Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I "Sea" Your True Colors

Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful.  I am grateful for many things - family, friends, my job, health, etc. - but I found one more to add to the list.  The beautiful island of San Andrés.  For Thanksgiving Break a small group of us hopped on a plane and headed for the tiny patch of land 12 km long and 3 km wide (at its greatest point) closer to the mainland of Nicaragua than to Colombia, for a few glorious days of white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and general relaxation.

Normally, as evidenced by the travels documented in this blog, I prefer to explore, discover, and generally fend for myself on my adventures.  We opted this time for exactly the opposite - an all-inclusive stay at the Decameron San Luis.  I may have been converted in the ways of vacation travel.

Despite it's small size, there is much to do on this Caribbean island other than lounging on the beaches looking out at the famous "siete colores del mar" or the fact that the ocean appears to have seven colors, all of them stunning variants of blue.  The easiest way to see these sights is to find a way to travel around the island at your leissure.  Golf carts, scooters, and bikes are all available for rent in the largest settlement, San Andres City, at the northernmost end of the island.  We opted for the latter, mosltly as a way to fend off all the extra calories we were allowing ourselves with three square buffet meals each day.

Swimmin' with the fishes!
While circling the island we stopped at a place known as La Piscinita ("the small pool"), a tiny cliff-shaded cove teeming with tropical fish.  Now, one can assume that these fish were once here on their own accord, however, they congregate now for the chance to eat the pieces of bread tourists are given when they pay their US .50 cent entrance fee.  Fortunately, the fish are only interested in you when you still pocess bread and quietly ignore your presence when you are out.

Getting drenched at the blow-hole.
At the southernmost tip of the island is El Hoyo Soplador (the Hoyo blow-hole), a geiser created by a small channel carved into the volcanic rock reaching out to the crashing surf.  This blow-hole mostly just hisses and mists water with impressive force, however, every once and a while it shoots water two meters into the air, drenching anyone standing near, including yours truely.

Dotted around the the northern and eastern sides of the island are several smaller plots of land.  These smaller islands, or cays, are alos popular as day-trips for tourist who want another option for a beach.  We visited Rocky Cay on afternoon, unique in that a sandbar makes it possible to reach the islet on foot without fear of wetting one hair on your head.  This shallowness was not a friend, however, to the shipwrecked boat moored just off the shores of the cay.

There is plenty more to do on this island, including visiting a Baptist church in the settlement of La Loma on the top of the island, built in Alabama and contructed on the island.  (Unlike most of Colombia, most San Andres residents identify themselves as Baptist.)  Not to mention other snorkeling opportunities, Captain Morgan's cave, and visits to the other cays not within walking distance.

I guess this just means I'll have to go back...you tell me if I'll have company or not.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

As the bus that picks me up at the still-sleepy hour of 6:10 am climbs the hilly Avenida de Chuchas toward school, I am often welcomed, on clear mornings, with this view of the Cordilleras rising to the west of the city. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Making It Worse

or...How Not To Run 21KM

This last weekend the city of Pereira hosted the 4th Annual Eje Cafetero Half Marathon.  I ran this race two years ago, implausably as the "3rd Annual," and achieved my personal best time for running 21 kilometers (13.1 miles).  This time around was a little different.

I finished in a reasonable one hour and 43 minutes, about twenty minutes slower than my last and best attempt, but given the circumstances (read: excuses) I can live with the time.  Pereira is in the coffee region of Colombia and is quite hilly and a slightly higher elevation than Cali, however, not enough to really blame altitude for my poorer performance.  The race started off gloriously cloudy at 9 am but began clearing about thrity minutes into the race.  The sun, while scorching, will also stay off my "blame list."

Yes, its gross.
First on the chopping block is the fact that I got sick during vacation two weeks ago.  This took some time to recover from and, combined with the start of the rainy season, afforded me only three solid runs last week.  Also to blame: myself, for forgetting my current running shoes in my locker at school and having to use an older pair that just do not fit as well as they used to after my dear maid sent them through the wash.  (Although they are impossibly white.)  This unfortunate mistep resulted in the pain of a blood blister the size of my thumb, pictured at right.

Finally, and the proverbial nail in the coffin, was the decision to eat a buñuelo 45 minutes before the starter's gun.  A buñuelo is Colombia's delicious answer to a donut hole - a deep-fried salty mass of white flour, corn meal, and cheese the size of a billiard ball.  Obviously, this is not the fuel of champions; don't ask me what I was thinking.

All in all though, it was a great day for a race.  The water stations, route, traffic controls, and military presence, were all organized well and its always good to have a feeling of accomplishment to start off a Sunday morning, even if it is with a sore foot and a little nausea.