Blast from the Past: Colombia

Oh hey. Sorry. Have you been waiting the last four months to read my final blog post about Colombia? Seems that I am only able to write when I am in, about to go to or have just returned from somewhere abroad. (For the record, there are lots of things that we actually do in the U.S. that somehow never get written about!) Since I am on a plane flying to Panama for winter break I thought it would be the perfect time to dust off the blog. And look what I found! I had obviously written this on the plane ride home from Colombia so enjoy this (probably incomplete) blog post from the past:

The Rosario islands are a small chain of island close to Cartagena. Once again taking the welcome advice of our Colombian friends and Sean’s colleagues we decided to make the trip. The beaches around Cartagena aren’t that nice so nearly everyone who visits takes a boat out to the islands.  A friend of Sean’s helped us organize a captain and boat to take us on a day trip to the aquarium and some of the surrounding Islands. After an early wake up and breakfast at the hotel (oh, the fruit in Colombia, I will miss the fruit!) we took a short taxi ride to the dock. When we arrived we weren’t sure where to meet the captain so we asked a man wearing a uniform who pointed us in the right direction. As we were getting ready to pull away from the dock, the same man came running over and insisted we needed to pay a dockage tax. Sean has clearly shed some of his Upper East side upbringing (I guess that’s what happens when you spend enough time in South America) because he looked the guy up and down then proceeded to argue and negotiate with him in Spanish. (Turns out that this was a completely legitimate tax, but Sean did manage to only pay for one kid.) A few thousand pesos poorer and off we went, past the industrial loading docks and oil refineries until we could see nothing but the ocean and the tree lined coast. As we got closer to the aquarium we passed by several small islands that each contained a single large, dilapidated house, abandoned during the height of the drug wars.

The Oceanairo is an aquarium smack in the middle of the ocean. It’s tiny and simple. There are huge tarpon and stingrays and sharks swimming around in the open ocean, albeit fenced in. We didn’t stay long enough to see the dolphin show (we did see the dolphins) What we did see, however, was a show from Sofia. We were looking into the pen of nurse sharks when all of a sudden I heard Sofia start to scream. I thought that maybe she had been stung by a bee (out in the middle of the ocean? I don’t know why that was the first thing that came to mind.) “What’s the matter, what happened?” I asked her. “My sandal, my sandal,” she screamed. Somehow she had flipped her flop into the the nurse shark pen. Sean looked down in time to see the shark take the flip flop into its mouth then spit it out. I had visions of getting through the rest of the day wearing only one shoe (because of course I would let Sofia wear mine.) While Sofia was panicking and Oscar was laughing, Sean had disappeared. He came back carrying a net and fished Sofia’s flip flop out of the water. Daddy saves the day! He got a round of applause from fellow visitors. After that excitement there wasn’t much left to see so we got back on the boat and cruised to another, nearby island.

The beaches on many of these islands are small sandy coves rather than the long sandy beaches we are used to in the Bahamas or Florida. (Apparently one exception is Playa Blanca which is supposed to get very crowded.) The water, however, is perfect for swimming; clear and calm. We stopped at one of these small beaches and swam. Unfortunately we had no snorkeling equipment with us (neither did the captain) so Sean and Oscar made do with the swimming googles we had. No snorkel, no mask, no flippers, but they said it was some of the best snorkeling they have ever done. (So good apparently, that Oscar didn’t even notice his retainer float out of his mouth and out to sea.) After swimming and snorkeling the captain took us for lunch on another island. We sat outside under the shade of huge trees overlooking the ocean but it was so hot there was no breeze and we were all tired, sandy and sweaty. So, we got back on the boat and the captain took the long way around some more of the tiny islands and coves. I had no idea what a beautiful country Colombia is. We arrived back in Cartagena in time for a late afternoon swim at the Santa Clara pool.

The next time we returned to the islands was about 36 hours later. Sean’s colleagues had planned an outing on Punta Iguana which is a member’s only resort. The plan was for everyone to hang out during the day and for some of the group (including us) to stay overnight. We watched the sky darken as we ate breakfast that morning. By the time we checked out of the Santa Clara it had started to rain. By the time we got to the marina, it was pouring and the wind had kicked up. Rivers of water ran alongside the curbs and the street in front of the marina was flooded. We ran from the taxi with our bags and stood shivering under a tarp while the storm raged. 

Oscar and Sofia were devastated. All they wanted to do was go to the beach. Many calls were made. Plans were made then discarded. After much consideration it was decided that it was too risky to go to Punta Iguana by boat (there was no way I was going to get on a boat in that weather!) “You will go by car,” we were told. By car? I thought to myself, weren’t we going to an island? Apparently an island connected to the mainland by a bridge. I had no idea. We were assured that the weather would clear so we put ourselves back in a taxi and went back into town. We dried off, had some coffee, ordered the car, collected Sean’s colleague and his kids, said goodbye to the Colombian contingent who decided to stay and 50 minute later we were at Punta Iguana.


(After the rain.)

There was a light drizzle when we arrived so we decided to first have lunch. I had the spaghetti with local lobster that was so delicious Oscar ordered it for dinner and again for lunch the next day. (When we asked the waiter if the lobster was local he sadly shook his and said no, it was caught off the neighboring beach.) After lunch the sky brightened and the kids spent the rest of the day on the water slide, in the pool and on the beach. We spent the next 24 hours, swimming, snorkeling and lounging before returning to Cartagena for our last night. 

And, that’s where I stopped. I don’t know why I didn’t write more or why didn’t I post anything else about Colombia. Punta Iguana was one of the most talked about parts of our trip and everyone wants to go back. After returning from Punta Iguana we only had a few more days left in Bogota. Then it was back home, back to school, back to work, back to ordinary life, I suppose. 

And now the siren song of an another trip South has me wanting to write again. If you are still out there, stay tuned…

(View from our hotel in Panama City.)


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