In Need of a Reprieve

Day Hikes and Alleged Waterfalls in Minca, Colombia

It didn’t seem possible but after nearly five full months of quality beach time, it appeared we were in need of a reprieve. As in, a break from the beach.
Cartagena’s Old City

Technically, I suppose our ten day route between Guayaquil, Ecuador and Colombia’s Caribbean gem of Cargtagena fell into this category. A landlocked journey through the mountainous spine of the two countries and one that bypasses and leaves Colombia’s still underdeveloped, rough and tumble Pacific coastline to adventurers of the more intrepid and less childless variety.

A dry run that’s worth it because, along with the stops en route, Cartagena doesn’t disappoint. It’s an easily manageable coastal city with more than its fair share of high rises and with a steady roll call of beaches that were clean and enticing enough. And then there was the colonial Old City itself. A place whose enchanted series of well-maintained streets and flower adorned colonial architecture is enough to make you almost forgot about the beach altogether.
Inside Cartagena’s Old City

Colombia’s oldest city of Santa Marta was next four and half hours further east along the coast. Santa Marta and local area bay beaches with names such as Rodadero, Taganga and Playa Blanca. Beaches more than pretty enough to make first time visitors from non-tropical locations around the world get all misty eyed at the relative beauty they’ve suddenly found themselves a part of.

But as we’d quickly come to realize, they were beaches that all had a common denominator. This being an inundation of persistent beachfront touts. From steering you to sun shades and chairs, pushing everything from trinkets to massages or offering a seemingly endless array of food and drink, quite simply, no matter how much we politely said ‘No gracias’, there was no escaping these guys.

So it was in this frame of mind we’d jump at what sounded like the perfect solution by running for the hills. Literally.

This being via a day outing up into the higher elevations (600 metres) of the country’s Sierra Madre coffee growing

region. In particular, the town of Minca which we were happy to learn was located all of a very inexpensive 45 minute, Toyota Landcruiser ‘collectivo’ ride from Santa Marta’s Mercado area.
Water, but not quite falls

The one horse town of Minca is the jump off point for all sorts of excursions to various coffee producing plantations, mountain biking, bird watching, white water rafting and, the grand-daddy of them all, multi-day hikes to the Lost City of the indigenous Tayrona people.

None of which we felt an overriding urge to participate in.

Far from it, actually. We were there to take a break and just relax, a fact our collectivo driver seemed surprisingly willing to oblige us as he navigated the windy, climbing and verdant mountain roads in a manner that was startling comfortable.

For more than 11 months such roads had always resulted in exactly the opposite effect. This being an all over body throttling that ranged somewhere between the effects of a low speed automobile T boning and a military pilot’s G Force training. Rides compliments of drivers that seemingly had been weaned on a steady diet of Fast and the Furious reruns or drove as if the car or bus we’d boarded had been stolen.

On this day, however, such was not to be the case and it was a beautiful experience to suddenly find ourselves a part of. So much so, as we unloaded in the shadow of Minca’s hodgepodge room that apparently doubled as the tourist information office, I had to force myself to refrain from hugging our driver, opting for a firm and grateful handshake instead.

If only our hike was half as easy and enjoyable our day’s objective was within reach.
The walk begins

Compliments of a friendly gent, fifteen minutes of Spanish banter and a rudimentary local area trail map, I’d learn we had two choices in the day hiking department. Right twenty minutes to the first set of falls on the Marinka Falls trail or go straight ahead at the town junction for 45 minutes to one hour to the Pozo Azul swimming hole with two small waterfalls.

It was a no brainer so decked out in sturdiest hiking footwear–thongs (flips, flip
Beneath the bamboo the walk continues

flops)—right we’d go expecting to be back almost before we’d set out.

Of course, we should’ve known better as, no doubt something got last in the translation. As such, twenty minutes became forty five and forty five minutes, one hour. One hour and not so much as even the rewarding sound of cascading water to signal we were at least getting close.

Luckily, we’d not forgotten to pack our long since used Piggyback Rider child carrier which would keep the ‘are we there yet’ inquiries of Kaia to a manageable level.

Eventually, nearly one and a half hours into things our own curiosity got the best of us. And it’d be then, a solo

female hiker heading in the opposite direction responded to our own ‘how much longer’ inquiry with a response of thirty more minutes!
Piggyback Rider Daddy

How she’d come to that estimate would become the biggest mystery of the entire day. Because all of five minutes later—five minutes up, up and away along easily the steepest section of the day’s hike–we arrived.

It had taken us a hair over one and a half hours. Far exceeding our day’s intended target of only twenty minutes out of town. Which is what probably added to the allure of the sight below us as we rounded the final bend in the path revealing a view we’d soon learn was, in fact, the Marinka Falls.

All that was left to do was pay a minimal admission fee and make our way down to what felt very much like our own rainbow ending pot of gold. A pot of gold whose waters were far more frigid than any I’d ever voluntarily immersed myself in.

In no time, the grime of getting there long since washed away, the water slowly
To the victors go the spoils

began to transition from absolutely arctic to merely refreshingly brisk.

And as it did I found myself thinking of the girl who’d misinformed us so erroneously. Though she’d barely cracked a smile, all I could think was perhaps her response had been an attempt at humour. An ill-timed attempt, at that, considering an increasingly agitated almost four year old was part of the equation.

But in the end, the important thing was it really didn’t matter. We’d persisted, pushed on and, eventually we’d finally made it.

And as for the girl, to be honest, I didn’t hold it against her. Actually, I was just glad she hadn’t tried to sell us anything.


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