Four days in Santa Marta: Tayrona park and Minca
The heat really hit us when we got out of the plane and we were so happy to be in the warmth again! Collected our luggage and got a taxi to our hostel called The Dreamer. We found out that the hostel is quite a bit out of town (20minutes) but at least cabs are cheap, only £1.50 fixed fair to get into the centro historico de Santa Marta. We checked in to our room and had a look around, had a late lunch which was cheap and small as you’d expect in a hostel, checked out the pool and Bruce played a bit of pool volleyball with a group of dutch guys. The hostel itself was decent, good music and nice vibe, but everyone was much younger even than me which made us feel a bit old! We had a shower and decided to go to town for dinner and some drinks. We were lucky and we found space in the number 1 restaurant called Lulo, we had a couple of mohitos (one with maracuja, passion fruit, which was so good!) since it was happy hour 2×1. We then tried a octopus ceviche and an arepa with steak and avocado which was super tasty. Arepa is a local corn pancake that they use in different ways, this one was with cheese and we both really liked it, one to try if you are in Colombia! After dinner we wandered around and ended up meeting a girl from Seattle (Mo) and her boyfriend from Argentina, Bruce met her in a California trip that he did 7 years ago! Small world, she now lives in Bogota and was in Santa Marta for the weekend. You have to love Facebook for this things! We had a drink with them at La Brisa Loca hostel which has a bar with a good reputation for partying. After a couple of drinks there they still hadn’t eaten so we got back to Lulo so they could eat. The road in which Lulo is is a lovely little road with colourful lights and a lot of street artists, while we were there we saw some amazing break dancers, singers and bands, makes you really think that something must be always happening in Colombia. It was great to catch up with Mo (and to meet her) and Lucas was also very funny and interesting. We got back to the hostel at midnight a bit drunk and tired.
Our bodies still confused about the change in temperature, after a month of 10-15 degrees and now at 35.
Day 1 in Bahia Concha
We woke up early as we booked a tour with Vergel Tours to Bahia Concha, one of the first beaches near Santa Marta. While getting ready I had a bit of a traumatic experience with a big cockroach walking next to my face on the bed. I screamed and ran off, and Bruce bravely killed the beast which as you can see in the photo was quite big next to my flip flop. We were already having doubts about the hostel, since we are far too old (even me!) compared to everyone else here, and it’s very noisy, with cold shower, and very far from the centre. Since it’s our last month we decided to upgrade ourselves to a better location and hotel, and had the luck of finding a spot in one of the best rated boutique hotels in Santa Marta called Casa de Leda part of Kali Hotel– the best choice ever if you are in Santa Marta. We luckily managed to cancel the hostel without having to pay extra as they understood our reasons and even gave us a beer to say sorry. Trying to forget the bad start, we started our day with Vergel tours. Vergel tours is owned by the Vergel family and the guides are two young brothers Luis and Jose. We had a great day with Luis, got picked up in time and got a taxi driven by a super cool typical caribbean dude called Frank. We then got dropped at Luis’ house where we had a typical Colombian breakfast cooked by his mum and we were surrounded by his huge family and lots of cats and dogs. The breakfast was delicious, scrambled eggs with tomato and a plantane with cheese puree thing which was very good. After breakky we learnt a bit about the history of Bahia concha and how it was owned by the cartel, cause the beach is covered by jungle so there used to be a cocaine factory over there but not anymore. We then jumped on a motorbike, one each with the driver, and took the jungle road which was the one that the narcos were using to transport cocaine. It was pretty scary but also quite spectacular. We arrived at the beach and were immediately amazed by the clear waters, and by a pelican catching his breakfast in the sea. First we went to a cliff where the locals can jump from 14 metres. Luis jumped, I didn’t and Brucey jumped only from about 3m high. We then went to the beach and enjoyed some sunshine, and some amazing snorkelling on the far left of the beach. The beach is already part of Tayrona National Park, but it’s located on the Santa Marta side, while Tayrona is mainly famous for its East side. We then went back to Luis house and had lunch before heading back to our hostel driven by Frank the Legend, and then quickly packed our stuff and checked in to our new amazing hotel. The room is amazing and the shower is the best I’ve ever had, seriously, with 6 power body jets – so difficult to get out of it. We were so happy to have upgraded, and for only £20 more a night, which is not much for such a big difference.
Before dinner we went to buy our Colombia t-shirts since Colombia is playing against Peru tonight in the Copa America, and ended up watching the game and having a pizza at La Muzzeria in the centre. Colombia won at the penalties and it was amazing to see the celebrations in the main square Parque de los novios. We had another beer to take in the atmosphere but were then destroyed by tiredness probably from the sun and ended up going to bed early since tomorrow we are leaving to Tayrona National Park.
