Paraíso Secreto

An archipelago, 100km off the coast from Cartagena, The Rosario Islands are one of Colombia’s 46 Natural National Parks. We were heading to the largest, Isla Grande, and it was amazing to finally get on the water after the unwavering humidity almost dripping off the walls of the old city…

Drenched from a less than refreshing and very erratic boat trip, we pulled into a bay, complete with a slide into the sea. A local intercepted us and with very few reassuring words he had beckoned us to follow him and marched off into the island’s jungle labyrinth. Bewildered and blindly trusting as many locals in Colombia have been so friendly, we plunged into the depths of the island after him, struggling under the weight of our bags. Fifteen minutes later we had emerged into a resort, complete with pool, bar and balconies galore. Who knew.

We soon learned that the island had no electricity during the day and that the village five minutes away offered one restaurant (a table outside someone’s house) and a shop, something fairly similar. Honestly, living off grid and living so simply felt so liberating that I extended my one night stay to three days.

One day in and I joined up with three Irish guys who I would travel back to Cartagena with. Without a fridge and traveling with a vegan, I soon learned how to become a better vegetarian and it wasn’t too bad…for a bit. Days on the island involved complete R&R, structured only around when to pick up food from the village, working out how to get to the next beach and not getting sunburnt.

It was fascinating talking to the locals and it was so great to be speaking Spanish. Anyone we spoke to was helpful and kind and although I felt like we stuck out like sore thumbs, they didn’t seem to notice. My first lunch, I ended up sitting next to and speaking to a 74 year old local. From my conversation with him, I learned that 1200 people live on Isla Grande – over half of them have never left. They educate, govern and support themselves and each other.  He also mentioned that five people are elected in to govern the island, each one representing a different societal requirement, and he was one of them. Casual.

After three days of watching pelicans catch fish, avoiding crabs scuttle across the forest path, eating far too many tomatoes with rice and learning an excellent new card game called Widow, we reluctantly booked our tickets back to Cartagena. It was time to soak up some more history and culture.


Seconds to make count:

Put your electronics in a dry bag whenever you get into anything that sits on water. You never know what will get wet and how.

Always go to the toilet before you head off on any type of transport.

Sometimes online hostel prices really are the cheapest deals available.

It’s good to disconnect and spend your moments appreciating the basics in life!

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