Posted by: Sailing Camelot | March 1, 2013

The enchanting Isla Providencia

This precious little jewel of an island is tiny, measuring 4 miles North to South and 2.5 miles East to West. There’s only one main road circling the 18-mile perimeter and it doesn‘t take long to cover it all.

Morgan's Head guarding the Bay's entrance

Morgan’s Head guarding the Bay’s entrance

The Promenade

The Promenade

Along with friends and fellow cruisers Lynn and Howard of the sailboat Swift Current we rent a “buggy” for a day, the perfect vehicle to roam around in style and discover the beauty of Providencia.

The Motley Crew on a Buggy Tour

The Motley Crew on a Buggy Tour

As I said, there’s only ONE road to follow, but Tom keeps taking abrupt turns into little alleys that invariably lead us nowhere specifically, usually ending in someone’s yard. Why? Because he’s curious, he says, let’s make things interesting… Besides, touring the island takes only a couple of hours, we have the whole day and an adventurous streak.

Colorful Bus Stop

Colorful Bus Stop

One of the many Playgrounds scattered around the island

One of the many Playgrounds scattered around the island

He’s got a point… To be honest, his diversions took us down some pretty interesting sights! Luckily, Lynn and Howard don’t mind being tossed around.

My favorite island house. Yellow!

My favorite island house. Yellow!

The Conch Shells House!

The Conch Shells House!

And more Conch Shells inside...

And more Conch Shells inside…

It is a very pretty island, and I particularly love the very low tourist presence. True, it is the off season, but I’m told that even in the high season Isla Providencia doesn’t see mass tourism. Sweet!

Deck of the luxury Deep Blue Hotel

Deck of the luxury Deep Blue Hotel, the best hotel on the Island

Tom’s erratic driving is often interrupted by my yelling “Photo Op!”, so we stop frequently to admire a church, investigate a colorful mural, buy a bottle of water or just generally nosy around.

There are a lot of churches on the island!

There are a lot of churches on the island!

Church of Our Lady Queen of Angels

Church of Our Lady Queen of Angels

Jerusalem Baptist Church

Jerusalem Baptist Church

We happen to take yet another detour – Tom is hell-bent on finding a beach access -, ending up once more in someone’s yard. There’s a small group of people sitting in plastic chairs, shooting the breeze with gusto, totally unfazed by our invasion. Actually, they’re very friendly and welcoming!

Tile decoration on the wall of a house

Tile decoration on the wall of a house

Why leave a wall blank...

Why leave a wall blank…

... When you can make it a work of art?

… When you can make it colorful and pretty?

Tom and Howard get off the buggy to ask for directions, so we ladies stay aboard thinking this is going to take just a minute.

Wrong! It’s a good ten minutes before the men return, all giggles and smiles, enchanted by the people they just met; they apparently forged fast friendships and almost didn’t want to leave! We girls missed out…

In any case, the road to the beach is the next left turn. We find Manchaneel Beach, a nice place with a palapa where, oh joy, they have cold beer served by Ms Julia, sister to one of the people our guys met just a few minutes ago. Another fast friendship ensues.

Ms Julia entertaining Lynn, Howard and Tom.

Ms Julia entertaining Lynn, Howard and Tom.

Ms Julia, born and raised on this island, is a delightful lady in her mid-seventies with a vivacious spirit and a quick laugh.

We end up spending a couple of hours swapping stories and guzzling cold drinks. Tom is in heaven, having found his favorite beer available in seemingly endless supply. Eventually the conversation turns to the topic of food; we ask Ms Julia about the local island fare, and get some unusual answers…

Well” she says “the typical local dish is Rondon, a fish stew with yucca, potatoes, plantain and dumplings, really tasty. Or,if you prefer, you can have Iguana”.

Noticing my horrified expression -I happen to love iguanas-, she quickly adds in her melodic Caribbean lilt “It’s really good, dear, tastes just like chicken !”

When I casually mention my penchant for coconut meat, she tells Tom to go pick one off the beach and then proceeds to skillfully crack it open with a Machete… I’m a happy camper now, and for the rest of our visit I’m busily chewing coconut, contributing very little to the conversation.

Watch out! She's mighty mean with a Machete!

Watch out! She’s pretty menacing with a Machete!

Before taking our leave we promise to return in two days to sample her Rondon, guaranteed to be the best on the island.

We wander about some more, stopping at South West Beach for a tasty lunch involving a lot of shrimp and an ungodly amount of garlic. After that, a long walk on the lovely beach is mandatory… Although a siesta in one of the hammocks nearby would be mightily tempting right now…

One of the many pristine beaches on the island

Manchaneel Beach, one of the many pristine beaches on the island

View of South West Bay

View of South West Bay

And so we carry on for the rest of the day: hop on the buggy, stop here and there for pictures, find more little roads heading to more beautiful beaches, having a jolly good ol’ time. Truly a spectacular day, one to remember.

Turtle Mon!

Turtle Mon! An unusual bench on Almond Beach.

