As I began writing this post 2 days ago, I had been without internet for 4 days. No texting, no Instagram, no emails. It was about the longest I’d gone without internet probably since it was invented. I know 4 days in the grand scheme of life isn’t that long but it is for me since my entire life back in Chicago revolved around using it. I depend on the internet a lot on this new adventure in South America too – mostly to keep in touch with friends and family, check Instagram, blog, and plan out each new destination.
Since we have been on the move since Medellin, Dan and I rely heavily on the internet to research accommodations, transportation, look at pictures and find things to do in the upcoming destinations. There have been days where we have starred at the computer screen for hours on end trying to get things planned and it is even more frustrating since the internet is usually slow or very unstable.
When we decided to check out Minca (which is 45 minutes outside of Santa Marta up in the Sierra Nevada mountains) for 3 days after researching very little about what it is like and what to do there, we did find out that there would be no internet access. I would have the chance to fully disconnect from everything. I welcomed this upcoming challenge for the next couple of days as we unplugged, told the people close to us we’d be unavailable until Sunday, and left Cartagena.
View of Santa Marta from Casa Loma
Getting to Minca requires taking a bus (we used MarSol) to Santa Marta and then a colectivo up the mountainside. We told our bus driver we were going to Minca and that he was supposed to let us out in a market in Santa Marta to catch this colectivo. He decided that he had a better plan and forced us out of the bus on the side of a highway saying it’s closer than the market. I tried to argue with him, told him I didn’t understand where to go or how to get there, and he basically pushed me out of the bus, closed the door, and drove off. Jerk. Thankfully there were two other travelers in the same position as Dan and I as we were swarmed (literally like sharks) by 6 or so cab drivers biding to take us up the mountain for triple the price it would have been from the market. I was instantly wishing we had internet access to help get us out of this mess and figure out where we needed to go. We ended up just shoving all of our packs and 5 people into a tiny cab for the 45 minute drive up the mountain.
Another spectacular view from Casa Loma
As we approached Minca, I started to fully grasp what to expect for the next few days. The town is tiny (the Lonely Planet doesn’t even list the population) and has a handful of family run restaurants, a couple of tiendas and a church. We had to climb about 15 minutes up a dirt hill with our huge packs to reach our hostel, Casa Loma. Upon arrival, you are immediately stunned by the views and the remoteness of Casa Loma. From Casa Loma, you can see mountains, jungle, and Santa Marta from a distance. We were taken to our “room” (the first night we stayed in Casa del Bosque and the second night Casa Luna; which is highly recommended for the seclusion and mountain views) which was just a bamboo hut with a mosquito net and bed in the jungle, on a mountainside. So cool!
Since we were in such a chill location but also surrounded by nature and hiking, Dan and I decided that we would spend our late afternoons and nights relaxing at Casa Loma and our days exploring.
The first day we elected to hike to Pozo Azul. It was about an hour walk from Casa Loma along a dirt road but through the jungle. As we neared Pozo Azul, we could hear the sound of a river (which was extremely welcomed since it is still quite hot in Minca even though it is 600 meters above elevation). Once we arrived, I was pretty blown away by how beautiful it was. Pozo Azul is a large natural pool that is filled by a waterfall. The water is freezing but feels so refreshing after a long hot walk.
After swimming around in the first pool, we climbed a bit higher to find a second pool that was even more impressive.
Feeling adventurous, we continued on to find another pool with a tunnel that you can swim to with a couple of waterfalls. We met this Colombian lady (who Dan became best friends with by the way) and they swam together through the tunnel to meet the final waterfall. It was just such a fun, active day filled with adventure. I loved not knowing what to expect and enjoying our time outside in nature.
The second day we choose to hike to the Cascadas de Marinka. After having such a great time at the Pozo Azul, we were hoping for a similar experience of hiking, swimming, and of course seeing some amazing waterfalls. This hike was about an hour as well but through a gorgeous bamboo jungle. We arrived to the waterfall, paid 3,000 CP each and were the only two people there. It was so refreshing wading in the cold glacier water and standing under the powerful waterfalls without hearing a bunch of kids screaming or having other people get in our way.
We spent our late afternoons and nights at Casa Loma reading, watching the sunset, drinking beers, playing cards, and having communal dinner and chatting with the other guests. I couldn’t help but think how different the experience would have been had we had WiFi in the evenings. Instead of having the urge to grab for my iPhone in my downtime, I just sat and starred out at the mountains. Instead of scrolling the Instagram or Facebook, I finished an entire book. Instead of zoning out watching Netflix at night, Dan and I played cards, talked, and connected with each other. Instead of being tempted to research Patagonia our next destination during the day, we were exploring and being active in nature.
Not having internet in Minca made me more present. I was so much more in the moment and focused on the people and surroundings in front of me. Minca has been one of my favorite places and memories from Colombia. Part of me can’t help but wonder if it is because I was not distracted by my phone.
Before coming to Minca, we only really researched how to get there and our hostel but nothing else. Since we didn’t see any pictures of the waterfalls, pools, jungle or anything else we encountered, we were so stunned since we didn’t know what to expect. We actually saw everything for the first time. I realized that researching everything to death, looking at pictures, figuring out what bus to take, etc. kind of takes the fun and adventure out of it. There is no real element of surprise!
I’m not saying that I will be giving up internet all together and I of course recognize the benefits it provides. But, I do think I will continue to unplug more often and be less available 24/7. I really enjoyed my stay in Minca and hope I can continue to give the other places we visit the same attention by being fully present, living in the moment, and putting away my damn phone!