonged isolation or lack of privacy, all these repetitive daily hassles become chronic strains, persistent, difficult and demanding situations where a stressor that we are normally able to handle can turn the situation into a real danger.

Here are some suggestions to keep the level of stress reasonable.

  • Safety first: all the safety systems are set and operative and crew is trained to use them
  • Spaces and equipment are kept up and enable the full control of the boat by crew
  • Prevent crowding – enough privacy when needed, enough social interaction when wanted;
  • Seek guidance – talk with somebody trustworthy
  • Prevent overtiring with adequate levels of rest
  • The livelihood is assured and the work is rewarded
  • Be real – organization’s goals and tasks should be realistic and achievable

The life of a sailor is very demanding and can be extraordinarily stressful – but we can be better prepared for the inevitable challenges of life at sea by learning how to navigate stress itself, as it can help us perform at our best. The way to safeguard against stress-related symptoms and dangers is build strategies to become more resilient – by increasing the ability to prepare for, recover from and adjust to life in the face of stress, adversity, trauma or tragedy. To build resilience requires personal resources but it’s not only an individual work; it involves families, colleagues, community, and professional counselor when necessary, because the stress management is based on the support of healthy relationships to share in a positive way the amount of stress that life at sea requires.

America's Cup in Newport

For the fair cost of 10$ I enjoyed the 2011-12 AC World Series Championship on the lawn of Fort Adam’s park in Newport RI. It was the Saturday race, with the speed trial and two fleet race, all in the hands of ORACLE Spithill that dominated the event.

Here some pictures taken from the lawn.

Fort Adams Newport RI
Lawn in Fort Adams
Race Course
Race Course, Narragansett Bay
The dominator of the day, ORACLE Team Spithill
Luna Rossa Prada Team Piranha

The importance of being legal

Scam, Ripped off, Trap

The new lesson I learned is if you can go legal, go for it. The attraction of offshore work and informal work relationships are like the siren’s call for people who like to travel around and discover the world, but it’s not risk free.

The question is: are you tough enough?

That is the question you have to ask yourself when joining a possibly illegal business, with a deal made on a handshake, surrounded by words and emails. “Tough” means are you able to protect yourself from scams and arbitrary claims? This doesn’t mean you have to develop the skills of a hitman, but it means indeed take your precautions when dealing with a business where nobody can guarantee legally for you (except for you!). Remember the best recurring villain are polite, smiling and warm.

The first thing is make a contract. Even if the contract is not a standard contract or within a union.  Have both parts agree on a statement, and possibily have it validated from a third neutral party. You can do the same thing going through your records later, (emails or other documentations) to reconstruct the agreement, but that’s a hard job. In a long term work relationship there will be a lot of things taken for granted and spoken agreements that will be hard to document in case of a dispute.

The second thing is trust your instinct. If you feel something weird is going on it probably is. Irregularities can happen but they can’t be the rule. A healthy business finds the way to solve problems quickly. If you notice customers have problems to be reimbursed or your payment is delayed more than once for not clear motivations something bad is going on. Small failures can snowball into a huge mess and without the necessary precautions you can be sucked in.

Third thing is have insurance.

Fourth thing is tell people what’s going on. Having outside opinions about things that involve you very closely is important to open your perspective. If you feel ashamed and isolated that won’t help you anyway. It’s important that you find in your environment people who you can really trust and that can also give precious advice. It helps to have “friends in high places”, and also to have access to specialists who can help you understand your rights and tell you exactly what to do.

Fifth thing stay cool. No matter how it hurts to be attacked and have your self esteem injured, no matter if you feel deceived by people you were counting on for your livelihood, the best thing is to transcend your emotional response and don’t let it drive your actions. Stay cool even if you feel like a dummy that has just been ripped off. Do not react emotionally, it is often the wrong move. Swallow your pride, let people help, and have an audience for your emotions. There will always be time to act wildly later!