Lover's Bridge, connecting Isla Providencia to Isla Santa Catalina

Lovers’ Bridge, connecting Isla Providencia to Isla Santa Catalina

In the end, we stay in Providencia exactly two weeks, longer than originally planned. The delay is officially attributed to the weather, the winds are too strong and the seas too angry to venture out… At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Some days go by in total relaxation, when we don’t even feel the need to leave the boat; other days we spend snorkeling, or taking lazy walks to the tiny neighboring Island of Santa Catalina, joined to Providencia by  picturesque Lovers’ Bridge.

Historical Point of interest on Santa Catalina Island

Historical Point of interest on Santa Catalina Island

The cutest resident of Santa Catalina Island

The cutest resident of Santa Catalina Island

Who said kids need video games? A coconut husk will do!

Who said kids need video games? A coconut husk will entertain them for hours!

And yes, we did return to visit Ms Julia and sampled her incredible Rondon. That day is tucked away in my Most Precious Memories chest…

When we arrived, two pots were steaming on the live fires, manned by Mr Alfonso and Ms Julia’s sister, Ms Anisse.

Ms Anisse, five years younger than Ms Julia, is possibly even feistier, with a rumbling belly laugh that can be heard for miles. She wouldn’t stand still one second, constantly fluttering around like a hurried hummingbird, making it impossible for me to take her picture…

Mr Alfonso, our Chef for the day and a thoroughly great guy!

Mr Alfonso, our Chef for the day and a thoroughly great guy!

While waiting for the food to be ready, the two sisters were trying out a couple of new songs to be sang in church the following Sunday. Accompanying music was not necessary and probably would have been too much: just their two beautiful voices, so different and so perfectly complementary, sounded heavenly. What an unexpected treat!

After one of the best lunches to date, we sat around listening to their stories. The sisters reminiscing the days when, as very young children, their Mother would send them up the hill to get water before going to school, a good hour’s walk on little rocky paths with no shoes… The days when electricity finally came to the island, not more than twenty years ago, how it changed life for everyone, and so on and so forth.

It sounds like a hard life to me, but they feel blessed about every minute of it…

Ms Anisse said: “It doesn’t matter how poor you are on this island, if you’ve got friends you’ll never go hungry. We got fish in the sea, we grow things in our gardens. God looks after us. There’s always enough to go around”.

Ms Julia: bewitching smile and mischievious eyes. Lovely Lady.

Ms Julia: bewitching smile and mischievious eyes. Lovely Lady.

Somehow, at some point, out of the blue and right in front of me Ms Julia asked Tom if he is a faithful man, or if he plays the field… My usually chatty husband was caught speechless and sputtering, so Ms Julia prompted him by further asking “What I mean, young man, is: can you keep your pecker in your pants?”

Roaring laughter followed for long minutes before Tom could answer. “Ms Julia”, he said “I’ve got plenty of woman here to keep me busy until I die! I’m not sure I could play the field even if I wanted to…

I guess the answer pleased her, as she cackled loudly for a while, slapping her thigh and Tom’s with some force.

Ms Julia asking the Million Dollar Question...

Ms Julia asking the Million Dollar Question…

Oh, what a memorable day! It was painful to leave our island family, especially knowing we’ll never see those wonderful people again…

Three generations on a very sturdy moped...

Three generations on a very sturdy moped…

Just when we’re starting to know the islanders by name, a favorable weather window approaches and we have the choice of taking advantage or be stuck here another couple of weeks until the next one… It’s a tough decision!

Eventually our wanderlust prevails. We’re planning to head for Roatan, another beautiful island off the coast of Honduras.

Apparently most of the other cruisers in the anchorage are planning to leave as well, scattering in different directions and dispersing within a couple of days.

But I’m sure the anchorage won’t be deserted for long: the lure of Isla Providencia is strong, soon other boats will arrive.

As we prepare to leave, we ask each other… What was our favorite attraction, what did we especially like of Providencia?

For me it was mostly the colors, the dramatic contrast and the vivid colors.

For Tom, unquestionably, the people.

Even a wreck  can be transformed in a colorful work of art

Even a wreck can be transformed in a colorful work of art.

View off Lovers' Bridge

View off Lovers’ Bridge

Music School!

Music School!

Ah, yes, the wonderful people of Isla Providencia with their musically accented English, their rapid-fire Spanish and their incomprehensible (to us) Patois language. Unforgettable.

Stop by, if you ever have a chance. It’ll be one of the most enriching experiences of your life.

I know it certainly was for us!

View off Almond Bay

View off Almond Bay


Responses

  1. Absolutely a perfect picture of the wonderful Island of Providencia. Glad we got to share it with you.

  2. It’s all so pristine and inviting. No trash anywhere to be seen.

  3. Tom & Lori, It was a pleasure sharing the anchorage in Providencia with you. We enjoyed our short time getting to know you and Providencia is absolutely one of the biggest highlights of our cruise so far. We just got back from a week in the San Blas Islands and transit the Canal tomorrow. Hope your passage to Roatan was smooth. Todd, Kendra, Lev & Gail aboard S/V Grace


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