New Places, Familiar Faces

Rode Trip has experienced a whirlwind of excitement since we departed Providencia. We set out one fine morning, accompanied by friends aboard s/v Eva Marie, and sailed a smooth, 60nm day to the neighboring Columbian island of San Andres. We had a fantastic sail and lots of fun chatter on the VHF while sailing in good company. We anchored at San Andres and were able to connect with the clearance agent there, Rene Torres. Even though we had already cleared into and paid our Columbian fees, we still had to hand over $50 for Rene to receive our Zarpe (clear out paperwork) from Providencia. Rene was prompt, friendly, and also coordinated our clear-out paperwork with Immigration when we were ready to depart San Andres. This would not have been a stop along our route had it not been for some quick planning by our very good friend, Paul…

From the moment we’d arrived at San Andres, it was evident that this was the BIG city! (I say that having spent the previous 5 months in the Bahamas and Providencia, so in reality it was like a small town to those of you landlubbers who frequent actual cities.) A view of the cityscape was on the horizon as we sailed past numerous tour boats along the entrance channel. The island landscape was very different from that of Providencia; the island was also surrounded by coral reefs but was low-lying and had been overbuilt with hotels, stores, busy streets, etc.

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…about our very good friend, Paul. He had been hoping to visit us since we’ve moved aboard Rode Trip. Paul truly understands the cruiser guidelines, “You (visitors) can select a location to visit or a time to visit but you (visitors) cannot select both.” Paul’s previous attempts to visit failed because of our schedule/weather conflicts and his schedule conflicts, but this time the universe had aligned! I received a message from Paul, “…where are you? how long will you be there? where will you be next?” All appropriate questions; I’d answered that we were at Providencia and headed to Bocas del Toro, Panama. I’d added that Paul could join us for the passage to Bocas, since he is a sailor and we do love the extra sleep that a 3-manned passage provides (thanks, BMac for establishing our 3-man passage schedule). Within minutes of Paul asking for our current location, he had searched the all-knowing WorldWideWeb and found flights and ferry schedules…long story short he booked a flight from Chicago to Panama City to San Andres. We couldn’t be more excited!

We walked to the airport to meet Paul. En-route, Brian and I discussed airports and we couldn’t even think of an airport in the states that we could have walked to if we’d wanted to. We were both surprised to find a Hershey’s Chocolate shop in the airport…and a Hello Kitty “MAX Kitty” These are the things we miss arriving by sailboat.

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Welcome Paul!! (a.k.a. Pablo, in Columbia) After hugs, Paul got down to business playing an augmented reality game called Ingress (BORING!) Paul really loves this game; the object is to make triangles by accessing GPS-based portals…bla, bla, bla…it was created by Google and there are portals all over the world…bla, bla, bla…there is some point system…and there are lots of rules. Brian is very interested in this game. I am not and Paul’s wife, Emily, is not. So thank goodness we had no agenda (hence cruising) and it was Paul’s vacation and we entertained this madness.

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Then, we meandered though the San Andres streets…

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…pausing for a photo shoot at some street benches…

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Oh hello, Rasta, check out Ingress it’s awesome!

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Yes, I’d love braids!

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Got a little Captain in ya!

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Supper time!

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No better way to start a passage than to share the night with fellow cruisers, good music, and a rum sampling (rums from Panama, Columbia, Nicaragua, Jamaica, and an added bonus Gin from good ‘ol Canada).

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The Peak

Rising from the center of Isla de Providencia, the highest point is known simply as The Peak. With an elevation of roughly 1,190 feet (I’ve converted from roughly 363 meters), The Peak presented quite a climb for us having been previously in the Bahamas where our hikes brought us to astonishing heights near 100 feet. In addition, it was HOT! The heat of course was no surprise because once again we gringos were hiking mid-day when normal people were siesta-ing. We were accompanied by our friends David & Victoria (s/v Eva Marie) as we hopped a bus to begin our venture to the peak.

Mopeds are the primary mode of transportation on Providencia. It seems everyone has a moped, some serve as taxis, and for $25/day tourists can “Rent a Moto.” There are cars and trucks and vans, many of which serve as taxis; also available for rent are 4×4 vehicles called Mules (imagine my dismay to learn that the mules were in fact vehicles and not furry, four-legged animals). The circumference of the island, however, is only 8 miles and so Brian and I had been determined to not rent any sort of vehicle. We do, after all, have capable legs and we are accustomed to walking everywhere. But we wanted to save our leg power for the hike up The Peak, and so we discovered the bus. For $2.50 total for both of us we could ride the bus around the entire island; the bus being a blue van. I’d learned from the woman at the Information booth that the busses run from morning until 6:00pm, with an afternoon break. The Information woman confirmed we could pick up a return bus at one of the many Bus Stops around the island or flag one down along the road. So we got on a bus at Santa Isabel and told the driver we wanted to go to The Peak. Our plan; hike The Peak and catch a bus back. The bus was comfortable, not cramming in too many people, and the driver and passengers were helpful at getting us to the start of the trail. We were dropped at Bottom House, a small village on the southeast side of the island, and directed toward The Peak. Once again we were told we needed a guide, but this time we knew there was actually a trail. Even as we began our hike, a man on a moped stopped alongside us and asked if we needed a guide. I’m sure he wanted to make a few extra bucks that day; but I told him, “If we get scared, we’ll come back.” The man smiled, chuckled, and said, “OK,” as he turned to drive away.

