A paradisiacal island in the western Caribbean unknown to most Americans, belonging to the exotic nation of Colombia, with beaches that made Jamaica's look grungy and weed that made Jamaica's seem tame -- in the mid-1960s, that sounded like a description of the perfect vacation spot.
So it was that two of us set off for San Andre's.
Hippie friends who were running a yacht off the island had urged us to visit. To get there, we had to fly to Bogota', than catch a puddle-jumper to Medelli'n, Cartagena and finally the island itself. What adventure, we thought as we arrived at our hotel in Bogota'.
What a nightmare! we exclaimed the following morning. While we slept, a thief had broken into our room and, without awakening us, had stolen all our traveler's checks, credit cards and cash. Luckily (or was it?) our airline tickets remained. We left Bogota' for sunnier climes, vowing never to return.
When our plane finally touched down in San Andre's, the tiny airport was filled with returning Colombians weighed down with televisions, refrigerators and just about every other appliance save personal computers, which had not yet been invented. It seems San Andre's was a duty-free port for nationals, who regularly made weekend trips to the island to stock up on cheap appliances, which they then sold at a profit back on the mainland.
It took hours to get through the mob scene. Finally, we found our friends on their "yacht," a grimy little trawler supposedly used for fishing. The fish must have been as stoned as we soon were. The smoke was so powerful that subsequently the only thing I could remember of our four days on San Andre's was lying inside the trawler entranced by my own brain waves.
A luncheon sail to an uninhabited island was scheduled for our last day. The island was beautiful, and so was the buffet feast spread out on long tables. The native fish and seafood tasted especially good.
I began to get queasy on the flight back to the United States. By the time we arrived in New York, I had such gastrointestinal problems I could barely stand up. The next day, I was rushed to the tropical disease unit at St. Clare's Hospital, delirious. The physicians explained I had obviously ingested one of the numerous parasites that were the scourge of Central American fishing waters. A week later, 10 pounds lighter, sober as a Customs official, I went home.
A phrase might have occurred to me at the time. When it comes to tropical trips promising shellfish, sun and smoke ... Just say no. Grace Lichtenstein is coauthor of "Sonny Bloch's Inside Real Estate: The Complete Guide to Buying and Selling Your House, Co-op or Condominium." More Turkeys, Page E8.