First days in Colombia : Cartagena & Minca

posted in: Colombia, South America | 0
[ultimate_heading main_heading=”First stop: Cartagena”][/ultimate_heading]

On Wednesday, May 23rd, the Sailing Koala, our sailing ship, arrived from Panama to Cartagena.

After breakfast and last goodbyes, Patrick, Ingrid and I shared a taxi to our hostels; it was super small and I had to squeeze myself and all my luggage on the passenger seat because there was no space in the back of the car, but well, it worked.

My hostel, the One Day Hostel, was located in a great area: calm, but close to the historical centre and to Plaza de la Trinidad. The staff there was super friendly and let me have a shower even before check-in time. This was absolutely needed after 30 hours on the boat. 5 days without internet also meant half an hour checking all my emails, Whatsapp messages and Facebook, so I was quite busy.

When I was done, I went to Patrick’s and Ingrid’s hostel, 5 minutes away from mine, so we could walk to the historical part of Cartagena and have lunch. We went to a very cute small café that fortunately had AC. In Cartagena, it was just too hot! It was not even worth taking a shower; 2 minutes out, you’re drenched with sweat all over again…

After lunch, we had some delicious ice cream and we walked around town for a while. At 2, we walked back to their hostel and, on the way, bought a Colombian SIM-card for our phone. I was a bit annoyed, because (later) I found out that their cards don’t really work with my Motorola 3G phone and that I always have a really bad connection, while others have always 4G (and I paid the same…).

We also went to a pharmacy because my 4th rabies shot was due. There, they informed me that I could only get it at a Dadis centre. So, Patrick and Ingrid went to their hostel for check-in and I went to Dadis. Fortunately, I discovered that this centre is located just next to my hostel. Unfortunately, they were already closed for the afternoon – they closed at 2PM – and I had to go back there the next day.

So, I also went for check-in to my hostel and then joined Patrick and Ingrid at the clock tower for a free walking tour.

The free walking tour took us around the historic part of Cartagena, but our guide spoke quite bad English and swallowed half of her words, so that we didn’t get half of what she told us. It was too hot to pay much attention anyway. Still, it was a nice tour, we took lots of pictures and had a good time.

Cartagena is a very beautiful colonial city and definitely worth spending a (few) day(s) there. People are, like everywhere in Colombia, very friendly, even if the historic part is, of course, a tourist trap and there are vendors everywhere trying to sell you hats and other stuff.

After the free walking tour, Patrick went back to his hostel to have a shower while Ingrid and I went to a cute restaurant next to my hostel and had delicious dinner. She had a very good pizza Margherita and I had pasta with a Bolognese-pomodoro-pesto sauce (sounds disgusting, but it was really good!).

Later, we all met at their hostel again and Chloe and Richard joined us. Unfortunately, Marieke was sick and couldn’t join…

First, we went to the old town to get some cash at the ATM and enjoyed the city by night. It was absolutely beautiful! Then we went to Plaza de la Trinidad, next to our hostels. On the way, we got cocktails to take away. Next to the square, there was a guy with a small bar in his private house, selling cocktails in plastic coups – no glass allowed on the square. It’s like the best business idea ever! He doesn’t need any permit if he sells the drinks in his private house, everybody can buy what they want – which is better than buying 1 bottle of rum + 1 bottle of coke to share – and he’s the only one doing it, so he has a lot of customers. We went at least 4 times there; his cocktails were really good and not expensive. 😁

On the square, we met a few guys from Germany and we had a lot of drinks and a really good time. I had been pretty tired earlier that evening, but all was forgotten after the second caipirinha. 😁 At 11PM, we went to Patrick’s and Ingrid’s hostel and debated whether going in – every Wednesday they have a huge party with 300 people and ask 15.000 pesos entrance fee – or going to Havanna Bar on the corner. Finally, we chose the Havanna bar because we all wanted to dance salsa. Chloe managed to get a huge discount for herself, Ingrid and me (3 for the price of 2) and, since we had had a lot of alcohol before, we didn’t drink much in the bar anymore. Cheap night for all of us. The live band was great and there was an older guy from Colombia who was a salsa teacher and danced all night long with us. He was a great dancer and we had so much fun that night! ❤️


The next morning, I went to Dadis to get my rabies shot. Of course, it was not as easy as I had hoped: I had to go see a doctor in a different part of the building who had to give me an official authorization to get the shot and only then could I get my shot. It took me 1 1/2 hours to get it, but they were all very friendly, all was for free and I even got an international rabies vaccination carnet.

Afterwards, Ingrid and I went back to Claro to complain about my SIM card not working, but it was – of course – in vain. Well, at least we got to spend another moment together. Patrick was still sleeping and probably drunk, because he, Chloe and Richard had been out until 5:30AM. So, I only got to say goodbye to Ingrid, but I might see Patrick again in Ecuador in a few weeks.

