After the stifling heat of being back down to the coast, we beat a hasty retreat back to our quiet spot in the hills. After negotiating the slightly sketchy access road, we arrived back in time to enjoy the end of the afternoon as the temperature began to drop. With the election of the weekend over, Monday was a holiday and the small town of Minca was pretty busy. We would wait for things to quieten down before we explored the little village, there was plenty of trails to walk around the finca where we were.
After our relaxing Tuesday, Lee would have been happy to have a relaxing Wednesday. I, on the other hand started getting rather twitchy with the lack of activities and so by the end of the afternoon I had persuaded Lee to walk to town. There’s a footpath directly from the field we were camped in, down into the village. We set off. Not too far down is what looked like it was going to be some new gated community in the making. So far there was the gate part and access roads to each marked out plot of land, but no actual building yet. Someone was going to have one hell of a view though.
As we walked out of the open gates, we met the dirt track that came up from the town. We made it a few minutes down this before the heavens opened. I brought an umbrella, which wasn’t really large enough to share. Like a true gentleman, Lee let me have by umbrella while he plodded on through the muddy brown river that used to be the road. It rained so hard that it was coming through the umbrella. I was marginally drier on top, but the rain was slowly soaking up through my clothes from the bottom until I too was completely soaked. We arrived in Minca, splashing through the slightly foul smelling water, drenched to the skin.
The coolness of the mountains is great when the sun is out, but when you’re soaking wet in the monsoon, it’s a tad chilly. We decided to go for a warming coffee and then saw that by chance the rest of our fellow campers were here. They had coats, and had driven here. We squelched a soggy trail across the floor to join them. They had all shared a ride down and there wasn’t really space to get a lift back, much as we would have liked one. I wasn’t too fussed about walking back but Lee was not impressed. We tried to get a taxi but the first one wanted a ridiculous amount of money and the second refused to drive the road. In the end, we walked back up a different, shorter path, towards the van.
Arriving back at Ruby, rather muddy and still incredibly wet, it would have been great to have been greeted by a nice hot shower. However, the campsite only has cold showers. These are also fed, unfiltered, by the river, so that when the river turns into a muddy torrent, so do the showers. Still, we were only paying £2 a day to be here, so how much can you really expect for that price?
With access to only very patchy internet, it was near impossible to do things online at the finca. Instead, we did a few other jobs that had been on the list for some time, including reproofing our pop top. We had bought the products back in Panama, when we had had rare access to Amazon, but hadn’t actually got round to applying them yet. Our faithful pop top, now a very different shade of red than from when we had started, was starting to leak a bit at the seams. In heavy rain with a bit of a sideways wind, you would awake to find yourself surrounded by a tiny moat. Hopefully, no longer with our reproofing and UV protection spray.
It was now nearing the weekend, and our finals days here in the mountains before dropping back down to the coast and hitting the workshop in Barranquilla. Some of our friends from Panama, were staying just down the road nearer the town and we agreed to meet them at La Victoria, a coffee plantation up the valley. Despite the cooler altitude, the regular rain here and hot sun in the day meant the humidity was still a killer.
We arrived, rather sweaty, at the driveway down to the plantation and ordered some food while we waited for our friends.
Once everyone had arrived, including some new people we hadn’t met, we began the tour of the factory. We started at the back where they showed us the different size crates used for picking the beans and how much the workers were paid. The larger bin, we were told, could be filled by an experienced picker about 4-5 times a day. For this size bin, the pay was around $10, to give you an idea of the wages in this country.
The beans were moved around the factory between the various machines via water pressure. They were sorted, skinned, dried and then roasted. Our two tour guides showed us the various tanks and machines as we moved through the process.
The entire place is powered by a huge water pump which connects up to the various machines via gigantic drive belts that run the length of the building. Only two machines did not use hydroelectric power, the roaster, which is gas powered, and the drier which is powered by used oil. All the machines had previously been brought over from England over 100 years ago, and a small workshop onsite was where they carried out all the repairs and made any spare parts that they needed. It was quite interesting to see what could be achieved just with this water pump, the heart of the whole thing.
Back at the cafe, it was time for a slice of cake and a cup of their own coffee. We brought a bag to take back to the van before heading back outside. Not only was there a coffee factory here, but there was also a microbrewery to try.
After an afternoon of nice food and drink, we headed back down to the campsite. Our plan was to pack up the van and head down to the village. We would camp down there for the night, giving ourselves a chance to explore, before leaving the following day. Towards the end of the afternoon, we paid up for the camping and headed out down the slippery dirt track out. We found a secured car park where we could stay for the night and made our way to Casa Loma for the sunset. Apparently, there was a good view to be enjoyed up here with a reasonably priced glass of wine.
Thinking we had reached the place, we hung around for a bit as it seemed no one was there. Then a guy turned up an we followed him in. It was at this point he told us that Casa Loma was 50 metres up the hill and that this was actually his home. He still sold cold beer though, he was quick to mention and so we hung out and chatted to him for half an hour over a cold beer, before heading up to where we were actually supposed to go. He told how he had built the house himself during the pandemic and he had plans to expand his business. He had a huge hammock, high between the trees with an incredible view. You’d need a safety harness and to walk along a slack line to get in it though. This was probably in keeping with his other project, he told us he ran a circus workshop for kids in the town. He seemed like a great guy, and so when we paid for the beers and he had no change, we didn’t mind contributing to someone who was clearly involved in his local community.
Now we didn’t have long until sunset itself, and we quickly found the actual bar. We bought a drink and then continued to climb up to the top bar for the best view. A tiny little place in the middle of the jungle that offered an amazing view out across the tree tops and right down to the coast. Already here were the German couple we had met earlier on the coffee tour.
By the time we finished our drinks, it was dark and we were getting hungry. We decided it was the perfect time to try the Eastern European restaurant back down in the town. Unfortunately by the time we got there, they were shut. As often seems to happen here, restaurants close at about 8pm. With not too many options in a very small town, we ended up at a Mexican restaurant where we ended up eating the same vegetarian filling in several different ways. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it certainly wasn’t memorable.
Will and Beth had gone to another restaurant, and after eating we met up with them. They planned to go back to the campers and have some more drinks where they were staying. The Germans too were camped here. We popped into a supermarket for supplies before walking a shortly out of the town to the campsite, where we could sit around a table and enjoy some more drinks and conversation until it was time to call it a night.
I had worried that we wouldn’t get much sleep in a town centre car park on a Saturday night, but the roar of the river deadened everything else around us and we slept surprisingly well. After the amount we had drunk, that was probably fortunate. Lee headed off to the coffee shop to watch the football that morning, and I arrived towards the end. After much-needed caffeine and some breakfast, we headed back to Ruby. The car park is used by the local minibuses and us leaving required some shunting of various vehicles, shouting and a lot of hand signals. Before too long though, we headed out of town on our way to Barranquilla and hostel Casa Aluna to get ready for workshop drop-off tomorrow.