“If you haven’t drunk our coffee, you haven’t been to Colombia”, I was told by our guide Jose. So in spite of not being a big fan of coffee, I got a taste of Colombia and enjoyed it. Not enough to become an actual coffee drinker, but enough to appreciate the couple of cups I had in Colombia.
Margrethe and I were up at the coffee plantation La Victoria in the jungles above Santa Marta as a part of our whirlwind tour of Colombia. Colombia doesn’t have the easiest system for visiting yachts, in fact it’s impossible to check-in by yourself, because you are required to use an agent. For us the process was no problem, because we came straight from Curacao to Marina Santa Marta, and the marina took care of everything. To check-in to Colombia didn’t cost anything, but even though we were only spending 5 days in a marina, we still had to pay $105 for a Colombian cruising permit. By only staying 5 days, we avoided having to get a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) of Stella Polaris, a process that costs more and takes longer. Knowing we were only staying 5 days, we set out to make the most of them.
After a day to relax, wander around town, eat fantastic ceviche, drink refreshing smoothies and do laundry at the marina, we did a one day tour into the jungle. This involved us getting on the back of each our motorcycle and ride to the village Minca, where our guide Jose took us on a strenuous, but beautiful all-day walk into the jungle. I really felt like a guerilla or a narco smuggler walking on the paths, and realized how easy it was to disappear into the jungle. In the jungle, Jose told us a lot about the history of Colombia, in particular about the recent history with the drug lords, like Pablo Escobar. This was particularly interesting to us, because we were in the middle of the first season of the HBO series “Narcos”, which details the life of Pablo Escobar.
We saw an impressive amount of flowers, plants and birds. Jose picked up some mangos off the ground, that once the dirt was brushed off, revealed the best tasting mango I’ve ever had. We stopped at the coffee plantation La Victoria, where we got a proper introduction to coffee production from when the coffee leaves arrive at the plantation to when the finished coffee leaves to be sold. Naturally we also got a taste of Colombia in what even I recognized was a good cup of coffee.
The following day we jumped onto a Marsol bus to Cartagena, for a night away from Stella Polaris. We had booked a hotel in the old city (inside the city walls) and 4 hours after boarding the bus, we exited on the doorstep of the hotel. The next day and a half was spent exploring the old city, eating great food and enjoying what felt like a mini vacation, in the vacation. If you haven’t been to Cartagena, we can really recommend it.
The trip back to Santa Marta took 6,5 hours, because we were the first to board and last to get off, unlike when we went to Cartagena when we were last onboard and first off. We had planned to sail early in the morning the following day, but postponed it, so that we could do some food shopping first.
In hindsight, I wish we would have spent more time in Colombia, traveling to the interior, to get a proper feel for the country. We only got a taste of Colombia, and really enjoyed what we saw, so we will be back. The people are wonderful and friendly, and the cities and countryside are well worth exploring.