January 18, 2022
When we woke up the full moon was still visible through the canopy and it felt like we were in a tree house the way the cabin was built into the side of a steep hill. Throughout much of the night we awakened briefly to exotic bird sounds, wind blowing the large leaves around and night monkeys chattering.
We never saw the small night monkeys but we heard their chatters and the rustling sounds as they climbed around in the trees. After the hustle and noise of both Cartagena and Tagonga, our Minca ecolodge was incredibly peaceful.
The weather had been glorious since we arrived in Minca with highs in the low 80s and lows at night in the low 60s, with only scattered clouds. Today looked like it would be equally perfect. Our host said that in the rainy season (summer), it rained for several hours every day—we were glad it was “winter” and we’d only had a few clouds.
We went to breakfast and Susan managed to eat a little bit of granola with fruit but again couldn’t manage coffee. Like yesterday, we also were served the assortment of three healthy juices. Everything was delicious.
Back at our cabin we relaxed on the balcony watching birds, talking, reading and taking in the view to the city and the sea beyond. There was something about this place, from the softness of the air, to the earthy scents, to the mesmerizing views that made us feel like just staying on our little balcony and absorbing the experience. So we spent hours doing just that. Eventually, I was ready for some activity and Susan felt well enough to walk into town.
Again, Minca was nearly empty with a few gringo backpackers unloading from a tiny bus and a few locals milling about. Among the few places open was the bread bakery, so we picked up more of the small loaves of pan de chocolate (US$.35 each).
We also stopped in a shop selling locally made products where we picked up some local coca tea—made from the leaves of the coca plant. Coca tea is a popular beverage in the Andes area and is considered sacred within indigenous cultures. It’s said to be an effective treatment for altitude sickness. Though the coca leaf in its natural form is a harmless and mild stimulant, cocaine can be extracted from the coca leaf—but the cocaine alkaloid content in coca leaf ranges between just 0.5 and 1%. Because of its mild stimulant effect (similar to coffee), coca leaf was used in Coca Cola until it was replaced with a decocainized coca extract in 1903.
Purchases in hand, we started walking back to the lodge. We noticed a small store and café, appropriately called Tienda Café (store/café), at the turnoff to the trail with a sign outside advertising brownies. Charles was having a chocolate craving (again!) so we stopped in. The shop sold an eclectic array of artsy locally made stuff as well as coffee and desserts, plus in the evenings it had a bar with live music. The shopkeeper offered two prices for brownies and asked which price we wanted to pay. Initially we were confused but then figured out she was offering a regular brown versus a cannabis-infused one. Ahh, right, we were arguably in the cannabis capital of Colombia so now we understood. No, we explained, just the plain one—which turned out to be overpriced, dry, not very chocolatey, and basically inedible. But our favorite bakery was close by if needed.
The rest of the afternoon we hung out at our cabin, once again enjoying the sounds of the tropical forest around us as Susan’s strength returned. Just before sunset, we headed to the main open lodge for the dinner that Federico had offered us to make up for the dance disturbance the night before (though we actually had enjoyed the moondancers).
We found a table on the stone terrace just outside the lodge with a great view. Federico brought us a couple of excellent beers along with menus offering five different meals, all described mostly with words neither we nor our translator apps knew. Our host proceeded to describe the offerings in English, but his translations were a bit jumbled as well. We selected two meals without certainty of what we might get.
Based on the menu and Federico’s descriptions we were pretty sure the meals we then were served were not the ones we chose, but it didn’t matter—the food served was very good. For appetizers, We both began our meals with salad (we thought we’d ordered soup) organically grown on the property and with a wonderful, delicate homemade dressing. The entrees consisted of delicious authentic Colombian/indigenous vegan food with incredible flavors unlike anything we’d ever had, thoughtfully presented. Dessert was banana/oat pie with bits of cacao beans, not too sweet and also excellent. Susan was able to eat only some of her meal (I was forced to finish it), but she did manage to finish her pie.
As we ate, a soft warm wind blew and we watched the sun go down over the jungle, with Santa Marta’s city lights and the Caribbean Sea sparkling in the distance. It was perhaps the most romantic dinner setting we’d ever enjoyed.
Later, we drifted off to sleep to the tropical forest sounds, snug in our mosquito-netted bed.