Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Photos: The Islands of Colombia

                                            A rare sunny afternoon in Providencia Island, Colombia

    After finally shoving off from Shelter Bay, Panama, we headed north to finally explore the islands of the Caribbean Sea. After a rough passage we arrived at Isla San Andres, one of the two islands of the nation of Colombia.

                                              The dinghy dock at Isla San Andres, Colombia

                                      Scooters are the main form of transportation on San Andres

   This is an adorable, working island with a few thousand happy residents. Both San Andres and Providencia are prime vacation destinations for mainland Columbians, who fly here by the droves.

   The islanders are a mix of Latin and Afro-Carribean cultures, and both English and Spanish are spoken.

           Meet a typical San Andres family -- and yes, they DO drive their toddlers, chihuauas and even INFANTS around on their motorcycles just like in the photo. No helmets. No laws of any kind in this area, evidently. And YES, there IS a hospital on the island... (YIKES)

                                       Fishing boats on the shore of San Andres

                 We can only assume that this enterprising Columbian was hoping to glean off of the success of "Kentucky Fried Chicken" ("Kent Touch Fry Chicken"). Sigh. I guess he just tried to sound it out. And the average Columbian has probably never even heard of "Kentucky."

  From a cruisers standpoint, the weak link of Isla San Andres is the anchorage. It's too shallow and the holding is poor.

                                   These guys had a bit of trouble in the San Andres anchorage

    But we enjoyed our days there, and heartily recommend the island for a visit if you should be passing through.  Next stop: Isla Providencia, the other Colombian island about 90 miles north.

                     Isla Providencia: a taste of the South Pacific in the Southwest Caribbean

      Unfortunately, during our stay there was a potential war brewing between Nicaragua and Colombia over who actually owns these islands, which are actually closer to Nicaragua than they are to Colombia.

               A Colombian battleship patrolled the harbor upon our arrival in case Nicaragua should get any ideas. I'm not sure if that was a comfort or not...

      Anyway, the islanders assured us that Nicaragua would never invade because the Colombian military is so much stronger and larger. So, if the islanders weren't scared, then why should WE be? We decided to settle in and explore the island.

                                                             A typical island home

                                                    A forest of palms right to the waters edge

        We rented this scooter and explored the island.  No helmet required. No rear view mirrors (see above). But at $20 for 4 hours rental, we weren't complaining!  "No worries, mon!"

                     Most homes here have corrugated roofs and wood window covers

                                                                   A good catch

    After a fun day and a good night sleep aboard Espiritu, we awoke to this sight off our port bow:

                                      Two Colombian battleships patrol the harbor

     Slightly alarmed, the locals continued to smile brightly, waving off any concerns with a happy shrug. "No problem!" they said. Well, OK, if the locals aren't worried...so we went on a nice hike with our friends from "Liberation II,"  our buddy boat from Shelter Bay.

           The crew of "Liberation II" from Modesto, CA. These guys were part of the team that prosecuted Scott Peterson for killing his wife Lacey, which made them pretty cool in our book.

      Scott Peterson sez: "Damn you, Liberation II! I rot in jail while you are sailing the Caribbean!"

      Sometimes, thankfully, justice is done.      :-)

                          A heavenly Providencia beach. Did I mention Scott Peterson is NOT here? ;-)

                                            Coconuts sell for coconuts

                               There are more upscale dwellings here too...

                                         A charming boardwalk rings the anchorage

  The anchorage here is much more secure than the one at San Andres. There were 10-15 sailboats here during our stay, half going north, half going south -- all waiting for a good weather window. We all settled in and got to know each other.

             I played "Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit" with these cute cruising kids. Needless to say, I failed miserably, as I am not the target demographic. I answered "Dumbledore" to every question, which brought fits of laughter from the children, delighted by my ignorance of all things Harry.   :-)

                                                Another Providencia scene

                                 Warm, sunny days like this were a rarity here.
                                 Most days brought squalls and 30 knot winds.

                                                       Room with a view

                                                        Humble dwelling

             Simple tree sticks stand in for scaffolding on a typical island construction site

                                          Chris rests during a hike on the island

                                                            Fred Flintstone's weight set?

                                             A herd of cows ambles through downtown

        It rains and rains here. This photo shows the importance of proper and creative drainage. Note the rain catch running from left to right, in front of the window and on around the house. Noone will ever die of thirst here on Providencia!

Uh-oh. On day 3 we awoke to this sight:

                                THREE Colombian battleships now patrolling the harbor.
                                            More trouble brewing with Nicarague...

       And now, the people of Providencia were uprising in the streets. Accurate information was tough to come by, but as near as we could see it, a ruling from the Hague was about to come down on the dispute over the islands.

    There was now an extra-large military presence on the island, which was reassuring, I guess.

                             Colombian military police peruse the local donut shop.
          That settles it: no matter where you are in the world, it's a fact: cops love donuts!

     Well, once again the crew of Espiritu (and the other 10 sailboats in the harbor) found ourselves in an interesting spot. One thing was clear: noone was going anywhere. If there was to be a battle at sea, anchored safely in the harbor was the place to be.

   Might as well find ways to distract ourselves.  We enjoyed an evening of billiards in the local pool hall with the boys from "Liberation II."

       Scott Peterson sez: "Wait...the boys from 'Liberation II' are hanging out in a Columbian pool hall while I'm rotting here in JAIL?"   Yep, that's pretty much the situation, Scott. You should have thought of that before you murdered Lacey!

                 Turns out Columbian dogs like to play pool, as opposed to American dogs,
                                             who -- if the painting is true, prefer poker.

       The good news is, the next morning the Hague came down with a determination that settled (for now) the military situation between Nicaragua and Columbia. The battleships went back to Cartagena. The populace heaved a sigh of relief. And the cruisers got our weather window which sent us all to sea again where we belong.

            After 3 days and night at sea, Espiritu is happily anchored at Roatan in the Bay Islands, Honduras. It's a world class SCUBA destination, so we couldn't be happier.

    And near as we can tell, there are no impending wars of any kind here.

    So, we're happy.     :-)

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