Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Soaking up the sun and the ocean

My last full day in Colombia has been wonderful and relaxing. I've just been taking walks on the beach, swims in the ocean, cat naps on the sand. I read for a while at the oasis like shopping center, next to the fountains, waiting for the pizza place to open, craving Hawain style pizza. Design work during the heat of the day, back to the beach for the sunset. Angelik is cooking me my last home made Colombian meal. All is packed. Reservation made for a bus from here to the airport in Cartagena at 8am manana. It will take 4 hours, then waiting for my jetblue flight to Miami, where I'll stay for a few nights. Feels strange to think I'll be asleep in my own bed in Santa Fe next to my love in 3 nights time.

My trip has been worth it. All in all, I like Colombia. There have been some very sweet people on this trip. I've really enjoyed the nature and the wildlife. Maybe I'd like to come back to see Medellin and that area, especially the resevoir, Guatepe. A great learning experience and recharging period, I'll need for the load of work upcoming next year. The magazine I work for Trend, will start publishing every 3 months in 2015 so who know when I'll have another opportunity like this.

Next time I travel to a foreign country remember:
Bring a back pack not a suitcase (would have been helpful on those mules)
a headlamp and a booklamp
good bugspray from the states
2 bathing suits instead of 1

Don't book things too far in advance, make sure I like the place before booking spanish classes there - its always possible to add them at the last minute.

Being called for dinner...

Horseback ride between the sea and the mountains

I took a bus and a taxi to from Minca to my final stay in Colombia, back along the carribean coast not far from the Santa Marta airport in a quieter area between the mountains and the ocean. My host, Angelik, is wonderful. She is around my age and has studied in France and Spain and speaks French and English fluently in addition to Spanish of course, and has a French beau. She rents out 3 of her rooms in her cozy quiet home which is off a dirt road.

Before I'd left Minca, I'd been trying to schedule a massage/reiki appt. with a man I'd heard about in Minca. He is part of the yoga/massage/retreat place there called Rancho de la Luna. I was meant to have an appt with him in Minca the afternoon before I left, but it turns out he was in Santa Marta near the airport that day, so it worked out better for him to meet me at Angelik's house and give the session in my room there not too long after I got there! I was so happy it worked out at all and he arrived promptly at 7 for an hour and a half session. I've never experienced a treatment like his before. He looked more Spanish or Native American and was trained, you could tell, in lots of energy healing and very gifted. His treatment incorporated a mix of yoga, breathwork, massage and reiki. I felt so much better afterwards and would highly recommend. Needless to say, I slept very well.

The next morning, I'd already scheduled a horseback ride in the mountains with one of Angelik's friend's. So at 8am I was on a grey mare named Blancita headed up the mountains. The only scary part was having to cross a major freeway! Then we were climbing above the beaches and highrises. In 45 minutes we'd reached a glorious view of the coastline below - basically the beach neighborhood/suburbs of Santa Marta west of Santa Marta and east of the airport - I quite like this area as you have the mountains and the beaches both easily within reach. The scenery was stunning, passing from scrubland and tall cactuses and very arid land, into more wet almost jungle terrain. The climate and the day were perfect, blue sky views. Fernando was my guide. A great experience.

When I returned, Angelik has prepared me a delicious Colombian lunch with salad, fresh avacado, fresh fish, rice, and soup with corn, yams and chicken, oh and fresh thick mango juice. After that I took a nap, completely satiated.

Later, after catching up on emails and 4 hours worth of design work,  I ventured to the nearby comercial plaza to withdraw money from the ATM (Minca didn't have one and I was depleted). The commercial plaza was surprisingly nice and I could walk along the beach to get to it. It was like a little oasis with fountains, potted plants, restaurants, a supermarket (where I stocked up on snacks for my trip back), and even a Crocs shoe store. After that, I took a quick swim in the tranquil beach near Angelik's house and watched the beginning of the sunset before walking 10 min back to Angelik's for an excellent nights sleep, with one and half days to go in Colombia.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Restful, Magical Minca

I recently returned from 4 nights and 5 days totally away from the internet up in the mountains above the little town of Minca.

