Isla Providencia

March 24th, 2007 by: cheyenne

Isla Providencia, Colombia Anchorage Panorama

[We had an excellent view from our spot in the anchorage. Click for a slightly larger image.]

We slept like the dead until 10am and were halfway through our coffee before we attempted to focus our gaze beyond the perimeter of our boat and realized that our friends Velella had arrived. We hadn’t seen them since Huatulco in Mexico nearly a year before and have only been keeping in contact via email now and again. We were pretty psyched to see them and paddled over directly to harass them.

Our stay and doings in Providencia were almost unfailingly in the company of Jenni and Cameron (that’s Velella), which is generally out of character for us but in this case was quite fun as we all get along easily and eat very well when together. We did a large amount of bushwhacking, I mean hiking, inspired by information imparted to us upon check-in by Mr. Bush that there were no venomous snakes present on the island. We kept hearing rumors about “trails” that supposedly criss-cross the island but upon further inspection, every likely suspect lasted maybe 25 feet before we had to start tunneling through the underbrush. We hacked our way out on a “trail” to Morgan’s Head rock and did some snorkeling. Then we hacked our way up to some random peak on the southern end of the island where there was another “trail” to get a view.

Morgan's Head. Isla Providencia, Colombia

[Morgan got his nose bit off during a raid gone awry, apparently. Also pictured is dense jungley ant-filled foliage containing approximately no trails.]

Another day we hacked our way up Morgan’s Ass, a startlingly realistic likeness I’m guessing, which sports a more official name of ‘Split Rock’ or something like that but goes locally by the former moniker.

Morgan's Ass. Isla Providencia, Colombia

All “trails” are thick with thorny bushes inhabited by the most gnarly of ant species. These ants make their home inside the fat musk ox-like thorns and run incessantly up and down the bush; if you so much as touch the bush, they know it and rush out to attack you. They are not particularly large but their bite is painful as all hell and often causes the affected area to become numb and swell for a day or two. These bushes are ALL OVER THE BLOODY ISLAND and there is simply no way around them. I have a bit of an ant phobia and these ants in their profusion had my sanity bleeding red. Especially when I brushed under a thorny bush and a few dropped inside my shirt. I was forced to do a freaky little ant dance to exorcise the biting demons and hopefully fling them far, or crush them—not sure what became of the little fuckers. It took probably ten minutes for me to not see ant-sized spots everywhere I looked.

Thorn Bushes. Isla Providencia, Colombia

[These are the bushes. They poke you too if you manage to get past the demon ant shield.]

After several days’ worth of snarfin’ wind, the snorkeling was a little murky. The goods off Morgan’s Head were so-so; more interesting stuff was out northeast of the island towards the barrier reef. We heard that there had been many nurse shark sightings and possibly a larger nurse shark. Make that some shark of unknown species. Hell, let’s just call it a bull shark. A 20-foot man-eater. Still, I was more excited about the big biters after all this ant bullshit and we hooked up the outboard to the Porta-bote for the occasion, anchoring it out in the middle of seemingly nowhere on a shallow sandy patch.

Underwater formations are different here than in the Pacific, I’m amazed to report. This probably doesn’t come as a huge revelation to the majority of sentient beings out there but with my limited snorkeling experience, I found it impressive. Here we saw fewer fish than I expected but much more coral of vastly different varieties. Ginormous lavender sea fans, long fuzzy anemone-like trees, black stark wintry coral forests, fields of sucker-plants, large mushroomy coral formations, and brain coral. Cool stuff. No sharks. We did see a gaggle of cuttle fish but they weren’t the biting variety. A rainsquall moved over us while snorkeling and the world became twilight and the rain made an interesting pattering racket as it pounded the water and the backs of our heads. Climbing back up onto the bote in the middle of the ocean was fun.

Old Canon. Isla Providencia, Colombia

[Anti-piracy device.]

The second night of our stay in Providencia, Henrik and Nina on BIKA (a 26-foot Contessa, which they sailed here from Norway) arrived and sailed upwind into the reef-encrusted anchorage after dark. Like badasses. They technically have a motor (a 4hp outboard) but they keep it stowed because their freeboard is something like six inches and any watery movement tends to swamp the thing. Therefore they always sail, which is pretty cool and very rare these days. In fact, they are the only boat we’ve ever personally encountered who absolutely always sails. It was all very Society with the dinner parties or drinks on so-and-so’s boat every night.

Golden Orb Spider. Isla Providencia, Colombia

[Man, have I put a photo of one of these spiders up before? Also all over the island. God only knows what would happen to you if you were bit by one of these bastards.]

After a few days of running through the activities that Providencia has to offer, we all started paying attention to the weather reports. We wanted to be moving on, Velella had family in Guatemala to meet up with in a week, and BIKA wanted to get to Cuba in order to have a decent amount of time to explore before they have to be north for the season. We all decided to leave Saturday, where there appeared to be a weather window of questionable vagueness. We sailed out and bashed as high as possible north into the wind, which was significant and not particularly cooperating, forcing us to tack to stay inside the reefy banks. We were bound for the Vivorillos with Velella but BIKA was heading north to Grand Cayman. We could see the white specs of Velella and BIKA for a while until it grew dark and we continued on as our own island in the darkness.

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Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell