Colombia part II: the Caribbean coast & back in the hostel business

Since I had quite a lot of time to travel around in Colombia (4 weeks), I figured it would be nice to stay in one place for a while, and do some work. So I was looking at workaway.info and found a hostel called Casa Loma, in the little village of Minca. It’s located in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, an area of mountains covered in rainforest on the Caribbean coast.

Casa Loma in Minca (in the Sierra Nevada), worked here for a week and a half IMG_1303.JPG

another amazing sunset at Casa Loma

last night in Casa Loma..

After a stiff walk up a hill, I arrived and immediately loved the place. It has an amazing view and a very relaxed atmosphere. Casa Loma is run by a guy from England, and there was another girl from England who was helping out just like me. I pretty much started working right away, helping with cooking dinner that night and breakfast the next morning. Still I wasn’t so sure about staying at first, being a bit insecure if I was doing things right, and not sure about how I was feeling in general. But I decided to take the challenge. I’m glad I did, because after a day or so I really started enjoying it, and even better, my feelings of homesickness and weariness finally began to fade.
So there I was, working in a hostel again! Though it was quite different from The Shelter in Amsterdam. For one, it was just a small place, at the max we had 15-20 people. Quite something else than 180 in The Shelter City. We were running the place with just 3 of us, which meant everyone did a lot of different tasks: cooking meals, making beds, cleaning and checking people in. Especially in the mornings it was quite hard work, but I really enjoyed it. All of this in exchange for good food and a bed, good deal. During the rest of the days I usually got to chill or visit some places in the area. There are a lot of cool spots in walking distance from Minca, with waterfalls and natural swimming pools.

there I go!

Las Piedras, cool spot near Minca walk to some waterfalls (Pozo Azul) near Minca

Minca

There were mostly Western backpackers staying in the hostel, from Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, UK, Canada, France, and also a few Colombians. Another great thing about working in a hostel is that you get to meet a lot of people, and I met a few some that I got a long with really well.
I celebrated New Year’s Eve here, in Minca. We all gathered on the square in the town and then watched the people set a straw man on fire; a Colombian tradition that symbolizes the passing of the last year.

Minca on New Year's Eve this poor guy is about to be set on fire

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On the 6th of January I left Casa Loma, heading for Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona. An area on the Caribbean coast with mountains, jungle and beaches, and supposedly one of the most popular national parks in Colombia. I met a German guy along the way who was traveling solo as well, so we decided to join forces. After a ride in a van and then a 45 minute walk through the jungle, we arrived at a campsite at Arrecifes. It was beautiful, but also back to the basics: sleep in a hammock, no place to store your luggage, open-plan cold showers and toilets without toilet paper. There was nothing to do and I had trouble sleeping in the hammock. I wasn’t that excited about it.

National Park Tayrona, on the Caribbean Coast IMG_1390.jpg

Finca Don Pedro

our sleeping arrangments at Finca Don Pedro

But the next day we started walking along the beaches and took a dive into the ocean, and it made everything ok again. What a beautiful place Tayrona is! Postcard-perfect beaches, clear, blue water, and the jungle just behind you. That night we stayed at a beach called Cabo San Juan del Guía, which was the most beautiful I’ve seen. Along the way we went snorkeling, first time ever for me. We saw coral reefs, beautiful colorful fishes.. it was amazing! And I got a nice souvenir: a wicked sunburn (remember to wear a t-shirt or suncreen next time). I had to sleep in a hammock again that night, but this time it was much better, so perhaps I can cope with it after all.

Cabo San Juan beach in Tayrona, stayed here for a night

IMG_1410.jpg some more nice beaches on the way - Tayrona

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guy from Germany that I hung out with in Tayrona

On my way to Tayrona, I’d seen a sign along with the name “Eben Ezer“, which seemed to be a christian hotel. So I wanted to check it out and see what that was all about. I was welcomed by a Colombian-Ecuadorian family who immediately invited me to celebrate grandma’s birthday, they were just about to cut the cake. In the evening I talked with the owners about running a christian accommodation like this, and shared some of my experiences with them from my time in The Shelter. Nice!

EbenEzer, a christian B&B where I spend one night

the lovely people of EbenEzer

My next stop was Cartagena, a big city on the coast, about 5 hours west of Tayrona. Once again I wasn’t exactly the only vistor here, and I had some trouble finding a hotel. Eventually I got the crappiest hotel room I’ve ever seen, but at least I had my own room with ventilator and bathroom, for 25,000 pesos (10 euro). The weather had been hot and sunny all along the coast, and here it wasn’t any different.
my lovely hotel room in Cartagena

That evening I made a stroll through Getsemaní, a not-so-well preserved part of the colonial center, but most hotels are located here. I thought it was pretty nice already though, and I liked the vibe here. To my surprise I ran into a bunch of people who I’d met in Casa Loma, it was like a little reunion. Hung out with them and a Colombian guy also called Edwin. I could definitely appreciate this city and couldn’t wait to see it by daylight.

Getsemaní - Cartagena

on the left: "Help us first, then the tourists"

street art in Getsemaní, Cartagena

Cartegena - dance at Plaza de los Coches

The next day, I was not disappointed. Cartagena may be the most beautiful city I have seen in South America. Just spent the day strolling around and admiring the sights. The old town is still surrounded by city walls, where I spent the end of the afternoon, watching the sun go down. It was a blissful moment.

Plaza de los Coches - Cartagena

IMG_1527.jpg Puerto del Reloj - Cartagena

view over the old town of Cartagena from the city wall

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the city walls - Cartagena

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On the 11th I headed to the bus terminal to take a night bus down south. I visited Manizales, in the ‘Eje Cafetera’ (the “coffee-zone”), and went back up to Medellin after that. Here I am currently working in a project in the slums of the city, to help people there with food and education.

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3 Responses to “Colombia part II: the Caribbean coast & back in the hostel business”

  1. Tim Says:

    Nice! Prachtige foto’s weer! Hoe lang heb je in Casa Loma gewerkt?

  2. Erwin Says:

    Wow, wat een reis, wat een schoonheid. Colombia ziet er toch ook wel heel mooi uit! Dat werken in een hostel is je in het bloed gaan zitten he? Ben benieuwd als je terug bent in Nederland wat dat gaat betekenen. Goede reis verder en tot ziens.
    Groetjes Erwin en de rest.

  3. Anja Gielen Says:

    Weer super om te lezen en te zien Edwin! Geniet ervan. Hoe lang ben je nog onderweg?
    Groetjes,
    Anja

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