There’ll be crocodiles in these parts
We arrived at the expansive bay of Matanchen a few hours after leaving Isla Isabel and her boobies. Palapas pepper the coastline here, stretching over hundreds of metres on the north shore. So, there’s no shortage of places to eat, regardless of attitude to food. But, even after whizzing around the bay for a reconnaissance session in the dinghy, I couldn’t work out where to land.
Fortunately, our Aloha friends were already in the bay and could brief us on the lay of the land. Or, in this case, the beach. They pointed out the best spot to stop: a restaurant to the west of the beach with a helpful proprietor with muscles strong enough to help drag the dinghy out of the water. And where the water tour guys hang out. So, that’s where we headed the next day.
Give us a tour and make it snappy
Although the bay itself is nice enough – certainly the most comfortable one we have dropped anchor in for a long time – its main draw is the restaurants and proximity to the boat tours up the San Blas River. We read about these tours before arriving, and they sounded worth giving a go. So after parking the dinghy at the restaurant, suggested by Steve and Liz, we headed off into town. And the restaurant proprietor did help us with our dinghy and said he would look after it for us while we were gone.
It’s an interesting place, Matanchan. The restaurants seem to be the centre of the economy where, as a local, you can pick your spot, park your car, pay for a table and enjoy the day. It doesn’t seem to matter if you bring food with you. Payment for the table and perhaps a purchase of a Cerveza or two is enough to keep the restauranteurs happy.
The river tour HQ is only a short walk out of town on the right, just off the main road. We booked a trip for our trio and joined the small queue for the boat, consisting of just one small family. Within five minutes, we were seated in a panga, slowly motoring up the river up the San Blast river, weaving left and right under beautiful canopies of trees.
It wasn’t long before the driver spotted a crocodile on the river bank, ready with his jaw wide open ready to snap shut on anything he fancied coming nearby.
This river is used quite a lot for filming, and this pair of stilted buildings starred in a telenovela series that we had never heard of.
We spotted turtles, great egrets, smaller crocodiles than the monster in the photo above, and ospreys on the journey.
And at the rest stop, there’s a small lagoon to swim in, but only if you trust the integrity of the wire fence to keep the crocodiles out and the human’s arms on.
Dinghy dragging and paddleboarding
On the way back, we stopped at one of the many bakery shops selling bread and cakes before wandering back to the restaurant and our dinghy. And, after a lunch large enough to bulk up a bodybuilder, we attacked the challenge of getting the dinghy in the water. This place has a passing similarity to Southport beach, in that it has an almost invisible rise from the sea to the land (except there’s no candy floss, whelks or cold weather.)
We left our dinghy no more than 3 metres from the sea, but when we came to push it back in the water, it looked like Canute had finally succeeded, pushing back the water by another 50 metres.
Fortunately, the restaurant owner was strong and willing to help us drag the dinghy back.
We opted for paddleboarding the next day, not wanting to repeat the strong man challenge with the dinghy. So, we tied the paddleboards to the dinghy and towed them towards shallow water so that Joy could practice. Nobody got injured, so we’ll take that as a victory.