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Minca, Sierra Nevada, La Guajira, and a few flamingos too

sunny 35 °C

Phew, I have to write this because if not, I will never catch up. Every single day has just been one adventure after the next. From beautiful location to beautiful location, I seem to just wander in a daze, completely lost in the moment and just wanting to absorb every single second.

I arrived in Minca to work in the restaurant for 3 weeks. The town itself is TINY and set in the mountains about 15km above the city of Santa Marta. The town has lots of waterfalls, rivers, secret spots, coffee farms, and a few tourists that wander through to explore and enjoy it all. My restaurant ‘lazy cat’ or ‘gato perezoso’ was known as the place for tourists and locals alike, as there was a mix of Spanish and English speaking staff, as well as being famous for cooking the best food in town! I was so excited after my first day, when I had spent 80% of the day as a waitress speaking only Spanish! I had made absolutely NO mistakes, kept up with everything, and even made myself a tip! At the end of the week, when the tips were added up, I had actually made 30,000 pesos which is about $20 NZD and a fair amount of money here!
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During the week, I would begin work at 3pm. This meant I had most of the day to explore as the sun changes around 3pm and gets ready to set at 6. Every day meant a new adventure (two meant a vomiting virus that affected the entire town) and every day meant new people, and making friends with the people of Minca. It was really great, being one of the only tourists who spoke (reasonable) Spanish because I made a name for myself in the town very quickly as the happy Kiwi girl who was friendly with anyone. I think they really enjoyed being able to talk to and joke with a foreigner, I get the impression that opportunity didn’t present itself very often in Minca! I ended up watching a local football game one evening, it was very intense! The ref even had yellow and red cards! It blew bubble soccer matches completely out of the water! This was a very good place for me to be... not only did I spent hours watching games and laughing and talking with locals in Spanish, one team wore teeshirts and the other didn't so they could identify each other. I got to watch sweaty, tanned, sexy, delicious men run around and play soccer without teeshirts on!!
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I spent one lovely day at this river filled pool, high in the mountains. It was so lovely to just jump in and then tan dry in the sunshine.
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One of the days I went to a place called “las piedras’ which means ‘the rocks’ in English. It was a really cool place where two rivers met and created water tunnels and a massive waterhole with high rocks to walk through and jump off into the cool water.
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When I was tanning here, I met a group of young local boys. Two who worked as tourist guides in Minca. They were showing me how to jump and do different types of bombs, one could even dive off like a champ! They were really impressed that I would jump straight off, apparently most girls here don’t do these things – especially without being scared! They were horrified that I hadn’t been to Pozo Azul yet, which has an even better place for jumping. So they told me we were going to hike there right away. The hike was very long, and very hot. We bought cubes of ice (long thin plastic bags of frozen water) and they were luke warm water within 15 minutes. We must have hiked for over an hour, but when we got there it was totally worth it!
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The boys knew of other secret spots, from growing up in Minca and now being tourist guides. So they took me to a couple of other spots further up the river. I had such a magical day with them and I felt as if I had met the first people like my Kiwi friends, since leaving New Zealand. They were so funny, friendly, adventurous, and super patient with my Spanish. I did give them a few laughs though when I messed up a couple of words REALLY badly… I said “are you going to Julian’s” but apparently what I said was “are you going to anal sex” … Oh Spanish, how you can be so cruel to me sometimes!
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Unfortunately things weren’t quite so perfect in paradise. Some of the other volunteers from other restaurants and hostels in Minca were having a tough time in their placements. One day we all went down to Santa Marta to have a break from the town. It was a bit of a crazy day, lots of emotions, but nice to be together and really nice to have no language barrier.
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I decided that one week was enough in Minca and I wasn’t going to stay for the full 3 weeks. I began to feel unsafe, and this meant I needed to follow my heart and leave. I was very sad to leave, but thankfully the owner of the restaurant was super kind and understanding which meant that I was able to leave with my head held high. From Minca, I headed further into the mountains to a place called Casa Elemento. I honestly believe this place is about as close to heaven as I have ever been.
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I feel that my whole entire life, all of my travelling days, I have been looking for what I found here. Every single person who made it up, became a friend, because all that arrived were true travellers. They were people who were there for the experience, in South America because their hearts had called them there. The staff are amazing, the view spectacular, and they cook the best vegetarian food I have ever eaten. Heaven.
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I stayed for 5 nights and loved every single minute. I worked on the giant hammock, I went for hikes to find fresh avocados – and eat them straight off the floor of the jungle, I ate bananas fresh from the bunch hanging on a tree, I tried cacao fruit, I saw a coffee farm and drank freshly roasted coffee. I hiked to secret waterfalls with my mountain man (named Jesus!), and slept on the giant hammock with friends, under a sky full of shooting stars.
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The saddest part of Casa Elemento was leaving, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Thankfully the giant thunderstorm that had hit 2 days prior (resulting in us all needing to wear our shoes due to the lightning hitting the house in the past, and coming about 5 meters away during my stay) had destroyed the power supply. So on the day I left, the pool was being drained and there was no ice for the rum. It certainly made it easier to depart!
I left for the coast with my friend Jaime, a lovely girl from Canada who shared my passion for flamingos. We headed to a place called Rancho Relaxo, a sister hostel of Casa Elemento. We slept at the mirador, a 20 minute hike up to a gorgeous spot that overlooked the Caribbean sea. Sleeping in a hammock with a nice sea breeze is definitely now one of my favourite things!
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Rancho Relaxo was pretty cool, it had painted goats that cuddled up like lap dogs!
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We spent 2 nights there, and left for La Guajira to see the flamingos. We got on a bus, and then another, then a moto (motorbike taxi), to finally be thrown off in the middle of the desert! Poor Jaime, as she struggled with Spanish, I think she was quite shocked and only half believing me when I said we were finally nearly there.
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The moto men took us down a dusty path, to where we saw native people - Wayuu tribe wearing their traditional white robes - and then arrived at the flamingo lagoon.
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Sadly, the coast of Colombia is currently in drought status. Water is very low in supply, and this had affected the flamingos. Where there are usually 5 – 7 million in August, there were just 30 flamingos! But they were 30 more wild, Caribbean flamingos than I have ever seen, and I was the happiest girl on the planet as we were pushed around in a boat (the man was literally walking pushing the boat because the water was so low).
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The following day, Jaime and I headed to a beach called Playa Los Angeles. It was a lovely beach, but the water was a bit too rough and I could see the rip so I didn’t get in past my knees. The colours of the water and the sky, the most beautiful contrasts of blue and aqua and green, are just amazing. My camera does not do it justice. I think I need a new camera, one that captures the world the way my eyes and mind do.
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Last night I arrived back into Santa Marta. I am staying with Cindy and Didi’s family here for a couple of days before I head to the Caribbean island of San Andres. This island is Colombian territory, but it is closer to Nicaragua. I believe it is a paradise for swimming, tanning, snorkelling, diving (but I can’t due to asthma), rum, and adventures. Also shopping as they don’t pay tax – how convenient! I am going to the beach this afternoon and tomorrow with Didi’s brothers Jamir and Ariel. I need to keep working on my tan, I am still too brown. I need to be black.

x

Posted by chasingsummer 08:59 Archived in Colombia Tagged waterfalls beach caribbean hot flamingos minca santa_marta giant_hammock

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