Colombia 🇨🇴: Two weeks in Santa Marta

After Dec2017 and Oct/Nov, it was my third time back in Santa Marta. This time with less of a travel angle, but to spend time with Laura, her family and help out in certain areas. I also brought lots of German food along to impress with a bit of German cooking (and it went well, generally speaking). Santa Marta continues to fascinate me with its Caribbean feel and bustling nightlife yet also its easy access to the surrounding nature in national parks and the ocean. See you soon!

Hanging out in Santa Marta

Our apartment was pretty central and we used it as a base to explore the restaurants and bars of Santa Marta when we had time. Loved the breakfasts and dinners alike!

Work placement in boiling heat

There were a few items on the list to keep Laura and myself busy. Be it painting walls and doors, repairing chairs (that I broke … need to slim down) or building a terrace foundation. Laura’s skills and knowledge were admittedly quite impressive – respect! More to come in the future …

Drowning in Minca

Minca is a fisher village an hour from Santa Marta nestled into the Sierra Nevada. We visited the Pozo Azul for a rather cold swim in the river and wanted to also visit Casa Elemento, but a flood of rain left us stranded in a cafe – well, could have been worse.

Cheering for Union Magdalena

Unión Magdalena has only been promoted to Colombia’s top division recently and ever since I looked it up on google, the search engine has been feeding me their results on my mobile. This time it worked out to watch a game against America Cali although not of relevance anymore.

The stadium requires a taxi to reach (unless you want to jump a lorry like the local kids) was pretty empty. Ticket prices didn’t help I guess (30k COP or c9USD). The atmosphere right next to the fans in the south end of the stadium was still great (not to be mixed up with those in the north end who are considered enemies). The kept on singing despite Union losing 3:0 and being dominated by America.

Ahh, and we managed to meet Mallory, a school-time friend of Laura, for a nice evening together.

BBQ on fire

BBQ’s were high in demand – one which I prepared (German style) and a Colombian one prepared by Lorena, Laura’s sister. Delicious! We topped it up with a good night out in Santa Marta and a few dance lessons with Lorena though I fear my hips are not made for this. Better leave this to the professionals.

A day out in Taganga

Laura’s dad had already popped by her mums house on a few occasions, but still we owed him a visit in Taganga – the former fishermen village 15mins drive from Santa Marta now turned Israeli party hotspot. From the main village you can hike over to Playa Grande and take in the nice views of the bay.

Playa Cristal 🏖 (well, almost)

Playa Cristal is about an hours ride from Santa Marta (if you don’t miss the left turn…) if you drive yourself. There are also plenty of tours and a boat service from Taganga.

Overall, a bit disappointing given high entrance fees (USD15 for a foreigner being part of Tayrona national park) not including vehicle, parking or the boat transfer you still require for the last bit to reach Playa Cristal. We skipped the boat ride and enjoyed the quiet beach can reach by moto. On the way we stopped to see ‘7 olas’ – the bay of 7 waves.

New tattoos 🐢 🌊

We finally made it to the tattoo studio to get our sea turtles inked on our bodies. We had picked the design already in Sri Lanka, but for reasons of time and drama didn’t manage to get them done. The design was very inspired by our sea turtle experience in Hikkaduwa – what a great day it was!

Our tattoo artist was Denis Bondarenko (here his insta) who has his studio in Rodadero (15min ride from Santa Marta). All super clean, relaxed and very professional. We spent the whole day there amidst lots of chatting about life, travels ans other things with Denis and his wife Estefania.

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Minca: Learn how coffee is made the colombian way

Minca is distinctly different due to its chillier location up in the mountains (650m), it boasts a few sights. First up are plenty of outdoor options such as trekking and mountain biking. Secondly, waterfalls and rivers to refresh yourself in. Thirdly, and my personal favorite, the Victoria coffee plantation. The guided tour (COP10,000) gives you some really good insights into the art of making coffee in Colombia – the 3rd largest coffee producer in the world (I didn’t know that Vietnam is no2).

coffee-production-map

There are two type of beans – arabica and robusta. Arabica is consumed by 70% of the world (think french/colombian coffee) while robust 30% (think Italian coffee). In Colombia, only Arabica is produced. Arabica stands-out due to its mild & aromatic taste while robusta tends to be more bitter-tasting yet with 50% more caffeine. Arabica also fits much better into colombia as it is grown at higher =altitube (1,000m to 2,500m) while robusta at 0-700m. Climate change has seen Colombian coffee production decrease both due to higher temperature (they used to start growing Arabica at 500m, needs 700m = less space and can’t move higher due to water protection legislation) & change precipitation.

Coffee production

  • Picking: After about 8-9 month of ripening the coffee fruit (known as cherries) changes colour from green to red indicting it time for harvesting. In Colombia there can be two harvesting seasons each year. Picking in hilly Colombia is done by hand, but the farm I visited had several large pipelines were buckets of coffee can be unloaded and then with the help of gravity and water are transported to a central place. Clever.
  • Wet processing: In Victoria farm, the production process done by wet processing – in fact the wholke farm runs pretty much on water and electricity is only used if water / gravity can’t do the job. Smart engineeriung that. Below a brief overview of the entire process.

  • Screen Shot 2018-03-11 at 15.44.47Screen Shot 2018-03-11 at 15.44.57
  • A few interesting facts I picked up on the tour
    • 18% of coffee swims usually due to an insect inside
    • 1kg roast coffee needs 110l of water in Victoria farm (water is free, but needs to be cleaned before leaving the plant)
    • Coffee is second biggest trade in the world after petroleum
    • Coffee is typically sold unroasted
  • Annual production & price: 60t per year at Victoria being one of the 562,000 coffee farms in Colombia (with around 800,000tons production country wide). They can sell 1kg at aboud $3. But prices fluctuate a lot and despite reduced output. Below the historical chart in cents per pound of coffee.

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Interesting fact – Finn’s drink by far most coffee / capita @ 12kg a year! That’s more than 2x German consumption. Must be the weather.

  1. Finland – 12kg per capita per year
  2. Norway – 9.9
  3. Iceland – 9
  4. Denmark – 8.7
  5. Netherlands – 8.4
  6. Sweden – 8.2
  7. Switzerland – 7.9
  8. Belgium – 6.8
  9. Luxembourg – 6.5
  10. Canada – 6.2

Minca outdoors: While I do recommend taking a motorbike to the farm, its easy to walk the way down and take in some of the breathtaking views. There was also an ecofarm nearby which was nice to visit.

There are a few waterfalls you can refresh yourself (see Minca map) and practice your jumps if you are up for it.