International travelers are often in search of that special place, that undiscovered idyllic village in the mountains or on the sea. But with the expansion of such travel over the decades, those sort of places have gradually disappeared as they become ‘discovered’ first by adventure travelers and then the tourist crowds. They often become places you don’t want to go unless you want to be surrounded by your fellow compatriots and other foreign travelers and throngs of tourists.
Tulum in Mexico back in the ‘70s and early ‘80s was one such special getaway for the adventure-minded tourists. It was a tiny beach village with a Mayan fortress near the eastern tip of the Yucatán. The town was so small and isolated, there was no electricity. The shops were mostly thatched huts lit by kerosene lamps after dark. While there was a basic hostel or two for travelers, I (Rob) chose to rent a thatched hut with a cot on the beach for $1 a night. Those days are long-gone for Tulum, which is now a crowded tourist stop nearly rivaling the famed pyramid attraction of Chichen Itza.
So when we heard about the mountain of village of Minca, Colombia that was only discovered by adventure travelers a few years ago, we took an interest. The village is located less than an hour’s bus or taxi ride from the overdeveloped beach city of Santa Marta. We were encouraged when we mentioned it to one of our Colombian friends in Florida, who said she had never heard of it. That was actually good news! The reason that it had been off the travel route was that for years the village was controlled by FARC, the now mostly defunct revolutionary army that was fighting government forces and hiding in the Santa Marta Mountains…and elsewhere. Once a peace treaty had been reached and the village was no longer a dangerous place to venture, things started to change. By 2006 or 2007, Minca started attracting adventure travelers, who discovered a hidden paradise.
We were lucky to find a great Airbnb house outside of Minca that was owned by a Colombian woman who lives most of the year in Miami. Not only was the house beautifully decorated and roomy, but it was situated right above a river with a waterfall visible from the porch. In the afternoon, a few tourists and locals would find their way along the river to swim in the pool near the waterfall.
We stayed there three days, then took a bus along the Caribbean coast back to Cartagena where we began the trip. Sitting in front of us on the bus ride was a couple and their ten-year-old son from San Juan Island off the coast of Washington State. As they talked about their time in Minca, they mentioned a visit to a waterfall, which they really enjoyed, and said they were fascinated by the house above the waterfall and wondered who lived there.
It was us! We told them. At least, we were the residents at the time of their visit. We must’ve taken a walk to town, about 15 minutes away, during the time of their visit. They were of course surprised at the coincidence. The woman, who is director of a non-profit group, said there was a word for that. We told her it’s synchronicity! Her husband, a lawyer, said: “Serendipity.” Well, maybe both.