The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AFLOAT -

Bri­tish-owned Amakuna, based in Medellin, cap­i­tal of Colom­bia’s An­tio­quia province, of­fers ni­nenight hol­i­days, in­clud­ing three nights with full board at Gi­tana del Mar at the foothills of Sierra Ne­vada de Santa Marta, three nights at Deep Blue on Isla de Prov­i­den­cia and three nights at Casa San Agustin in Carta­gena (both stays with break­fasts), plus in­ter­nal trans­fers and do­mes­tic flights. More: enced, and which is ex­pe­ri­enced world­wide, is weak­en­ing Mother Earth and will cause the demise of the hu­man race.”

On the Rio Don Diego, near Santa Marta, we go tub­ing down­river in the com­pany of mon­keys, king­fish­ers and pel­i­cans fly­ing over­head. At the river’s mouth, cold fresh wa­ter from the moun­tains meets the sun-soaked sea, min­gling to make a foggy shade of brown, which is a far cry from the crys­tal-clear waters of Prov­i­den­cia, but we nev­er­the­less jump in to cool off.

Our next port of call is Carta­gena, de­par­ture city for trips to the Rosario Is­lands about 95km off­shore. Far out to sea, skip­ping over the vel­vety waves on a speed­boat, we see yel­low but­ter­flies fight­ing the wind and fly­ing fish hurl­ing them­selves in front of the boat, skim­ming the wa­ter on their scaly wings.

The Rosario ar­chi­pel­ago ap­pears on the hori­zon af­ter about an hour; it’s a col­lec­tion of 30 is­lands, some with aban­doned palaces once owned by the drugs car­tel. Like the palm-cov­ered houses sur­round­ing them, they have no elec­tric­ity or wa­ter sup­ply. Built upon lay­ers of co­ral, the crum­bling build­ings nev­er­the­less pos­sess an eerie splen­dour and a sat­is­fy­ing time-warp feel. It is this unique at­mos­phere, to­gether with ex­cel­lent snorkelling and div­ing, that makes the is­lands a pop­u­lar hol­i­day spot for peo­ple from Carta­gena.

De­spite the shadow cast by Es­co­bar’s reign, Colom­bia is very much a coun­try in recovery. The ne­glected houses of these be­witch­ing is­lands will be re­dis­tributed and the Kogi of Tay­rona will be left in peace. As I sit look­ing at the dap­pled waters of the Rosar­ios, it’s hard to imag­ine a more tran­quil scene. Granted, there are per­haps five shades of blue, com­pared to Prov­i­den­cia’s seven, but I can live with that. And I re­flect on the start of my jour­ney back in Prov­i­den­cia, fondly re­mem­ber­ing Roland’s bar, a rus­tic beach shack serv­ing roasted crab claws and Club Colom­bia beer well into the night; the sin­gle road that runs all the way round the is­land, with golf bug­gies and mopeds tear­ing round its cor­ners; and trav­ellers and lo­cals alike hav­ing en­tire beaches to them­selves. Think­ing about ev­ery­thing the is­land has to of­fer, I re­alise that, of the seven colours of Prov­i­den­cia, per­haps I have seen only one, al­beit in many shades. With six more to ex­plore, it’s tempt­ing to go back.


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