Dec 5, 2006

ISLAS ROSARIO, Colombia: A wave sloshes over my face, streaming to my bellybutton. As the boat spanks over another crest, I brace – and still fly six inches off the seat.

I mourn for my laptop.

Oh, she's wrapped in a neoprene sleeve, tucked into a water-resistant backpack and stashed in the dry hold. But could the iBook possibly survive being dribbled like a basketball?

Lonely Planet warned: "The pilots rush around too quickly and have little concern for your personal safety – some of these small boats have sunk."

That scenario seems perfectly feasible, as we full-throttle through a choppy sea. Passengers cower together, spare lifejackets shielding their faces. Every ten minutes or so, the pilot stops and chivvies the huddled masses away from the stern, already riding low with engine-weight.

I am cold. I am miserable. I am worried that my year-old computer is pulverized. And I am unable to change a thing for the next 50 minutes, except for my position, pretzeled onto the bench.

So I just surrender to the spray and uncertainty. I comb the salt from my eyelashes and study the tangled shorelines, the patchwork container ships and finally, mercifully, the Spanish forts guarding Bahía de Cartagena.

On the dock, I struggle into dry clothes and boot the laptop. It chimes and the crooked Happy Mac face splits the screen.

Saved by the bell...

Later, I watch dusk descend over Cartagena de Indias. The old walls fade from conquistador gold to bleached bone. My hair dries in the sand-warmed breeze, wafting reggaetón past my skyscraper balcony.

Some fusion lurks in Latin America for me, borne of firewater, old stones and New World wilderness. But my brain fumbles the ball, already launching forward into the next play.

In seven days, I submerge again: cold-water surfing in Tofino, Canada.


  1. Great photo. December surfing in Tofino ... hope you had a drysuit handy.

  2. Nope, BC's wetsuit territory. I think drysuit surfing starts in Yakutat, Alaska...

    I can't take credit for the image: great sunset, nifty Canon point-and-shoot ... all I did was show up.