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Tour du monde en autostop - Jeremy Marie

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 Travel Diary : From North America to South America (1st part)

A little more than two weeks...

The end of my american visa was going to arrive in this short period of time. In another way, I had less than 15 days to find a boat to leave the country... Knowing already a little bit boat-hitchhiking, I knew that this situation was pretty much ''risky''.

My goal at this moment was to reach South America from North America, still by hitchhiking.

This crossing, I dit it in two main stages. First, from Miami to Panama City, and then across the Darien Gap. It has been complicated and difficult, but a rich, intense and interesting experience.

Follow me for a further explanation of this crossing from one continent to an other.

 

1-From Miami to Key West

As I was telling you, I had only 2 weeks remaining on my visa in the United States. After this period of time, I would have to avoid the police, because those one would send me ''straight back'' home, where the french authorities would probably confiscate my passport... Indeed, I have to try to not find myself in this situation if I don't want to say goodbye to my world tour.

I am starting to look for a boat in Miami, in Florida

Miami and its palm trees

Like the last time I was looking for a boat, in South Africa, I am going to visit the marinas in the city. The only problem is that there are a hundred of them in the area of Miami... I have to investigate to know in which one I would have more chance.

The marina of Miami Beach


At this time, I am trying to go to South America, but more I need to leave the country. For this reason, I am very open on the destination. Indeed, I am looking for a boat that can go to South America, but also Central America or anywhere in the Caribbeans.

I am starting by posting a message on the board of each marinas I can find.

The message I posted on the boards of the marinas of Miami


Of course, it is always better to meet directly the boat captains, even if it is only to create some contacts with the local sailing community.

The end of my visa is approaching very fast... And I still don't find anything. Meanwhile, I am also sending request to airplane companies, cruising boats or freight cargos... At the end I will only receive few answers and they all will be negative.

Only 6 days...

I decide to leave Miami. A group of american realisators for the television is offering to give me a ride on the way to Key West, to make a reportage about my journey. I don't have many options and I already start to see myself back in France and without passport... I accept...

The road from Miami to Key West


Key West is the western island of the Keys that you can reach by road in Florida. The keys are all those little islands that are mostly connected by bridges. It was really impressive to drive more than 200 killometers, going from one piece of land to an other.

We finally reach Key West, otherwise known as ''The Conch Republic''. Key West got this name after having try to be a micronation in April 1982, to protest against some actions coming from the american government.


We are now in the middle of the 'Springbreak'', which a time in the year in the United States where the students aren't going to school, but some sunny places. The streets are packed and this is party every night. I am taking this opportunity to ''learn about this cultural event'' by being part of it.

The Springbreak in Key West, the ''French Touch''!


4 days...

Partying, it entertains, it amuses, but it doesn't bring many boats. So, like in Miami, I am going to look for a way to leave the United States in the marinas of Key West.

Although it is extremly touristic in this time of the year, I realize that the captains seem to use more their sailing boats than in Miami, where most of the boats seem to only be there to be shown.

Indeed, the first day of my research, I find a message on the board of one of the marinas. A cap;tain is looking for a crew to go to Cuba. I call him, we meet 20 minutes later. The captain's name is ''Captain Mo'', he is 80 years old and has incredible stories to tell which filled his life in an interesting way. We find a deal... I will go to Cuba with this ''old pirate''!

The ''Captain Mo'' and one of its incredibles caughts


We have to prepare the boat, because this one isn't on water... I spend my days to paint, clean and prepare our future mean of transportation: the 'Frisco Lady'', a powerboat of 27 feet.

Helping before leaving:

I paint


I clean


1 day...

I am still in Key West, this is my last day for my visa so I will officially be illegal tomorrow. I will have to hide myself from the police before we leave, which should be very soon. Indeed, we put back the boat on water today. A huge machine comes to put bungee cables under the hull of our boat and goes to the port. It is quite impressive to see how it works.

''Frisco Lady'', going to the ocean


Then, we are filling the boat with food before to leave. A full trolley is quite useful for a crossing... because we will go before to the Dry Tortugas, which are almost 200 kilometers west of Key West.

A full trolley means safety on a boat

 

2-From Key West to Cuba

We finally leave. If the police wants me, they will need from now on to send the coast-guards! Indeed, we are on the way to Fort Jefferson, which is still in the United States, so I will need to be quiet.

