“We must go to San Andres!”
This declaration, and variations of it, are my first abiding memory of Martha, who is mine and Max’s mentor here in Palmira. This sentiment was amplified by many of our fellow teachers in school who all enthused about us needing to go there.
And so we scrimped and we saved our co-teachers’ salaries so that we could take a five day trip to Colombia’s tropical island paradise in the Caribbean.
San Andres is a coral island that (whisper it) lies off the coast of Nicaragua. However, it has historically been a part of Colombia and, despite the best efforts of the Nicaraguan authorities, Colombia isn’t about to give it up any time soon if they can help it.
There are direct flights from most major Colombian cities and we flew from Cali airport the other Saturday afternoon. Our hotel was the Lord Pierre, one of the few hotels on the seafront such that there are steps down from the back terrace into the sea.
I can remember sitting on that back terrace when we arrived. The water around San Andres is crystal clear and the island is renowned for being surrounded by a sea of seven colours, due to the coral reefs that lie off the coast. The view from the terrace was of said multicoloured sea and Johnny Cay, a palm tree festooned island across the water.
It was quite breathtaking and one of those moments when I sat back and marvelled at just how lucky I am to have the chance to make this trip.
The Disco Boat
One morning we went for a crazy boat ride. We thought it was going to be a tour of the island but it turned out to be a jaunt around the bay. It started at 10am so naturally we had a party.
There were a couple of hundred of us on the boat and the second deck had been given over to a dancefloor with a bar at one end. Cue some earbleedingly loud Reggaeton and a main act that consisted of a solo male dancer.
His first performance involved him pulling unsuspecting females from the audience and performing what can most politely be described as a “sexy” dance with them,
His first audience participant was Martha, who turned out to be well beyond just willing and was soon stood astride his prone body while they both had an enthusiastic bump and grind to the music. This was later bested by an elderly woman who enthusiastically slapped his arse while he gyrated his groin in front of her face.
Then we stopped for a prayer and to thank God for the beautiful day.
The finale was a bogling competition between four women volunteers from the audience. When that was over the salsa music came on and people started dancing. All the time we were pootling around the north side of the island, looking out on a crystal clear sea and gazing across at Rocky Cay and the Seaquarium.
Out and About
As well as the disco boat we took a couple of other trips. On Sunday we rented a buggy and Alejandro drove us around the island. The buggy had a top speed of 20km/hr, which is just as well seeing as it came without a windscreen.
So, we took a leisurely ride around the island, stopping at the odd deserted beach. It also gave us a chance to take a look at the island outside the main tourist areas.
We saw that, alongside the natural beauty of the island and affluence that tourism had brought with it, there are still a lot of people living in very poor conditions. Often we would drive past a huge mansion-like villa and find some small, weathered concrete housing next to it.
After lunch we went to the beach by Rocky Cay. Here you can walk the quarter of a mile through the water to Rocky Cay itself. I’m not much of a fan of the beach, but here was a beach with a purpose …… to get off the beach. Perfect.
On our last full day we went to the seaquarium. This is a small island about a half mile off the shore which has shallow shelves of clear water where you can swim around and snorkel, looking at the smaller fish that live in the sea around San Andres. It was a lovely experience.
Our time was over all too soon, but it had certainly lived up to expectations. I wouldn’t say that I’m a convert to beach holidays but I wouldn’t say no to a return visit to San Andres.