Oh Minca! What a weird and wonderful place.
Not to start too harshly, but the town itself is shit. That said, it is only about 3 blocks by 3 blocks, so the “town” of Minca isn’t really much of a place to dislike. Fortunately, once you have moved past the 3 blocks the surrounding area was WONDERFUL. While in Taganga we spoke with the owner of the Bonzai Café who assured us that Minca was great and we should definitely go. Fortunately for us we heeded his advice.
After doing some research on hostals in Minca we settled on Casa Loma despite a few reviews about the number of steps that must be climbed to reach it. When we reach Minca we followed the directions to the hostal and climbed the 220-ish steps to our mountain home for the next 3 days. We arrived quite tired and pouring sweat. Both Autumn and I are competitive, so while catching our breath at the top we were very happy to see a few more people reach the top in the same condition and they didn’t even carry 30lb packs up the hill! While the hike up the hill wasn’t easy, it was definitely worth it. The view from Casa Loma is incredible. On most days you can see all the way to the Caribbean Sea in addition to the surrounding mountains.
We arrived fairly early in the morning, around 10am, and were able to check-in to our mountain hut room shortly thereafter. Our mountain hut, Casa Selva, was a tiki style hut with bamboo poles and a palm thatch roof. The hut was enclosed on 3 sides with the side at the foot of the bed open to our private deck and a fantastic mountain view. Not to worry, we had a mosquito net for around the bed as well as a rain sheet and a privacy sheet (neither of which we used). We could lay in bed overlooking the mountains and watch the birds fly; definitely a first for both of us.
Once we were checked-in we changed into our swim suits and decided to walk to Las Marinkas waterfalls. It was about a 45 minute walk uphill which as you may have guessed makes for some seriously sweaty people. The benefit of getting that hot while walking to the waterfall is that since it is a mountain river waterfall you are able to cool down RIGHT AWAY. The water was serious cold, but all sorts of refreshing.
When we first arrived there were 6 other people at the falls, but they left after about 5 minutes and we spent the next hour enjoying the falls just the two of us.
After a great time in and around the waterfall, we walked back to Minca for a quick bite of lunch at the Lazy Cat restaurant. Post lunch it was back up the hill to Casa Loma for a great sunset with a beer in hand.
We had read that the food at Casa Loma, while vegetarian, was fantastic. Dinner the first night definitely did not disappoint. Their dinners are quasi family style with everyone sitting around 2 big tables, but the food is plated. This allows for some meeting of new people and the exchange of travel stories. We sat across from a Dutch guy who had traveled quite extensively. One of his most unique places was the month he spent in Iran. He absolutely raved about the people and the cities. As he described, the people were incredibly friendly and incredibly generous of their time and homes. Apparently the people of Iran think their government is as crazy as the rest of the world does. I found all of this very interesting although I have no interest in jumping on a plane and taking a trip there. Don’t worry Papa D!
On the morning of Day 2 we awoke to our fantastic view from the hut. Today we decided to visit a coffee and cocoa farm for a tour which included how to make both coffee and chocolate. Expectations were definitely high. The directions to the place said it was about an hour and fifteen minute walk to the farm from our hostal. Interestingly enough they said the walk down was shorter… Turns out that when you walk up 1,000+ feet in elevation in just over an hour you arrive at your destination exhausted and incredibly sweaty. Are you sensing a theme yet? The Minca area is very pretty, but everything is UP.
The farm itself was on the top of another mountain and had some amazing views. The family was great. When we arrived (dripping sweat) they led us to a great breezy spot to sit and relax. They then brought us each a big glass of juice to drink and their pet Toucan “Touci” to play with. Not a bad reward for our hike up to the farm!
The tour itself was quite easy. We started off with a 3 minute walk to some coffee plants trees, some information on the threats to coffee farmers (fungus, bugs, and wasps that eat said bugs), and then back up to the farm to see the coffee making process in action.
I would say the general process is similar to some of the winery tours we took, but with some coffee specific elements. There is a separation process, fermentation process, drying step, initial deshelling process, roasting, and then a final deshelling process. All-in-all a fairly straight forward process, but I am sure there are lots and lots of nuances that we didn’t see. The farm that we were on did all of the harvesting, processing and drying but they send the beans to Santa Marta for roasting and bagging for resale.
After the coffee tour we were joined by another 8 people for the chocolate tour. Part of the tour was the same as the coffee tour, but they walked us through the full process for making chocolate. Very cool, but the taste didn’t really get good until we added milk and sugar to the raw cocoa.
The tour went much longer than we anticipated and we were both starting to get quite hungry, but there was one more thing to do: chocolate facials. We got some great chocolate face photos:
The walk back down to Minca was shorter, but not much easier. At least we got to use lots of new and different muscles.
We stopped by the Lazy Cat again for lunch and then it was back up the hill to
Casa Loma. Both of us were sufficiently tired that we laid low the balance of the day and only left our hut to share a dinner and then eat a delicious piece of passion fruit cheesecake. Yum!
Our last day in Minca had the potential to be many things. What we decided was that we would push ourselves again and hike an hour (uphill of course) to Pozo Azul, which is a great set of waterfalls northwest of Minca. The walk was sweaty once again, but the falls made it all worth it. There were several swimming spots to choose from so we picked the first one to cool off and then explored the others. Incredibly beautiful. I will let the pictures do the explaining.
After Pozo Azul we made a quick stop at Camaritas. This is a small shack that serves smoked meats, beers, weed, and I’m sure coke if you really wanted it. The food had been highly recommended as was the crazy old guy that owned the place. The menu was limited that day to two items, but they were both delicious. As we were wrapping up our meal the old guy came and said hello and then walked away and fired up a joint that the Marley’s would be impressed by.
One more time back up the hill to Casa Loma to grab our packs and then right back down the hill to get a taxi to our next stop, Playa Del Ritmo. Playa del Ritmo was highly recommended by a German women we met at Casa Loma and was right on the beach so we definitely had to try it out. The taxi rides to the hostal were not great and the town of Santa Marta is shit, so the view was not good either. BUT… when we finally arrived at the hostal which is 15 minutes south of Santa Marta we were awed. The hostal is literally ON the beach. It has a tiki bar/restaurant and the room was just fine. We arrived just in time to catch the tail end of the sunset with our toes in the water. Not too shabby. Oh yeah, and there was a puppy that came to hang out with us while we were watching the sunset. Very cool.
Dinner at the tiki bar and then off to bed!