Tayrona day 1
We had a nice breakfast in our hotel and were a bit late checking out since it was hard to leave this beautiful room. Luckily we are coming back in one day for another two nights. After breakfast we stored our luggage and got a taxi to the main entrance in Tayrona national park East side, called El Zaino. We had to listen to the intro to the Park first, which was only in Spanish – I am getting a bit better with my Spanish but I still probably only understood 30% of what they said, while Bruce was more like 1% – and then had to queue to pay the entrance for about half an hour. After that we got a map and started walking towards the park, but it was already 11:30am, later than planned and already very hot. For the night we are staying at only 1km from the entrance, but the best beaches are quite far from here, about 2hrs walk. The thing that we fucked up (excuse my language) big time was that from El Zaino you have to take a bus to the start of the walk, the 2 hrs don’t start from the entrance but from where the bus stops. So we added one hour to the overall walk and were grumpy and sweaty for most of the morning. We stopped for lunch at 2pm and ended up arriving at the first beach near Arrecife at 4pm which meant we could only spend half an hour there before we had to start making our way back before it got dark. Slightly annoying but the walk was beautiful and worth it, and the swim at the end was so amazingly satisfying. On the way back we got a bus to drop us of at our accommodation called Jasayma which was a nice big house with a decent room with mosquito nets (even if they didn’t completely seal the room) and a cold shower which is what you want in the hot humid jungle. We had dinner there and met a nice Colombian couple and a German guy called Chris with his partner Jenna who is from Hawaii even if they both live in Washington DC now. They were very nice and we enjoyed chatting with them over dinner, and were inspired since they both work in “water” helping to get to a better world.
Tayrona day 2
This time we had breakfast early at 7:30 and set off at 8am with motorbikes arranged by our host in Jasayma, and got to the start of the walk at 8:30am. The aim was reaching Cabo San Juan, the best beach in Tayrona and the most far to get to and then try to catch the one boat a day from there to Taganga, which is a 10 minutes cab drive to Santa Marta. We took a less scenic but faster route which is the one that the horses take (since you can hire a horse if you don’t want to walk), had a break at a nice orange juice spot that we also used yesterday, where Claudia makes the best ever fresh orange juice, and met a friendly guy who told us more about undiscovered bits of Colombia that we should visit next time. We then continued our walk and arrived in Cabo at 10:30am, amazing and rewarding view of the beach and finally some chill out time to lie on the beach, sunbathe and swim. The sea is nice but quite rough. We had lunch which was very slow since there is only one restaurant in Cabo, and waited 1:30 hr for our food. But with a nice sea view and a bit of shade that we needed. After lunch we had a little nap on the sand, before we had to catch out boat at 4pm to get back. The boat actually left at 4:35 in typical South American standards. The journey was crazy, the boat was very deep and very fast, but the sea incredibly rough and we kept getting soaked and thrown around at every wave like a rollercoaster. Quite a scary journey, but also very exciting. I did scream for most of it and was so relief when we arrived. We got a cab to our hotel and had an early night after having an amazing burger at Radio Burger and milkshake in the main square de Los Novios since we have a super early start tomorrow to visit the town of Minca.
One day in Minca
We had booked a bird watching and Minca tour with Jungle Joe Minca Adventures and had to wake up at 4:30 and got picked up at 5:15am. Arrived in Minca at 6 and met Joe, who gave us binoculars and started showing us a lot of birds straight away. He is a real legend, and very passionate about his job. We were a bit unlucky with the weather and had a few clouds which made the colours of the birds less visible, but still really enjoyed it especially the sounds. We saw a Macaw and some other very colourful ones, and a few stunning humming birds. The tour ended after three hours and we had some time to go to the Minca Hotel to have breakfast and see the hummingbirds, since they have nectar to feed them. It was such a breathtaking half an hour. dozens of hummingbirds come there, of many different colours and you can literally stand with your face next to them and take in the sounds and watch their super fast wings and it’s incredible. It makes you again think about how fascinating is nature, and makes you feel thankful to Pachamama for this beautiful world. We struggled to leave, but had to start the Minca tour at 10am, when we met the rest of the group, four lovely Americans, two sisters, Kelly and Carla who’s mum is from Argentina and both have very cool jobs, Kelly is a news reader and reporter and Carla is a make up artist for Hollywood in LA, while Erin is an architect from Oregon and German who is originally from Russia is now an investment banker in NYC. We had such a nice day with them and Joe and his daughter Andrea. Andrea is the one that we spent the morning with, she walked with us up to the Minca waterfall where we had a swim in the freezing water and had a nice walk up and down in the jungle followed by two dogs, Bonga and Leon, both very cute and playful. After that we got back to Joe’s house which he made, out of Bamboo, 10 years ago and we had an amazing lunch cooked by him and we learnt about Bamboo constructions. After that we had an introduction to cocoa and tasted some chocolate, and then went to a small coffee farm and had some coffee, and saw an indigenous house before having to head back to Santa Marta. It was an amazing day and we learnt so much more about Colombia than we would have done if we came here by ourselves. He told us how the FARC is still very powerful even if Colombia is getting more and more safe as time passes, but how it’s hard to fight them cause they own the jungles and it’s difficult to get to them one by one (like the last president tried to do – Joe said it would be “another Vietnam”) – probably the best bet is the peace agreement that they have been discussing in recent months that hopefully should be a start…
We got back at 6:30pm, tired but happy, had a great dinner at Ouzo restaurant and then a great deserved sleep since today we walked 20km!
We had a lie in, breakfast and a lazy morning until 12:00pm when we had to check out and get our bus to Cartagena at 1:30pm.