Sunday, May 29, 2016

Minca, Colombia: Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls (Actually; Do)

Onwards from Tayrona, Jason and I escaped North to the small town of Minca!  There are tons of charming little beach/mountain towns that are accessible from Santa Marta - which means at least it's useful for something.

What It's All About:
Minca is a tiny mountain town about 45 minutes away from Santa Marta - here, the temperature becomes much more manageable due to the altitude (because again, Santa Marta was unbearably hot). There town basically consists of a tiny little main street with about 10 stores and cafes, and the whole place has an incredibly laid-back, outdoorsy/hippie vibe.  People come here to chill, not sweat to death, hike, swim in waterfalls, etc.

Oh haaaay Minca, you're looking all lush

There's also a really well-known hostel called Casa Elemento, where they have a huuuuge hammock that can accommodate multiple people and has an incredible view over the mountains - lots of backpackers come to Minca just to stay in this hostel (which was fully booked when we arrived, but I'm ok with that because getting there involves a super-aggressive hike, or a moto taxi).

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • The hostel we did book was on top of a mountain anyhow, and had beauuutiful views of Santa Marta in the distance. Jason and I dropped off our stuff, then walked to town and had dinner at an adorable cafe in town called Lazy Cat on their balcony, enjoying how nice and cool the temp was. We even grabbed a couple beers afterwards and sat in plastic chairs outside a rando convenience store/bar/cafe, while the owner's small daughter watched The Disney Channel in her pajamas at a table next to us.  I love small towns.

View of Santa Marta in the distance from our hostel

  • We set out early the next day to do a pretty well-traveled route that hits up all the main sights: First, the Marinka Waterfalls (Las Cascadas Marinka), then hiking up to a viewpoint that overlooks the mountains called Los Piños, hiking to the La Victoria coffee farm, and then more hiking to another set of waterfalls called Pozo Azul. Our hostel man told us the entire circuit would take about 7-8 hours. He definitely lied (it's more).

First up, Las Cascadas Marinka!  Which you can swim in! Which was amazing, given it was super super super hot.  "Sweating buckets" is now the theme of my entire time on the Northeast coast of Colombia.

Above the first set of waterfalls was another set of twin waterfalls, also swimmable!
These waterfalls were lifesavers in the heat.

  • After the waterfalls, we embarked on a 2-hour hike to the next locale: Los Piños viewpoint.  I know I sound like a broken record, but hottest hike ever. On the way, we were supposed to have passed by Casa Elemento, the super well-known pretty hostel, but we somehow missed it. Which is very talented, given there's only one small winding dirt path and very few buildings along it.  I'm subscribing to the idea that we were staring at the ground and trying to focus on not overheating instead.  Anyhow, at the top of our super-steep, super-hot, 1-hour-30-minutes-too-long hike, we finally got to Los Piños.

The most exotic-looking flower ever on our walk

View of the Sierra Nevada mountain range from Los Piños!

So the view was pretty, but was it worth hiking 2 hours uphill in an oven? Debatable.

  • From Los Piños, Jason and I set about finding La Victoria, a coffee farm.  I have to say, walking/hiking in Minca is nice because you rarely come across other people - you just walk along dirt roads surrounded by lush jungles. There's rarely even any cars that come by. This is also, however, very conducive to getting lost. The roads wind everywhere, there's random forks and turns and questionable signage. La Victoria ended up being much, much farther than we anticipated - we stopped along the way at a super random store/bar on the side of the road for a beer, and then hitchhiked the rest of the way in the bed of a super bumpy truck (God bless people in other parts of the world who pick up hitchhikers!).  But we made it.  La Victoria is well known because it has a beautiful setting next to a river and tucked into the valleys of the mountains - and they still produce their coffee in a natural way (i.e. wash the beans in the river, etc.).  But I didn't take any photos. And then it started raining. So we had a cup of coffee and continued on our way.
There were huge bunches of bamboo forest things all along the walk

  • We ended up hiring moto taxis to take us to our last stop (as the day was rapidly winding down): the Pozo Azul waterfalls.  Pozo Azul consists of two sets of cute little short waterfalls where you can swim in the pools, and also do a little waterfall jumping.

Here's Pozo Azul waterfall #1, which Jason is jumping off of.

You can then hike above waterfall #1 to reach waterfall #2, whose waters eventually feed down into waterfall #1

And then we proceeded to do a series of waterfall jumping photos. I was also trying to learn how to not have to plug my nose underwater. Which I still fail at.

And then I gave my camera to a stranger and Jason and I went to make the jump together. We are deciding here where to jump so that we don't run into each other and die.

You can't tell, but my camera went all wonky here and I have three arms #goals
  • Pozo Azul was my favorite. Minca was my favorite. It was an incredibly last-minute decision for me to stop here (aided by the fact that Jason had planned on going anyhow), and even though we only had a full day, it was the best.
  • From Pozo Azul, we zoomed back to Minca on moto taxis - we said our good-byes, as Jason was trying to make the last shuttle to Santa Marta, while I was trying to make the last long-haul bus to Cartagena for the night.  

Spoiler alert: I did make the last bus to Cartagena, but I ended up arriving at an ungodly hour.

There are so many other cool towns and villages tucked in this region of the world that I would have loved to visit had I had more time - Taganga (beaches! scuba diving!), Palomino (river tubing!), etc. - but those will have to wait until next time!  When I take 5 years off to travel the world properly. Kind of kidding.

Up next, Cartagena! Which may be tied for the hottest place I've ever been in my entire life.  STAY TUNED.

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