Sunday, March 30, 2014

Providencia, Colombia

Isla Providencia (AKA Old Providence) and Santa Catalina Island, Colombia

Sunday 16 March – Sunday 30 March

We arrived to Providencia around 3 PM Sunday afternoon, greeted by JoAnne & Bill who were out snorkeling as we were coming in the channel. Informing us the agent Mr. Bush, who you have to use to check in, was thought to be off island and that dinner would be on their boat that night. We tried to hail the Bush Agency on VFH 16 a little after 4 once we were anchored, and were glad we got no response. Cleaned up the salt water from the dodger and hand rails, sorry we had just missed the short rain storm that we could see cover the island as we approached, it would have given the boat a good rinse.

Over to Ultra for dinner along with friends Gina & Bruce on S/V Dream Catcher and Hinnerk & Kinga from S/V Paulinchen. It was a great way to be welcomed to the beautiful island of Providencia.

Monday morning we tried to check in, calling Mr. Bush several times on the VHF. The Port Authority answered us and said they would also try to reach him and call us back. Since we were “stuck” on the boat not being allowed on shore until we could check in, Steve decided he would make dinner for the group that night on Ocean Star. After lunch and still not hearing from either we tried again to reach the Bush Agency, still no answer. This left us not knowing if he was back on the island, and if we should try to go check in. Bill & JoAnne were going into town, so they said they would stop by his house/office and check for us. They called us back and confirmed that Mr. Bush was still off island BUT his housekeeper Adella could help us get our paper work started.

We wanted to get checked in since there was a planned hike on Tuesday with a group of cruisers that we wanted to go on. We met B&J at the dock just before 3, and they showed us to Mr. Bush's pointing out the different stores & bakeries along the way. We had a nice visit with Adella as she has lived on the island over 20 years and had lots of stories to share. Finally the port authority guy showed up and took some of our information. Customs & Immigration never made it so we left our passports with Adella to have them stamped the following day. Even though we had been told by other cruisers that we might have to leave our passports at the office, and that this was a common occurrence here, it was still a strange feeling leaving our passports behind. We were told we could come ashore as we wished and that the rest of the paperwork would be completed by Mr. Bush. Picked up some SIM cards for the local phone company so we can get internet, and back to the boat by 5 to finish getting dinner ready. Good thing it was a main course salad, with minimal cooking required. Another fun evening.

Tuesday one of the boats Baros with Linda & Hans, who have been to Providencia many times so know the island very well, were leading the way on a hike to the Peak. This was the 14th time for them to do the hike but a first for Shirley & Tom on S/V Rio Nimpkish, Hinnerk & Kinga on S/V Paulinchen, Bill & JoAnne on Ultra and us and we were glad to have their knowledge of the island and the trail.

We met at the town dock at 9 and caught a van taxi to the park entrance to start the hike by 9:30. Stopping along the way to read the park signs about the local flora & fauna and take pictures we reached the peak 90 minutes later, and were rewarded with spectacular views. Rested for about 30 minutes up on top enjoying the views before starting down. The heat of the day was bringing out all the lizards and we spent some time trying to get a good picture of one of the many Blue Lizards we saw. They are skittish little guys but their bright neon blue coloring makes them a sight to see amongst the green & brown of their landscape. Once we were all down our “guides” Linda & Hans had us go over to Southwest Beach for lunch at Restaurante Divino Nino and a refreshing swim in the ocean. A huge fish platter was had by all and not much went uneaten. Too full to go far we walked down the beach to Richards Beach Bar for another drink to enjoy while we continued the conversations. We were joined by Laura & Russel S/V Luturna II who also know a lot about the island as Laura is from here. Called the taxi van driver, Nelson, to bring us back returning to the boats by 6 after a great day.

Wednesday tried reaching the Bush Agency on the VHF to see when we needed to come in and finish clearance. No answer until later when another new arrival entered the harbor and called in. They were told to come in then and we were told to come in at 4, freeing the day. We have limited internet with only Steve's tablet, the Movistar SIM card would not work in my Tigo USB stick, so trying to get caught up on some emails. The watermaker was started, and a few minutes later we got the system fail alarm, so Steve shut it down. After lunch we went to the fore-peak where the watermaker lives to see what the problem was and discovered another small problem – a container of Stabil (a gasoline additive) which is greasy leaked so we needed to clean that up before looking at the watermaker. Mess cleaned up and Steve gets to the watermaker and it is NOT good. A hole was blown out of a crucial fitting. No clue as to how it could have happened, not going to be an easy fix if at all possible. By now it is time to get ready to go see Mr. Bush to finish our check in. Stopped by the internet place to check options to get my computer connected to the internet. Finished our paperwork with Mr. Bush so he can clear us and the boat into Colombia, and getting our Passports back. Back by the internet place to drop off my Tigo (Honduras Internet) USB stick so it can get unlocked to be used by Movistar the internet provider here.

