Thursday, 16 January 2014

2 Weeks In the Colombian Caribbean… The Real Caribbean.


I'm back in Bogota after my 2 week trip to the relatively unknown Caribbean Island located so far North of Colombia, that if you see it on a map there is no way you would think it is owned by my happy Latino friends. It's only 200 kilometers off the east coast of Nicaragua, meanwhile travelling from the north of Colombia takes more than 700 kilometers to reach San Andres. The insane thing is that distance isn't the main reason I couldn't believe  San Andres is part of Colombia.

Made my Morning runs easy. 

When I say San Andres is the Caribbean, I mean It's the CARIBBEAN, and not like the spanish islands of the Dominican or Cuba. When you come to San Andres it culturally reeks of Jamaican influence (and I'm not taking only about the herb).

Swimming with the peace sign.... RECORD!

Disclaimer: If you have never been around people from, or to the caribbean islands such as Jamaica, St. Lucia or Trinidad, this section might make zero sense. From here on out when I say Caribbean I am speaking about the previously mentioned islands and other english speaking islands in the Caribbean like Barbados, St. Vincent etc. 

I randomly booked my flight 2 days before leaving so I could travel alone and be with "My people"or my "Sangre Caribena" as a group of ladies selling coconuts promptly pointed out when they saw me on a day trip with a bunch of gringos. I received my first taste of the Caribbean culture when I got past the tourism office and the ladies working hit on me out loud, looked at my passport and shared with the others where I was staying and asked me if I had a Wife, all in an accent indistinguishable from a Jamaican one to the average person.  And I knew from my first walk that these guys were official when I got the "respek" and "bless"  salute from a random Rasta as we crossed paths. In my 23 years in Canada, I can't remember a time I walked by a Rasta and on any sort of eye contact they didn't give me the trademark greeting. 

Keeping it simple

For Lunch, I went to the typical Colombian family run restaurant that's cheap and good, but everyday has a different menu so you have to ask to get the menu of the day. Lets just say San Andres is Caribbean like Stewed meats, Goat and perfectly spicy food(overly spicy to the average Colombian). Later that Tuesday night I went around looking for something to do.. and what do I find in the only 3 bars I saw? No dance floor, few women and then the main reason everyone was there, The tables set up with Looty boards where they were gambling on every play. And there is noway I can forget the dominoes which I heard being smashed on the wooden tables from down the street, which is the reason I went down that path in the first place. I didn't stay for to long as I know how serious dominoes are to Caribbean people and didn't want to get caught looking over any ones shoulder.

Riding away from the Rain. 

The  main street to the beach.. So Low Key

I decided to spend my first full day in San Andres on a Bicycle I had rented for $5 a day (below listed all my rentals and trips). To give you guys an idea of how small this island is, I was able to ride along the whole island coast in under 4 hours including stops at a bunch of tourist destinations and random secluded beaches along the way. Included one of my favorite places ever: West view. Imagine jumping off a diving board into the most beautiful ocean you have ever seen.( or just look at the pic below)
We had an SUV aswell.. CHILLLLL

These types of things Change lives.
West View With The UN.

The real beauty in this island is in the underdeveloped coastlines and city center. All the beaches on San Andres are public, therefore there were no huge All-Inclusive resorts hogging up the beautiful white sand which made riding the coast that much more pleasurable. There is a restriction on San Andres Island that only allows people from the Island (no mainland Colombians) to own land or stay for more than 4-6 months a year. This leaves a really untampered island that has next to zero american influence, whether it be shopping or Accommodation. I must say this island has an interesting history that i discovered only after being curious when I saw a bunch of Arab women working in the shops. I asked  my friend from San Andres what that was about and he told me that Lebanese people own almost 80% of the island as they were settled there before it became part of Colombia and they have never left.

Not a perfect beach, But It was mine all week. 

As great as San Andres was, I must say I made a big mistake and stayed there for too long. The real untouched, authentic Island was actually 2 hrs away by boat, called Providence Island. This island had no hostels, hotels or resorts that I could find on my trip around it on my Motorbike(first time ever on a bike!). Me, and almost every other traveler I had talked to ended up staying on someones personal property that they offer up for tourists, leaving a room empty with a few beds in it. There is nothing much to say about this island other than It is the place to be if you are looking to get away somewhere while living a very simple life and experiencing a very vibrant unique culture. On this island there were no "Colombians," and barely anyone spoke spanish. I ended up spending one afternoon talking with a construction worker who shared his story and the story of the island. I wish I had booked more than 3 days here.

Providence Nights. ( my cellphone) 

I was amazed to be the only one on a beautiful beach full of white sand. That is until the fisherman came. Once they started fishing, all the locals started rushing to the beach for their fresh catch of the day. I wish I had a kitchen in my homestay so I could've bought one and cooked it myself! The most amazing part came when these birds came flocking and took part in the fishing as well. I was scared at first thinking they were coming to poke my shiny head, but then I had realized I was really surrounded by fish and I had my first experience fishing with birds. My trip around the island on my scooter was another amazing experience as I found myself having to dodge the crabs that came out from who knows where on to the street as the sun was setting.

Yeah I was scared, So what if they were speeeding passed me.

Off the coast of both San Andres and Providence Island are a bunch of smaller uninhabited islands called cays. Everyday these places cater day trips which usually included the boat ride over and a delicious fish lunch. These places were truly magical as they were covered in trees throughout the center, but the coast was strictly white sandy beaches, all surrounded by world class coral reefs. I didn't go diving, but my friend who is a diving instructor from Argentina told me that was the best place he has ever been. I'm more of a snorkeler myself, where I got to see countless fish and also feed them bread out of my hand O_o.(once again west view).

View of providence from the center of Crab Cay. 

Some Cay... That water though.
My thoughts were"This cant be real" 

To add to my near perfect experience on these islands, I ended up coming across the main basketball players on the island who invited me to some pick-up games, which I classify as my only "real" pick-up games in Colombia. As I lit up the guy who was guarding me, they made sure he let him hear it, unlike on the mainland of Colombia where they would just praise me or something like that. They actually took pride in their game.

I really recommend Googling San Andres and Providence to see some more pictures as I was too busy enjoying myself to take too many pictures.

Below is a list of the things I did while in San Andres and Providence. EXTREMELY CHEAP but Amazing.

Where My Money went
Thing Price
Bicycle x3 $20
Electric Scooter $25
Round trip Boat to Providence $90
SUV+JEEP rental (shared) $15
Cay (day) trips x3 $40

So I found my home in Colombia! Now I just have to find a way to marry into the island so I can stay for more than 4 months a year.

OH YEAH! I forgot they call it the Sea of Seven Colors.
Jah Bless 
Jah Guide
Jah Rule

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