The new normal.

Traffic jams, island style.

29th November 2023

Freetown, Providencia, Colombia – Southwest Bay, Providencia, Colombia

What constitutes a normal life? For months our normal has been chasing contractors, fixing Ruffian, and constant disappointment. Normal on Ruffian used to be hiking hills to viewpoints, exciting aquatic adventures, mixing with a knowledgeable welcoming community, discovering beautiful places and having bonkers sunrise excursions. We’re pleased to report that we have returned to our ‘normal’ old life.

Waking up in a new country surrounded by hills that looked down on the reef fringed island meant only one thing. We were off to find trails to highest point, eat a grapefruit and take in the views. This was going to be the start of our new normal.

The bus zipped around the island at breakneck speeds and dropped us at the foot of the hill at which point the driver voiced his concerns. He had no idea how we’d get home so passed us his number, his home address and told us if we needed anything then he was the man to help. These people were welcoming in the extreme.

Leaving the road behind the path took a turn and went up and up and up. We followed it through dense vegetation, past freshwater pools, though fire scarred hills and then out into the searing sun. Below us were all the other peaks and in every direction we could see the deep blue of the sea, with its big rolling waves, giving way to the shiny shallow water where the reef stopped any swell. If a child could draw a reef fringed island, he would have drawn the view we were looking at.

The drama of our hike was saved until we we arrived back at Ruffian. Fiona checked her pockets and found her phone we resolutely missing. It was either at the top of the hill, the back of our impromptu lift or simply left on the street. Gallantly Iain jumped on the back of a motorcycle taxi, zoomed across the island and there just where we sat, in the back of the car we’d hopped in was Fiona’s phone. The driver thought we’d be back and was just adding to the reputation of the people.

Where we had been finding new friends ashore old friends were arriving from offshore. Lady Blue, Cushla and Halo has all ridden the same weather as us and all had their own tales to tell. More friends meant more adventures and the dive crazy crew on Lady Blue had some underwater adventures planned.

The crew of Lady Blue had found a dive master who promised to take us to sharks as it was sharks they were seeking. As soon as we slipped into the water and descended to the deep we were surrounded. There was little need to spear one of the many lion fish that dotted the seabed but the smell of a fresh kill send these majestic creatures wild. They sped in from every angle making short work of the lion fish that sat on the end of the spear and appeared without warning swimming between our legs, investigating our smell and thankfully deciding that their diet was best served by the lion fish.

Our little community was growing daily along with the knowledge they had and some of that knowledge involved Starlink. On the trip down our Starlink was taking forever to connect to the outside world and Andy told us to take a drill the the expensive dish to show it was was boss.

There was science behind his outlandish suggestion. Our Starlink dish always tries to look up to the sky for it’s satellites and even with all its clever wizardry gets confused in a rolly sea. The solution was internal surgery to disable the motors.

Armed with a scarily large 20mm drill bit Iain gingerly started drilling a hole hoping that it was in the right place and when he broke through he’d not plunge into the fragile circuitry inside. With a pop the plastic gave way and we could now see the insides. To show this was proper surgery Andy pulled out some forceps, disconnected the motor plug and we were done. Offshore we’re now going to have unlimited reliable (but painfully expensive) internet.

Once again our little community came together to explore the island and we collectively agreed that the way to do this was by scooter. Turning up at the hike shop it was like we had all turned unto 16 year old boys, revving our (tiny) engines, showing our steeds bling (unbroken lights) and examining their safety features (some rubber on the tyres). Once the (non existent) safety briefing was completed everyone shot off in different directions and we elected to stay on the safe and steady tail of Halo.

As we leaned around every corner Fiona let out little yelps of joy or maybe fear. Becoming more accustomed to this inherently unsafe form of transport her grip loosened, her gasps reduced and her nervous energy evaporated, or maybe she just got tired.

Our steeds took us to every corner of the island and in every corner we found beaches covered in soft velvety sand, where the branches of palm trees gently kissed the water and there was always a friendly voice welcoming us to the island. Throughout the day we all passed each other in random locations on random streets but all ended up at the same location as the sun was setting and the day closing. Miss Elisha’s cakes and her home bakery were acting like a magnet.

At the end of every day Miss Elisha sells her renowned ginger cakes straight from the veranda of her home and we all gathered around expectantly. Feeling like Oliver Twist we were each given our rations and once we sampled the delicacy we went back asking ‘Please may I have some more.’.

After months of work in Guatemala our time in Providencia marks a new normal for us. Those months of chasing contractors, fixing Ruffian, and constant disappointment are behind us and out new normal of hiking, diving, adventuring and sunrise excursions lay in front. This is one time we like to be normal.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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