The next part of the trip focused on getting in touch with mother nature, or Pachamama as the Colombians refer to her.
If we thought Cartagena was hot, as we drove east towards Santa Marta it was hotter and more humid and way more mosquitos 😬. We stopped for lunch at a beach front truck stop that was so hot, and there were so many mosquitos and it was a relief to get back on the air-conditioned bus!
We were to spend the night in Minca, a small town perched 600m in the Sierra Nevada mountains, above Santa Marta. The Sierra Nevada Santa Marta mountains are the highest coastal mountain range in the world and is a separate mountain chain to the Andes. The mountain area is self-governed by the four indigenous tribes living there – they call the mountains the heart of the world and it is their duty to preserve it.
When we arrived at out hotel there was no power due to a storm earlier in the day though this seemed to be a regular occurrence and the elevation and jungle seemed to make things just that little bit cooler.
I settled in for an afternoon of hummingbird watching and trying to get the perfect photo as the hotel had a number of sugar water feeders set up. It really was a peaceful spot and I wish we could have stayed longer.
The true joys of the ‘jungle’ showed themselves later in the evening when I returned from dinner to wage war on an army of large ants that had moved in to my room, with nothing but bug spray and a shoe I defeated the army but did not have high hopes for a good night’s sleep despite the peacefulness of the place 😂.
The following day we visited La Victoria Coffee farm. This coffee farm had been set up in the late 1800’s by an English family and incredibly, the farm is still using the machinery it had shipped from England at that time which is powered by the natural gravitational feed of water from the flowing mountain rivers. 25km of piping funnel the ripe coffee fruit to this production farm from the surrounding mountains where the magic of the coffee begins. 😃
This certainly turned out to be a day of extremes as it started in the jungle with hummingbirds and coffee and ended on the beach with a cocktail in hand in Taganga.
Taganga was once a tiny fishing village but became a backpacker’s destination about 10 years ago which completely changed the place. The beach itself was not as bad as I had expected based on the guide books comments, however it was recommended that we use the place as a starting point to the more beautiful beaches of nearby Tayrona National Park which were accessible by boat.
Our guide had arranged another surprise for us (these began being known as a ‘Freddy Surprise’ as our guide’s name was Freddy 😂) of local singing and dancing on the beach. It was a little embarrassing at first to have this put on for us, but the local children who had been enjoying a day out at the beach soon joined it and it became much more fun.
This was followed by a cocktail in one of the restaurants along the beach as we watched the sunset – truly magical.
We had a free day here and I decided to get back underwater! I was a little nervous as my refresher dives in New Zealand earlier in the year had not been hugely successful. I had had issues with buoyancy and equalising and did not feel comfortable in all the gear you needed to wear for cold water diving. Thankfully, the warmer water made it much more comfortable diving for me.
We had two dives within the Tayrona National Park with good visibility and saw lots of fish, including a sea snake reversing its body into the sand for camouflage which was pretty cool. Must say I was glad to be under the water as others of the group who had gone snorkelling had started to feel seasick due to the swell which of course we did not feel under the water. 👍🏻
Back on land for a shower and change of clothes and just made it to a restaurant before the rain started – it rained hard (apparently this is fairly rare on this part of the coast). I had planned to work on the blog but the wifi was not working and I had to keep moving as the straw roof of the restaurant over-looking the beach leaked in multiple places 😂😬 first world problems I know.
There was incredible thunder but I did not see any lightning which was fortunate as many of the locals kept swimming 😬 as the streets of the small town quickly turned in to ankle deep rivers that I had to wade through to get back to the hotel!
Our next ‘Freddy Surprise’ was probably the best one of the trip in my opinion. He had arranged for us to play football with children (aged 8-10) from Estrada 1-2 (the lowest socio-economic levels). They were already warming up and clearly had far more skill than us so they gifted us with a goalkeeper (a confident little boy with good English) to keep the game even. I think we did a pretty good job but as the game went on more and more of the children joined our team so perhaps they really did feel sorry for us 😂.
It was lots of fun, and we ended in 2 all draw. We had to go to a penalty shoot-out which the kids won – just. It definitely got us sweaty and perhaps we helped a little toward the development of some future Colombian players. 👍🏻