Thursday morning I picked up Shirley so she could show me where Alitea, a woman on island that does laundry for the cruisers, lives. NOT an easy home to find, climbing stairs and hiking a path we finally get to her house, and she agrees to do some laundry for us. A quick stop at the internet store to pick up my now unlocked USB dongle and back to the boat to see if it works and to get laundry. I can't get dongle to work so go back in with my computer and Daisy at the internet store fixes it. Back to the boat and internet now working on my computer. Need Steve's help to bring our 2 loads of laundry in, and climb back up again to Alita's house. Steve continues working on the watermaker problem, finding how to take it apart and finding a replacement part. Luckily friend Gina on Dream Catcher has her brother coming to visit in 2 weeks so we will be able to get the part brought in. Join most of the other boats in the anchorage 8 out of 10 for happy hour drinks at the Bamboo Bar on Santa Catalina Island.

Friday Steve & I met up with JoAnne & Bill, and Gina & Bruce at 10 to rent motor bikes to tour the island. We rented from the grocery store, $25 for the day, no deposit, no form(s) to fill out, only Bruce showed an ID and we drove away. We had a great day circumnavigating the island on its main road and exploring many of the side streets of the tiny island seeing the beautiful beaches along the way. Lunch back at Southwest Bay, opting for smaller dishes this time, before continuing on around the island. After a full day we turned the bikes back in by 5:30, no one wanted to be riding around at night and no one thought they would come back in in the morning to go for a ride. Steve & I made another hike up to pick up our laundry before heading back to the boat for the night.

Saturday few jobs on the boat and in to town to pick up bread (they have two good bakeries here, not like the French islands but pretty good) and to hike back up to the laundry house to pay as she was not there the day before when we picked it up and her husband did not know the cost. You need to look at the pictures of the TRAIL to the house for laundry and think about that next time you do laundry at home. Bruce & Gina hosted a group dinner of Lasagna for 8 on Dream Catcher, we brought garlic bread, Ultra brought a salad, and Paulinchen brought Baileys liquor and pastries for desert to go with a desert Gina made.

Sunday, lazy day spent relaxing on the boat.

Monday was a holiday on the Island , but no one could tell us what holiday. Some stores said they would be closed and some were open, not much different from any other day that we could tell. At first we had heard that maybe they would have one of the island horse races that we had heard is a fun event to see. But Linda from S/V Baros found out there was a Black Crab Festival & Cat Boat Racing on another beach. Black crabs are small land crabs that migrate to the sea once a year to lay their eggs, then go back to the forests. She made the announcement on VHF 16 to see who wanted to go, 8 out of the 10 boats did. So Steve & I along with Linda & Hans from Baros Shirley & Tom on Rio Nimpkish, Hinnerk & Kinga on Paulinchen, Laura & Russel Luturna II, Bruce & Gina on Dream Catcher, John & Lucy on Mate, and Bill & JoAnne on Ultra, piled into Nelsons taxi van again to go over to Manchineel Bay for the day. We had stopped by here the other day when we rented motor bikes, but it was a different scene today. Full with people, and vendors set up selling food & drinks, watching the locals set the sail on the Cat Boats is always a sight to watch. Another great day hanging out on a beautiful beach. 

Tuesday 3/25 was Bills B-Day so there was a big party planned onboard Ultra for that night. Russel & Laura had left to sail over to San Andres so that just left 7 boats / 14 people for the party. Good thing they have a big Trimaran, so we had a wonderful night filled with great food, drinks and fun. We even all sent off messages in a bottle, supplied from B&J's left over wine bottles.

Wednesday everyone was moving a little slow so not much was done. Since our watermaker is broken and we are waiting on a part to fix it. Bill & JoAnne were making extra, so we went over and got another 25 gallons in 5 gallon jugs to put into our tanks. Paulinchen left late in the day to sail over to San Andres and then on to Panama.

Thursday easy day, Steve worked on cleaning off some of the rust spots on the boat. When we were in the boat yard where they are grinding and welding on other boats small little shavings wind up on our boat when mixed with salt water make little rust spots that need to get cleaned up before they get worse. Cleaning up requires rust remover, a toothbrush and a small pick to dislodge the metal specks. Tedious mind-numbing work.

