Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Exploring my Welsh Roots

The infamous pirate Henry Morgan used Providencia as a base for raiding the Spanish empire, and rumours suggest that much treasure remains hidden on the island.  The 4500 inhabitants are primarily English-speaking (many descendants of Morgan himself) and their pride in this swashbuckling Welshman is reflected in the names of the landmarks, Morgan’s Head,  the slightly ruder Morgan’s Crack and Morgan’s Fort.   
Upon arrival we radioed in to ‘Mr. Bush’ who is the local agent , and within ½ hour we had 6 local officials on board who checked the boat and our documents in a friendly way and cleared us (again) into Colombia.   

Providencia is a small jewel of an island out in the middle of the Carribean Sea.  The protected harbor is surrounded by lovely green hills, the people are incredibly kind and friendly (if you havn’t any money with you you can always ‘come back and pay tomorrow’), the tourists blend in with the locals (rather than vice versa as is prevalent in most Caribbean islands), it is sunny and warm with a fresh sea breeze and fresh mangoes hang from almost every tree.   
Our first day was spent on a short hike from the old town center up to Morgan’s Fort and then down to a secluded beach.  We planned to walk further around to the prominent round rock known as Morgan’s head but Emma and Macsen were too busy digging for Morgan’s treasure in the sand to want to waste time walking further.  Unfortunately, their efforts only uncovered a few angry crabs.  
Black Land crabs that live in the hills of the island make their annual migration to the sea in the spring of each year.  This means thousands and thousands of large black crabs pouring down the hills to wash their eggs off in the sea and then returning to their homes on the hills.  Columbian military personnel are brought in during the migration to close the roads to protect the expecting mummies and the their newborn young ‘uns that eventually follow them back up the hills.   We huddled into the back of a pick-up truck early one evening to drive out to the crab crossing grounds.  Various locals told us wonderful stories of floods of crabs seen earlier in the week.  We saw just a few but it was still an exciting experience to be rolling along with our flashlights out trying to catch a peek. 

Mart offered to take care of the monkeys on the beach for a morning while Kees, Seb and I went for a dive.  What a treat!  The reef was lovely and we saw a couple of reef sharks and a wonderful array of fish and coral.   
Snorkeling possibilities are almost endless on Providencia and at least once a day the Spikkle was called into action to take the four of us out searching for new underwater wonders.  The waters all around the island were incredibly clear and abundantly full of colourful life forms.  On Providecia, Emma started swimming again for real.  Seb and I started out on a drift dive with the dinghy and before long she was in the water with her mask (and no water wings) for the first time and from then on it was hard to get her out.  Macsen also decided he was ready to venture into the water and donned his fins, floaties, mask and snorkel and after a little adjustment to underwater breathing he was soon squealing with excitement every time he saw a new or more beautifully colored fish.  What a joy to share this experience with them! 
Although we planned to stay on Providencia for a short three days we had trouble tearing ourselves away and this, coupled with some poor wind conditions,  kept us on the island for almost two blissful weeks, including Seb’s birthday.  Kees and Marta came for dinner and the monkeys made a birthday cake decorated artistically with all of the M&Ms that didn’t go directly into their mouths.  Emma and Macsen presented him with a hammock purchased in Costa Rica and I was finally able to give him his most recent heart’s desire, a machete.  I have long been against having such a thing on board but Seb claims that it is absolutely necessary for opening coconuts.  I secretly think that he has images of himself leading his little family through the rugged jungle and manfully clearing a path through the dense impenetrable undergrowth…

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