Sunday, June 5, 2011

San Andres Island, Colombia - The Trip

Back at the Microsoft Dynamics GP Technical Conference 2011 in Fargo, ND and Microsoft Convergence 2011 Atlanta, my sidekick, David Musgrave thought it would be a good idea to introduce my hometown, San Andres Island, as part of our presentations and give all attendees to our sessions a free ticket to the island. If you did not get yours please see David next time - ok, just kidding!

Sprat Bight Beach in the North End of the Island

Well, I decided that after attending the both the Technical Conference and Convergence, and having wrapped up a couple projects, it was about time to visit my parents, siblings, and friends, before things got crazy again - and so I did last week!

Getting to San Andres Island

When I was planning the trip from Atlanta, I was weighing two options to get there:

Option 1: Fly from Atlanta (ATL) to Panama City, Panama (PTY) with Delta Airlines, then take a flight out of Panama City to San Andres Island (ADZ) with Copa Airlines. The problem was two fold with this option: Delta leaves from Atlanta 5:55 PM local time and arrives in Panama at 9:55 PM local time. The Copa flight leaves to the Island at around 10:00 AM local time from Panama. This meant I would have to sleep in Panama City for a night and leave the following morning.

Option 2: Fly from Atlanta (ATL) to Bogota, Colombia (BOG) with Delta Airlines, then take a flight out of Bogota to San Andres Island (ADZ) with Avianca Airlines. The problem was two fold with this option: Delta leaves from Atlanta 5:00 PM local time and arrives in Bogota at 10:30 PM local time. The Avianca flight leaves to the Island the following day at around 11:00 AM local time from Bogota. This meant I would have to sleep in Bogota for a night and leave the following day. However, this options gave me a chance to catch up with my sister since she lives in Bogota, so I decided for this option and left for Colombia on Saturday, May 28, 2011.

Bogota City
A bit about Bogota...Nicknamed "The Athens of South America", Bogota is the District Capital (DC) of Colombia with over 8.5 million inhabitants (including surrounding municipalities) and an infrastructure comparable to that of many large cities in the United States. Bogota has excellent public transportation, sanitary services, and an enviable climate - similar to that of San Diego or San Francisco. The city sits at some 8700 feet above sea level which keeps it cool year round.

After spending a night in Bogota visiting an old spot I used to frequent during my young adult life and catching up with my sister, it was time to go back to the spanking brand new Marriott Hotel, which is located just 1 mile away from the airport.

Bogota Marriott Hotel

Our flight left from the Terminal Puente Aereo, operated by Avianca Airlines, at mid day, and by 1:30 PM local time we were already in the Island. The flight was uneventful - probably a good thing considering half the flight happens over the Colombian Andes and the other half over the Caribbean Sea.

I'm not going to try and narrate all 6 days I spent home in one post, but needless to say, I went out to ran some errands. Among one of these was to purchase my return ticket to Bogota (I had only arranged my round trip between Atlanta and Bogota). In walking around town, I spotted this colourful "chiva" getting ready to take tourist around the Island - if you were at our sessions at the Tech Conference or Convergence, you will remember that San Andres Island is 285,000 times smaller than the island continent of Australia or simply put, some 27 square kilometers.

"Chiva" tour vehicle
One of the things I really enjoy when home is my mom's cooking and I would say that no one makes a better "rundown" - a traditional island dish - than her. A rundown typically consists of sweet potatoes, yuca, green plantains, flour dumplings, and your choice of meats. For this occasion, my mom added pigs tail and conch to make up the meat portion. This is all cooked and stewed to perfection in coconut milk. My mom added a side of coconut rice and made an ice cold tamarind juice to go along.

Rundown - a typical island dish

One of the days I was there, my brother's car battery went out, stranding him close to the port. This was perfect in a sense as I had a chance to stroll along the San Andres International Seaport. I had forgotten how beautiful this side of the island was as it is not known for its beaches, but I remember when I was a kid, it was my favorite place to go swimming.

San Andres International Seaport
The port happens to be a commercial seaport. Cruise ships arrive on the other side of the island (South West side) where the waters are much much deeper and there's no need for docking. I also managed to take a shot of the hotels in the North East end of the island from the same location.

Hotels in the North East side

I stayed 6 days with my parents and wish the trip wasn't so short, but effectively, all good things must come to an end. I traveled back to Bogota this past Saturday arriving there at 1:00 AM local time and had a short night sleep. It was raining in Bogota all Saturday and Sunday, even as the flight was leaving back to Atlanta.

For those of you interested in visiting the island, the June to August time frame and certainly the November to February time frame seem to always be the best. Is what we locals call the high season. My parents happen to run a B&B at home with very good accommodations and amenities. So please feel free to reach out if you are interested. And now I leave you with some more great pictures.

Seaside Tiki Bar

Johnny Key in the background. This is my mommy, Lois Bent Gomez

Until next post!

Mariano Gomez, MVP
IntellPartners, LLC


Anonymous said...

Hi! My husband and had enjoyed our HoneyMoon on San Andres in November of 1991! It was my first trip to the Caribbean and my husbands second. It was our first and unfortunately our last trip to the Island! It was just amazing! We stayed at the Hotel Decamaron (sp) on the outskirts of the main town. We visited a beach daily towards town and met a family who ran the beach and lived right there. I believe the owner's name was Ernesto. There was a large yellow home with a huge front porch at the entrance of the drive to the beach. We met the elderly lady who lived there who happened to be from Indianapolis, IN. We are from Indiana as well. How crazy to travel so far yet meet people from home. I have to say the people we met while there were the most friendly people we have ever met while traveling the Caribbean. Our dream is to return and spend our 25th anniversary on the Island! It is a hidden gem! Loved your blog!
Sincerly, Kim Muzzarelli

Mariano Gomez said...

Thanks so much for the kind words! Yes, San Andres has changed quite a bit since 1991 and you will probably find an array of other amenities.

Beaches are still great. This time I recommend you take a trip to the keys. You will enjoy it very much.

Keep up the readership.


Anonymous said...

Loved this Dad! Keep up the great work!- Laura Gomez

Mariano Gomez said...


What a surprise! I'm glad you read the article. Kisses.