Minca. Ahhhh Minca. When people talk about Minca in Colombia they get a sort of far-off look in their eyes and sigh. It’s difficult to even articulate what’s so special about the tiny town, but there’s just something going on there… a magic. It sort of gave me the feeling of camp: connectivity, peacefulness, renewed energy. Perhaps the main reason it’s so loved is that it’s a short 40 minutes from Santa Marta, but worlds away. The climate is MUCH cooler, with misty clouds that move in and out of the valleys, and even some pretty heavy rain from time to time (this was a relief as there was NO rain in Santa Marta).
At the urging of nearly everyone, I made a reservation for Zane and I at Casa Elemento. Casa Elemento is said to be “in Minca,” but is actually about a 20-25 minute motorbike ride away, up a windy hill, on a rocky, muddy road and through a bamboo forest. I loved every minute of it (even when I had to climb off and hike up a few of the hills because my driver’s bike was puttering out), but Zane wasn’t exactly a fan, proclaiming that holding on was “the hardest thing he’s ever had to do.” Zane is a super fan of hyperbole – so much so that if it weren’t for his thick Australian accent you’d swear he was American.
The hostel is set in solitude among the dense, jungle-y mountains, At night you can see the lights from both Minca and Santa Marta below. An over-sized “hammock” is perched just over the valley and another swinging hammock is suspended over the drop as well. People spend their time here and on the terraced platforms that act as a sort of gigantic front porch.
Upon arriving we flopped ourselves in the hammock, sighed a breathe of satisfied relief and Zane proclaimed, “This is the spot.” He’d already claimed this no less than six times during our relatively short acquaintance, but this time I actually believed him. This was THE SPOT. In fact, no more than 15 minutes into our arrival he looked at me and said, “I think I’m gonna stay here.” Which is exactly what he did, snagging a volunteer spot behind the bar for free room and board.
Being so secluded there isn’t a lot to “do” per say, but there are hikes to waterfalls, dips in the pool, days spent swinging on the hammocks reading, talking, listening to music, etc. It’s basically heaven for hippie backpackers.
At 4pm fresh-baked cookies and brownies are served at the bar and at night family-style dinners are served to the masses. These are no ordinary dinners. The cousin of one of the owners (Eyren) was a chef/owner of a gourmet grocery in Canada and, at the pleading of her cousin, uprooted to relocate to Colombia and cook for a bunch of very hungry, very grateful travelers who haven’t enjoyed such delicious, home-cooked food in months. If Casa Elemento is heaven, Eyren is Jesus himself – except she’s churning out lasagna and baked goods instead of loaves and fishes.
I would have gladly stayed for three or four more days, but my stay was interrupted by my archenemy ….my fake front tooth. My tooth was knocked out a couple years back during a rollerskating incident that I don’t care to revisit at this moment. For a CliffsNotes version: one tooth was broken off completely, another irreversibly damaged. As such, both of my front teeth required root canals and to be almost completely rebuilt.
Whilst on a hour-long hike to the waterfall near the hostel Zane spotted a mango tree. After a little effort a few came down to our delight and we gnawed on them for a bit. Certain types of mangos are a bit more fibrous than others, with sort of “threads” of fruit. I was pulling said “threads” from my front tooth and, to my horror, had also managed to pulled my front tooth loose.
As you might imagine the panic set in. I knew instantly that I had to abandon ship on the hike and Minca in general in favor of finding a dentist ASAP. Along with the panic came the tears. Luckily, Zane swooped in with some serious positive reinforcement, reassuring me that “this happens all the time.” and was not a big deal. I tried to keep it together, but I was not buying it. It was my front goddamned tooth for Christ’s sake and I was in COLOMBIA. At that moment I wanted to be in America with American dentists. Front teeth are nothing to muck around about.
But as it turned out this little set-back couldn’t have happened in a better place or at a better time. It just so happened that Eryen (the chef) was heading down to Santa Marta that very day for a dentist appointment. I packed my bags (and felt sorry for myself) while Zane arranged my ride and had the hostel call the dentist to be sure she could fit me in as well.
An hour or so later I was waving goodbye to Zane for good and zipping down the mountain, off to my first international medical experience.