Week 32: Santa Marta, Minca, Parc Tyrona & Palomino. Colombia

The journey to Santa Marta was a disaster. It started off with me getting my eye brows done (a long over due job). I asked the lady just to wax them but she had other ideas. Nils was mortified and insisted I wear a hat and glasses to cover the monstrosity. Note to self never ever get your eye brows dyed in South America.

Just going for the subtle natural look

I also had the genius idea of buying ingredients to make carbonara when we arrived. The eggs escaped from the bag and burst on the bus. The problem was they were rotten eggs and I can honestly say I have never in my life smelt anything more toxic. The bus man ran of the bus to be sick and refused to let me or Nils back on until we disposed of the eggs. I still hoped there was some salvaging them hating the waste. Another staff member came over and was also almost sick with the smell so it was time to abandon ship. Nils got the honors of dealing with the egg situation. Back on the bus every few minutes the bus man would spray his perfume on Nils’s hands trying to mask the smell. We eventually arrived in Santa Marta eggcited for the next few days!!! (if you will pardon the pun).

Minca is about 1 hour from Santa Marta. It is a relatively new area to tourism because before it was an area largely occupied by Gorilla war crime. It is set in the mountains with lots of different coffee and chocolate plantations.  For our first night we stayed in Casa Elemento on top of the mountain with stunning views of the valley. It’s about a 3 hour hike up but most people just get a motor taxi for a steep 20,000 pesos. This place is apparently home to the world’s  largestt hammock. We both got up early the next morning to watch Colombia’s disastrous first match where they lost 1-0 to Japan.

Me on top of Casa Elemento
Myself and Nils on one of Casa Elemento’s hammocks
Sunset at Casa Elemento
Sunsets at Minca

I got the job of booking the next nights accommodation. Usually I leave the research in Nils’s reliable hands as I couldn’t be bothered. I have spent the past 8 months just sleeping in tents or the cheapest possible options. Nils researches within an inch of his life I’ve never seen anything like it. Anyway a guy I met on the Galapagos recommended a hostel called Nuevo Mundo in Minca so without batting an eye light I booked us in. The fine print: It was a 6 hour up hill hike on the completely other side of the valley. So this went down really well with Nils who isn’t a big fan of walking! Needless to say I was in the bad books. We bumped into the locals playing soccer and kind families who let us pass through their homes eventually leading us to the hostel. We arrived at dark and the dorm I booked was full up so we got up graded to a private deluxe room. So after world war 3 I had semi redeemed myself.

Walking through the gorgeous hills of Minca
That look you get when it’s only a 6 hour walk left to the hostel

Next day we visited a chocolate farm but unfortunately there were no tours instead we drank cups of hot chocolate and watched  Tuki the toucan having his lunch of pineapples and bananas.

Seeing my first cocoa plant in the wild
Tuki the toucan having lunch
I was having a nap when this giant appeared out of nowhere

We spent our time in Minca tasting craft beer at a brewery in the middle of the jungle!, drinking local coffee and exploring the nearby waterfalls.  Motor taxis will bring you just about anywhere you want but it will cost you. Instead I insisted we walk everywhere even though my bag weighed a ton. The bottles of wine in hindsight were obviously not the best idea. Anyone thinking of coming to Colombia should have Minca high up on the list.

Minca’s valley
Myself, Nils and my eye brows at one of Minca’s waterfalls

That evening we made it back to Santa Marta where we planned our trip to the famous Parc Tyrona the following day. This is where we the Caribbean sea meets the jungle. On  our way to the campsite Arrecifes we spotted lots of monkeys and exotic birds. The mosquitoes and ants were out of this world and we were eaten alive. That night we tried to start a fire to cook dinner (miserably). After about an hour of trying to keep it lit with a palm tree a local Colombian came to the rescue. Obviously I learned nothing from my wood cutting days in Argentina.  After a feed of smokey pasta and some beers we were ready for the leaba.  I was dying of the thirst so I ended up drinking out of what I thought was a spare beer can. It turns out it was warm piss from earlier that day. I was straight to the toilet to try to disinfect my mouth. Absolutely rotten. Nils also unucky ended up sitting in a pile of rotten mangos and destroyed his only remainly clothes. After that we decided to call it a night. It was another sleepless one in the 1 man tent getting drenched by a rain storm.

