April 9, 2014 – April 11, 2014
With our rehabilitation and relaxation complete in the Santa Marta hostel, it was time to move on to our next destination, the tiny mountain town of Minca. I must admit when Krista told me about this little town that she had read about up in the hills where there is apparently a lot of bird watching, I had my doubts. Leaving the beach for a tiny village where we might see some birds fleeting about here and there high up in Colombia’s massive trees didn’t elicit a huge response from me. However I was anxious to leave the oppressive heat of Santa Marta so upon hearing that the mountains would indeed be cooler we were off heading towards the mountains and one of the best places we’ve been to thus far!
It’s easy enough to get to Minca, Santa Marta once again came in handy as a tourism hub. Simply hop on a collectivo along Calle 11 and Carrera 13. A collectivo is a private vehicle, in this case an old Land Cruiser, which waits and collects passengers until it is full before leaving. We grouped up with two other backpackers for the one hour bumpy ride up a dirt road to the tiny village of Minca.
We stayed at Casa D’Antonio, a small four room hostel in which we were Antonio’s only guests. We got the room in the front, which opened up onto the porch and had an amazing unobstructed view of Santa Marta in the distance. Out the back window were more breathtaking views of the jungle covered hills. Antonio, a Spaniard who now lives in Colombia is the hotel’s owner. He is a chef by profession and has an impressive menu to choose from. The whole place felt like Europe in the 50’s, quiet, beautiful and undiscovered by tourists.
The next day we decided to explore up into the hills which hid in the clouds above the tiny village. To go further up the mountain you can either walk, which would take most of the day or hop on the back of one of the many motorcycles waiting in town to take people up the hill. Farther up from Minca the roads get even more sketchy and it’s easy to see why motorcycles are the preferred method of transportation.
No helmets are provided or seem to be required for passengers.
Our first stop was the La Victoria coffee plantation. A bumpy 15 minute ride up the mountain on the back of a motorcycle. The cost: COP $15,000 or around US $8.00 which includes the wait for the tour to end and the ride back (or in our case farther up the mountain).
This plantation appears much the same as it did when it was first built in 1892, all of the original mechanical equipment is still in place, meticulously maintained, and running like new.
The best part was of course the coffee sampling at the end of the tour. Then it was back to the waiting motorcycles to continue our exploration up the mountain. They drove us a few more kilometers up the mountain and dropped us off near the top so we could walk down the other side and enjoy the views.
There were great views in every direction along our hike
Along the way we encountered some Arhuacos, a local indigenous people who live high in the mountains. They were dressed in their traditional bright white attire. We did not take any pictures of them however, as they generally do not like to have their picture taken by tourists.
We met some Belgian backpackers along the way who invited us to come check out their hostel – Casa Elemento. The owner speaks perfect English and runs, from what we could tell, the highest hostel up the mountain. Casa Elemento was a bit more packed than Casa D’Antonio’s, where we were the only guests. It is a bit of a backpackers haven and a dozen or more backpackers from all over the world relaxed in hammocks, or hid from the heat in the pool or at the bar. We were invited to check out their huge family size hammock, custom built out over the edge of the mountain. While relaxing and enjoying the views Krista was delighted to see a toucan swoop across the valley.
Minca turned out to be one of our favorite places in Colombia, and we regretted that we had spent two extra days in the sweltering heat of Santa Marta and not up in this beautiful mountain town. We highly recommend anyone going to this part of Colombia check out Minca. Whether you want a quiet relaxing experience, or a bit more of a party atmosphere, Minca can deliver both and with amazing views!