With Captain Mo, I take the helm and sail our boat across the islands of Florida. The landscape is wonderful but we have to be careful of the corals and shallow waters. We will even be the witnesses of a boat which will be a victim of it,

A boat, victim of the shallow waters in front of us

The crew will be saved by the coast-guards


We are now in the archipelago of the Dry Tortugas. A fort has been built by the spanish during the time of the ''Conquistadors'', This one is called today ''Fort Jefferson''. The place is stunning, the water is transparent and the place is protected by a national park, which helps the fauna to remain rich and diversified.

The view from Fort Jefferson


We can see a little bit of the fauna, like:

-This Unidentified Floating Object, as big as a baby whales


-The Portuguese Man of War, to not mistake with a plastic bag because this is very poisonous!


Finally, we are realizing the crossing on the way to Cuba, in around fifteen hours. I let there the ''Captain Mo'' and I start to look for another boat on one of the only marinas of the country: ''The Marina Hemingway''.

 

3-From Cuba to Guatemala

Knowing that I am on an island, eventhough it is the biggest of the Caribbeans, I have to keep going by boat-hitchhiking. As there is only real place to do this kind of research, I am going to see every boats there.

Very quickly, I find a swedish boat where I am allowed to stay in. The captain is going to Guatenala. In exchange, I help him to fix his boat. I spend daily at least 10 hours for a week.

The problem is that this captain has some money problems and he can't leave the port because he can't totally pay his bill here. He consider to leave the island without paying it... Me, in front of this crazy and stupid decision (the army is everywhere in Cuba), I leave his boat... Not without getting ripped off, because this swedish hasn't finish with me, he makes me pay my food and the half of the port fees of the boat for the time I was on!

I can't say anything because if the entrance to the marina is refused to me, my chances to leave Cuba by boat-hitchhiking will be very small... Nevertheless, I don't let him without sharing with him my thoughts.

Of course, my work will remain unpayed.

However, this story won't finally stay on the boat because almost all the captains of the marina heard about it. The next day, I already find another boat on the way to Guatemala, aboard a steal boat of 50 feet from Quebec: ''The Dorcilyn'' and its captain ''Real''.

''The Dorcilyn''


We leave Cuba, where I finally stayed for two weeks. Our aiming point is Guatemala, with a stop in Belize.

The journey is going very well. I realize also that sailing at two people is more tiring than three because the nigth shifts are longer.

I am lucky, Real has been ''chef'' in Montreal for 10 years. He is cooking in an incredible way, especially on a boat.

Real and the catch of the day, a nice daurada!


After 5 days of sailing without stopping, we arrive in Belize. We stay few days, but in the moment to leave, we are victim of corruption from the port authorities. They make Real pay 500 dollars because he didn't call a belizean pilote when we arrive, so we sailed the protected waters of Belize by ourselves.

After checking out with some other captains, no one of them knew about this regulation...

We finally keep going on the way to Guatemala, our next stop and for me, my final destination aboat the Dorcilyn.

On the helm of the ''Dorcilyn''


We need one and a half day to reach Livingston, which is a village on the Rio Dulce, the river that we are going to sail on.

What a surprise when we get there, I recognize this swedish boat in the anchorage! The captain must have ripped off someone else to pay his bill!

Then comes one of the most beautiful moment of my world tour:going up the Rio Dulce with a sailing boat. This river leads us across a wonderful gorge, in the middle of the tropical forest and its colorful birds.

Real on the Rio Dulce


We can also see the mayan indigenous doing their daily tasks. They are moving by ''pirogue'', they are fishing with their nets and are coming to us to see their warm tortillas.

A fisherman with his boat on the Rio Dulce


We finally arrive to our last stop, which is Frontieras in Guatemala. I let Real and the Dorcilyn, that I hope to meet again on my way because he is also doing a world tour.

 

4-From Guatemala to Panama

From Guatemala, my next move is to go down to Panama. I have already done this road one year ago and I know there is no big difficulty on it. Hitchhiking works well from Guatemala to Nicaragua and then it becomes more difficult in Costa Rica and Panama, like last year.

In Nicaragua, hitchhiking was still very easy


I am going again in some cities, I visit friend of the passed year, I still can see some facts of each country.

In Nicaragua, the truck driver are still putting their hamac under their vehicules when they have to wait long hours on the borders


Hitchhiking in Costa Rica when it works...


… or when nobody stops, which leads me to sleep outside


And one day, I finally arrived in Panama City. From there, my challenge was to find a boat to Colombia. It took me 5 weeks! Discover the why and how in the nest part of this article called ''Hell in Darien''.

See you very soon,

Jeremy



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