Taking a boat to the Rosario Islands was on my Cartagena to-do-list but I never thought I would be going like this. My cousin and his fiancé charted a boat out to the islands for some of their wedding guests. We waited at the harbor across from Torres Del Reloj to meet the group at 10:00 a.m.. The wait felt like a life time in the stifling hot sun. I could’t even find any shade. This would definitely be our hottest day in Colombia yet. I’m glad we would be on the water.
As soon as I got onto the boat, into the shade and had an Aguila (a light Colombian beer) in my hands, I was content. I stayed in the shade until we began moving, not wanting to overheat in the hot sun. This also gave me time to get to know everyone I was boating with for the rest of the day and spending other wedding activities with. Before going too far we had to stop at a spot to replenish the beer and water, aka the essentials, before our day at sea.
As soon as we started to move, I went to the front of the boat to soak up the sun. I soon made the transition from a seat to the bow of the boat where I was able to lay out. This spot gave me a great view of the sea before me and Marcella, the bride-to-be acted as a great tour guide. She pointed out villages on tiny islands and the forts that were used to stop pirates. These forts were set on opposite sides of the water and they once had a chain connected to them. When a pirate ship would approach, they would pull the chain taught so that it cup the bottom and sunk the ship. It was very cool to see.
The water seemed dark and did not look like the Caribbean at all until out of nowhere we were in crystal clear, turquoise water surrounded by islands with straw huts. The boat pulled aside to let us off at Punta Brava, the coral reef. I jumped right into the water, swimming in the vast sea. It was the clearest water I have ever seen. You didn’t even need snorkels to see the coral reef below. It was so clear. I swam and even touched the ocean floor, swimming through the water like a fish. Though, I did’t see too many fish. Swimming in the coral reef was an amazing experience even though we didn’t see many first. I have never even dreamt of water that clear. Soon enough, we were back on the boat to head to our next destination.
Our next stop wasn’t too far. We pulled up to a beach where straw huts were scattered in the water, some with dining tables underneath. Once the boat began to slow down, I stated feeling nauseous. I don’t think it was from the boat because I never get motion sick. I think the heat was just getting to me because the second I got off of the boat and into the water I felt fine. The heat is so strong here, you can’t just sit in it for even a minute. I swam around to cool off before washing up on shore.
In order to get to the shore, you had to go through the water. The boat was only anchored, it didn’t dock. The water was no higher than my thighs though so I could easily get out without having to swim to shore. The island appeared beautiful but I was surprised by how poor everyone was. The people wore dirty clothes and walked through the shallow waters trying to sell you all sorts of things. They would walk up to you and try to sell you a massage by rubbing oil on you shoulders. You would sho them off but they were persistent, trying to do anything they could just to get by. It’s strange and it’s sad but it’s how they make their living. However, I don’t like being bombarded. If I want a service, I will get it. I don’t want someone trying to force me into it. The people of the island seemed to leave us alone when we were in a big group, maybe because we had some Spanish speakers with us.
We relaxed in the water underneath one of the straw huts for awhile because even though we were in the water, the sun was still scorching above. I swam from hut to hut in order to explore. It was one of the most surreal places I have ever been. We were going to eat at a table under one of the hut, but the tide was rising. We had to eat closer ashore.
Our table awaited us closer to the beach, underneath the hot sun. By this point, I had sufficiently cooled down and was ready to eat lunch, while submerged in the sea. I knew we were getting fish but I was not prepared for what we received. The fish all placed at the table looked terrifying. They had all their bones, heads, teeth and even eyes in tact. This was one fresh fish. I didn’t think I was going to like it. Once I took a bite, I was surprised to find the dish to be delicious. It was one of the best fish I have ever had. And it was perfectly salted, most likely straight from the sea. My dad said before we ordered that he didn’t like fish and was told there would possibly we a beef or chicken option. They must not have been another option because all he got was a plate full of fried plantains. What can you expect, you’re on an island. I enjoyed my fish and tried not to pay attention to its head until I saw my cousin pop a fish eyeball into his mouth. I asked if it was customary to eat the eye but all the Colombian who were with us said it wasn’t necessary. I’d eat anything to experience the culture at least once. I’m glad that I didn’t have to eat the eye though. I got really full and didn’t finish my fish until Marcella’s brother started to pick it off the bone and force feed it to me. I don’t think they like wasted food here.
Once our food was done, we got coconuts to try. They first couple sips of the coconut water were refreshing and delicious. After that, it started to get too much for me. I think I was a little coconuted out at this point. All food in Colombia taste like coconuts. As the last drops of coconut water were sipped, someone from the island came over with a machete to chop the coconut for us so we could eat the meat inside. The coconut meat was not my favorite. I didn’t enjoy the flavor and it had a really weird texture. I might be a picky eater but at least I’m willing to try the food.
After we were fully fed and finished our coconuts, we gathered our belonging on the boat and went to our last destination, Playa Blanca. Playa Blanca is located on Isla Baru and is one of the most popular beaches in Cartagena due to its stretch of white sandy beach. We docked on the beach further down the island from the bust part. This beach had long white sand and calm water. We floated in the water for awhile, though the water had a lot of leaves and some garbage. When we tried to sit on the edge of the water, we were bombarded by women trying to massage us. We were at this beach for the shorted amount of time because the boat had to be back at the dock at a certain time. We got back on the boat the same way we left it, from a plastic chair on the sand. It didn’t seem like the safest option.
The boat ride back was so much fun, it was flying through the water. Anyone who tried to sit at the bow almost fell overboard and if you tried to stand, you would fall over. It was a wild ride back. Colombian music thumped loudly over the sound of the crashing waves. The beat of the music kept pace with the speed of the boat. It was like they were on a timing. We laughed the whole way back to Cartagena, grinning ear to ear, our cheeks tight with laughter and sun.