Our guide this St. Patty’s Friday was Philipe, a strapping, happy creole who took a brotherly shine to Max and Ben. As Ben noted in the last post, our first dive was The Barge, a capsized wreck a few miles offshore. These open boats have no GPS or navigation system… Philipe and the islanders locate small marker buoys far off shore by referencing landmarks back on the island… impressive. This dive took us down 70’ into 30’ visibility to the explore the barge’s capsized hull, now encrusted with fan and other corals, and swarmed by the sea life they attract. Philipe found fun, and we spied a small shark, sea spiders, lobster, eel and of course many bright fishies. Our afternoon dive at Lora’s place off SurOeste beach was the best of all… the seas had calmed, 60’ visibility and plentiful fish. Max spotted a big moray in the coral and we saw another one swimming; I found a 10’ large nurse shark resting on bottom. With great light and visibility there was much more to see – lobsters, parrotfish, trumpetfish… I’m glad the boys finally got to experience acquarium dive conditions. After the dive we pushed some paper and the boys got their Dive Certifications… congrats Max and Ben, PADI-certified open-water divers!
Our Kawasaki golf cart was waiting at Sonny’s upon our return, so we toodled north to Santa Isabella – “The Town” – to grab some wifi & cash. With these in hand we strolled across the colorful floating bridge to neighboring Santa Catalina island, ramshackle home to Captain Morgan’s namesake rock and perhaps his legendary loot. But the day was hot and gray and we chose to ignore rather than explore the islands’ detrius, so we reversed back to town, stocked up on groceries and headed back to our A/C.
The boys deserved some phone time so Sue and I carted down to the island’s best restaurant, Caribbean Place, locally famous for attracting a chef from Bogota. A Chilean Savingnon Blanc and a fine snapper later, we sat back and enjoyed watching a creole couple demonstrate local music and dance… and of course they lured Sue’s twinkly toes toes out for a turn.
Saturday morning our host Nimrod brough over some delicious local sweet bread; I enjoyed a lazy chat with him over some Nescafe and granola while the family slept in. Once awake we set out in our golf cart to explore the island. Driving counterclockwise, we scouted famed pie place Cafe Studio then motored south to Roland’s Raggae Bar at Playa Manzanillo. Roland is an infamous partier; one TripAdvisor review says “Roland’s fun because he’s always high”. The local authorities have since clamped down on the reverie there, and it was sedate during our morning visit. A pretty spot, but too windy to linger, so we moved on.
Driving north up Providenica’s East Coast we stopped for occasional views and roadwork, and to consider kayaking or boating out to Crab Key, which is well rated by prior tourists, but the wind was again too high to merit the adventure, so we drove on to town to pick up some wifi and groceries. After a brief stop to refill our fridge we decided that yesterday’s SurOeste beach was the best bet for a lazy seaside day… and the horse races are on this afternoon, so off we went.
Boats, cars, crowds and loud music suggested our timing was good. Islanders were gathered around a horse and jockey on the south end of the beach, money changed hands and the betting was building. We staked out a place in front of our favorite fish eatery La Divina Nina. Dragging our plastic chairs under the shade of a seaside palm and taking care to clip my backpack around its arms and legs to deter snatch-and-grab, the boys and I waded into the calm warm cove with our favorite Tiger Ball; Sue stayed shore side for the photo-opp. At 2PM the horse race was on… it was really more of a time trial – we saw only one horse run – even so it was picturesque watching the jockey and horse fly down the sandy quarter mile.
With the race over, the many moored boats motored off, and we had more space to play
in the bay. I seem to be the Pied Piper of local children, and soon enough a precoious little Caribe girl had me tugging her through the water, building sandcastles and playing
catch. I think she was the daughter of one of the workers at Davina Nina… she was confident in her surroundings. The day was so pleasant we lingered for the sunset, making occasional forays into La Divina Nina por pescados, cervezas y helados. With the sun set
we stopped for pie at Cafe Studio, rolled home for a shower, laundry and quiet Saturday night.
On Sunday we were reluctant to leave leave languid Providencia for big bad Bogota. Seeking to check-out I missed Nimrod but found is 95-yr old uncle, and that came with some good stories of island lore… I have more patience and appreciation for the elderly now that I’m on their side of the hill. In time I managed to run a few errands and say goodbyes while Sue and the boys packed up, then we rolled slowly around the island, stopping in town for a wifi fix before carting off to the 4-room airport for our puddle-jump to San Andres, and the connecting flight the capital. Both went smoothly and by 5pm we’d landed in Bogota and found a rickety cab to our apartment in Zona G.