The kids were ecstatic when we told them we would be taking a break from school. They were less excited when we told them we would be hiking in the Colombian mountains. “You mean we can’t just sit here and game on our computers all day on vacation? This is going to be awful!”
Oh yeah, time to get off the boat!
We decided to visit Minca, a mountain town in the Sierra Nevada. Greg was looking forward to being cooler, as Minca’s elevation is around 2000 ft. We even packed long sleeves and pants. Unfortunately, the nights are cool but the days are still hot, and each day was concluded with cold showers to wash off the layers of sweat, sunscreen, and bug spray that coated our hot and wilting bodies.
We ended up in a two-story hut in Minca Ecohabs, sleeping in the open air with a thatched roof. We planned to hike to an organic chocolate farm in the hills and the next day hike to waterfalls with swimming holes. Mel was excited to do this, as this is the outdoorsy sort of thing that one is supposed to do when one is a free spirit living on a boat. She unfortunately forgot that she and her family are not particularly outdoorsy. So even our “glamping,” with flush toilets and showers in our huts, did not stop the following statements issuing from the family:
“Kill it! Kill it!” – Everyone. The screens in our hut had holes. This means they might as well not existed. At night, moths pestered us as we read, to the point that the kids slept with the adults the second night, Allie demanding with a strangled whisper that Tommy kill the latest bug that bothered her, so scared she could not speak normally. When Greg attempted to kill a 2” long bug that we could not identify, it attached itself to his sock, and Mel witnessed him repeatedly smacking his own foot with a shoe as she screamed and screamed.
“My butt hurts!” – Allie, after walking three feet the day after we climbed the mountain to the chocolate farm. Later, everyone said that. We were very sore. The signs said, “Chocolate farm – 45 minutes.” It took us an hour and a half. Mel invented the medical term: “Cruiser’s butt.” It the pain you feel the day after you ambitiously hike somewhere, worsened above the normal ache because you have walked no more than 5 feet at sea level on the boat for several days.
“No entiendo.” — Mel and Greg. Very few in Minca spoke English. We are learning Spanish as fast as we can, but we still have no idea what anyone is saying.
“This is the first time I’ve felt comfortable in months!” – Greg, sitting in the frigid waterfall, watching our bony children shiver by the side of the natural pool.
“Nosotros no caminar! No pies!” — Greg and Mel. We got a ride in a four-wheel drive up the mountain to see the waterfall. Our plan beforehand was to walk back down, you know, so we could be outdoorsy. After witnessing the skilled driver slog through bumpy mud pits going up the side of the mountain for 20 minutes, we asked him to wait and take us back down instead. Good decision!
“Stop taking pictures! Aaagh!” — Everyone but Mel. Minca was very lush and beautiful.
We therefore returned to the Santa Marta marina via our brave cab driver, Juan, feeling only partially outdoorsy. Mel, however, feels victorious that thus far there is no evidence of schistosomiasis or chikungunya. Because at this point, we can only handle so many multi-syllable words that no one understands. Now we decide how we will tackle Tayrona…