Caribbean Island Adventures

Wed 16th July 2014
Living to Be Happy 


My final adventure in Colombia was to fly from the Colombian capital of Bogotá to the island of San Andrés. I could not have concluded my journey of Self discovery in a more perfect way than to spend my days from June 21st to July 15th on the magical islands of Providencia (Old Providence) and Cayo Cangrejo (Crab Cay) deep in the Caribbean sea.

THE CATAMARAN

After falling from grace on the island of San Andrés with a spectacular karma crash, I was more than ready on Friday 27th June to take the Catamaran (bouncy speed boat thingy) for the 3 hour trip further into the ocean to a remote Carribean island with 5000 inhabitants called Providencia (Old Providence in English).

fun followed by karma crash in San Andrés

People say that many choose to pay a lot more and fly on an Indiana Jones propela plane (like the one I took to Nuquí) because the 3 hour boat ride to Providenca is a vomit spectacular.

And people are not wrong. For 3 hours the boat chops at stomach churning speed right into the waves as more and more people reach for their sick bags until pretty much every on board is throwing up.

They have a couple of nice people working on board whose job it is to provide cool packs for the forehead and change your vomit bags for new ones. I am lucky. I used to cope terribly with travel sickness as a child, but now (I suppose after so much travelling) I cope well.

I read more of the Hunger Games for the first hour until I started to feel a bit queasy. Even with the girl sitting next to me vomiting away, I was able to concentrate on The Amazing Spiderman movie showing in front of me for the next hour. Then I started to feel like I would also be sick, and I knew I still had one more hour to go.

I found that by looking out the window as the boat literally bounced up and down, my brain was able to cope with the movement because my eyes were able to let it make sense of what was going on. This tactic not only stopped me from throwing up, but also rewarded me with my first ever view of dolphins in the ocean, as they jumped out the water in pairs beside the boat. I caught their final jump with my camera and you can see it in the video here:

bouncing along with dolphins on the Catamaran

ROBINSON CRUSOE

On arrival at the island, everyone started dashing off on motorbike-taxis (mototaxis) to their hotels but I, as usual, had arrived with no plan except for a piece of paper in my pocket with the words 'Santa Catalina' scribbled on it (a man at the hostel in San Andres had told me that I could camp there).

It turned out that Santa Catalina was an island next to Providencia that could easily be reached by simply strolling along a walkway bridge from where we had just arrived, so I headed in the opposite direction to all the other (mostly Colombian and not foreign) tourists.

As I walked onto this island of 200 inhabitants, I literally followed my intuition and headed left rather than right. I reached some steps that took me up; at the top I came to a viewpoint with cannons facing the sea; right next to this monument was the perfect space to pitch my tent.

it's a tough life living it rough on a small island

I waited until dark because I didn’t want to be told that I couldn’t camp there. As the sun went down I started building my home.

It turned out not to be a problem at all. One or two of the locals said that I shouldn’t really camp there, but they only knew that I was camping there because I had mentioned it in conversation, and they just offered me space on their land if I should be asked by anyone to move.

As no-one did ask me to move, it turned out to be the perfect location. I had my own panoramic view across the island, my own magical private beach down some more steps to the right of the monument, and hundreds of free mangos of varying varieties to snack on. Plus, since most of the foreigners stay on touristy built-up San Andrés, and the tourists that do come to Providencia head straight to Freshwater Bay on the main island (where the diving is), here on the island of Santa Catalina I was one of the only foreigners around.

THE CAPTAIN

As I have been listening more and more to my inner voice on this journey, I have felt an ever diminishing desire to start conversations with most people. At first I thought that maybe, after so many years wanting and even needing to be around others and central to the social group, that maybe there is something kind of wrong happening to me! Now I understand that this lack of desire to talk to others comes from the learning that I do not need to be around people or get their approval any more. Instead of wanting to be everyone’s friend - wanting to be wanted - I now care less and less what others think about me. In other words, by listening to my inner Self I feel a desire to instigate conversation only with people that I feel an intuitive connection with.

As night fell around 7pm that first night, I headed to the walkway bridge between the two islands to chill out. There at the bridge I immediately was attracted to a hippy-looking guy sat rolling a joint on a bench, so I started to talking to him. This 'attraction' to people that I am referring to does not come from any superficiality such as physical desire or a need to not be alone; but instead from an inner feeling that tells me on a deeper level that ‘this person I should talk to’. Living from our inner voice does this somehow.

The happy-go-lucky hippy, it turned out, is a French guy called Davy who has been travelling alone on his sail boat around the seas for years. He ended up telling me that he does not have family (I didn’t ask what happened but I presume losing his parents might explain where he got the money for a sail boat) and that his purpose in life is to completely lose all attachment to the outside world and live in the moment now. In fact he said, laughing, that he knows when he has achieved this when he has actually forgotten his name.

At first I was taken aback by this conclusion, but then I quickly understood. He is referring to completely losing the ego - me and mine. To no longer feel separate from everything around him but instead to just connect with all. Now that is an amazing adventure to be on!

He rolled his joint and then invited me to join his friends on the bridge, which I did. I ended up spending the whole night sitting on that bridge, and it was a perfect night. After feeling uptight in San Andres, I was reminded by these guys that the important thing in life is to relax, live in the moment, and enjoy where I am.

As the French sailor played with the children of a Colombian rasta and his German girlfriend who I presume live somewhere on the island, I talked to a wonderful Italian couple who know each other since High School, but recently got together after years travelling around and living in very different parts of the world abroad.

I especially hit it off with the girl, who talked to me about how she was travelling for a long time on her own to get to know her Self, and how she was originally planning to do this trip alone until she and her (now) boyfriend decided to meet up after years apart since High School, and immediately hit it off. So romantic!

