After the bustling sweat box of Cartagena we decided it was time to leave cities behind for a while and head out into the Colombian countryside, to the small jungle town of Minca. We took a bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta, another city along the coast, where we hopped in a taxi that drove us 45 minutes up and into the mountains.

We booked ourselves in at a relatively new hostel called Daniel’s Guest House. Dan had marked it on the map, and when our taxi driver dropped us off in Minca we had a muddy walk along an unlit road to get to it. But when we arrived we were greeted by the owner, Daniel, who immediately made us feel at ease and welcomed us into his home. He told us how the house had been left to him by his grandparents and he had renovated it and turned it into a hostel, with a 4 bed dorm in the basement and private room upstairs. Dan and I nabbed the private room (which was by far the cheapest we had found so far in Colombia) while Michelle took up residence in the dorm.

Daniel also told us how pleased he was to see tourists visiting Minca, as up until fairly recently it had been avoided even by locals due to the conflict and the fighting that regularly took place there. It was easy to see how proud Daniel was of his country and his home town.

On that first night we wandered out to find some food, and came across this lovely little Italian restaurant called Santa Isabella. For some reason, as we came to discover, Colombians really seem to enjoy their Italian food – Italian restaurants are everywhere! We all ordered what turned out to be the most amazing pizzas ever, not only delicious but also completely huge!

The next day we decided to hike out to a nearby waterfall that was supposedly perfect for a refreshing swim in the hot, humid weather. However, it turned out we didn’t actually need much in the way of refreshment when, about ten minutes into our two hour hike, the heavens opened. And I don’t mean a normal kind of quick burst summer downpour that’s over in about fifteen minutes – this was rain of massive, biblical, someone-call-Noah-cos-we’re-gonna-need-an-arc proportions. Within 30 seconds we were all soaked to the bone, and the rain did not let up in intensity for the entire duration of our hike. By the time we got to the waterfall Dan and Michelle just jumped in fully clothed – we already looked like we had all fallen into a swimming pool, so changing into swimming gear was totally pointless! The rain eventually subsided as we were about five minutes outside of Minca on the return journey, and even Daniel seemed a bit shocked by our appearance when we turned up back at the hostel.

That night we went to another popular spot in Minca for dinner: The Lazy Cat. This restaurant and bar serves delicious, gringo friendly food (looking at you, blue cheese burger) and is located right by the river, so it has a lovely atmosphere. We subsequently visited again for breakfast on our remaining days in Minca, and we thoroughly enjoyed our food each time we went – although another guy in our hostel did warn us that he got sick from the breakfast burger!

The following day Dan and Michelle went on another hike to visit a hostel that has a famous giant hammock hanging off the mountainside. Unfortunately however, it turned out to be a bit of a disappointing experience – it cost 10,000 pesos to get in, and the hammock was completely occupied by other people, so they weren’t allowed to get on. It was still a nice day though, and they enjoyed the hike there and back – especially as they were accompanied on their journey by a couple of friendly stray dogs!

On our final morning in Minca we got up early to do a bird watching tour with Jungle Joe Tours. Joe himself was our guide, and when we met him in town he handed us each our own set of binoculars before setting off on a stroll through the town itself, then up through the jungle roads in the surrounding area. We saw a huge array of different birds, including a whole swarm of hummingbirds and even a couple of toucans, and we highly recommend Joe for his incredible in-depth knowledge and expertise.

After a few days enjoying the countryside in Minca (though not, admittedly, the 5am wake-up call every day from the neighbour’s roosters) it was time for us to head back into the big city smoke of our next destination: Bogota.