Coffee Plantations & Waterfalls

After our couple of days living in the isolated paradise of Tayrona National Park, we headed back to Santa Marta and got the chance to wash our hair and dry out our clothes and become civilised again. We were only staying for the night before heading to the small village of Minca, which was only half an hour away.

Minca is famous for its coffee plantations and jungle-like surroundings. Hidden away 600 metres above Santa Marta, its the perfect place to escape the heat of the Caribbean coastline. The tiny village is all of one small road long and full of friendly Colombians offering lifts or tours.

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A village local

We arrived in the late afternoon, just as the heat of the day was starting to subside. Our hostel for the night was Casa Loma, which was this groovy treehouse-esque style hostel tucked in high above the village of Minca. We were thankful for only bringing small backpacks as the walk up to Casa Loma was a vertical ascent. Sweaty and out of breath, we reached the open area of the common area and checked in. Already I could tell that i would love this place. Big timber tables sat out on the edge of the mountain, with the spectacular jungle view below us. The hostel was covered in postcards and memorabilia and the staff were super friendly. It was obvious that people stay much longer than they intend here, its just a very homely place.

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Casa Loma

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Our beds for the night

We checked and signed up for the home-cooked dinner that night because a home-cooked meal sounded absolutely amazing (and we didn’t want to have to climb those stairs again!) To tide us over until dinner there was a very welcoming tray of brownies that we tucked into. As we watched the sunset over Santa Marta, with our beer and brownies, it was clear that Casa Loma had definitely won us over.

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Dinner was delicious but slightly on the small side, luckily there were extra brownies for dessert! We headed to bed early that night, eager to make the most of the following day. It was another night in a hammock but these ones were miles better than the hammocks at Cabo San Juan. I managed to get a full night sleep comfortably and woke up feeling fresh and ready to explore the area.

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Sunset at Casa Loma

We walked down the hill to a little cafe and had a filling breakfast of plantain, eggs and chorizo – washed down with local coffee. After breakfast we negotiated a price for some of the locals to drive us around for the day. Our driver from yesterday was there and he happily organised drivers for us and off we went on the back of their little moto-taxis ready for adventure.

Our first stop was the La Victoria coffee farm, about a 15 minute ride from the village. This small coffee farm still uses the original machines and has ingenious systems using water to transfer the coffee to one point from anywhere on the huge farm. We learnt about the coffee making process and the steps that goes into creating the perfect cup of coffee.

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Our drivers and us at the coffee plantation

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Learning about the coffee making process

It was interesting to learn that all the best coffee in Colombia gets shipped overseas and the Colombians only use the second and third rate coffee beans. It seemed peculiar that they would give away all their incredible produce but I guess whatever pays the bills! The farm does keep a small selection of the first grade coffee for their small cafe, which we happily took advantage of! They even had freshly cooked brownies and carrot cake which had our name all over it. This was definitely turning out to be the brownie tour of Colombia!

 

After the coffee farm tour, we jumped on the back of the bikes again and were taken to Pozo Azul to cool off. This little swimming hole was the perfect way to spend the afternoon and we played in the icy water, jumping off the waterfall ledge and taking a few too many GoPro selfies! We reluctantly headed back to the village of Minca, sad that the day had gone too quickly.

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At Pozo Azul

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Defs up for Colombia’s Next Top Model :p

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Unfortunately we were out of time in Minca and had to head back to Santa Marta to catch the bus to Medellin. It was a quick but peaceful stay in the this tiny village and when I return to Colombia one day, I’m definitely going to spend more time there. Its the perfect little oasis to escape the daily grind of travelling.

Now to catch the bus to Medellin! Hello 16 hour bus ride – I’m sure you’ll be a delight! :/

J. x

Cartagena Part 2: Playing Tourist

I’d been living the high life in Cartagena for the first three days but I actually hadn’t seen much of the city. We’d spent so much time in enjoying the luxury of our own apartment that sightseeing had taken a backseat. While I thoroughly enjoyed my time living it up in style, I was also eager to experience Cartagena.

After a pretty ordinary stay at Chill House Hostel I made it my first mission of the day to find a new hostel. Luckily I didn’t have to go too far until I found the greatest hostel in Cartagena. Mi Llave Hostel was on the outside of the old town, right by the water in a bright pink building. This relatively new hostel had absolutely everything you wanted in a hostel and the staff were so lovely, I booked in straight away. After cooling down for a bit (Cartagena was the hottest place on the planet!) I set back out with my trusty camera and went to explore the Old Town.

Surrounded by Las Murallas – the thick walls built to protect the town from enemies – the Old Town is a real piece of colonial architecture. The construction of the walls too two centuries to complete due to storms and pirate attacks. It was finished in 1796 however due to the excellent military engineering they still remained in remarkably good shape. Inside the walls, the bright coloured buildings are squashed between churches, plazas, palaces and many different restaurants and cafes. I spent the day wandering the cobblestone streets, getting a sore neck from constantly looking around. Late in the afternoon I stumbled across what can only be described as a dessert lovers heaven and I thought it would be rude not to sample their goods.

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Entrance to the Old Town

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These cast iron statues are surrounded all around the Old Town

Mila Cafe sits on the corner of a colourful street in the Old Town and takes ones breath away once they walk through the door. The gold accented building has a French influence and their display cabinets are enough to make anyone a dessert person. I was particularly drawn to the gold topped brownies and tarts that sparkled under the bright lights. Deciding it was definitely cake o’clock, I ordered a brownie and iced latte and sat down in the cool air-conditioning. Let me just say, this brownie was not only the most amazing thing I’ve eaten, but it was definitely the prettiest! I knew I would be returning to this place a few more times before I left!

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Too pretty to eat!

That night my friend L, who I trekked the Santa Cruz trail with in Peru met me at Mi Llave and we planned to spend the next few days together in this hot little city. We walked the streets, ate more brownies, talked until we couldn’t anymore and almost gate-crashed a wedding.

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Exploring the Old Town
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Fresh orange juice!

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One day we caught a local bus to Playa Blanca, the nearest beach to Cartagena for some much needed ocean time. Playa Blanca is a beautiful beach, only polluted by the masses of tourists that visit it everyday. The snow white sand and clear water is incredible to be near, but the hordes of tourists and annoying hawkers make it not such a relaxing stay. We stayed for a few hours, playing in the cool water and working on our tans before heading back to Cartagena.

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Playa Blanca
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Welcome to the Caribbean Coast!

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L left after a few days together and I was alone for three whole hours before my bus buddy J met me again. He had been up north and we shared our adventures from the past week over more brownies and coffees (I may have become addicted to Mila Cafe) We watched the sunset on top of the walls of Las Murallas and had some delicious pizza to end the night with.

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Final sunset in Cartagena

The following day we split up again, with him heading south to Bogota and myself to Santa Marta. I’d had a small taste of Colombian beaches with Playa Blanca and I was keen to get some more. Caribbean coast here I come!

J. x