About an hour inland from Santa Marta, high up in the Sierra Nevadas, is the tiny Colombian mountain village of Minca. It sounded like a good place for a daytrip so, with packed lunches, in company with fellow Kiwis Mark and Amanda from Balvenie, off we headed.
We took a local taxi….an ancient Opel Chevette with mismatched doors that didn’t open from the inside, windows that didn’t shut and, as we discovered after torrential rain, the entire car leaked rather badly. Naturally there were no seat belts, the tyres were bald and the car would never have passed a WOF in NZ….but hey, we’re in Colombia!!!
The driver was a young hip Colombian with Aviators and cool clothes and his driving was better than we expected. The mountainous road slowed him on the way up but he powered into it on the way down, swerving at speed to avoid potholes, stray dogs and cyclists. Have to say, he was rather skilled or were we just rather lucky? Every time we survive one of these hair raising car/bus/train rides, we thank our lucky stars. And to think our mothers worry about us sailing!!!
Minca is set in leafy and lush jungle at 600m. The winding drive up took us through thick and lush rainforest, banana plantations and terraced areas where tomatoes are grown. The road was rough, having been washed out many times, and there were steep drop offs.
Minca itself was a delight…..just a handful of ramshackle buildings, hotels and houses set in the middle of the rainforest. The open air buildings housed coffee shops, bars and restaurants. It had a lovely feel to it and it was a gorgeous temperature – mid 20s rather than the mid 30s we’ve been getting in Santa Marta.
After an organic coffee (they grow coffee up here) we headed up a track into the mountains looking for a picnic spot. After 20 minutes the heavens opened and the rain was torrential. We ended up sheltering under the eaves of an abandoned building, eating our sandwiches and waiting for the rain to stop. It didn’t! This is the rainy season obviously.
It did ease slightly and we made our way back to the tiny village where our driver was engaged in a torrid game of pool with the locals. We sat and watched the goings on for a while before summing up the courage for the trip back down.
It was a fun day out and an intriguing glimpse into life in the Colombian mountains. It’s a shame the mist closed in as apparently there are stunning views over the coast and Santa Marta from Minca.
The drive back took us through the outskirts of Santa Marta where hundreds of huts sat on the hills. Couldn’t take any photographs as the camera had steamed up from the rain…..but they were fairly primitive.