Arriving in San Andres
I left Bogotá when it was already dark. As I hopped on the plane (a flight from VivaColombia), hoping to find lots of other foreigner tourists, like myself. I was really surprised, there were only Colombians onboard! In fact the only foreigner.
VivaColombia is a low-cost airliner, it had just turned 1 year old a few days ago. This low cost business is new to Colombians, and so, for many of this was actually the first time they are flying out to the islands. Despite this, there is a “tourist fee” you must pay to go to San Andres – regardless of nationality: 50,000COP (flat rate). I will talk about this later on my following post.
Arriving in San Andres from Bogotá is painful – the different in temperatures is massive… In Bogotá were roughly 15ºC and rainy weather. In San Andres was 37ºC (at night…) and the weather was so humid it was actually hard to breathe.
I stayed at the El Viajero hostel, which is right in the city centre. It’s just a 10 minute walk from the airport. As it was late at night and I was loaded with my backpacks, I decided to take a taxi – the hostel’ website said it would be no more than 10,000COP. Taxi driver charged me 14,000COP with a straight face on. Little did I know, this would be just my first “not-so-good” experience in San Andres…
Touring around San Andres
At the hostel, I met Lucie, my “bunk-mate”. Lucie is French, but doing a volunteer program in Colombia. She had previously been in Brazil, so she also spoke a little but of Portuguese. We decided to do some exploring together, as it also helps to cut the costs.
Lucie and I decided to rent a golf-kart to circle around the tiny main island. Our hostel offered a direct reservation, and the kart would be delivered and pick-up from the hostel, so we went for that. It’s 80,000COP per kart (takes up to 4 persons), and you can have it all day (9am until 5pm).
A staff member (a lady) from the rental company arrived already a bit late: around 10.30am, as opposed to the 9am we where hoping for. Despite being unpleased with the situation (after all, we had just lost an hour and half from our 8h deal!), we hopped in and drove off. We did now want to waste any more time. Literally two minutes later, the kart broke down. We didn’t even make a turn! We drove off, straight, and on the first set of traffic lights, the car went dead. Then the police showed up. Unsure if they were to fine us or to help us, we pulled over. After a quick chat, the police rapidly concluded we where scammed. Two officers immediately went off to get help from the rental company, and a female police officer stayed with us. The officer kept telling us that that rental was not trustworthy, and their cars are really ran out. About 20 minutes later, a guy showed up with a replacement vehicle. Finally, we got on the way…
It’s great to see the island on your own. If one did it non-stop, it would only take about 3h to circle the island on the kart. There is plenty of time for sightseeing, have lunch, dive, enjoy the beach, at a slower place. It’s a great way for starters, to get to know our surroundings.
The airport runway runs across the width of the northern corner of the island. Bordered by the airport runway, on that corner of the island, is Villa Juanita. This is is said to be the most dangerous part of the island. You drive past it in just under 15 minutes. Take note of this name, as it will also take an important role on my next post.
As we passed the Villa Juanita, the sky turned grey, the winds got stronger, and all of a sudden, it poured down. I hadn’t seen rain like this ever before. Alone we were, on this little road on a heavenly island, surrounded by the caribbean sea, palm trees and jungle, past a slum and nest to a runway end, where no airplanes were landing nor taking off. Thinks were looking mad, and our little electric kart was looking like it would not make it til the end. A little bit further stood a bus stop, and on that bus stop, a lady in her mid-fifties: dressed in white and blue, with a little scarf protecting her head from the rain, taking guard from this apotheotic rain on this little bus stop in the middle of nowhere.
We decided to stop next to her.
A little bit sceptical at first, but soon she opened up to us. She was mexican, and a pilgrim. She was waiting for a bus to the cathedral. “What cathedra?l”, was I thought. How could this tiny little island have a cathedral? Whilst there was rain, there was talk. This little lady had the most incredible story: he ran off with her now husband, and they got married on a day like this, under heavy rain. She said she thought the rain was the blessings from God. A devote Catholic, she often travelled to different cathedrals to thank God for her love on Earth, her husband, for putting them together, for her happiness. Even though I am not a religious person, I am devote to those who have faith, and who are thankfull. This lady reminded me somehow of a younger version of my grandmother. I could see my grandmother through her. Such a blessing!
Then the rain stopped, and believe it or now, the bus to the cathedral showed up. I never found the cathedral in San Andres, but I think I found the reason why people build cathedrals. And I think they do not have to exist in the form of a building.
Moving on, as the rain stopped, we finally managed to circle the island. We visited “La Piscinita”, which looked awesome on photos, but was such a disappointment in real life.
Then we got to the Oyo Soplador, where we felt ripped of for a meal price.
Finally, we drove past the rich part: the resorts and sanded beaches. Lots of white little crabs hidding behind seaweeds.
We ended the day eating burguers on the beach. And as we found out, the best beach is only a 10 minute walk from the hostel. In case you’d like to save up the kart rental money!