Adios Kuna Yala

I’ve been living for ten months in the Comarca Kuna Yala onboard Andiamo, a Beneteau Oceanis 50. While I was on board I accompanied more than 300 tourists to visit the beautiful islands of this area, one of the last paradises in the Carribean, and to meet the Kuna people, proud and smiling natives who still live preserving a unique culture and their language. Simple people who live on the abundant gifts that this place offers, but well aware of the effort required to live.

It was not trivial to relate with them. The differences that exist between Kuna and a European boy may seem unfathomable. I have always received warmth and support from those with whom I had the good fortune to work closely together. It was enough to sit down and talk with them to find out that we humans have much to share even where there are seemingly insurmountable cultural differences. Listen, smile and be open seems to me the best way to meet everyone.

Here in this place where land and water mingle with each other (the archipelago consists of about 370 islands) I lived with sails hoisted and attached to an anchor, being aware of what surrounded me. I meditated on deserted islands and met marine life, I learned to recognize the shape of a fish as it swims, and overcome my fears being in touch with natural environment improving my free diving to go and meet the underwater life so close. I fished a lot and cooked the fish caught by creating dishes that even the best seafood restaurant will find difficult to reply, feeding and making hundreds of happy guests. The diet and lifestyle were the most healthy I ever experienced giving me further reason to think that living on a boat and sail around the world is beneficial to health. I experienced feelings of deep loneliness as well as the strain of never having privacy. I admired Remi (my personal Kuna spearfishing guide) swim faster than a huge Red Snapper and catch him. I used to go with him spearfishing in the outer reef where the open sea crush onto the corals and the marine life is intense and busy. I sailed on a sailing cayuco with Dino, my faithful officer on board and a great friend of many difficulties and joys. I met his family and his friends and the lovely people of Dino’s island Yandup. All this and energetic life sustained me  in the responsibilities of the captain, I had the chance to make mistakes, which fortunately were never serious or dangerous and have always solved the major ones, working on emergency in a place with no assistance at all, but supported by the Team of Andiamo, Tony, Mitzy and of course Dino.

The list goes on and on. If I look behind these 10 months I have no regrets and even thinking about the difficulties I can not look to Kuna Yala with other eyes than those of gratitude and joy.

Photos: Me, Marloes, Stefano

Sailing a Cayuco in Kuna Yala

I took three hours of my free time to fulfill a desire I had since the very first moment I arrived in Kuna Yala. Everyday,  you can see the shapes of the cayucos setting sail since the first light in the morning and heading for the fishing destinations. This image always inspired me a deep sense of freedom and satisfaction and an intense desire to sail one.

The Sailing Cayuco

Cayuco is the name the Spanish explorers gave to the boats built by indigenous people of the Antilles and other American regions. It describes a monohull with flat bottom and no keel or daggerboard, propelled and steered by a wide paddle. In Kuna language it is called  “Ulu”, but they often use the name cayuco, at least with non-Kunas like me.

Cayucos are built with the dugout technique: this means that the hull is shaped by carving a log of suitable dimensions, usually mahogany which grows in the Comarca’s (indigenous territory) well preserved forest. Similar to other canoe desings the bow and stern are pointy and they can be paddled in both directions. Looking at the bilge you notice the rough marks left by the tools during the chipping out. It is remarkable how Kuna shipwrights can obtain such a regular shape with this method and the amount of labor behind every single piece must be enormous.

In San Blas Archipelago cars are useless and the transportation happens on water. Cayucos are everywhere, and sometimes it is hard to find docking to the main piers. They come in very different size and dimensions, every family has at least a small paddle one, but sailing cayucos are longer and more expensive. The modernity brought outboard engines and fiberglass boats named “pangas” or the more common spanish name “lancha”.

The cayuco Dino and I sailed is owned by one of his cousin. The man told me that it was built from a tree donated by his father. When his father died he had the permission to cut the tree and have it carved and painted.

On this type of boat the rig is a spritsail (similar to an Optimist): the mainsail is attached with a loose foot to a boom, and the “sprit” is a spar that support the leech. The main is sheeted to a hole through the gunwale and tied with a simple knot. The boat comes also with a headsail which is set flying from the bow to the mast head. The simplicity of the construction is a demonstration of how little techonology is really needed to sail. Even if a lot can be done to improve the performance of this system, it is enough for the essential living of the Kunas, and I am still amazed about how good it is the windward performance without a centerboard. You just need to be equipped with a lot of patience, a skill which Kunas culture is rich of.

Cayuco Mainsail: the sprit
Cayuco Mainsail: loose foot

The rudder is substituted by a wide paddle. In fact, the helmsman can be very much called a paddler as you need to paddle the boat into the wind in order to tack. It took me a while to understand how to steer with a wooden paddle and the fuzzy wind of the afernoon was not helping, but it was nothing too complicated. There is definetely a more close feeling of how the rudder operates and the forces that act on it using this technique  rather than turning the wheel of a performance cruiser.

Steering the cayuco

As often happens during fishing trips, especially the ones you improvise, we didn’t catch any fish. Nonetheless I had an interesting day, I learned about traditional crafts and fullfilled a little dream of mine. I hope I am going to do it again,  next time I hope with a bigger sail, just to have more speed sensation and capsizing danger.

Surfing the unconscious

For the first time a couple of days ago I tried to surf. I mean surfing on waves (in Hawaiian he’e nalu, “gliding on water”), what you see in many American movies from 50 years onwards, with the Beach Boys as the soundtrack and Baywatch’s  towers in the distance.
I took some lessons and I found myself very capable, with great personal satisfaction. For this discipline are necessary strength in upper limbs (you row a lot to catch the wave at the right time) and of course balance.
The technique involves several steps to surf a wave. We must reach an area where you stand for “get” the wave (line up). It coincides with the point at which a wave begins to break, making a steep surfable wall. In order to begin to ride the wave the surfer swim with their bellies lying on the table, perpendicular to the wave towards the beach and when the board starts to slide independently the surfer stands up by pressing the table with both hands and pulling with a single movement (take off).
In the case of particularly large wave that is the most dangerous moment, and if dropped the surfer can incur serious consequences, especially in the presence of rocky or coral bottoms. The instructor who followed me warned me about the disruptive force of the wave and its dangers. In the event of a fall in the belly of the wave she told me to let go and not fight with the wave and curl up in fetal position, protecting the head. The wave is stronger than any swimmer, and the falling water strikes you with a chaotic incontestable force. But the wave will pass, ending its effect and in that time you can re-emerge. Even paddling into the wave, when you went to place the new line-up requires care. The maneuvers to overcome the power of waves are two: Duck Dive going under the waves by dipping the tip of the board (only with short boards);  Turtle roll is made grabbing the board on side, turning upside down 180 degrees and let the wave pass.
This long digression on techniques is to highlight that it is highly inadvisable to contend with such a powerful event. But if you take off and you can begin to ride the wave then you can be transported, make flips, surf away from breaks.
After this first experience I began to think about waves in terms of unconscious. Maybe its because of the aquatic metaphor, the power and uncontrollability, the dynamics of wave generation so tied to the sea movements in general, cyclical but unpredictable, governed by complex patterns and outside of human control: a wave, think of a tsunami, you certainly can not divert, control, manipulate. A wave breaks and modifies landscapes over time, erodes the coastline, dig her groove. Then switch back and retires leaving a calm sea. But since James Cook discovered the Hawaiian natives and saw them surfing on primitive wooden tables, humans love to confront these powerful natural phenomena, having fun and trying immense joy to slip on the water. When I managed to ride the first wave I felt a euphoric sense of control and I fell in love with surfing.
But if the metaphor holds I wonder which is the surfboard that allows us to ride without having to undergo the unconscious, which techniques allow us to get up at the right time and remain on the wall, in a precarious state of balance, but without being overwhelmed by the turmoil that follows us. What can keep us directed to a safe place and which the moves? I always thought that the unconscious is a phenomenon to be exploited, which consists of uncontrollable energy but that can be surfed managing to remain afloat and upright, without hitting obstacles on the road.

