No plan is often the best plan– learning the history of Cartagena.

No plan is often the best plan– learning the history of Cartagena.

Sometimes while travelling, it’s best not to plan anything for the day. I’m glad that was the case today because I was still feeling a little tired. We originally planned on taking a boat to the islands, something several friends had recommended, but decided to keep the day open. So instead, we took our time in the morning and eventually began wandering the streets. We stopped at a few historic points and read about them. The historic center is small, so we easily walked from one side to the other in 20 minutes. It was still pretty early and not many shops were open, but I found a cute clothing shop to browse while Ryan had a coffee and some cake (the cake was dry, which we’ve now experienced a couple times while in Colombia). We found another store where I bought some statues and Ryan bought a colorful painting and coffee beans. Shopping aside, the streets were just fun to wander because they were so colorful. I stopped a few times to take pictures of the brightly contrasted buildings. I also posed for a photo with a woman in traditional dress and fruit basket.

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Mid road trip mud bath.

Mid road trip mud bath.

The moment of truth today would be if I was able to get my reserved car for the drive from Santa Marta to Cartagena. After a tasty breakfast, we hurried to the car rental at the airport. As it generally does, everything worked out. I started off driving a little nervous and wobbly, but eventually fell into my groove. The drive went by quickly because of all the new things to look at (and because you had to pay attention to passing cars and motorbikes). We drove through a small coastal town, lots of toll-booths, passed many people selling things at traffic stops and eventually stopped for lunch and a small no frills restaurant. It was the type of place with plastic Coca-Cola branded tables/chairs and a straightforward menu (chicken, beef or steak). We did our best to order and ended up getting most of the things we thought we ordered. The one exception was my soup, which I ate despite a big bone with meat hanging off it floating inside. They laughed at us when we ordered a coffee at 2pm in the afternoon, but I explained we were tired from driving! The woman working there was super sweet and it made my day when I saw her face light up with the tip. We also had free entertainment by watching her little girls playing hide and seek.

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On top of the world and inside of a hut.

On top of the world and inside of a hut.

I was happy to sleep in this morning, and by that I mean I got up at 7:30am, made a coffee and read on the terrace. I skipped breakfast to save room for cake at the Coffee Farm later, but had a few bites of Ryan’s delicious fruit oatmeal. We quickly packed (sadly we are leaving the hostel today) and then walked down to La Victoria Finca, a coffee farm affiliated with the hostel.

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The hike was steep and hot, but we got there in about 15 minutes. I had banana bread with chocolate sauce and Ryan had coffee cake as we sipped their coffee. Next, we took a 45 minute tour of the farm. Although I’ve toured several coffee farms by now, they each have something different to offer. I liked this one because it was pretty big, and while it was old, it was running smoothly because it was built with quality.

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There’s no wifi in the forest, but you’ll find a better connection.

There’s no wifi in the forest, but you’ll find a better connection.

I’m glad we went to bed when we did because we woke up at 7am for yoga. The yoga was a great way to start off the New Year. It was slow paced and focused on connecting with the earth. The class lasted about an hour and half so we had breakfast right after and then headed out for our hike to a waterfall. It was myself, Ryan and five Finlanders. Our guide didn’t speak much English but we were still able to understand some of the things he was pointing out, or one of the gals from Finland (Inka) helped translate. The walk was fun because it was through terrain that was unique to me. Trails that were lined with coffee trees, bamboo and alongside flowing water (man-made irrigation).

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Minca, a mountain oasis and saying goodbye to 2018.

Minca, a mountain oasis and saying goodbye to 2018.

I had heard many good things about an area in the Sierra mountains called Minca and was eager to see it for myself. After a leisurely morning of packing, stopping at a super market and grabbing a bite to eat at a great spot called Lola where we had a cocktail and a chorizo arepa, Ryan and I took a jeep there.

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We had to take a jeep because apparently most taxis without 4-wheel drive won’t make it up the roads. I now understand why! While I didn’t get motion sickness at all, I did get a sort of rug burn from the constant sliding back and forth or up and down against the seat of the car. The bumps and holes in the roads were significant and the driver had to work hard to avoid them. I became jealous of people like Ryan who can read without getting sick.

