Week two: from hikes and bikes, to the urban jungle.

Since my previous musings, I’ve been moving about a lot more- took a break from beaching and hammocking, for fear that my bones and muscles may turn to mush.

First point of excitement: I spent a day rekindling my love of scuba diving at Taganga bay. One-on-one with a dive master, complete with a Mohawk and moustache. Despite these visual drawbacks, we had a glorious date/dive. The first issue was my buoyancy: he had to fill my pockets with stones, a la Virginia Woolf, and hold my hand to drag me down. It was probably a little too long before we realised we were still swimming around holding hands. That, compounded with the brunch on a secluded cove at the tip of Tayrona National Park, made the whole affair rather romantic. The charm offensive was shattered only when he kept planting his GoPro in my face with no warning; turns out, I’m certainly not photogenic underwater! After refreshing a few skills, and bonding heavily, we splooshed in for a second dive. Whilst the water and reef alike were distinctly murky, that just added to the glamour of the fish. Whilst Camillo (my dive boyfriend) got super excited about some lobsters, I was charmed by a slithery, swirly sea snake and some sneaky translucent flute fish that hang upside-down.

Pretty much the rest of my time in Santa Marta was spent on a bean bag. The town itself isn’t much to write home about. My personal highlight of the oldest town in Colombia were the ubiquitous market stalls of tat, selling mugs, personalised for every family member imaginable. Because I just never know what to bring home for my grandfather-in-law!

Moved on up to Minca- a teeny tiny town in the coffee-growing-jungle-mountains. Arrived there in the boot of a jeep and had no choice but to jump (unprotected, sorry Mum) on the back of a motorbike, to slalom further up the mountain. Marginally feared for my life when my driver kept sneezing, i.e. closing his eyes, but somehow arrived unscathed and exhilarated at the idyllic Casa Elemento. Nothing but giant hammocks hanging over the cliff edge and friendly faces.

Knowing (and fearing) my penchant for becoming at one with hammocks, a few of us decided to branch out and go for a lovely hike. Our intended destination was a dreamy mountain-top bar with a pool table and an uninterrupted view; our reality was an incredibly crude, hand drawn map, some guesswork and a lot of complaining! Devastatingly, the bar couldn’t have been more closed when we arrived. At a total loss for what to do, luckily a middle aged Colombian man invited us in and offered us a bed for the night. Whilst we politely declined, we were more than willing to join him on his veranda for some fresh pineapple and a spectacular sunset. He then roused some neighbourhood youths to convoy us back to our hostel in moto-style. Consumed with smugness about not having to hike home, and not having my bike slip in the mud, I had barely finished shouting “Eat my dust bitches” when we plummeted into a puddle, deeper than our tyres. Karma can be a real bitch sometimes!

A couple more days cliff edge hammocking (the extreme sport version of regular lounging) and several campfire nights later, I hiked down, via a waterfall, to my 16 hour bus to Medellin.

Quite a culture shock to follow my new love of treacherous motorbiking with a bustling metro. My successful acquisition of an Oyster card said ‘local’, whilst my enormous, turtle shell rucksack and generally pale demeanour must scream ‘gringo!’ Luckily, here, that seems to equate to: “please come over and chat”- people seem to beam with pride at the thought that I’d come all this way to visit them. (Either that or they beam with neon clothing; I’ve concluded that if it’s not covered in rhinestones, netting and/or neon, no self-respecting Colombian woman will wear it!)

Spent my first night at an al fresco bar, perched on tree stumps, under a canopy of bunting and fairy lights. Felt much more Minca than Medellin.

The following day had some more bustle to it. My system is to jump on a metro and get off only when I see an exciting looking building. So far it’s led to some churches (of course), an art gallery (full of and surrounded by some spectacularly rotund sculptures by Botero- we aren’t allowed to call them “fat”!) and the botanical gardens (where I discovered that iguanas severely creep me out.) My actions are only ever semi-intentional, but it seems to be working so far.

The above ground metro and connected cable car system offer an all encompassing view over the city that spews and fills the valley. Whilst I’ll have to wait a couple more days for this city’s notorious party spirit to take hold, I’ve had a glorious period of acclimatising back into civilisation.

And one last thing: to any budding travellers reading this, this week I discovered a travellers’ BEST friend: maps.me. An offline, non-data-guzzling version of google maps. I’ll never be lost again (hopefully!)


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