Exploring Providencia

Saturday afternoon we wandered around the town and Richard managed to seek out three hardware stores, but only managed to buy something in two of them LOL.    It was surprisingly busy as a ferry had just come in from San Andres.

We want to explore this mountainous island so decided to rent a Kawasaki mule for the Sunday.   All done we had a couple of beers in the local bar – which actually means sitting on plastic chairs on the pavement watching the world go by – and chatted to Russell a cruiser from Boston who spends much of the year here.   We enjoyed watching the kids pulling wheelies on their bikes and check out this photo – two kids / two bikes / three wheels only!!!  

Providencia belongs to Colombia despite its location alongside Nicaragua and midway between Costa Rica and Jamaica in the Caribbean sea.   The peak is 360m above sea level with the interior covered by lush vegetation with the small (6k) population living largely along the coastline.   We are anchored in front of the town dock with Santa Catalina off to our port.    Santa Catalina is linked to the mainland by a lovers bridge.

Providencia was the site of an English Puritan colony established in 1629 by the Providence Island Company.  The pirate Henry Morgan used the island as a base for raiding the Spanish empire and rumours suggest that much of his treasure remains hidden on the island.   Many parts of the island are named after Morgan and forts and cannons dating back hundreds of years can be found scattered all over Santa Catalina Island.  Despite its Columbian ownership the inhabitants largely speak English or Creole rather than Spanish – and there are many Rastafarians here.   The locals are certainly very friendly and it feels much more Caribbean than South American.

Sunday morning we took off in our mule and drove around the island following the only main coast road.    

At the bottom of the island we came across South West Beach and liked the vibe here…lots of local beach bars and loud music.  Behind the shack called Wild Girl we found a bamboo construction where two guys were cooking over open fires – they showed us their local speciality soups and iguana and we said we would be back for some later.  Not sure they believed us LOL.  

We continued admiring the various sights and the lovely scenery – especially Morgan’s Arse. We’ll leave you to decide why they call it that!   

We enjoyed listening to the wonderful singing coming from the many churches as we passed them on the road.   Some of the people live in very poor conditions compared to other quite modern and large properties.  And the colours of the sea have to be seen to be believed!    Oh yes and we spotted this iguana having a rest.

After our circumnavigation of this island – 4 miles long by 2 1/2 miles at its widest – which only took a couple of hours we returned to South West Beach and parked our mule on the sand just behind Wild Girl.  

We took a couple of seats in the shade – much to the surprise of all the locals eating there – and ordered the mixed meat soup which included pig tails, cow feet and cow shins, plaintain, yams, onions, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes etc etc etc.   Well…the food was absolutely fantastic!   The cook – who doubles up as a hospital maintenance man for his real job – was delighted we had come back and spent some time chatting with us.   Definitely a family affair as his wife, daughters and grandchildren were there too.   

Having eaten our fill we went into the water for a bobbing session.  It was lovely and we were joined by all the local children who seemed to find us very entertaining.   Eventually the kids got a bit too boisterous for us so we retired to our table, paid up and wandered further down the beach towards the headland.

We spotted a few other places along the way – largely inhabited by tourists – and ended up at Richard’s Place.  Richard, a Rasta man and his Colombian wife, made us very welcome.   We also tried a new Colombian beer and this is our favourite so far.  

We had a lovely time chilling out and then John turned up.  Of all the beaches on this island he had to find ours LOL.    Never mind, he only stayed about 15 minutes before he left to try the highly-recommended local soup at Wild Girl.   We carried on chilling and enjoying the vibe of this place before returning to our mule.

On the way back we decided we couldn’t be bothered to cook any dinner – so ended up stopping off at the fried chicken shop for a takeaway.   At the dinghy dock John wanted to cadge a ride back to Island Sol as Charlie and Saundra had left before him – we decided to be nice and did actually give him a lift.     Doesn’t Morphie look lovely in the sunset?

Back to Morphie we devoured our chicken, had a few more cold ones, and then had an early night.   We had had a perfect Sunday.

Monday morning we were up very early.   The mule had to be returned by 10.30 am so we took five 5gl diesel jugs ashore along with three petrol cans.    We drove to the island’s only petrol station – topped up the mule – and filled up on fuel for Morphie.   Back on board we got busy.   Richard Mclubed the genoa car tracks and the main sheet traveller;  and serviced two winches.   They are all running much smoother now.   In the meantime I did laundry, we ran the generator and made water.

