Island-hopping from Cartagena in 2006, we'd sailed Ithaka, our Shearwater 39, downwind along Colombia's rugged northern coast, tucking into protected harbors on the mainland and hiding from the strong prevailing easterlies behind lush tropical islands. When Douglas and I made landfall at sleepy little Isla Fuerte, off the northwest coast of Colombia, the island didn't seem like much to write home about. Beware first impressions.
There were small, paved footpaths between tiny, concrete houses and bamboo huts. There was a church and three little tiendas, each selling the same assortment of tomato paste, rice, sugar, cooking oil, and sardines. As I walked back to the dinghy on that first day of poking around, a raisin of an old woman with no teeth called over, asking in rapid-fire Spanish if I wanted to buy aciete de tiberon-shark oil. "Why do you take such a thing?" I asked. "For asthma and grippe," she said, baring a smile of gums. "Oh, dear," I said. "Thank you, but I don't need it."
"Gracias a Dios," she said, blessing herself.