Minca, Colombia. Ever heard of it? We hadn’t. But several years back, Travel & Leisure called it “the undiscovered gem of Colombia.” If you Google it, a variety of links appear that provide different perspectives on this little mountain village. And yes, airbnb is there.
Apparently, up until around 1996/1998, life in this region was relatively peaceful. Then the guerillas and paramilitary moved in, a war over the drug trade. Weed flourishes here. For a long time, guerilla warfare raged and no one was allowed into the place. Then, in 2006/2007, the government reached some sort of agreement with the guerillas and now, in 2018, the town is a backpackers paradise.
I’m not a backpacker. I love my creature comforts. And when I found Las Piedras on airbnb’s website, the photos looked terrific and I booked it. A private bungalow large enough to sleep four. The reviews were good.
Getting there from Cartagena, where we landed and spent our first night, isn’t complicated. But it’s takes about 4-5 hours, depending on stops, along some bumpy roads. Our transportation was through MarSol, a Colombian outfit with a small army of air conditioned vans that seat about 20 people. The price is reasonable – 50,000 Colombian pesos or about $18. The van made two stops for restroom breaks and a bite to eat.
There’s no MarSol van directly to Minca, only to Santa Marta, about 15 miles farther up the northwestern coast of the country. From there, you have to backtrack in a taxi for another $18-$20, up and down mountain roads.
Minca itself is an odd place of dirt roads and flourishing restaurants, cafes, hostels, stray cats and dogs and people. You can tell the place is racing into the tourist track and that someday in the not too distant future the roads may be paved, the place may be totally civilized. But right now, it’s like a slice of the old west – minus the guns. And there’s WiFi!
Once you leave town and start up a mountainous side road, it’s questionable whether the taxi will make it. Ours didn’t. We were left off outside a hostel, Casa Relax, and walked down a winding, very steep path with our bags to Las Piedras. And wow! That trek was worth it every time we made the journey.
The house backs up to a river filled with giant rocks and boulders and waterfalls. The noise of that waterfall becomes your backdrop, a white noise that’s always with you, a soothing sound that follows you into sleep and wakes you at dawn. The house itself is owned by a Colombian women, Vanessa, and her cousin, who live in Miami, and her mother, the artist who endowed the place with so much beauty. The place is almost beyond description.
Las Piedras is a place where you live in the present tense. Artistic touches are everywhere. The stone shower is to die for. I love the inlaid tile butterfly in the kitchen floor, the beautifully equipped kitchen, the tile creatures that grace the bedroom wall, the comfy hammock strung up in the front room, the tiered screen porch, with the comfortable furniture, the path that leads outside.
We even have a mother duck at the end of the property sitting on eggs, her nest overlooking the river. If there’s a writers’ paradise, this is it. And we don’t have our computers.
But we have WiFi and our iPhone cameras.
At night, the trek back from town is challenging, we need flashlights. But during the day, wow. Easy walk to the Lazy Cat, a restaurant that backs up to woods and the river and serves great food. And it has WiFi. Here’s some street art on the walk to town.
The Lazy Cat cafe
There are several markets that sell basics – water (about 70 cents a bottle), eggs (local and cheap) beer (cheap), wine (less cheap), yogurt (cheap and local and delicious), mangos and papaya (cheap), Colombian cheese (fantastic and cheap). There’s also a French bakery in town that has the BEST coffee and freshly made bread so good it melts in your mouth.
The people are friendly, the tours are inexpensive. We went to a coffee plantation that cost 7 bucks for a tour that was fascinating and informative. Getting there involved an inexpensive ride on a moto (motorcycle), one of the biggest industries in Minca that’s run entirely by locals, and an uphill 20-minute hike in the heat. It was worth it, especially at the end when we met a gorgeous toucan.
Minca is a special place.
Get there before Starbucks and Home Depot move in.