Discovering Panamà

Panamà is a small country. But for a strange reason in its 75,515 km2there are several and different interesting sites to visit and live. I took the advantage of a break in Andiamo’s schedule part of the country.

When you leave Panama City you have the impression there’s nothing out of it. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Milan, where you can’t notice many differences in landscape while driving out of the city. Italy is over constructed and over populated and Panama is (for the moment) kind of virgin land out of the capital city.

At one hour and fifteen minutes (Panamanian time) by bus you arrive in San Carlos, the capital of  omonimous district. I decided to take some surf lessons here in El Palmar, one of the last free beaches in the Area (big resorts all over) and perfect spot for beginners like me, due to reasonable dimensioned waves and for the perfect sandy bottom with no dangerous obstacles. I never been on a surf board before and always thought surf is for lazy californian teenager (or lazy young-looking adults). But if you live on the sea like me you should know how to use the resources (wind, waves & similar..) to have fun and do your workouts. Everyday there’s a lot and nothing to do at the same time.

El Palmar, San Carlos, Panamà
El Palmar, San Carlos

I booked two classes with Flor Villareal, owner of Panama Surf School that was recommended to me by Andiamo’s guest Mariano that also learned surf in El Palmar. The first day I was taught by Nino, San Carlos native instructor working with Flor for more than 5 yrs. I started with a long soft board, practicing stand ups and wave catching and helped by Nino for timing and pushing. When I kept practicing alone I was not able to catch one single wave and really exhausted. Surf is for sure funny but is also damned hard work! I had all my muscles hurting and abrasions on knees for board friction but the sensation of control when I rode my first wave was so exciting that I’m motivated to go further in this activity. Next day I was with Flor on the other side of the beach, this one with more stones but nothing dramatical. After sun salutation to warm up the body I worked with her on timing and paddling. I did some progresses and started to think about turning as well. In the afternoon I practiced alone and rode three waves and that gave me lots of satisfaction.

El Valle de Antòn, Panamà

Friday was really bad for waves so I decided to take a bus to El Valle de Antòn, a town that sits in the crater of a dormant volcano. Before going I knew that was a good site for hiking and thermal baths and also a very fertile land. Once I was on the road to the village I started noticing some characteristics: wood and flowers, green all around, water.

La India Dormida, El Valle de Antòn, Panamà

And water on ground and from the sky,  heavy rain all over me while visiting the surroundings, climbing small mountains, visiting waterfalls, slipping from muddy rocks. I rented a bicycle just to go faster in between sites and to run in the middle of the lovely village now sadly littered only with rich people mansions while the locals moved up in the mountains due to the increasing cost of land. I visited la India Dormida Mountain (with the profile of a lying  indian woman), bathed in thermal waters an climbed up to a mirador (but really poor visibility).

Pozos Termales @ El Valle de Antòn, Panamà
Pizza @ La Casa de Juan

Exhausted after cycling and hiking when I get back to La Casa de Juan (cheap and warm hostel) I was involved in the pizza baking for dinner. All the guests of the house gave a strong hand for the preparation, a nice way to know each other and enjoy good food under the sight of Juan (hostel director) who promoted the event with genuine generosity.

Back to the city next day I was surpised how fast I got back to the apartment  (2hrs and a half in total, with 2 buses change and 1 taxi). I’m sure this combo is perfect for weekends and days off, quick and effective, and two destinations  to see for any travellers in Panamà.

Toad Waterfall
Pueblo El Valle from top