When Christy and Jenny invite me to Minca I say, “of course,” but I knew there was going to be a problem when we decided to go to a nearby club in Taganga the evening before our departure.
The drinking starts early and doesn’t stop. I take it easy because alcohol certainly hasn’t been lacking on this trip, which is the real explanation for my recent lack of adventure. Though, per usual, I dance my butt off, starting in the hostel and not stopping until the morning light starts to come through.
Of course, we are friends with the bartender and of course his name is Lancelot: a tall, dark, gorgeous Parisian who reeks of the best kind of trouble.
When he told me his name I couldn’t believe it, but then again the characters keep on coming.
Lancelot is joined by Ralph, a red-headed chef with a childlike sense of glee, Steve, the sculpted South African and Chris, who engineers roller-coasters and has no idea how good he is at dancing.
I became friends with this motley crew the day after I arrived in Santa Marta, forcing my way through because I wanted to be a part of their fun.
Little did I know that my Medellin friend Christy had already met them earlier, but then time and time again I’m reminded that you don’t need a phone for synchronicity.
The next day I awake to Ralph’s face telling me that, “we have to leave in 20 minutes,” Christy is woken up the same way only she’s told that she only has five.
Jenny and I shove everything we have in our bags, but Christy sits her the hammock that goes everywhere with her, lights up a cigarette and says, “do we have to go with everyone else? Can’t we take the bus?”
Lancelot declares that, “the bus is shit,” and Ralph doesn’t really care, but after an hour of debating we decide Minca will be better the next day.
So when we’re ready the next the cab driver is late, and Jenny turns to us to say, “considering our track record, can we blame him?”
Finally, I find myself in a taxi that is going over a rocky jungle road, and I look out the window to see towns that I can barely believe.
Bamboo trees cross each other and lean against fat tree trunks that carry leaves that are half my size. The beauty is endless and almost redundant; it repeats itself time and again.
It is in the cab that we learn that it is impossible to get to our next destination, Palomino beach, from Minca. This means there was no reason for us to drag along every bag we owned.
However, it is not until we’re dropped off in the small, dilapidated city square that we’re told it’s a 30 minute hike through the jungle to our hostel.
I think, “this is a real backpacking moment,” because there I am, hiking through the jungle wearing a sundress, long earrings and flip-flops, while carrying a bag that is half my size.
My legs barely lift me up the bamboo steps and I almost topple over sideways, but Christy helps me readjust my backpack. Apparently, I had been wearing it wrong this whole trip.
Finally, we make it to Oscar’s place, which is not like anything we had pictured. The “hostel” is really a house of wood and stone overlooking scenery that leaves words speechless.
Of course, four dogs await us, as well as hammocks and a high, hostel owner.
Oscar, who’s originally from LA, speaks perfect English and tells us that he built the house himself 20 years ago, using mules to transport the materials.
We ask how to get to the nearby waterfall, and as Oscar gives us directions, he warns, “it’s going to rain,” but my experienced backpacker friends encourage me to keep my flip-flops on.
“Anyway,” I think, “my hiking boots are at the bottom of my bag,” though I do change into shorts and a tank top.
After a large lunch of an unnameable soup, chicken, rice and beans we begin our hike. Immediately, I curse myself for my large lunch as I try to ignore my nausea.
We traipse across a blacktop road that is so rocky it clearly ruins cars. People whizz by us on motos and bikes and we gently tease the two dogs that have adopted us for the day.
Fifteen minutes pass and we begin to wonder where we are really walking to; it is then we learn that the waterfall is 50 minutes away. Still, while uphill, the road is somewhat easy and my flip-flops are feeling fine.
It is not until we turn down some off-road path that it begins to pour. The raindrops are so fat that I feel a slight ache as each one breaks against me. Lightening and thunder follow.
The mud begins to suck up our shoes so Jenny and Ralph happily go barefoot. In fact, Jenny never stops singing.
I want to shout, cry, or steal Christy’s watershoes, but instead I pretend I am just fine; that I am, “enjoying this new and authentic backpacking experience.”
This becomes harder when I am bit by a fireant. Until that moment I hadn’t known that fireants existed, and since we had just arrived at the waterfall, I just stand there frozen trying not to panic.
Pain shoots through my toe, and I begin to pray even harder. Finally, as everyone is stripping down to their bathing-suits, I explain my pain.
“Oh, it’s just a fireant,” Jenny says, “once I stepped in a nest of them, that was the worst,” and so I quickly shut-up and stand at the edge of the unimpressive waterfall with my feet in the water, silently hoping we soon begin the long hike back.
“Umm, it’s getting late,” I say, and for once I am right.
As we slip up rocks through mud, an enormous mud-puddle sucks up my foot, and my sandal breaks. This is when I start to laugh because I know on some level I have been asking for this experience.
Any illusions of control are gone; there I am, in gorgeous Mother Nature, getting completely fucked.
So, I decide to like it as best as I can. I bend down and by some miracle quickly fix my sandal because I have already learned that my feet are still too tender for the rocks.
The rain doesn’t stop, Jenny sings, and occasionally I join. I am filthy, soaked through, shivering, but there is no shelter.
An hour and half later we make it back to the square and the men leaning against motos laugh at us. We buy dinner supplies and it’s then I realize that the trek back to Oscar’s Place doesn’t seem so long.