Planes, Autos, and Boats P. 2: Isla Providencia

Posted by: on Apr 2, 2014 | 3 Comments

Alliance2Unlike in San Andres, the catamaran docked in the town center on Providencia. We disembarked, passed through yet another document check and found ourselves in the midst of town. Providencia is tiny. There are a few groceries and a town park, which has WiFi. The town center has a big compass rose painted on the concrete that you pass over to access the dingy dock. There were a few people milling around asking if we needed a taxi. We politely refused. Laura met us at the dock. Before we headed to Alliance, the schooner, Laura and Steve went to find a case of beer. Max, Merri, and I stayed with our luggage. An older man sat next to me and began to tell us he was headed to the mainland for surgery. He handed me his medical documents asking me to look at them. I don’t think I look like a doctor but maybe I missed my calling (here I come med school!). As we waited for Steve and Laura to return, we noticed a truck loading beer from a supply boat. It was a small pick up with the bed full of Old Milwaukee. We joked that it was taking Steve and Laura a while because they were waiting for that truck of OM. They were. Apparently, in the Caribbean, OM is the imported beer. Up until that day, I’d never had an OM. Personally, I could have left if that way. But when in Rome (or the Caribbean)!

The Schooner Alliance is a 105 foot gaff rigged sail boat. She was built in 1995 and sailed for 10 years in Maine and the Caribbean before Greg and Laura bought her and brought her to Virginia. When we arrived on the boat, the crew was making lunch. They have a small propane grill attached to the railing and a full galley. We had grilled Sailfish topped with coconut and fresh papaya, coconut rice (cannot eat enough), and red cabbage salad. It was delicious. Sail fish is a billfish like Marlin. After a little internet research, I see sailfish is not widely eaten and the meat is considered tough. The one we had was not. They coconut and papaya on top offered a light sweetness.

After lunch, we went snorkeling on a reef close to the boat. This was my first time snorkeling. Greg explained how to use the mask. He demonstrated spitting into the goggles and then rinsing them in sea water to keep them from fogging! It took me a little while to get used to breathing (used my Yoga skills) through my mouth but the initial awkwardness in movement and breath was worth the view. I have no idea what any of the fish I saw are called. But they were gorgeous. I saw little black fish with iridescent electric blue spots, black and yellow stripes, purple, and a grey fish with an orange stripe and scales that changed orange and grey like polka dots. It was relaxing to just float along the top of the water face down and pretend to be a fish.

Max and I, Isla Providencia

Max and I, Isla Providencia

After an hour or so we returned to Alliance. We didn’t want to get sun burned on our first day out. I think we all put sunscreen on at least three times that first afternoon. Post swim, Laura made rum, coconut, pineapple cocktails (this is what Steve was looking for the day before when he got chicle cocktail). We also had pineapple cake for Alex’s (crew) birthday. At about this moment, I was getting pretty excited about all the tropical food: coconut, pineapple, papaya, mango…

Roland's

Roland’s

For dinner, all nine of us headed to shore. We took the dingy with Greg and Laura. The crew rowed ashore in the row boat, painted green to match Alliance. We had to get a taxi to take us from town to the beach bar, Roland Roots Bar. Since there were nine of us and we found a pickup, the crew, Max, and I hopped into the truck bed. We rode halfway around the island to a beautiful sandy beach. Roland’s is a rasta playground.

Roland's

Roland’s

The place has tire swings, hammocks, beached boats painted up and made into tables, and a fire pit. The speakers are painted red, green, and yellow. Roland has very short dreads. He wore shorts and an open vest that was pink on one side and yellow on the other. He had a pair of rasta sunglasses perched on his forehead. He seemed perpetually in the groove, “singing don’t worry about a thing,” and had a gruff smokers voice.

We got beer, Club Colombia this time, and ordered what Roland promised was his best menu item, grilled fish. It took us three hours to get our food. About an hour after we ordered, Roland came around to tell us he had no fish. But he insisted that he was going to get us and grill us fish. He was so insistent he refused to make anything but what we ordered. While we waited, there was good reggae music playing and a fire to dance around. Emily, one of the crew, joined me. I coaxed Merri and Laura into dancing. And Roland shook around for a bit mimicking my moves. He told me dancing is his favorite hobby and I’m good at it (YES!). When we did get dinner, around 9 p.m., it was delicious. We had grilled fish with some kind of salsa on top, coconut rice (always!), and fried plantains. Merri snooped in the kitchen and the cook told her the coconut rice recipe (She and I will have to try it out and share it here)!

Roland and Steve... Steve was not amused, but the rest of us were!

Roland and Steve… Steve was not amused, but the rest of us were!

After dinner, the adults went back to the boat. The crew, Max, and I stayed. That’s about when the locals showed up. One minute no one was there and the next minute it was packed. Roland rounded up a few friends and played a little reggae. They sang, “Happy Birthday,” for Alex and jammed for a few around the fire. Around midnight (about when I become a pumpkin), we hopped back into the pickup. This time we went through a policia checkpoint. There were at least ten guards with big guns standing along the side of the road. It was a little intimidating and we sat there for a few seconds before one of the guards just said “adios.” It was thankfully anticlimactic. There are lots of policia. They all wear green. Even their motorcycles and helmets are green. Before we climbed back into the row boat, we walked across the bridge, which connects Providencia to the little island next to it. Spotted sting rays are attracted to the lights on the bridge. We saw two and then saw one jump out of the water. They jump at least three feet out of the water.

While in Providencia we also saw a sea turtle in the distance sticking his head up out of the water, purple fan coral on our second snorkeling adventure, had more platos mixtos, and a mangrove stand with water surrounding it the color of black raspberry ice cream (Seriously, that’s the only way I can describe that color. I have been having cravings for Gifford’s of Maine black raspberry ice cream ever since. It’s a problem. They don’t sell it this far south.). And in true Caribbean fashion, the buildings were painted in every bright color. Many of them were painted in several. The churches had large statues of sea creatures and even a giant lizard.

Plato Mixto

Plato Mixto: Being served a whole fish takes getting used to.

3 Comments

  1. Beth
    April 3, 2014

    What a fascinating post! I was enthralled by the details of your trip and wished I could visit that part of the world now. Thank you for sharing. (Like you, eating the whole fish would take some getting used to.)

    Reply
  2. Harriet
    April 3, 2014

    Gorgeous photos, Hali.
    What a fantastic vacation!
    I look forward to the next installment.
    Love,
    Grandma

    Reply
  3. Jeffrey Jay
    April 3, 2014

    Cheek meat the best part of fish

    Reply

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