Off to la costa de Colombia

13 Apr

So on Thursday, March 8 Genny had a flight back to L.A. and I had a flight to Cartagena, Colombia. Cartagena is a glorious old city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. It is the fifth largest city in Colombia with just under 1 million people. It has a lot of history, both pre and post Spanish. Even though it’s on the coast, it’s not known for its beaches. The `centro historico´ is what makes Cartagena stand out. I stayed in a nice hostel called La Casona just outside of old town for two nights. It was different to explore a city all by myself. It was nice to go at my own pace, set my own hours and see exactly what I wanted to see. At the same time, I missed conversation and camaraderie. I found myself striking up conversations with random people in restaurants or really anywhere else I encountered friendly people. I had a great time there and just wish I could post my pictures! I´ll be home in 3 days and have the ability to upload and share them then.

After a few days in Cartagena, I took a 3-hour bus ride to the smaller Caribbean coast town of Santa Marta. Santa Marta had a different vibe than Cartagena. It is supposedly the oldest European settled city remaining city in South America and that’s what draws tourists to it. It was an important area to the natives as well, before the Spanish came and changed everything. It is just west of Tayrona National Park, which is an amazing place in its own right. Santa Marta does have better beaches than Cartagena, giving it more of a beach town feeling. I surprisingly didn´t get that in Cartagena where there was more of a big city feeling. So I spent some time walking around el centro de Santa Marta, more time sitting on the beach, then finished my day off with a good meal, a book, and an early night. Interesting enough my hostel happened to be in the part of the town that supported the world’s oldest profession. Needless to say it made my walk home interesting, but I just ignored everyone as I walked down the two-block strip to my hostel.

I went to a few different beaches while I was there, including the beach at Taganga. Taganga will come into play later on with an unexpected return, but for now I just hung out there by myself, soaking up some rays (don´t worry mom, I wore sunscreen :)). I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Santa Marta and would definitely recommend it to anybody travelling around Colombia.

My next stop was el pueblito de Minca. Minca’s a small mountain village in the jungle, about 45 minutes from Santa Marta. Part of what brought me to Minca was the well-placed flyers and advertisements they have in Santa Marta. They’re smart, they know the tourist path and advertise well. There’s also a nice write-up about it in my lonely planet book. I was drawn to the fact that it was a cooler mountain town with hiking and other outdoor activities to offer, it was a break from beaches and would remind me of my home in Yosemite a little.

Minca was an experience. I ended up staying at the Sans Suoci Hostel, which is a ‘finca’ or a small farm owned by a nice German fellow who’s been there for about 15 years. He was a cool guy to talk to, as were the other guests there. I was starting to realize that there were probably more German tourists there than any other group of people. The main guy I talked to and hung out with was a German guy whose name I can’t remember, but man was he an interesting character. He was basically a German bum. He told me about how he did not have a job because he didn’t agree with capitalism and didn’t want to work for the man, so he lived for free on a farm in Germany and was an expert dumpster diver. Where he got the money to travel around S. America I don’t know, but he was an interesting guy to hang out with for a few days.

I spent my days there just hiking around and getting to know the area. One of my favorite places that I found was called ‘el pozo azul.’ It was just a little swimming hole in a nice secluded spot under a waterfall. Great spot to do what I did a lot of down there, read and relax! I did also have a nice dinner at a Spanish tapas restaurant that just happened to be in the town. The town was tiny and there were literally three restaurants in the whole pueblo, and one of them was owned and run by a Spanish guy from Malaga. He was surprised as everyone else was that I could have a full-on conversation with him and loved hearing my stories about Malaga. That didn’t stop him from giving me the smallest portions of food ever though; I ended up eating twice that night.

After sleeping outside in a hammock for a few nights, I was ready to move on and go back to the beach. I would also highly recommend Minca on a Colombian tour, especially if you want to take a break from all the vendors and hippies in Taganga. The ride back to Santa Marta was definitely an interesting one. There aren’t really any buses that go to Minca because it’s such a small town and the road isn’t great or even very big in certain places. So there are Mototaxis as an option, or if you’re lucky enough to find someone driving down, they’ll usually take you for just a few thousand pesos (just a few $ ☺). Coincidentally, there were six of us that checked out of the hostel at the same time, so the owner suggested we all share a ride down the hill. We ended up sharing a van with about seven other locals, cramming ten of us in the back of the van with all of our bags on top. It was incredibly hot and stuffy in the van and somebody in there hadn’t showered in a while. We made it down the hill, but it was a looong ride.

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