We left Jamaica anticipating a full three day run to Isla de Providencia. With strong winds at our back, we made much better time covering the 340 nm than we had anticipated. Instead of arriving in the early morning hours, we approached our destination late at night; not ideal when you can’t see where you’re going and navigational aids are unreliable. In the dead of night ships’ lights, distant lights from the shores beyond and missing beacons are distracting and disconcerting to say the least. Fortunately, we had access to detailed notes from sailors who had previously arrived during the night, suggesting we stop in the cays north of Providencia. We made our way slowly along the reef and safely anchored in 10 feet of clear water. Four Coconuts were with us and we woke to find ourselves the only boats in the vicinity. After a brief morning swim, we set sail for Isla de Providencia, a small volcanic island, part of the San Andres archipelago belonging to Colombia.
We were greeted by the most delightful escorts as we approached Providence; a pod of twenty bow-riding dolphins played with us for half an hour. Giddy with excitement we hoped this magical moment would never end. Luckily, we were able to tape a few minutes and have attached some footage on our video page: Bow Riding in Providencia
This magical little place was full of the unexpected — Creole/Spanish/English speaking people who proudly differentiate themselves from mainland Colombians, were genuinely welcoming and full of community spirit. We lucked into arriving during their Labour Day celebrations and the weekend was filled with activities of all day (and all night) celebrations of singing, dancing, and playing instruments. The music was good, the happiness palpable and the inclusiveness real.
We spent one of our first days at the horse races. Locals find the fastest horses in Providence and in San Andres and have them race in heats of two along a sandy beach packed with revellers and gamblers. We enjoyed the action along with a fabulous feast of “mixto” (a combination seafood platter of crab, lobster, fish, conch, and plantain) — best meal in the Caribbean so far. The kids watched the horses, played in the water, swung from the trees and then topped it off with an open air “cab” ride in the back of a pickup truck!
Never to miss a hiking opportunity, we climbed “the Peak” with a local agricultural engineer. She invited us along as she took GPS waypoints along the route. We were joined by three attention deprived dogs who climbed with us the whole way. Fabulous view from the top!
Three weeks of strong easterlies kept us pinned here; longer than we had planned but the upside was getting to know our neighbours in the anchorage. Typical of cruisers, we shared “sun downers”, organized group hikes to the dilapidated mansion of the notorious cocaine smuggler Pablo Escobar, and took tours of the island on 4-wheel drive gators.
It’s particularly dry here and everyone has been waiting for rain. With the rain comes a mass migration of black crabs that occurs for a few weeks each year; tens of thousands march down the mountainside to lay eggs along the beach. One of the locals explained that the phenomenon is like watching a moving carpet. Our local diesel mechanic took us to the “best viewing spot” but we were only able to see a few at a time as it wasn’t quite rainy or cool enough.
So, needless to say, all is good. We are so happy to have found this little island paradise of genuinely happy and uncomplicated people. We cannot help but wonder if their disposition and attitude towards us is because foreigners are restricted from buying land here; perhaps that’s why there is so little disparity in wealth and an apparent lack of resentment towards foreigners? Such a lovely contrast and welcome change.