There’s nothing like relaxing in the jungle and today is proof of that. I came down with a cold last night and, between that and the really hard beds of Colombia, sleep was difficult to come by. As I’m in Minca for four nights, which seems a bit longer than most who come (though I don’t know why as it’s beautiful), I take this day to catch up on work, reading, and hammock time (not to be confused with Hammer Time). This a reason I like slow travel. You don’t feel the need to run and see everything quickly, even when you’re just not in the mood. Also, when you’re location independent, you need those days to relax or catch up on personal hygiene and shopping needs.
Most hotels here include breakfast in the price and I awake in time to eat before it ends at 9:00am. While I plan to spend most of the day catching up on work, the relaxing atmosphere of the Hotel Minca La Casona draws me in and, though I finish my breakfast, I seem to have some trouble going to my room to fetch my computer. Instead, I choose to open my iPad and read the New York Times. (I subscribed to the app last week which, with the news lately, might not be such a good thing. Still, I choose to be involved in the world and not bury my head in the sand.)
I finally get vertical and decide to walk around the small hotel (14 rooms in all) and explore the Hotel Minca Las Casona used to be a convent and I see signs of that in a few small paintings hanging in the halls, as well as the arches lining the walkways. I stumble upon a swimming which I wasn’t even aware the hotel had (ah yes, I really don’t research a whole lot prior to coming). Once I know of it, it’s too tempting not to take a dip. As I exit the pool, I notice two hammocks lining the walkway outside some rooms which seem like the perfect place to lie down and drip dry. Reading Vanity Fair on my iPad (I’ve subscribed to their app since I left home for Germany, and it’s excellent), I soon become drowsy and take a short hammock nap. (Yeh, this getting work done thing is going well.)
Finally, it’s time for some work which is made more enjoyable given the view from my traveling office – the hotel veranda looking over the vast jungle, hummingbirds flittering about sucking up sugar water from the feeders. These incredible creatures are growing on me as they seem to defy the laws of gravity by stopping mid-air with only their wings flapping. And, it turns out, they’re not so nice. I watch them knock each other around when one tries to hone in on another’s feeder. You can actually hear them crash into each other. I remind them that sharing is caring, yet they remind me that all’s fair in sugar and water.
As I sit working, thunder rolls in from the distance and, before long, tropical rain begins pounding on the tin roof. I take a break from working to enjoy some spaghetti bolognese for lunch (you can also have lunch in the hotel restaurant for a fee) while watching and listening to the storm pound around me. Tummy full with the storm continuing, I become a cliché writer, sitting on the veranda overlooking the jungle while sipping ginger tea.
The hotel doesn’t serve dinner so I choose to skip it instead of breaking my day-long fast from the outside world. I write, I read, and I watch a movie which I’ve downloaded from Netflix. (Hooray for Netflix now having downloads!) I also wash some clothes in my sink. As they soak in the bubbly water with the assistance of my shampoo, I turn my back for a moment only to find, when I turn back, large ants crawling through the bubbles and on my clothes. Emptying the water in the sink, I flick the ants off only to have more appear from the overflow hole in the sink. They’re coming out so fast, they look like they’re on the last hill of a log-flume ride. I throw on some clothes (I’ve also just showered), head to the front desk and ask the owner Iliana to come to see them.
She looks and heads out to call her husband Sergio, the other owner, to come with a can of get these ants the hell out of here. Spraying loads of the stuff in the sink and down both the main and overflow drains, they then call the housekeeper who sweeps up the carnage. Apologizing, they tell me this is due to the unusually warm temperatures the last few days and hasn’t happened since they bought the place five years ago. They’ve taken care of it quickly and, with both the ants and Tarantulina Jolie gone (I haven’t seen her since we both chose to ignore each other), I’m mostly okay. Still, for the next twenty-four hours, I have Insectus Epidermus Imposter Syndrome, also known as that feeling of itchiness from imagined creepy-crawlers climbing on you. (I may or may not have made that term up.)
After a long day of relaxing, I’m exhausted and head off to sleep.
I awake today, grab some breakfast (the standard in Colombian hotels seems to be scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions) and head out to grab a moto-taxi at the bridge. The power has gone out this morning which means it’s a great time to head to the jungle. I run into my driver Luis Alberto again and we head to Cascades Marinka (Marinka Waterfall). After the pounding rains of yesterday, the roads are even worse than they were a couple of days ago. And the road to this waterfall is even more rutted and steep. I hold on and try to distract myself with the beauty of the jungle. Minca is known for its 350 species of birds and, along the way, Luis Alberto stops and explains that he hears the call of a beautiful bird, a toucan. We look in the tree but have trouble spotting him (yes, we follow our nose as it always knows). We never do find him but there’s so much beauty here in Minca, I can’t be disappointed.
Jose Luis stops the bike at the side of the road near a restaurant in a wooden shack. He points down the rocky side-road saying “siete minutos” (seven minutes) and indicates that he’ll wait for me at the restaurant.
The road is steep and, nueve-minutos después (nine-minutes later), I walk through a gate, paying the guy attending my 4,000 peso entrance fee (US$1.34) before hiking down a series of rocky steps until I finally arrive at the bottom. There’s only one person there and, after chatting, he tells me he’s from Argentina and is traveling long term. As I’m entering the water, he’s stepping out.
The water is slightly warmer than the previous waterfall and I’m quickly up to my chest in water. One of the travel rules I have for myself is to be sure to put my head under every waterfall I come across, and I swim over and accomplish my mission here. Swimming in these spots deep in the jungle, with few tourists around is an amazing feeling – peaceful and freeing.
After a bit of chatting with the Argentinian (my Spanish is getting better while here), I step out of the water and the Argentinian leaves. I hike back up the rocky stairs and stop for a beer at the shack at the top before hiking down the steep path to meet back up with Luis Alberto. We have another harrowing, twenty-minute ride back into town.
Arriving in town, I find the power-outage still going on and it’s city-wide. Still, being Minca, everybody seems to take it in stride. I sit down outside a restaurant and order one of the things they can make without electricity, a ham and cheese panini. This is made using their gas burners and is served with various sauces. Minca caters well to vegetarians (there’s hummus everywhere) and environmentalists and I enjoy a walk through the few shops there, buying some natural mosquito spray and macramé bracelets.
I head back to pack while there’s still daylight in case the power remains off. Still, as the window in my room provides minimal light, I make good use of the various flashlights I travel with. I shake out all of my clothes prior to packing them just in case Tarantulina Jolie has decided to hitch a ride and walk back down to town to enjoy a vegetarian stir-fry back at Lazy Cat.
Tomorrow – A visit to a city formerly off-limits.