[ultimate_heading main_heading=”Santa Marta & Minca”][/ultimate_heading]

At 11AM, I was picked up by the shuttle I had booked to Santa Marta and I was surprised that it was actually a real bus. It was not full, so we had a lot of space which was good. 🙂 It was a 4-hour ride to Santa Marta and I spent it watching the landscape and watching a movie. The landscape was beautiful, but I was shocked to see in what dirt people live on the countryside: small houses, partially flooded by water and trash everywhere! It was really sad…

When the bus driver stopped at my hostel in Rodadero (6 km from Santa Marta), I discovered that my backpack was wet and half of my clothes as well… 😒 It had been raining heavily all day and, apparently, the luggage compartment of the bus was not waterproof…

Regarding the weather: I’ve been very lucky so far. A month back, the rainy season started, but I have not had much rain so far. During our sailing trip, it only rained quite heavily twice and otherwise it was always sunny. In general, I’ve almost had no rain yet, some cloudy days, but nothing really bad. I asked around and it seems that it used not to be like that, but with the climate change, it has become impossible to predict the weather. Climate change has a huge impact on Central and South America and it’s very easy to see. Anyway, I’m not complaining that I don’t have much rain, that’s for sure.

My hostel, Calle 11, was great! There was a nice pool, lots of hammocks and loungers everywhere and it was very cosy. The rooms were spacious, the beds had curtains to protect you from light, people and the AC and everything was clean. The staff was very nice and helpful and they offered a lot of great tours.

My plan had been to visit the Tayrona National Park, but then I learned that this park consists only of beaches and I really didn’t feel like going to another beach after 5 days on islands and the sea. So, I followed the recommendation of the girl working there and booked a tour to Minca.

After hanging my clothes and backpack out to dry, I went to the small centre of this town, walked around the shops, and got some delicious ice cream. In the shops, they tried to sell me white clothes, telling me that this is typical of Colombia. Later, I was happy I hadn’t bought anything, because my Colombian friends told me that it’s not true that white clothes are traditional in Colombia.

That night, I was really tired from our night out in Cartagena and so I only cooked some pasta, watched a movie, and went to bed very early.

The next morning, I had a delicious mozzarella-tomato-basil sandwich for breakfast and, at 9AM, I was picked up for my tour to Minca. We went there by taxi and it was about an hour’s drive to get there.

In Minca, we were welcomed by Joe and his daughter Andrea. She was our guide during the first part of the tour. It consisted in a light trekking – still, you need good shoes! – to a beautiful waterfall and river. We could swim there and climb around the rocks. The landscape was absolutely stunning and we got some fresh banana and avocado on our way back. She was super nice and told us a lot about Minca and Colombia, like the fact that there are still a lot of indigenous tribes in the Sierra Nevada and in Colombia in general, each with their own language. She told us that most people in Minca live from agriculture or from tourism and that they grow and sell about everything you can imagine: banana, avocado, mango, passion fruit, potatoes, salad, …

We were fortunate enough not to get any rain, the way was quite muddy anyway. The day before it had rained a lot and it had almost been impossible for them to get to the waterfall and back. So, it was good it was dry when we were there. 🙂

After this hike, we went to Joe’s house where we had lunch: rice with vegetables and grilled chicken teriyaki. It was delicious! Afterwards, Joe showed us around his house and explained how he builds everything with bamboo. This material is way stronger and more flexible than steel or something else and it can last a very long time. In Colombia, they often use bamboo to build their houses; it grows in Colombia, it grows very fast and is a good material.


Then we got some hot chocolate and he explained how he makes the chocolate and what the benefits of natural chocolate with sugarcane are: you get very very happy, it’s very healthy, etc.

Finally, we went with Andrea to a coffee farm, saw some coffee plants and had really good fresh coffee.

Before going back, we stopped in the little shop they own and they explained their products of chocolate, marihuana and other plants. In Colombia, Marihuana is legal and they use it a lot in natural remedies. I even bought a cream with marihuana, mint and arnica against sore muscles and it works incredibly well! During our last day of sailing, I had fallen down while climbing around and had bruises on my back and some interior bruises that made breathing pretty hard, but the cream helped like a charm.

The tour was great, I enjoyed it a lot and the people in my tour (2 girls from Switzerland, 1 French, 2 from Texas) were really nice. 🙂

The taxi driver that took us back to our hostels was super nice. I told him I hadn’t seen Santa Marta or the beach in Rodadero yet and so he made an extra tour for me to show me around (for free).

When I finally got back to the hostel, I was happy to see that my friend Nathalie from the UK had arrived. 🙂 We went to the supermarket to buy some food (twice! First for her, then, after I saw that someone had eaten my leftovers from the night before, for me…), cooked and had a bottle of wine with some other people at the hostel. It was a nice evening, but, since I had to get up at 4AM the next morning, I went to bed quite early.

I had liked Calle 11 hostel and my trip to Minca a lot and, if you want to go to the beach, I guess it’s a perfect spot.

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