With the South America leg of our trip quickly coming to an end we reached Santa Marta which would be our second to last stop on the continent. Also, our first friend visiting from home, Sarah, would show up half way through our time in the city. Before she arrived we posted up at the Dreamer hostel, one of the top rated hostels in Colombia. It definitely lived up to its accolades as it was beautifully laid out with a giant pool/social area in the middle, had good food and (most important to us) a great and helpful staff which comes in clutch when you don’t speak the language.
With the beating heat of Colombia it was great to get some pool time in. We did laugh though as the hostel, like most, is geared to younger and usually single backpackers. At times it reminded us of Cancun spring break as the pool area was always filled with a dozen or so backpackers who were obviously trying to put out the vibe for each other. Might have actually worked if they all would have taken a break from checking their phones. At one point I counted 15 of the 17 people at or in the pool on their phones not talking to anyone. Who knows though, maybe they were just Tinder’ing each other instead.
The highlight of our days here was a day trip to Minca, a small town up in a coffee region about an hour away. The total day trip cost about $16 per person which included a driver for the day, visiting a series of waterfalls to swim in, a coffee plantation tour, time at a local lunch spot and hitting view points for pictures. A really nice German guy, Timo, joined us on the trip and helped with some rough translations as our guide only spoke Spanish. This came in extra helpful when at one point we got stopped by the military police and our guide started talking fast while making guns with his hands and virtually shooting them into the air. Luckily Timo translated and said the Governor would be in Minca today with heavily armed guards who might not let us into the city, so we could have to turn around. Obviously that all makes sense but when your guide starts shooting imaginary guns in the air while pulled over and talking in fast Spanish, for some odd reason it isn’t the first thing to come to mind.
The coffee plantation – La Victoria – was amazing. The operation is completely organic and sustainable and all the equipment they use is original from 124 years ago. Everything from transporting the beans from location to location, the power to process the beans through the machines, and the town’s electricity are all water and gravity powered. While they aren’t able to do the volume of the major coffee operations, they are able to produce their coffee much cheaper and in an organic and sustainable way. After learning about their operation and the beans, we then got to taste test (clearly the best part). During the taste test I also learned they sold fresh honey from the bees on the planation. Obviously my honey addiction forced me to buy 20oz of that pure delicious gold nectar. And who could resist when it was only $4! For all those wondering out there, yes we almost finished all 20oz of honey before we left the country 10 days later. Don’t judge because this honey bear don’t care.
Once our friend Sarah arrived, we upgraded from our hostel to one of the nicest hotels in the city. The room price was still very cheap compared to US standards ($150 a night split three ways) but the resort was really nice. There was a huge pool to soak in all day which backed up right to the local beach, they had a great free breakfast buffet, and even gave us access to the CrossFit gym next door to get in workouts (and yes we survived the workouts in Spanish in the insane heat).
Overall, the city wasn’t a standout in South America but it was a nice stop along the way. Most people only come here to access Tayrona National Park and while that was our original goal, we got rained out on the day we had it planned for and didn’t get another chance at it.