I think it’s a natural thing to only want to write about the good times we have on the road, but I believe that’s also a disservice to you as one of our 20 loyal readers. You deserve to know the truth that long-term travel isn’t all roses and lollipops. We’re lucky, and quite thankful, that the vast majority of our experiences on the road thus far have been good ones, but there have also been plenty of boring days and travel days to deal with. And then there’s San Andrés Island, the Colombian Caribbean “paradise” that proved to be our hell on earth.
After hearing from quite a few people how beautiful the island is we decided that despite how much it was going to cost we had to go. I mean how often in life do you get to decide to fly to a remote Caribbean island on a whim? It was a no-brainer. To say San Andrés is popular would be an understatement. We booked our room a couple of weeks out and had trouble finding one that was both available and affordable. Most of the places on the island are all inclusive resorts and don’t fit into our current long-term traveler budget. After some searching we settled on an affordable place that got good reviews on the usual sites such as tripadvisor.
I’ll never forget the feeling of “he must be mistaken, this can’t be the place” when the taxi driver stopped in front of our hotel. Not until he got out and opened the trunk did I accept that there was no mistake, we were at our hotel/hostel/tenement. The area of town seemed a little sketchy to say the least and the building looked like a stiff wind could knock it over. We learned during check-in that we were lucky and got the suite which included two bedrooms, a kitchenette, and 4 or 5 dead cockroaches. After getting settled we walked to the city center and had some very good, fresh shrimp and a couple of beers at one of the better restaurants on the island, Gourmet Shop Assho (yep, really). Our spirits lifted and we thought we may actually enjoy the next four days after all.
That was not to be. We woke up the next morning to one hell of a storm. The street outside of our door was completely flooded and water came over the sidewalk to our door whenever cars rode by. Not only that, but our roof was leaking. Fortunately it was the roof in the bathroom and master bedroom. We’d decided the night before to sleep in the second bedroom because the AC in the master bedroom leaked and it was positioned directly over your head when lying in bed. Unfortunately our luck didn’t last and the roof in the second bedroom began leaking as well.
All other rooms in the hostel were occupied and the owner couldn’t seem to care less if we had to sleep on the street so we set off to find a new place. I mentioned earlier that we had trouble finding a place initially and we found that every place we went to was completely booked. We absolutely could not find an available room. Thankfully the repairman who came to check out the ceiling knew someone who had an available apartment and we moved to it. The leaking roof proved to be a blessing in disguise as the new place was much nicer and and in a nicer part of town. The only problem was that the bathroom always smelled like raw sewage – a small price to pay for a dry room I guess.
With our room situation squared away we were finally able to get out between down pours and see what the island had to offer. There are beautiful beaches, there’s no doubt about that, there are lots of old, dumpy looking all inclusive “resorts”, and there are countless duty-free shops. The entire downtown area is one duty-free store after the other. Apparently shopping is one of the big draws on the island and there were some good deals, but we weren’t there to shop. What you won’t find are many good restaurants. It seems that most people just eat at the all inclusives so there’s no need for many restaurants. One place did come highly recommended but we ended up walking out after waiting nearly 30 minutes without service. Instead we ate at the Beer Station where three of Angela’s fried shrimp were raw (only one after sending them back – improvement!).