Friday morning it rained for the first time since we arrived, it did not last long but it came down heavy and gave the boat a nice rinse. It cleared up in plenty of time for the days planned activity of hiking & snorkeling. Over on Santa Catalina Island (the little island next to & connected to Providencia by a foot bridge) is one of Pablo Escobar's homes, OR what remains of it, which is very little. The home is on top of a hill that the main path has long since been overgrown. Bill & Joanne had been over to the beach and saw that it looked like an easier path up from the beach. So along with Bruce & Gina and John & Lucy we all took the dinghies around to that side of the island. The path was in much better shape then what we expected. And even though there is not much left of the house you can tell how impressive it must have been back in the 1980's. Just the logistics of getting the material to these islands and then to the top of the hill with no road access would have been a major ordeal, but then he sure had the money to pay for it. It was very interesting to see, back down to the beach for a picnic lunch then snorkeling on the way back to the boats.

That night we planned to go into a pizza place in town. Shirley had gone by the day before to make sure they would be open and ready for 10 people. So after meeting at the town dock, stopping at the “corner” for a beer then going up there at 6:30 we were very surprised to see it closed ! Some how she forgot to mention that she might be having surgery that morning and might not be feeling well that night and might be closed. There are no other dinner places in “town” so Shirley knew of another place called Martins that is good with good prices. But we had to try to get a taxi for 10 people to get there. None of us knew Nelson's #, so we stopped by the internet store and Daisy helped us. First she called the restaurant to see if they were open then made the reservation then called to find us a taxi. The first taxi to show up Jerry in a nice van but only 7 seats, we tried to tell him we did not mind squeezing in (we are all VERY use to overloaded vans) but he said no he could not do it. By this time we are all very hungry, so he says he can call his cousin Larry who has a truck to come get us. We negotiate a round trip price over the phone and a few minutes later Larry shows up. A nice 4 door pick up with bench seats in the bed, we all climb in and he brings us to the restaurant where we all have wonderful meals. The restaurant calls him as we are checking out to come and bring us back. On the way back we mention the horse races again and he says that there will be one on Saturday. He stops to ask a friend on the way to confirm and we are told yes it will happen on Saturday afternoon around 1. We have his card if we need his truck for another big group, not sure who will be going at that time.

Sunday morning John & Lucy on Mate head out for Roatan. Bruce & Gina have boat projects to work on before guest arrive. Linda & Hans have friends that have just arrived so want to spend time with them and help them check in. Shirley & Tom said they were going to rent a motor bike for a ½ day and ride over seeing a few more things before they leave on Monday. Steve & I picked Bill & JoAnne up with our dinghy and walked down the street from the dock. Under the “tree” locals with motor bikes hang out and give each other and tourists taxi rides. We negotiate another fare and hop on 4 different bikes to be driven over to Southwest Bay arriving around 12:30. Shirley & Tom arrive a little while later, and the places along the beach are filling up. Confirming that yes there will be a horse race that day maybe around 2. We enjoy another great lunch at Restaurante Divino Nino. Finally see one guy walking a horse down the beach, and that horse is ready to run, just a beautiful animal. We had been told that only 2 horses race together at a time, it's a narrow beach. We were also under the impression that several different races could take place on the same day, just not on this day. The 2nd horse finally shows up and they go down to the starting line past Richards Bar. They have several people around warning unknowing people to be aware that a couple of horses will soon be tearing down the beach and if you are in the way you will get trampled. The 2 horses come running around the bend and down towards where we are watching from, fly past us and down to the other end of the beach. We are not sure which if either won ?? Apparently / maybe one of the horses turned to wide and pushed the other too far into the water? Both horses continued to the end and then a LOT of people from both sides who had been placing bets were following down the beach doing a lot of yelling. Unable to understand all that was being said and by which side we never did know the final outcome. We still enjoyed another fun island event. Went to catch a ride back to “town”, our motor bike guys said they would be around but we did not see them, so we flagged down a car passing by and asked if they could give us a ride, negotiated a price and the 4 of us fit in the back seat of a Buick La Saber. We had a very slow (but safe!) ride with very loud music back to town. Most of the time the driver's hands were clapping or eating iguana that a passing motorbike handed through the window. Dropped Bill & JoAnne off at their boat picking up 5 more containers of water.

Sunday another relaxing day on the boat, enjoying this beautiful anchorage that has a wonderful breeze blowing through it almost all day, every day. Not a bad place to be stuck waiting on parts, glad for the extra time to do more exploring of this unique island. 

It has been a great two weeks in the island of Providencia, where we passed our 4 year anniversary. Cruising in our floating home, Ocean Star, we have traveled via the sea to 24 countries plus the US Virgin Islands & Puerto Rico. Lost count of how many different islands and cays / keys we have been to. It has been a remarkable journey so far one that we hope to continue. A lot of hard work mixed with a lot of fun and exciting adventures and many really wonderful friendships formed along the way. So thankful to be living this lifestyle and for the love and support from family whom we miss dearly everyday.


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