Desserted beaches in Tyrona
Parc Tyrona
Our sad excuse of a tent
Day 1 sweating in Parc Tyrona
Monkey Spotting in Tyrona

The next day we headed to Cabo San Yuan to pitch our tent for the second night. This was a stunning beach albeit a little touristy. Tyrona was a lot more expensive that we expected. You pay for entry, a place to pitch your tent and naturally enough food and drink are pricey too. As a result were on the sandy tuna wraps for the few days. We hiked up to the small town of Pubelito which is often compared to a smaller version of the famous lost city. I loved the jungle walk despite the desperate humidy. Nils on the other hand…….not so much. In the afternoon we chilled on the gorgeous beach where I did some really nice snorkeling. That night was spent singing disney songs in spanish with a bunch of Chilain guys over a few bottles of Pisco! A perfect combination.

Stunning walk to Peublito
Medieval town of Pueblito
Cabo San Yuan
Cabo San Yuan
More Monkey Spotting

We arrived back into Santa Martha  looking fairly dishevelled after a few sleepless nights. We wanted to watch the Colombia Poland match in a big city. True to nature I decided to go ridiculously over board and luckily Nils was completely on the same page . We bought all the merch and made our way to a locals sports bar which was hopping. I was interviewed for a Colombian radio station and somehow there was a bit of a language barrier and they all thought I was from Berlin. I went along with it anyway. I predicted the score to be 3-0 to Colombia and miraculously got it right. The locals went wild at the end and my score prediction secured myself and Nils lots of free beer and the disgusting aguardiente. Happy out that evening we bundled ourselves onto a bus to Palomino, a small beach town on the Caribbean coast.

Colombia’s biggest fans
Celebrating the win against Poland with the locals
Me and my radio interviewers

So the next day it was my 26th birthday. I couldn´t have asked for a nicer place to stay (or better company). We decided to treat ourselves and stayed in a hut near the beach. The free breakie was the best I’ve had in 8 months all you could eat freshly made crepes (just like the French ones) and omelettes with all the trimmings and homemade bread. Colombians love sugar and all the bread here is sickly sweet so it was a welcomed change. Nils surprised me by booking us both in for massages with this Man called Gerson. This guy was the real deal. I had a massive fit of giggles during it as Gerson started massaging my face. I couldn´t stop laughing for the remainder he was fae from impressed. The rest of the day was spent on the beach drinking mojitos and gin and tonics. Dinner was had in the hostel where they had a french chef. We had this amazing beef dish washed down with chilean red wine followed by a stunning dessert of pastry filled with coconut cream served with mint, pineapple and coconut shavings. It was divine. Good desserts are a rarity in South America and something I miss a lot so it was such a treat.

Lots of hard work going on in Palomino
The best birthday buddy

The next morning I booked  myself in for personal training with a chap from Venezuela called Hose (why??). One of my impulsive decisions made before cracking into my bottle of vino the night before. I just about made it through the hour having not done any proper excercise in the last 8 months. I was barely able to walk later that day. I avoided Hose like the plague as I didn´t want him to catch me milling into a plate of chocolate crepes after my ‘workout’. Hose was also availing of one of Gerson’s famous massages. People know how to treat themselves here in Palomino. It felt so good to do some excercise again even if it was just me jumping on a trampoline underneath a coconut tree on the Caribbean. Es mejor que nada and for 6 euro an hour it wasn´t too shabby.


After the most relaxed birthday in paradise we packed the dreaded backpacks and made our way to the bus terminal. Paradise was soon over when there was an argument on the bus because we were being charged 50,0000 pesos for the journey and everyone else paid only 10,000.  I eventually managed to negotitate with an extremely angry bus man. Next stop the most northernly point in South America; Punta Gallinas.




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