Divine Providencia – she’s delivered us from Andean gloom.
Unspoilt by developers, she spoils locals with fresh ocean breezes and breezy beats of calypso and reggae, 7 shades of azure, and sea life teeming about the world’s 3rd longest barrier reef. Like that reef she’s rough around the edges: islanders rely on a weekly ship for fresh produce, building materials, fuel and drinking water. Much is scarce here so those ubiquitous scatterings of building materials and dilapidated derelects are raw resources for creative construction and smart art. The islanders are particularly good at carving and painting old tires into swings, birds, fish and fancy.
You’ve likely never heard of this paradise, which is perhaps why it remains so. This is the carribbean of the 1950’s, a simple beauty, delightfully disordered. Its remoteness ensures that Providencia is provincially unaware of its allure. Though it sits closest to Nicaragua, it can only be accessed by boat or three flights from Colombia. Pirates valued that
remoteness as well – Rummy chum Henry Morgan based his ships here, raiding the coasts, eluding the Spanish fleet and rumour has it burying treasure about the island. Rocks, caves, markets and posadas here still bear his name. I expect some of the 5,000 islanders bear his genes, along with those of West African slaves and more recent mainland arrivals. The locals are relaxed but savvy, and most slip easily between Creole, Spanish and English tongue. They motorcyle about the island’s single ring road clad in flip-flops – helmets here.
We departed Guatape on the morning of Wednesday the 15th; from the Medellin airport flights went smoothly to San Andres for a short easy layover then on to Providencia via a 17-seat turboprop in the late afternoon. Along the way we spied smugly down on the alternative intra-island transport – a catamaran that has a reputation for turning stomachs and compressing vertibrae. At the airport we hired a car for the 20 minute haul half-way around to our Posada Berton Place, where our host Nimrod was waiting to check us into our modest but comfy 2br bungalow. The A/C worked and a huge water cooler jug awaited – ya man – all’s good.
We’re here to dive. Max and Ben completed their academic SCUBA training during our brief Tahoe return in January. Pool dives in Florida February. This March our objective is to complete their Open Water PADI Dive Certification – which Tom’s School of Life equates to a trimester of Biology. So after settling in we strolled a steamy 15 minutes to the local village AguaDulce to check in to Sonny’s Dive Shop to check gear and divemaster competency.
All checked out well and we worked out details with shop owner Gerardo, then
strolled down the land to beachfront Miss Elma’s for our first Caribbean swim. I wish I had a picture of Ben’s face – the water was warm, calm and loving. The boys porpoised about the shallow sea for an hour, and as the sun set we dried and dined in the dusk of the milky beachfront breeze. The fish was fresh and the coconut rice delicious. After dinner we stopped across the street at Morgan’s market and bought breakfast essentials and a bottle o’ rum, then strolled home on well lit streets and crashed hard.