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A National Park worth risking it for.

A National Park worth risking it for.

I had chosen Santa Marta because it was the closest city to Tayrona Natural Park, a National Park that was a beautiful hike through the jungle to the coast. I had planned on doing it on Sunday since we had a full day. However, I learned the night before that all of the entrance tickets for tourists were sold out. I was disappointed, but felt better when we discovered there was another beach nearby worth visiting. Despite that discovery, I still thought there might be a chance they save some tickets at the door.

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Good things are worth repeating, Palm Valley part 2.

Good things are worth repeating, Palm Valley part 2.

I was so impressed with the Palms yesterday that I wanted to go back again, even though my legs were begging me not to. I figured this time I would do the short hike, and take it slowly. It was nice to head to the jeeps and know what I was doing, and then to get there and know exactly where the trail was. Even though I was doing the exact same thing as yesterday, the experience was different.

I enjoyed my slow pace, and I also enjoyed the quiet, I was the only one out there. Eventually I did put my earbuds in to give me some energy as I began up hill. This time, I turned around at the viewpoint and headed down directly through the palms. This view was so much prettier and reinsured my choice to come back. I sat at the base of a palm and just relaxed for a bit until a dog came running up and startled me. A few others followed and after a quick chat with a few of them I continued my descent. I’ve learned during hiking that sometimes you have to stop and look behind you because that can often be the best view. I treated myself to an Oblea (a thin crispy waffle with caramel, sweet milk and usually cheese but I opted for no cheese). I was the only one headed back to Salento so I was able to sit in the front seat, which was so much more enjoyable. The tires remained inflated too.

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The only other thing to mention is that I learned that the open space with the few trees standing was actually due to deforestation, which is sad and impacts how I view it. They didn’t have any use for the palm trees so they left them standing.

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I was dropped off in town and found myself buying another piece of jewelry. I stopped for lunch as well and had a cortado and this thing that was like a flat bread pizza but way crispier and topped with tomatoes, cheese, avocado and salsa. I dropped off some laundry and then went to take short rest.

I had dinner at a place that was recommended, which turned out to be the same place that I bought my iced coffee the day before. The girl recognized me and we both commented that our day turned around after that! I had a soup, salad and quiche, which was the best food I’ve had so far! I had a beer and watched the sunset, chatted with my new roommates for a bit and then experienced some FOMO as I heard a concert going on in town, but didn’t feel like getting dressed and walking down there again, so instead I imagined what it would be like, and then put in my headphones because the music ended up going past 3am!

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The next day, I was up at 6am so went up to have a coffee and read. I ended up chatting with a guy from the states and gave him my advice for the hike. After breakfast we both headed down to our rooms to discover that he was also my roommate (ahhh the one who came late and said it was too hot in the room so opened the door lol). The weird thing about the doors here is that we don’t get keys, the rooms are just always open, they must not think it’s a safety issue. That said, you can turn the lock from the outside which one of the new comers did, so I was locked IN the room this morning. Luckily, there is a big window by the door and I climbed through that to re-open the door. The rest of the morning was spent being lazy (I always feel the need to tell people this is my last day and that I haven’t been sitting around the hostel my whole time here).

I had pre-scheduled a taxi to the airport but it was 45 minutes late, I wasn’t really sweating it until we started hitting a ton of traffic. I made it to the airport with 35 minutes to go, which wasn’t really a problem because it was such a small airport. That said, I arrived to discover my flight was delayed. I took the opportunity to sit down and eat and read. After flying to Bogota and then connecting to Santa Marta I finally made it and so did my bag.

I headed to the hostel, and to be perfectly honest, I was a little surprised by the neighborhood it was dark out, but it also was a little more run down than I had expected (usually hostels go up in areas that are more touristy). Although, once getting there I realized it was sort of like Morocco where the outside is deceiving. I entered into a courtyard that even had a swimming pool and a pool on the rooftop as well. Also, I was excited to be joined by my boyfriend for the remainder of the trip. He arrived late, and I had a pretty long day of travel as well, so we just called it a night (well, after we discovered that we had to unscrew the light bulbs in order to turn the lights off).