Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Return to Minca

After a good Next Level pre-tour in Cartagena, I left the sweltering Caribbean gem for Santa Marta.  I took a private van with the company MarSol.  It is a little more expensive than the bus but is two hours quicker and goes door-to-door from hotel to hostel.  The ride was fine.  I chatted with fellow travelers, dispensing advice about Tayrona, Minca and the general area.

Once we arrived to Santa Marta, we had a small issue.  The driver stopped a bit outside of the city center and told everyone to get out.  "We are in Santa Marta," he said.  Wait a minute, I said--this is supposed to take us to hotels and hostels, it is a door-to-door service.  Some Brits started getting out of the van, but I ordered them back on.  I yelled at the driver that this was a door-to-door service, and that I had taken the service before--he needed to take us to our final stops.  The rest of the van waited as I argued with him until he relented, and finished the job.  The van all thanked me for not letting us "dar una papaya" (not be suckers).

I stayed the evening in Santa Marta, at the La Villana hostel where I had stayed once prior.  The place is comfortable, and more importantly, they let me leave luggage for a modest price.  The hostel had shifted things around a bit, turning the bar in to a large dorm and moving the bar out into the palm tree-filled courtyard.

I re-packed my things, and grabbed some sancocho for dinner on the street next to the basilica.  This was the sancocho stand I had been looking for, when I experienced the sancocho incident.  The hearty chicken soup was flavorful and rich--the perfect dinner for a long week.

After dinner, I wandered through the plazas and old colonial streets before returning to the hostel to hang at the bar for a bit with some Colombians and Italians.  The power kept going off in the summer heat, and I enjoyed the blackout darkness.  I booed when the power returned.

I woke up early on Saturday and headed out to Minca.  I trekked across town to the transport stop for Minca, grabbing an arepa con huevo for breakfast.  An arepas con huevo is a corn fritter pocket filled with a raw egg then deep-fried to cook the egg inside the pocket.  I caught transport up to the mountain top, about an hour outside the city.  Then I trekked my way through the winding, tortuous path to get to Oscar's Place.

Oscar's Place was the mountain-top paradise I stayed in prior with Lida my Czech travel companion.  The eponymous owner Oscar is a lovely soul who built his own off-the-grid hippy kingdom.  I was pleased that after 7 months, and many guests, Oscar remembered me as I arrived.

I checked in to my hammock dwelling on the mountain edge overlooking the valley below filled jungle hills until  the municipal sprawl of Santa Marta and the subsequent Caribbean sea.  A hippy jungle Xanadu did Pablo a stately pleasure dome decree....

I spent the morning lazing in a hammock as I read The Island of Dr. Moreau.  From my hammock, I chatted with Germans, Israelis and a Finn.  I had a lazy afternoon, reading and draping my legs into Oscar's guppy pool.  The guppies are a wellness treat, the lil fishies nibble at your legs, eating away any dead skin.  People pay good money for such treatments.

Later in the afternoon, when hunger overcame placidness, I headed down into townwith some new friends, Marina and Deena to a place called the Lazy Cat Cafe.  The place was a bit busy, so we sat in the level below.  It was much better, the little deck sat just above the turbid river.  In the currents, kids splashed and played.  We enjoyed our late lunch and hung there for a while.  I had an excellent marinated chicken sandwich covered with cheese, tomato, pickles and avocado, slathered in diablo sauce.  I sipped a local brew, Happy Toucan--a tasty local artisanal red beer.

I returned to the hammock to dive into my new kindle.  Yes, I am slowly entering the 21st century. Baby steps.  But I really do like the Library2k, with the vast resources of books at my fingertips.  It doesn't replace paperbacks, but it is a nice way to read more that I couldn't carry with me.  Like: Destiny of the Island of Dr. Grey. Or something like that.

As the sun set, we watched the stunning afterburn of pink and gold across the mountaintops.  Slowly in the valley, the lights of the city below began to twinkly like little stars.

Darkness blessed us like a purple benediction.  Eventually dinner came delivered to us, and I munched surprisingly good gnocchi in pesto sauce.  I spent the evening playing card games with the Israelis, German and Finn before retiring.

The next morning I woke with the rising sun.  I sipped coffee and enjoyed the quiet morning.  For breakfast, I had Oscar's famous curry eggs with sauteed tomatoes and onions.  Delicious.  I lazed around the morning reading in the hammock.

Later in the afternoon, I headed with Marina and a girl named Hannah back to Lazy Cat for some lunch and juice.  After lunch, Marina and I trekked out to the Marinka waterfall.  We hiked through jungle roads and paths until we reached the large waterfall. Just as we arrived, it began to rain.  Given that we were about to go swimming, it didn't really matter.

We went swimming in the cold jungle waterfall pool, which was warmed slightly by the coming rains. It was a refreshing dip, and we climbed to the upper level of the waterfall.  After a while at the waterfall, we hiked back through the muddy roads.  We stopped for a second time in Lazy Cat for an afternoon juice (Maracuya--passionfruit, and strawberry) before returning to Oscar's place.

Again, an early rest and early rise with the sun.  I had planned to leave monday and head back to Santa Marta ahead of my flight on tuesday, but I just couldn't leave.  So I decided to stay an extra day, and would simply get up early and head down the next morning ahead of my afternoon flight.  I rewarded my decision with Oscar's Special: a bowl of oatmeal--with the oats cooked in a cinnamon-pineapple infused water, covered in bananas, papaya and pineapple--topped with honey and sesame seeds.  It was amazing.

I spent most of the day reading in a hammock and watching colibris (hummingbirds) and parrots fly around.

A rain storm punctuated the afternoon.  Under a thatched roof, I swung in my hammock, reading while the pitterpatter of rain on the leaves kept time.  The rains conspired to keep me gently rocking in the hammock--not that I actually had any big plans.  The storm filled the jungle valley below with mists that slowly rose.

The rains ended and I made my way into town for some lunch.  I didn't plan to, but ended up once again at Lazy Cat.  Three for three.  But I was rewarded for my persistence with an excellent burger covered in caramelized onions, tomatoes and pickle, slathered with spicy mango loco sauce.  A side of yucca fritters fit the meal.

I awoke early tuesday morning and said my goodbyes.  As I left I said to Oscar something from The Alchemist:

Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.

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