Isla Palma, Colombia
After a few weeks of Sampling the worst of Colombias hotels (whose staff were never any less than mega friendly and helpful though) it was time to sample the best for 3 days. Decameron is a chain of resorts here that claim to be 5 star, in reality this hotel was no more than 3 but of course it seemed like the Ritz to us! The hotel is on its own island – Isla Palma in the Rosario Islands 2 hours by boat from Cartagena. It was kind of like a luxury Butlins in the Carribean, with nightly “shows”, dancing contests, beach sports and Dolphin shows. It was all a bit too much for us and all we wanted was to lie on the beach get a tan in preparation for leaving the tropics. We had one day of sun but the next day it rained and rained and rained and rained…….(mental note: next time try visiting the Carribean in the dry season!) The hotel building was quite an eco-friendly design: a 2 storey thatched wooden hut. The decor was traditional and there were sofas and hammocks everywhere. All around the hotel and the island there were quite disconcertingly life-like figures of Indians doing anything from sitting on a sofa to fishing off a boardwalk. Several times I thought they were real people…. The Island itself was mostly mangroves over which the hotel had built a maze of boardwalks. There was abundance of extra pink flamingos and 2 natural aquararuims. Camilla the Dolphin lived in one of these and was forced to jump for the crowds and give each guest a kiss on the cheek on a twice daily basis – poor thing. Jason became quite obsessed with the welfare of Camilla and one day decided to swim out from the beach over to the the aquarium pool (a fenced off part of the sea) to see if there were any holes she could escape through. I was swimming a few metres behind him until I was apprehended by a member of the lifeguard/beach sports staff in a Kayak telling me that “guests could not swim beyond the buoys of the beach area”. I relented and swam back but Jason continued and a high speed kayak-on-swimmer chase ensued. When the lifeguard reached him Jason pretended not to speak Spanish at all, he eventually swam back and reported that yes, there were infact holes in the side of the aquarium big enough for Camilla to escape, so she must be happy there. Later the lifeguard asked me if swimming was part of Jason´s job at home! Our room was certainly unique, with a life size statue of a Flamingo and a huge basket for a bed! There were no drain-pipes-as-showers to be seen and we had hot water for the first time since Chile. It was the first time either of us had been to an all inclusive and we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. Everyone could see how impressed jason was by the amount of times he went back for more food.. I doubt that Decameron had bargained on having Jason at one of their buffets, thier profits probably nose-dived for those 3 days! The only other foreigners at the resort were about 6 Americans. We have met some great Americans whilst travelling who have become good friends, but these Americans were the embarassingly loud types who were permanently drunk from midday onwards. We preferred to chat to the Colombians who were mostly wealthy “Bogotenos”. We chatted to 3 very sweet older ladies from Bogota. One must have been well over 70 but as with most Colombians we have met they were genuinely interested in foreigners and really friendly. They gave us alot of advice about where to go and not to go in Bogota and seemed quite concerned about the area our hostel was in. As we stepped off the boat back in Cartagena I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was one of the ladies from Bogota who handed me a card with her address and phone number on it. “Take it”, she said “and if you have any trouble at all or you need anything please call me”. I stifled a giggle at the thought of us being robbed at gun point and me calling this sweet old lady to fight off the robber, but the sincerity and kindness of the Colombians never fails to surprise me.