There was also another French guy, Matthieu, who was teaching himself to make hats with coconut tree branches/leaves so that he could sell them on as an artisan; for the last couple of months he had joined the wandering French sailor Davy on his sail boat. Together they travelling the waves.

ONE WITH NATURE

I was fascinated with both of them and their impressions about life on the ocean. They told me lots of stories like how Davy had sailed through two huge whales as a killer whale had attacked them, and he had just hoped that neither of the two dying whales would flip a tail onto his 6-meter boat and smash it to smithereens in the open water; they both spoke of what it is like to spend day after day alone on the ocean, and then Davy mentioned how amazing it is when one actually experiences first hand the realisation that there is literally no island large, small or tiny anywhere anymore where man has not once already stepped. In the end we all shared fruit, bread, beer, and joints and talked about how the most important thing in life is to just ‘be’.

Before going to bed that night, we watched about 12 sting rays swim through the sea around us as a small one meter shark swam around them. My first sight of a shark in the open water! And I thought to myself how crazy I must be to want to actually go diving with these things! I must be crazy! :p

On my way back up to my tent, all the crabs had come out. Huge crabs - some the size of rabbits. I had to be careful with my torch so as not to step on one. Back at the top near my tent, as I sat in the darkness with my dim torch, something very big suddenly moved in the shadows next to me. With a start, I saw a lovely sandy-coloured dog come up to me with her tiny baby pup, and they slept next to my tent that night.

The next few days, this area became my home, and the dog, whom I named ‘Friday’, became my friend, following me around everywhere. I got to know the locals, found out the cheapest places to eat and get water, and negotiated prices where things were too expensive.

My private beach also turned out to be a snorkeling paradise! From the moment you move into the water, you are surrounded by thousands of small fish darting around living coral. Of course it makes sense. I am not actually at the shore. I am sitting on an island deep in the middle of the Carribean ocean.

living my own hunger games

The island can be very expensive for tourists. Especially accommodation (which I had sorted due to my tent) and food in restaurants. So I spent my days collecting mangoes and coconuts and making food from oats, fruits and water I had collected. Finishing the first book in the Hunger Games trilogy, I felt like Katniss wandering through the landscape finding ways to survive in the nature around me - except no one was out to kill me thank goodness.

LAZY DAYS

After several days camping, I decided it was time to finally take a shower, so I headed off to Freshwater Bay where I could book my diving with sharks, and find a place to stay for a couple of nights at the same time.

I found a nice cabaña (kind of hut house), negotiated at an excellent price, and then immediately fell ill - achy bones, a fever, cough, blocked sinuses, and delhi belly! It was almost as if God was waiting for me to find a place with a toilet before letting that stomach bug rip. Katniss may have had to deal with people hunting her down, but she never had to deal with delhi belly diarrhea! :-D

By Friday 4th July, I was feeling much better, but I was still sneezing a load of phlegm, and my left ear was still hurting; symptoms that are not okay for deep sea diving, since the underwater pressure can bust ear drums and do all sorts to of damage when sinuses are blocked.

I therefore decided to spend a few lazy days on the island, and start the diving course when I was fully recovered, and since I couldn’t justify spending money on an apartment now that I was feeling well enough to move around again with my backpack, I headed off to check out new camping options near Freshwater Bay and the dive centre.

delhi belly surprises 

Having checked out my options, I was sitting at my local hangout bar for coffee, food and football watching the World Cup, when happy smiley Gerry found me. I knew he was coming to meet me but I expected him to spend a few days on San Andrés first. Instead, to my honoured surprise, he had headed the first morning after his arrival on San Andrés straight to Providenica with hang over and all to find me.

I explained our options and then we headed to Southwest beach to pitch up tents. I now had a camping buddie to be lazy with on the island. Perfect!

lazy days with forever funny Gerry

DIVING IN THE DEEP

On the 9th July I moved back into the cabaña with Gerry, and then on the morning of the 10th, we dived with sharks!

It swims by me. 2 metres long with pointed face - a reef shark. No. Two! Swimming together with one eye on us. I spot another in the distance, and then suddenly cruising 1 metre below me, I spot a fourth swimming directly under me. At that distance you can really see its size.

At some point, the barracudas come over to inspect the situation; nosily they come close. Then decide to turn away from us and continue on their way.

We come up to the rudder of the sunken cargo ship from World War II. Rusted and resting and surrounded by coral now, as schools of fish swim around it.

And then something slithers through the maze of coral below us. With its long snout, the beautiful green moray eel looks more like a 3 metre long dragon of the deep as it lifts its head and moves in closer to inspect Gerry. Its neck stretches out like an accordion. Move away Gerry! It doesn’t seem to want you so close!

The first dive was to an underwater statue of Jesus standing proudly 25 metres below the surface in the middle of shark territory. The dive to the underwater cargo ship described above was our second dive.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t film either dive because the cost of renting an underwater camera from the dive centre was too high, so the day after we headed to Manchineel Bay to rent out a kayak and paddle our way over the ocean to Cayo Cagrecho (Crab Cay) and do some underwater filming in more shallow waters there.

Crab Cay Island in the Caribbean

In the truly pristine water of this really tiny island, I could skin dive with snorkel and mask to a depth of 7 metres with Gerry’s clever mobile phone and film some of the life in the ocean as if in my own human-sized aquarium.

Check out the video to see the turtles, sting rays and amazing variety of tropical fish!

perfect paradise island to end the adventure 

On Saturday 12th July, Gerry and I enjoyed the perfect finish to our Caribbean island adventures with an island concert from our new friend Elkin Robinson.

Caribbean Providence Island People!

It was the perfect celebration of this amazing island called Old Providence and the unforgettable time that I have spent in this magical country called Colombia!

Be inspired ♥

 

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