15th September 2022
Cienaga de Cholón, Colombia – Cartagena de Indias, Colombia via Marina de Pesca, Cartagena & Minca, Columbia.
When Monty Python released ‘And now time for something totally different’, he presented a world of dancing soldiers, a flirty marriage councillor and grannies akin to the cast of ‘Reservoir Dogs’. We’ve not seen any of these characters but have experienced ‘something totally different’ in the form of land based adventure where we could travel at more than walking pace, sleep in a square bed, and be far from the sea, but not from water.
The first difference we found was that unusually Ruffian wasn’t going to be swinging on her anchor and had to squeeze into a space in a marina. This was to a be a totally new experience as usually Fiona expertly guides Ruffian onto a dock, Iain then gently steps off and Ruffian rests on her fenders while pulling on her warps, in Cartagena Fiona had to guide Ruffian between posts no wider than our beam, Iain and Sabine (from ‘Altimate’)* then had to slip lines over poo covered poles and we finally had to stop Ruffian’s stern before she crashed into the concrete dock. This high stress docking was somewhat different from our usual low stress anchoring.
With friend Norbert (from ‘Altimate’) in Brock, ready to use him as a mobile bow thruster, Fiona, with her heart pounding, perfectly slipped Ruffian between the poles and backed up. While there was expertise at the back of Ruffian things were not so good at the front as Iain managed to get the long lines snared up around everything in sight and his hands, arms and ropes covered in the stinky bird poo, but even with this disparity in capability we were tied up and ready for even more different things.
Leaving our water-based transport behind we boarded a bus and were whisked into Colombia’s hinterland. Transiting along the coast fishing villages with nets drying on every surface gave way to donkey’s pulling carts and cowboys trotting along on their horses complete with bullwhips and 10-gallon hats. Changing busses, where we locked knees with backpackers, mothers with children and the odd chicken, we bounced up into the mountains where the green was pervasive and trees covered every surface. We’d finally arrived in Minca and with its abundant waterfalls, endless views, and where a different sort of adventure waited for us.
Minca felt like a tiny town at the end of the road and the start of the mountains, as it was a tiny town at the end of a road where dogs lazily roamed and children played in the street. This town did however have something special for us, it had a room with a square bed, a shower with limitless water and electricity plumbed into power stations, but none of this could keep us from adventure.
The hubbub to town quickly gave way to nature and the thundering sounds of waterfalls as we started hiking the hills. Everywhere we looked water flew over precipices and crashed down far from where it started but all these falls were inaccessible, but we knew our quarry couldn’t be far away. We descended a gorge and our first adventure was complete as we plunged into the refreshing water and let the waterfall pummel our dirty skin and clean our pores.
Thinking the adventure was over we now started the walk out and were suddenly faced with the slipperiest, bounciest, and sketchiest suspension bridge we’d ever seen. Gingerly Fiona** stepped out and put one-foot in front of the other whilst ignoring the water that raged below and the wind that rocked the bridge. Reaching land on the other side, we realised just how sketchy the bridge was as a local farmer gave a little clap and, just before crossing, he said a Hail Mary and made the sign of the cross on his chest, and crossed just as gingerly as we had.
Another day promised a whole new set of adventures where just getting to the start was an adventure in itself. The only form of transport in Minca is by ‘Moto’ which are motorbikes which are able to zip along the unmade tracks, over the offroad obstacles that cover every road and Fiona was about to get her first taste of moto’ing.
As Iain leapt onto the back of one, dismissing a helmet and wearing a big grin, Fiona gingerly mounted her steed, donned all the safety equipment possible and held onto the rider with a vice tight grip that threatened to squeeze all the life out of him. With engines roaring we zoomed up the hill, past endless vistas and were deposited at a spot where the motorbikes could go no further.
In the silence of the forest, we trod our way through the high hills of Minca and it felt like we were walking through a butterfly house. These beautiful fleeting creatures of every size shape and colour flittered around us and just as we though they couldn’t be any more colourful they did. Electric blues, emerald greens and vivid reds were all around and followed us as we started the long walk downhill.
The downhill started gently as we followed a path that had been cut by flood water, and quickly we learnt of the erosive capability of water. The path disintegrated to a gorge where 6-foot drops abound, tree roots jutted out waiting to break our limbs and every sodden leaf hid a man trap.
Slipping, sliding and leaping our way down we knew that there was now no turning back. Coming across some hikers going in the opposite direction our hearts lifted as we were now sure we could escape the hills and while they spoke of scrambles to come, we warned them of the gorges they faced. Their scrambles turned into no more than gentle drops compared to what we’d been though and we giggled at the thought of what they had to come.
Like all the best hikes, as we neared the end, we had a reward. That reward was yet more waterfalls which were loud enough to deafen us and strong enough to wash out all the filth we’d imbibed on our way down. Tired muscles were massaged and sweaty bodies cleansed.
If we thought that the butterflies were colourful then their bigger cousins*** birds were going to put them in their place. With the morning sun just starting to cast shadows, we picked up powerful binoculars and wandered into the forest in the company of an expert guide. At every turn we spotted toucans with their huge unwieldy bills, eagles that soared on the thermals before darting down to take some prey and bright songbirds who’s song was significantly bigger than they were. Minca had been an adventure and ‘something totally different’.
Reversing everything that we’d done over the previous days we once again found ourselves back in Cartagena, at anchor gently bobbing on the sea while being ‘serenaded’ by the thumping music of all the party boats that whizzed about. This was our normal adventure and we were back to our normal adventuring.
* Massive thanks to Sabine & Norbert as the stress would have been off the scale without their amazing assistance.
** Notice how gentlemanly Iain is by letting Fiona go first.
*** You can tell that Iain is an engineer and not a biologist as birds have simply no relation to butterflies and the only similarity is they both fly.
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