Sunday, August 30, 2009

An "Engaging" Time on San Andres Isla

Had been working at Fidelity for almost four months and after 8 weeks of training and they 8 more weeks of intense job immersion, I was ready as I always am, for a little time away from the States to unwind and relax. Of course, I was also dying to see my bebe, Lyz aka La Chica Feliz aka L Tres. We arranged to meet on San Andres Island, which is part of Colombia though it is closer to Nicaragua. So how is it a Colombian possession? Read this link for the scoop:

San Andres is actually pretty accessible from the US though few American gringos go there (which is great, no ugly Americans so it still remains a bit of a hidden gem) but during the wintery season word is that Canadians are chartered down en masse and for some reason Italians go there even though it is pretty far away. And, of course, tons of Colombians because no passport or visa is necessary. That is what made it easy for Lyz-less than a two hour flight from Cartagena. For me, it was two hours to LAX (abhor that airport) then I flew with Copa Air to Panama City for 6 hours and then a 45 minute flight to San Andres. Easy.

In a way, SA is what you would expect. Pretty typical Caribbean island as far as what it has to offer. Some hotels, some resorts and lots of duty free shopping. However, I do have to say due to the extensive reef system surrounding it (some claim only Belize is better in the Caribbean), the water is pretty spectacular with the claim of 7 shades of blue to be seen. The main beach in the Centro area where most everything is is very, very clean and the sand is great. This area is pedestrian only along the main 10 minutes walkway so it is pretty tranquil for a slightly urban beach area with many hotels/resorts residing across the walkway. I waited out my scuba excursion until day six as the weather was dicey at times-it was around the start of hurricane season and there were a few good downpours and a few afternoons where the beach was not an option, but overall we got 4 solid days of beach time so we did alright that way.

On our second full day, after booking a pretty basic hotel for Saturday night and Sunday in advance just to make sure we had something (we got in at about 2 pm on that Saturday and knew we would be in no mood to search for a place), we tried to see if any of the resorts were running deals since we just hit low season. No luck, all the good ones were booked. Went to a final resort on the main strip and they were booked BUT they managed an apt. a block away from them and the beach that was available. They were asking $100 a night. It was unreal. It was 3 bedrooms, almost brand new and about 1300 sq. ft. We took it. Then we rented a golf cart (yes, true) as the island is shaped like a seahorse and is only 13 kms. by 3 kms. We “puttered” down to an area called San Luis that was known for it's lovely beaches. Very true and it only took us about 30 minutes to get down there with a break for lunch at a very local spot. It was a sweet afternoon on a little slice of sand with a bunch of local kids having a ball nearby.

We stayed at that apartment for two nights and switched for the last three nights to a place nearby that was certainly not as great (Tres Casitas) but it was quaint and our room overlooked the clear water from the second floor. After checking in we spent a rainy Wednesday afternoon watching a Russ Meyer flick that I brought that Lyz totally dug.

On Thursday morning the sky was clear and I walked two minutes over to the dive shop and booked a morning dive. Done by 12:30, I was starving so we found a small, family run place and ate some typical local food-fish or chicken or pork with bean, coconut rice and fried plantains. Not bad for $4 each. They we arranged to go to a spot called the Aquario that sits off of Haynes Cay. In the late afternoon the stingrays congregate near a few sandbars in the area. I had hung with rays in Tahiti ten years ago and they are awesome creatures. But it was Lyz's first time and she was delighted and it was a great afternoon excursion.

The next day was spent going to the nearby Johnny Cay which is a little paradise of a regional park but is pretty touristy with tons of boats coming all day long and lots of people so it was far from romantic. But still the water was amazing, the sand was even softer, the Rastas were all over the place working and pouring Coco Locos and hawking Old Milwaukies (for some reason that I never got an explanation for, Old Milwaukie and Miller High Life seem to be as popular as the national Colombian brands on the island with the locals-yet in Cartagena there were no where to be seen-weird) and cooking up fish and whatnot. And it only took us about 15 or so mins. to walk around the cay. I did not get any photos on Johnny Cay as my camera went bad that morning but Lyz took video and I will post a clip some time after she downloads her clips. After that we went back to the jewelry shop we had been talking to and Lyz picked out her engagement ring. Yes, I got engaged and I could not be happier.

Now we will have to deal with the idiotic US immigration bureaucracy over the next year. Lyz will finish her Masters in Nursing next July in Cartagena and then will come here. I already have some contacts in the US and Colombia to give me advice on how it make the process work best. We will meet up somewhere down there again in mid-December and then probably again in April of 2010.