Upon arrival in Minca (a one hour crazy bumpy drive from Taganga and the coast), I stored my luggage at Cafe de Minca (for $1), and took off for a hike with some German girls I met right away at the cafe. I had 5 hours to spare before my hosts could meet me. We hiked to Pozo Azul, a beautuful pool collected at the bottom of numerous waterfalls. We swam in the the cool refreshing water, no one else in sight.

Back at the cafe, we each had most amazing tall coffee frappachinos with crumbled oreo on top and I ran into the woman from Tazmania, Australia, Katerina, I'd met in Salento and had Thanksgiving with! We made plans for the next day. Cafe de Minca is a lovely oasis with handcrafts, an assortment of clothing (had to buy a dress from there even though it was way overpriced, its very original), gifts, coffee, jams, art, chocolate and a book exchange, and a wonderful comraderie of locals, expats and like minded travelers!

At 5pm, my ride arrived - Eugenio and Anna with 4 mules to take me up to their coffee farm. We rode the mules 45 minutes up a steep mountain path, arriving after dark. The smell of cilantro wafting through the air, stirred up by the mules who would snatch a bite at every chance. My entire stay at the coffee farm was quite magical. Numerous travelers and volunteers from around the world came and went and shared food. Anna cooked outstanding, typical colombian fare with a farm fresh flair. Delicious fruit juice from organic fruit on the farm - bananas, mango, papaya, lemonade, moras (rasberry like berries), passion fruit. Organic fresh coffee from the farm. Eggs with farm grown tomatoes and onions basically every morning, with some concoction of fried green platanoes. For dinner: coconut rice, salad or russian salad (cubed potatoes, peas, green beans, onions with either chicken or tuna; fish, chicken soup, meatballs and vegies over noodles or rice, vegetable/bean soup. Sometimes followed by organic hot chocolate. Each meal only cost $5 and breakfast was included in my $15 private rustic room.

Touci, the baby Toucan was always around for meals. He was quite the cheeky creature. Long thin butterfly like toungue to drink up any leftover juice. He would make a clicky sound with his beak that sounded like a cat purring whenever you stroked his neck.

There was also a mischievous 6 month old dog named Mona, female monkey in Spanish, the 4 mules of course, and an assortment of chickens for fresh eggs.

Most mornings I would wake up to sun, then the rain showers would arrive in the afternoon, followed by clearing and the lights of Santa Marta sparkling far below. The climate was delicious and refreshing. One day, I walked down the mountain to Minca to visit Katrina at her hostel, called Oscar's place. Another amazing oasis with views and a stone inground pool, owned by a Colombian named Oscar who'd lived in California for years, and now owned 70 acres of minca forest he was on a mission to protect from destruction. The rain torrented down all afternoon so I was trapped, what an amazing location to be trapped in :) Minca is the type of place that inspires creativity, where your heart can open back up. As I was sitting with the rain, poetic thoughts started forming.

While I wait for the rain to stop.

Always waiting for something, it seems.
I'd like to just be with the rain, no waiting.
As it slows, then pounds down again,
Decreasing to a trickle, then flooding the view,
In sheets over the mountains, solid, fickle.
Only the sound of cascading water,
The percussion of the jungle.
Slowing to a standstill, and sanding of wood,
Can be heard now from nearby.
No where to be, but with the rain.
Happy to be dry watching, listening.
The plants soaking it all up, glistening.
Clouds dispersing the blue pale sky.
Cool misty air moistening face.
I'll make it back up the mountain,
Without a single care now,
Cleaned out with the rain fall.

I had to hike back almost at dark when it stopped.

The last day, I went on the coffee tour included in my stay. It was the most in depth coffee tour I've experienced. The farm has been in Eugenio's family for 4 generations. It has survived the time when the FARC was in control and Eugenio's father was forced to pay them half his income or die, and most of the farms were required to grow drugs in addition to their normal crops.

On my last morning, Eugenio took my luggage down by mule, but I walked since the trail had become dangerously slippery to ride down. When I got into Minca proper, I again stored my luggage in order to explore. I hiked up to the Cascada de Marinka, a beautiful high waterfall. Then I went to the Lazy Cat Cafe for a delicious salad and cheese cake. So many of the restaurants in Minca are organic. Its quite a cute, artistic town. If I had to choose somewhere to live in Colombia, it would be Minca. Needless to say, I was sad to leave!