“Camila! Quinten! What are you drinking?” asks Señor Salazar.
“Something with rum?” I reply, and before his daughter can order he’s off the beach, over the road and into the resort he and his wife have been terrorising for a couple of days now. Having an absolute ball, it seems. At the slightly quieter posada up the road, Camila’s been receiving phone calls from mum complaining that dad has lost her purse, then clarifications ten minutes later confirming that she’d left it in the bathroom.
Señor and Señora Salazar are a forty-something Bogota couple who, once a year, take a break from their three kids and hectic home lives and take a beach holiday. They’re still just as in love as when they met as teenagers and when they get the chance to be alone, they party like teenagers as well, to the smiling disdain of their eldest daughter. And with a family history that both reflects Colombia’s tortured history and could have been lifted straight from a telenovela, they definitely deserve it.
There’s been a misunderstanding between Señor Salazar and I (I’m not sure if it’s on purpose or not) and we’re served paper cups brimming with straight rum and a little ice. “It’s an open bar, you’ve got to take advantage of something like this,” he winks, and takes a sip. He was born into a working class family and has been finding new ways to make and save money to provide for his family for half his life. Once, Camila showed him a video by Chilean YouTube star German Garmendia, creator of one of the internet’s most-watched channels. His first observation was “there’s good money in that”.
Over the course of an afternoon we go snorkeling, take a dance class on the beach and get absolutely wasted along the way. Then all of a sudden they’re off, tumbling into the airport pick-up van under suitcases. “Call me when you get home!” calls their daughter from the beach. A storm is coming in, and we’ve nothing left to do but stagger back to the posada in the driving rain. A bit of a swim on the way home? Even in the downpour, that water’s glowing far too flirtatiously to refuse.
There’s plenty to do on San Andres – dive, hire a motorbike, take a boat out to Johnny Cay (a real life desert island!), visit the clapboard Protestant churches, peek into the cave that supposedly holds Captain Morgan’s treasure – none of which we got around to doing. We did spend a lot of time on the beach, gawked at fluorescent blue lizards and visited Hoyo Soplador, a blowhole on the southern end of the island that blows up portrait posing Colombians’ hair and, if you’re lucky (we were!), a woman’s top. We partied like animals with one-night friends and walked in on a robbery in progress. We waded out to Rocky Cay (an island with a shipwreck!) and snorkeled among masses of shiny fish that would nibble your fingers when they’d finished your bread. We were counting the total number of days we had left on one hand and frankly, beautiful, paradisaical San Andres took a backseat to one Señorita Salazar.
There’s a whole lot of cool history associated with San Andres (pirate bases, wars between the Spanish and English fleets, Creole slaves) but it’s nothing you won’t find in a Lonely Planet guidebook or a Wikipedia article. What I will leave you (and this weird, fragmented blog post) with is a sample of the locals dialect – for reasons you’ll find in that Wikipedia article, the locals speak a type of Creole English – overheard between a man on the road and an elderly gentleman on his porch:
“‘Hwa yoo doowin?” “How are you doing?”
“Aaarite, aaarite!” “Alright, I suppose.”