Santa Marta – be aware of thiefs
Santa Marta is a five hours bus ride from Cartagena. The town itself hasn´t really got any highlights but its a good departure point for daily excursions.
The streets are normal, there are lots of shops and not too many tourists but enough to be an unsave city. We had to learn the hard way as a friend was looking at his tablet for the map when a motorcycle approched and they stole it from him. He did what you are supposed not to do – and run after them. He actually got it back and I was watching this quite surreal scene. In the end the couple on the motorcycle drove away and the other people standing around asking us if everything was ok. It was. Luckily. Nobody hurt and we haven got the tablet back. Still after this happening an hour after arriving in the city I felt like I would like to leave immediatley.
In the end I stayed 3 nights using Santa Marta as a base camp. Again there is no yoga here but from the beach you can see a beautiful sunset.
Minca and surroundings
Minca is about 45 minutes away and located in the mountains. The landscape is amazing and the town itself laid-back with lots of back-packers hanging around taking a break from travelling, the beach or just enjoying the nature and going for some hikes. There are several waterfalls and unless you got catched up in a hard rain as I did – the path are perfectely walkable; even barefood. I just loved this area, having breakfast there in one of the coffee houses we were able to watch several species of colibris. The people were extremely friendly and it is also save to walk around there.
When it started to rain for about an hour we found a place to wait close to one of the waterfalls and a local even shared some fruit with us. I didn´t know it before (and already forgot the name…) but it was quite tasty, similar to mango but with several seeds inside. At least now I should be able to recognize it when I see it again.
In the end I was just so happy I found a place where I wouldn´t get any more wet as it rained so so much. Fortunaltey the way back was not too muddy and we could walk back to town without that much of a trouble.
Arriving in Minca it was around 5pm though the last “bus” (when we went there it was a landrover) should be at 6pm but the lady selling the tickets said that this taxi was the last one (which of couse was a lie). The backseats were already occupied by three girls and she asked us to share the front seat before us two… In the end we got a nice price out of this situation and actually went for it. 5 guests + driver in an old and small taxi which has seen better times but it was a new experience and we arrived savetly in Santa Marta.
Tayrona National Park
The day after we got up super early and took a (real) bus to Tayrona. It also takes around 45 minutes depending on the traffic. The park entrance was 42.000 COP but it´s worth it. the park and its ways are in good shape and you could even spend the night there and hike several days only paying the entrance once. We started at the entrance on the east side and instead of taking a bus taking us more inside the park we started to walk from there. I would not recommend this, you walk an hour just along one road and even at 9am it can get quite hot. On the way back after 15km of walking we took the bus. The best invested 3.000 COP ever. We walked first to Arrecife passing some paradise looking beaches empty of people. Due to the heat and the strong current it was actually not possible to walk along them or take a bath but there are more beaches coming (la piscina) where it is safe and the water is also crystal clear. You could even try out some snorkel in case you bring your equipment.
Just be aware – there is kind of a laguna close to Arrecife: we stopped there as I wanted to take a picture as there were some nice stones and almost couldn´t believe my eyes: there was a big crocodile! I didn´t even know that they exist here nor did I saw a sign… When I asked some locals later on if they knew about it; they confirmed that of course. My second question was if this isn´t dangerous: no, people wouldn´t swim there. How come they won´t swim there if there isn´t even a sign that forbits that? I was less than 8 meters away from a giant crocodile (I would say about 2-3 meters long, my friend said 6…).
We walked till Cabo San Juan del Guia and went back from there till Arrecife. Another option would be go take a boat which drops you off in Taganga, close to Santa Marta. I wanted to walk a bit more and do some horse riding from Arrecife. The price is 20.000 only and as I haven´t been on a horse since childhood it was quite cool. We didn´t need to do much though, the horse knew the way so that we just went there for ourselves without much supervision. First this felt weird but then I saw others passing by being a bit quicker – also without a guide – I though it should be alright and it was.
The bus on the entrance was already waiting so after a long day of walking we happily and exhausted felt into the seats. Another curiosity: one of the girls apparently didn´t have money so we stopped in front of a bank – the whole bus waiting. In the end there must have been a problem as we waited like 10 minutes there. Those things can only happen outside of Europe.