We got up, packed our bags, left the Captain with a friendly young cat-sitter, and had a nice breakfast at the marina’s cafe (just love that view!)…
…before hopping in a taxi and heading up into the mountains to Minca. We got dropped off at Minca Ecohabs, where we checked into a lovely room for our two-day getaway. Peaceful, nice view, and very thoroughly bug-netted! Special shout-out to the water heater, as hot water showers haven’t been on the menu at the Santa Marta marina.
For our first day’s excursion, we grabbed a pair of motorcycle taxis, and headed up to the Finca La Victoria coffee plantation. After crossing the river-road to get in, we were immediately poured a couple of coffees, which is definitely the right way to set the mood for just about anything.
This made for a very interesting tour, because their coffee plant is entirely powered by water. Water flows down the hill in plenty, carrying the coffee from one place to the next, with the “first quality” beans sinking and the rest floating along to lesser destinies.
Water also powers all the machinery, with a “wheel with paddles sticking out” (the tour guide’s English was very good, but there were a few words missing.) Much of the machinery predates widespread electricity, so the place is full of big steampunk belts and gears. Now, the plant’s electricity also comes from a water-driven dynamo.
The tour also included a surprisingly long visit to the factory’s compost heap, alongside the coffee nursery. We also got introduced to some of the other local plants, like this spongy red relative of ginger that’s apparently something something good for your hair.
The finca (Spanish for farm) is also host to a microbrewery, the Nevada Cerveceria (presumably they realized Victoria was already over-subscribed). So of course we had a tasting, and of course they only had coffee cups.
We hopped back on tandem-motorbike and headed back to the town center. As we walked around, Jazz kept remarking on how much it had developed since her last visit, some eight years ago. This place has definitely come into its own as a stop on the backpacker circuit.
At the same time, it’s definitely not totally given over to tourism. There’s local street food, and street chickens, and coffee out drying by the side of the road, some family’s stash for the next season. It’s also apparently common practice to use a section of old rope as a speed bump, or to use wine bottles to draw in some extra light through your walls.
We headed back out to our hotel to grab an extra layer before dinner. The walk along the path from the hotel’s restaurant to our room is really lovely.
But we skipped the hotel restaurant in favor of the Lazy Cat, which was reported to have good food and river views. We were a little late for the view, but we can confirm that the food is good. Also, the Lazy Cat had a lazy cat.
The next morning we woke up early, because #boatlife, and spent a lazy morning lying in the hammocks and listening to what we would later find out were toucan calls. Apparently they’re active at 6am and 4pm, and we should have gone to the restaurant to see them even though it wouldn’t open until 8. So we missed the toucans, but we did see a couple other pretty tropical birds from breakfast, as well as a great view down the hills back to Santa Marta.
Our morning excursion saw us once again mounted tandem on motorcycles, headed up another windy, mostly-dirt road through the jungle to Sierra Minca. This was a very long ride, almost forty-five minutes, which would have been much more fun as a driver but was increasingly uncomfortable on the bumpy back of the bike. Still beats walking though, at least if you’re trying to see a lot in a short time.
This hilltop hostel has an incredible view, and has clearly put a bunch of effort into being an instagram backdrop. It’s also very much geared towards the hostel crowd; note the “no sex on the hammocks” signs (which were everywhere).
We brought the drone with us, but of course software troubles follow you even into the jungle, and we found that DJI’s software no longer worked with Android 12. Test early, test often! So we sat and got some pictures of birds instead.
This would have been a great place to kill a few days, but we didn’t have days, and in any case we hadn’t brought that much bug spray (Check out this guy’s legs!) So we headed down the mountain towards Marinka falls. It was a reasonably nice walk, for being on a road, but as it was all downhill it was kind of murder on the knees, so by the time we arrived, we were wishing we had taxi’ed down to Marinka and taken our walk on the next leg instead.
Marinka was lovely, though. Another of those places where Jazz had been years ago, and was surprised to find how built-up it was. We grabbed the last street empanada off a stand by the entrance, but we were still pretty ravenous, so when we found that there was now a restaurant, we sat right down. We expected it to be utter crap, because location, and were surprised to find it was only mostly crap. Also, we’re pretty sure it was either that or the empanada that gave us some serious food poisoning right as we got back to the boat. The view’s not half bad, though.
It’s a reasonably pretty waterfall. There were people swimming, and maybe we’d have enjoyed that if we’d arrived earlier in the day or gone straight in after the hike. But having just eaten, we were content to take pictures from the outside.
It’s definitely built up as an instagram backdrop, and there were a couple of instagram hopefuls working their magic. So we decided to try to take our best thirst-trap photos. Are we doing it right? We’re pretty sure we nailed it.
Back outside the park, we had a few minutes wait for moto-taxis, and we were entertained by this incredibly studly rooster.
Back in town, we stopped for dinner (check out the view!), and Andrew continued his tradition of being a cat whisperer. Jazz got her piece of the action when the food came, and Napkin decided that she was ready to collect payment for all those cuddles.
We stopped for hot chocolate (and handmade beaded hummingbirds) on the way home. We also passed by a house that Jazz swears was once a restaurant where she and some friends had a great meal and too many bottles of wine. See also, the view over the city from next to the hotel restaurant (where they were watching a soccer game.)
The next morning is when we learned that we had been too late for the toucans. We did manage to get the drone working, though, and got some pictures: the restaurant, the “hotel” complex, the town, and the view back to the sea.
We had a nice relaxing morning, enjoying the hammocks and lazing around. For lunch we took a last walk around town, and ended up at a burger place. This whole place is very child-friendly – check out the high chairs! It’s also definitely got a hipster element; we found cardamom and tonka bean ice creams, as well as a last Happy Toucan “en barril”. We texted some of our child-having friends about the chair and the chai gelato, and found out that they’d delivered the new baby just hours before. We look forward to meeting the newly arrived Levi!
Then it was time to head back down the mountain, past the various animal-crossing signs (here, monkeys); back to the boat and the cat and some very good pizza at Ouzo with some new friends from S/V Zelos. The food poisoning was starting to kick in, unbeknownst to us (“I think I waited too long to eat, my stomach hurts”), but we made it to dinner and had our last lovely time for a few days. Sadly we didn’t manage to get a group photo; we blame the onset of the mental fuzz that accompanied the next few miserable days. We will not be writing more about this unpleasant time. Minca was cool though, and apparently a great diet destination.