Morgan’s Head…Revisited

Scott and I recently realized that we had, in fact, not climbed to Morgan’s Head, as I’d mentioned in a previous post. We’d scaled the two sets of crazy-steep steps, and enjoyed the beach on the other side, but we failed to realize that at the other end of the beach, a trails leads to….Morgan’s Head!….so off we went, again.

Climbing past the beach, I noticed the all to familiar rope rail….yeesh. Luckily, the incline was not nearly as steep as what we climbed in Guanaja. We assumed the rope was meant to help with footing in wet weather.

Along the trail, there were several hand painted tiles. One marked the “triangle of trade.”

This was all well and good, but Providencia was outside the triangle of trade (note the placement of Scott’s stick pointer)…..hmm.

As we walked, there were several places to stop and enjoy the views below, and across the water.

After climbing across a bit of rocky trail, we came up to the back of Morgan’s Head. It was worth the walk, the view was beautiful.

The nearby shoreline reminded me of the South Pacific, thick with palms, whose trunks disappeared into blue-green water that looked painted, it was so brilliant and clear.

Scott crawled around the head while I enjoyed the view, and then we headed back to the beach…and Providencia’s answer to StairMaster!

So now we’ve hiked to Morgan’s Head…check. Here are more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”



Casa de Pablo Escobar

For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t), Pablo Escobar was a Colombian drug lord who was one of the wealthiest, most powerful and violet criminals of all time. He built several holiday homes, one of which was located on a hilltop on Catalina Island, where it is rumored that he plotted his smuggling activities.

After a quick search, here is what I learned out about Pablo Escobar.

Early on, Escobar gained prominence when he played a high-profile role in the control of Colombia’s smuggled cigarette market (called the “Marlboro Wars.”) This experience proved to be valuable training for the future narcotics dealer.

Mainland Colombia’s geographical location proved to be its biggest asset. Located at the northern tip of South America, between the thriving coca cultivation in Peru and Bolivia, the country came to dominate the global cocaine trade with the United States, the biggest market for the drug.

Under Escobar’s leadership, large amounts of coca paste were purchased in Bolivia and Peru, processed, and brought to America. Escobar worked with a small group to form the Medellin Cartel, and by the mid-1980s, he controlled more than 80 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the United States! More than 15 tons of cocaine were reportedly smuggled each day, netting the Cartel as much as $420 million a week!!

The cash was coming in so fast that Escobar purchased a Learjet for the sole purpose of flying his money. With an estimated worth of $30 billion, he was named one of the ten richest people on earth by Forbes Magazine.

In June of 1991, after a long reign of terror and violence, Escobar surrendered to the Colombian government. In return, the threat of extradition was lifted and he was allowed to build his own luxury prison (not a bad deal), which was named “La Catedral.”  Guarded by men he handpicked from among his employees, the “prison” came complete with a casino, spa and nightclub (such suffering).

In June of 1992, however, Escobar escaped when authorities attempted to move him to a more standard holding facility. A manhunt for the drug lord was launched that would last 16 months. During that time, the monopoly of the Medellin Cartel he’d formed rapidly deteriorated.

After many near misses, the Colombian law enforcement finally caught up to Escobar in December of 1993, in a middle-class neighborhood in Medellin. A firefight ensued, and as Escobar tried to escape across a series of rooftops, he and his bodyguard were shot and killed.

His death accelerated the demise of Colombia’s central role in the cocaine trade. His passing was celebrated by the country’s government and other parts of the world, but many Colombians mourned his killing. More than 25,000 people turned out for Escobar’s burial.

After learning more about this intriguing drug lord, Scott and I decided to hike up and find the house. It was seized by the Colombian government, and is collapsing, but still seemed worth a look.

We trudged over rotten mangoes, past piles and piles of coconut husks, and then along the shoreline.

Eventually, we made our way through the overgrown path, and found some switchback steps that lead up to the house. They were sloped and covered with leaves, and I wished that the ropes used to connect the posts along the way were still intact.

After a cardio workout up the steps, we arrived at what’s left of the house.

It seemed to be a three bedroom house, with two downstairs and one located above the now fallen staircase. The views must have been amazing, when the trees and brush were kept at bay.

Many of the tiles on the floors and walls were still intact and in great shape. I tried to convince Scott to try and pry some off with his machete, but had no luck.

Instead, we gathered pieces from the floor, that were in decent shape, and plan to mount them on a board to hang on the wall. I can now check “looting” off of my life list!

Then we ventured out back, where the hot tub and pool were located. Again, the views from here would have been great in it’s heyday.

We started down a set of steps that lead away from the pool, and came across the remains of what was either a guest house, or servant’s quarters. Again, the bathroom was still standing, with the tile inside in great shape.

We decided to make our way back using this path, but changed our minds quickly, when we ran into, literally, biting ants. Brushing ourselves off, as we high-tailed it back up to the house, we started back down our original path.

As we came past a clearing, Scott noticed some palm trees that still had green coconuts hanging from them. Wanting some to serve our friends coco locos in, he began to try and climb up to get to them.

When that didn’t work, I directed him to a shorter tree, with one green coconut that he could easily pick by hand.

Not satisfied with just one, he went back to the first tree, and again tried to climb it, this time using one of the fronds as a rope. Unfortunately, this also proved unsuccessful.

Scott is nothing if not determined, so next he tried using one of the dead fronds to knock the coconuts loose. Again, no luck.

Still not defeated, he found some rocks, and heaved them at the tree top…nope.

Finally, he admitted defeat, and we continued on, with one coconut to take home.

We arrived back at the boat, covered head to toe in sweat. Scott likes to say that we came away from Pablo Escobar’s house with a “kilo”…..of tiles!

Here are many more photos of our hike up to Pablo’s house.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”



Catalina Island And Morgan’s Head

Santa Catalina Island was originally part of Providencia, until the pirate Louis Aury dug a channel between the two (part of what is now referred to as the Aury canal), creating the smaller island. With a population of approximately 100 residents, the island is much less developed than the already less developed Providencia. Connected to its larger sister-island by Lover’s Bridge, Catalina has one shop, a few beautiful beaches and a couple of restaurants.

Lover’s Bridge has two wooden spans that are connected by a floating section, which has a low arch for small boats to pass under.  Before the bridge was constructed, people crossed back and forth in dug out canoes. The colorful bridge provides a cheerful link between the two islands.

Just off of Catalina Island is a huge rock, carved by wind and waves, that resembles a human face. It’s named after the pirate Henry Morgan, who sailed these waters in the seventeenth century. It was overcast as we came past Morgan’s Head on our way in, and I’m not keen for a trip past it in the Aluminum Princess, so I borrowed this photo from the internet.

Morgan made Providencia, Santa Catalina and San Andres his personal refuge, and used the area as a base for continuing attacks against the Spanish Empire. Rumor has it that there is still much of his treasure buried on the island, and that there are chests of gold and jewels under Morgan’s Head (Scott is practicing his free diving skills!). Providencia was a haven for pirates, and many locals claim to be descendants.

We can see the hill above Morgan’s Head from the anchorage, and set out one afternoon to climb it. It’s a easy go for the most part, following the paved road that runs along the water’s edge, and then up a million steps.

At the top is a statue of the Virgin Mary, and a fort that dates from the days of piracy on the island. The fort was used to defend the area, as it had a clear view of the surrounding area and reefs.

There were also great views of the anchorage below.

We then climbed down a million more steep, sloped steps, to Fort Beach below….

Then back up, and back down the other side again; it was a sweaty go. Note to self, climbing two million steps in the early morning is a much better idea! Here are more photos of Catalina Island, and our climb above Morgan’s Head.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”