Later in the afternoon we went ashore to Mr Bush to collect our tourist visas before going over to Santa Catalina island expecting the SeaShore bar to be open.  Well…it wasn’t…..and we waited…and waited…and waited.  Eventually a local guy decided they weren’t coming after all – despite telling us earlier that it would be open – and we took ourselves off into town.   We sat on the pavement drinking cold beer talking to Russell and his Colombian wife who had flown in that day.  The anchorage was moody looking in the dull weather.  

The rain came down hard, it was getting cold and the wind was howling.  Waiting for a lull in the weather to head back out all of a sudden two locals shouted at Russell that he had to leave as a boat had dragged into his.   We all jumped into our boats and went to see what had happened.  Two local lads jumped on board and started to get the boats untangled…we offered to help but some more locals came out with big boats to pull the unoccupied dragged boat into a new position so we were superfluous to requirements and returned to Morphie for an early night once all the drama had finished.

Tuesday morning more boat jobs…..Richard fixed a dinghy ratchet that had broken;  took a few turns off the genoa furler and rethreaded it;  and cleaned the engine compartment.  I did some more laundry and scrubbed the heads.   Lunchtime we went into town to fix up a taxi for Wednesday – Saundra’s birthday – as we are planning to go back to South West Beach as they haven’t been there yet.   Job sorted we had some lunch out, got some drinking vouchers from the ATM, and some fresh bread from the supermarket.

Later in the afternoon we headed ashore to Santa Catalina and parked dink up at the dock and went for a stroll.   We walked along the concrete walkway that borders the island and came across another local bar and restaurant.   We continued to the end until we came across steps going up and over the hill – wasn’t sure my leg was up to it – so we returned to dink, admiring the baby eagle ray in the shallow water and the view of the anchorage.

Back in dink we headed off to Morgan’s Head.   This is a lovely bit of coastline with lots of rocks beneath the surface, beautiful palm trees, and this great rock head.   

We spotted a beach shack nestled into a small beach so made an impromptu stop – joined later by Charlie and Saundra so we had a fun afternoon bobbing session. Back to Morphie we sat in the dark in the cockpit having dinner with a few more beers and some tunes.

Wednesday morning we were awoken early by the wind and the rain howling….but it calmed down later.    I sorted out photos and videos while Richard snorkelled the anchor again.   We went ashore at one and met Charlie and Saundra at the dinghy dock – we picked up our taxi (which was running on island time) and headed down the coast.    We arrived at South West Beach but, unfortunately Richard’s place wasn’t open, so we went here instead.  

Never mind…we had a shrimp (and conch for Charlie and Saundra) starter…and a few beers before we went bobbing.   Later on we spotted people at Richard’s Place – which sits out on the point between the two half-moon bays – and wandered back down.   We had a few more beers and even a cocktail to celebrate Saundra’s birthday before heading back to the taxi.  Well…he wasn’t there….  We called him and, finally, almost an hour late he picked us up.

Back to Morphie who was silhouetted by a lovely sunset again.  

This morning (Thursday) we got up at a reasonable time and headed in to see Mr Bush.  We have decided to leave Providencia on Saturday morning.  This is about a 300 mile passage to Panama and we are aiming for a Monday lunchtime arrival at Shelter Bay Marina.  This is where we will stage in preparation for our Canal transit. 

So we need to get the paperwork in order.   First part done – we have to return with our passports tomorrow (Friday) – then we did some more shopping (including another hardware store!) and came back to Morphie with supplies.

The wind conditions look perfect although the forecast two to three metre swells might be a bit bothersome.   Never mind…we can’t have it all!   It’s a shame that we won’t get a chance to visit San Andres, Providencia’s touristy sister to the south of us, but time is getting away and we need to get to Panama.   We have emailed Shelter Bay for a reservation but nothing heard yet – may have to chase them up tomorrow.  Near the marina there really isn’t anywhere to anchor so I want to make sure we have a slot – although with 36 World Arc boats leaving imminently they should have a vacancy right now!  

Bye for now