We followed the side street to the very end, turned left toward two houses as we’d been directed, and spotted a trail. It took a bit of meandering on cow paths into and out of several pastures for us to realize that we’d started a trail too early. This was not The Peak trail. We found our way back to the two houses at the end of the lane and walked between them where we located the actual trail. Guide!? Humph! Who needs a guide!?

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Cows on the island seem to be the only animals that are restricted to pastures.

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Other animals; horses, dogs, cats, and chickens were all roaming free. We did on one occasion discover two pigs snoozing in a pig-pen. So maybe just the edible animals are pastured or penned.

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The Peak trail was well maintained and provided informative signs to teach us about the flora and fauna on Providencia.

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It wasn’t until near the top of the trail that Dave discovered the informative signs were also written in English, on the back! At least we got some practice translating. Guide!? Humph! Who needs a guide!? This sign describes the Green Iguana. We’d spotted several iguanas on the island. The locals, particularly teen boys, kill the iguanas. Not only for sport, they do eat the meat and eggs. The elder locals are trying to put a stop to this behavior because of the negative impact on the iguana population.

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Blue Iguanas seem to be abundant; and they are BLUE!

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It was evident that we were visiting Providencia during the island’s dry season.

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The scenery did change as we hiked into the mountains along a stream bed; becoming more green, with more dense trees and grasses. Here we found a Nursery: I am one of the key pieces in the designing of strategies for forest recovery. I multiply plant species who are threatened or have particular interest to an area that will enriched and increase forest quality and density for conservation.

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Almost to the top!

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Just a little farther…

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King (and Queen) of the hill!

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Our view from the summit was a bit hazy that day, good though. The first shot is a nice view of Santa Catalina and the anchorage.

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We hiked down much more quickly, anxious to return to Santa Isabel for COLD beer. We waited at the Bus Stop at Bottom House for nearly half an hour. We chatted with some locals and rested our legs. Then, we opted to walk toward town knowing that we could flag down a bus or stop at another Bus Stop if we wanted to rest. We walked, and walked, and walked…no busses came! For nearly 2 hours and 4.5 miles we walked and did not spot a single bus until we were just about to town. Then, two busses drove by in the opposite direction, one right after the other! Good thing Providencia is a small island. We certainly saw the sights that afternoon and were never happier to sit down to a cold beer and order a very large pizza!

Pina Colada in a Pint Glass, Yes Please!

I thoroughly enjoy all of the music produced by Gaelic Storm but one song in particular, Pina Colada in a Pint Glass, I hold near and dear to my heart. This is the story of a working gal; all she wants to do is get outa dodge. Her dreams and mine are closely aligned, “…She wants a pina colada in a pint glass, she wants to be where the summer don’t stop! She wants gin clear water and milk white sand, a sunburned nose and a drink in her hand with a pink umbrella on top! I had successfully eliminated winter, found the gin clear water and milk white sand, had many a sunburned nose, and now finally…the pina colada!

Brian and I invited friends, David and Victoria, to join us for sundowners. Not just any sundowners, but excursion sundowners at Almond Bay where we hoped to find the highly sought after pina colada. We dinghied along the coast of Providencia about one-mile south from the anchorage. Almond Bay was a charming little sandy beach where the main attraction was a funky, Rasta-looking beach bar.

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“Pina colada bar?” I asked a friendly hostess. I received a big smile, “Si.” We arranged some chairs and found a comfortable seat with a lovely view of the bay while we awaited four drinks.

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Meantime, one of the most hilarious sights I have seen… We’re sitting with a lookout of a fantastic bay, behind us tall mountains and swaying palms, and we watch as a pair of tourists get out of the water and walk down the beach toward our dinghies. The tourists pause at David and Victoria’s dinghy. The man takes out his camera and begins backing away, nice time for a lovely photo in front of the water. But, no! The lady sits down beside the dinghy and poses for a photo! Seriously! She’s working the lens with at least three different seductive poses before the photo shoot ends. I couldn’t believe in this little slice of paradise that the inflatable dinghy was their choice backdrop!

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When the pina coladas arrived we were still laughing. “Cheers!” And just like that it wasn’t the icy cold, tall, sweet drink in our hands that made our day but the experience of obtaining it. No pink umbrella necessary!