Minca: The Sierra Nevada Melting Pot

Rumbling our way in a 4×4 up the Sierra Nevada southeast from Santa Marta felt like it took forever.  As the sun set, darkness took hold as the city lights accompanying the Via a Minca road dwindled in number.  Looking at Google Maps I panicked as we already passed the hostel I was staying at.  The driver assured me that the hostel had not been missed and I continued my slick hold on the handle next to my window as sweat built up in my palms.  Continuing upward was its own adventure as the 4×4 avoided rocks, potholes, and other motorists coming down the mountain.  Arriving in the village of Minca after the slithering, bumpy drive, I could not believe that it took 45 minutes to travel less than 12 miles (19KM).

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What was a stressful start to the weekend in Minca turned for the better once I got out of the vehicle and headed to the hostel Casa Colibri.  Walking to the hostel was exciting as motorbikers teemed the main street with passengers on their back.  On the sides of the streets were restaurants, bars, bodegas, and pharmacies buzzing with music on this Friday night.  After hiking up a small hill guided by the use of my flashlight on my phone, I noticed something small at the foot of my shoe.  It turned out to be one of 5 puppies that belonged to the owners of Casa Colibri.  After freeing myself from the puppies’ greeting outside, I walked into the open air living room and heard “Hello Benjamín!” in a heavy-French accent.  Romaric, the French owner of Casa Colibri, welcomed me into the hostel and showed me to my room.  After getting settled in, we got to know each other and I got to meet his wife Marian.

Later on in the evening, I took a walk around the village.  Around the corner from the police station was the Emerald Green Guest House.  As I entered I was struck with the smell of Irish stew.  As I walked in, the hostel’s owner Nigel studied me and demanded that I sing him a song or else he’d have me thrown out.  After a few seconds of awkward silence, Steve, an American guest at the hostel, yelled out from the kitchen for Nigel to back off.  A smile crept up on Nigel’s face and he ushered me in.  Steve, his wife, and daughter had sold their house in the Midwest of the US and decided to embark on a family trip around the world for the next two years.  They were working their way from Mexico southbound through the rest of Latin America.  Nigel moved to Colombia some time ago and started the Emerald Green Guest House.

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After becoming acquainted, Steve, Nigel, and I headed out for a few beers in the village.  Before long we came across Nigel’s buddy Jonas from Germany seated at one of the restaurants in town.  Jonas works at the Cerveceria Nevada (Nevada Brewing Company), located in La Victoria, a farm up the hill from Minca.  Over countless rounds of beers, we all chatted about Minca, Colombia, and our travels.  As the conversation continued, I remembered I had my hike the next morning along the Minca trail.  After receiving helpful tips from the group, I excused myself and returned back to Casa Colibri.

The next morning, I woke up and headed for breakfast.  In the living room, Romaric was seated on the couch with another hostel guest chatting over coffee.  Romaric introduced us and that is when I met my first fellow New Yorker in Colombia.  James was from Brooklyn and took the year off to travel throughout Latin America.  He was starting in Colombia before making his way down to Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina.  As Romaric prepared us a delicious breakfast of huevos pericos with arepas, James and I discussed important New Yorker issues such as whether you supported the Mets or the Yankees or the Jets or the Giants.  Discussing these issues in this Caribbean mountain hostel made the conversation surreal.

After the hearty breakfast, I set out for my hike along the Minca trail.  You can check out that great experience here!

When I returned from my hike, I was sore, exhausted, and hungry.  Before I entered into Casa Colibri, I ran into a group of Colombians from Barranquilla visiting for the weekend.  They were worried that they wouldn’t be able to find a place in Minca to stay for the night.  After walking around the village with two of them to no avail, we ran into the rest of the group and was greeted with good news that they secured a place.  After helping them out they invited me for a drink later on in the evening.  In the end, I was too tired for another round of drinking like the night before and instead had a couple of drinks with Romaric at one of the bodegas.

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The next day I checked out the hostel further up the hill from Casa Colibri, Casa Loma.  They had stunning vistas of the Sierra Nevada all the way down to Santa Marta and the Caribbean Sea.  I then headed to the Tienda Café de Minca.  The store is great to pick up Wayuu handbags, organic coffee and chocolate from the nearby farms, as well as other items to remember your stay in Minca.

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Packing up my belongings, Romaric introduced me to another hostel guest, Andreas from Germany, so that we could leave together back to Santa Marta.  As we headed to the center of the village to catch one of the 4x4s, rain started falling.  What we found was chaos.  Cars, motorcyclists, and pedestrians were stuck in the middle of what was quickly becoming a downpour.  Speaking to one of the locals, we were able to secure a taxi ride to Rodadero for 30,000 pesos ($10) each in one of the 4x4s.  Although it was four times more than the group trip to downtown Santa Marta, we jumped on the offer as other options were not apparent.  Slowly but surely the driver extricated the 4×4 from the crazy traffic.  Winding down the mountain the bumpy Via a Minca road, I thought back on all the interesting people I met and the beautiful hike.

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